Science, Technology and Innovation

The role of science for transformation of agrifood systems  

Science can play a crucial role in elucidating the complexity of agrifood systems, analyzing their performance, identifying spatial and temporal synergies and trade-offs across the different dimensions and across multiple sectors, and in designing coherent integrated policies that are urgently needed to ensure food security and nutrition for a growing population, provide livelihoods for agrifood system actors, and ensure environmental sustainability.  

Science signifies the enterprise whereby humankind, acting individually or in small or large groups, makes an organized attempt, by means of the objective study of observed phenomena and its validation through sharing of findings and data and through peer review, to discover and master the chain of causalities, relations or interactions; brings together in a coordinated form subsystems of knowledge by means of systematic reflection and conceptualization; and, thereby furnishes itself with the opportunity of using, to its own advantage, understanding of the processes and phenomena occurring in nature and society (UNESCO, 2017).

FAO’s role as neutral platform on science

Due to its unique position as a facilitator of intergovernmental processes, FAO provides an essential forum for exchange between countries and serves as an authoritative source of guidance. FAO’s Governing and Statutory Bodies provide an interface for science and policy and support the development of new codes of practice, guidelines and standards. FAO facilitates development of international standards and helps frame international conventions and agreements. It also hosts major conferences, technical meetings and consultations of experts.

FAO, based on robust science and evidence, strives to enhance knowledge exchange and provide understanding of the differences of view on various scientific issues, to support constructive dialogue for greater policy coherence, shared ownership and collective action. 

Women in science

FAO recognizes the crucial role rural and indigenous women and girls play in agriculture and food production. By working with Members and partners, FAO seeks to redress existing inequalities to ensure equitable, inclusive and efficient agrifood systems.

The Chief Scientist supports the Organization’s efforts to engage and increase women and girls’ participation in science and access to technology; particular attention is given to initiatives that enhance their abilities to access and benefit from scientific knowledge and solutions.

Traditional and Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge

Globally, small-scale producers, local communities and Indigenous Peoples are recognized as holders of traditional knowledge relevant for food security and agrifood systems. FAO has been working actively with Indigenous Peoples to ensure that their food and knowledge systems are recognized, respected, protected and included in programmes, projects, policies, coalitions and decision-making. 

Indigenous Peoples are central to the discussions on agrifood systems, gender equity, forest governance, territorial management, collective rights, food generation, biodiversity protection and broadening of the food base.

FAO coordinates multistakeholder collaborations that interface across policy makers, practitioners, indigenous peoples and academia. Through these efforts, FAO ensures that indigenous and local knowledge are included as important sources of innovation for inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems. 

Youth in science

The United Nations defines “youth” as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member Nations. Youth account for one-sixth of the global population, and almost 88 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion youth live in low- and middle-income countries. FAO’s Rural Youth Action Plan aims to contribute to Agenda 2030 by equally empowering rural young women and men, protecting children and other excluded youth groups, with a view to strengthen youth participation in decision-making processes and access to education, decent employment and rural services. 

The World Food Forum (WFF) - a youth-led movement, platform and global event, which was founded by the FAO Youth Committee, has expanded into a network of partners working together to transform agrifood systems and achieve the SDGs, including “zero hunger”.   

As a part of the World Food Forum’s (WFF) Innovation Labs, the Transformative Research Challenge (TRC) was launched to inspire research and innovation in sustainable development to end hunger and transform our agrifood systems. This novel youth-led initiative provides young researchers with mentoring and visibility to help them advance knowledge and translate their ideas into tangible solutions. 

 Academia and Research Institutions

Partnerships and alliances with scientists, research organizations and universities are crucial for FAO to fulfil its vision of a world free from hunger. The science on which solutions to current challenges posed by, inter alia, climate change, biodiversity loss and sub-optimal agrifood systems is complex and requires the participation of individuals and agencies with specialized knowledge.

The Chief Scientist is well positioned to identify and facilitate effective and transformative partnerships and coalitions to ensure that FAO bases its work on the most reliable information and maximizes progress for more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems that address inequalities and leave no one behind.

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