FAO Investment Centre

World Food Forum - Investing in knowledge to empower the youth to transform global agri-food systems


Several sessions and activities within the framework of the World Food Forum 2021 edition counted with FAO’s Investment Centre participation.

FAO’s Investment Centre participated in a number of activities and sessions at the recent World Food Forum (WFF)– a youth-led movement and network to transform global food systems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular “zero hunger.”

The flagship event that took place from 1 October to 5 October 2021 and kicked off in Rome, gathered youth leaders to drive awareness, foster engagement, and mobilize youth-led action in support of agri-food systems transformation to fight against world hunger. The Forum, which is intended to be an annual event, attracted thousands of people across the globe and featured a range of dynamic and participatory events, including Youth Action, Innovation Labs, Education, Cooking, Film and Music. The programme of the event can be found here.

At this youth-led event, conceived by the FAO Youth Committee and jointly organized with the youth networks of the other Rome-based UN agencies, the Centre and partners focused on discussing topics that impact the transformation of global agri-food systems, such as innovation, technology, trends, and entrepreneurship. These topics were at the forefront of events throughout the week and some of the Centre’s work was discussed during the course of 3 days in 5 sessions.


Young actors inspiring others to transform world’s food systems

The session began with opening remarks from Huiyu Ouyang -one of the WFF Champions, who was joined by over 80 participants to learn about how the current and future generations are preparing for a “Better Environment, Better Life, Better Nutrition, and Better Production.” The session focused on 'Youth transforming world’s food systems’ and was developed within the context of an initiative by the EU, FAO, and CIRAD in partnership with national governments that carried out Food System Assessment (FSA) in over 50 countries to identify entry points for innovative policy and investment solutions.

During the side event, Pooja Khosla, FAO Economist, delved into the FSA results adding, “The results from our Food Systems’ Assessments show that in most countries, youth are leaving agriculture. Today’s youth do not see a future in agriculture. They associate farming with hard labour for low returns and are increasingly migrating to urban cities in search of a better future.”

She continued highlighting the opportunities for young people in growing sectors such as food services and processing to meet food consumer demands by noting, “Whether as entrepreneurs or as farmers – youth have the power to transform food systems. Innovative approaches have been introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, implement organic farming, climate-smart practices.”

This dynamic event was organized as a panel discussion with the participation of four young actors from across the globe who are currently being innovative in food systems and who offered some food for thought when they shared experiences about their work, their impact on their communities as well as some of the challenges that they have encountered on their journeys. This side event provided an interactive platform to inform young actors on sustainable food systems and to inspire them to engage in the agri-food sector. The session recording can be watched here.



Food Systems Assessment tweet
Photo credit: (c) FAOInvest


Youth Investment and Entrepreneurship

Topics related to ‘investment and entrepreneurship’ for youth to accelerate the transformation of agri-food systems were also discussed. Such is the case of a panel discussion on ‘accelerating the future of agri-food,' that took place within the framework of the WF Innovation Day, and where the Centre engaged Jelena Erker, EBRD Associate Director-Agribusiness, to discuss important concepts such as investment and policy issues.

During this event, a FAO/EBRD video was shared with the audience, providing inspiring examples about technology supporting the transformation of the dairy sector in Kazakhstan. The video featured Niyethan Ostay -a milk processor- and Aizhan Abisheva -a smallholder farmer- experience with ‘Collect Mobile’ in Zhaman Zhol, Kazakhstan, and how this technology has improved their work and lives. The session recording can be watched here.

Accelerating the future agri-food video Niyethan Ostay and Aizhan Abisheva in Zhaman Zhol, Kazakhstan.
Photo Credit:FAO/EBRD video 




The Centre’s staff also contributed to two important MasterClasses to inspire and engage youth towards agri-food systems transformation. One of them was ‘Blockchain 101,’ a session organized by IFAD and WFP, together with other FAO divisions, and with the participation of experts from the Rome-based organizations.

The MasterClass discussed the role of blockchain and its application for agri-food systems. During the event, there were also conversations about how the three organizations are well-prepared to guide global policymaking in relation to the implementation of the SDGs, and how blockchain can be a part of these actions for food systems improvement. The session recording can be watched here.


 Blockchain 101 banner. Photo credit: WFF website 

The other MasterClass where the Centre’s staff contributed, was on ‘Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship for sustainable development in agri-food systems transformation’ a WFF-produced session with private investors Kimbal Musk, Nicole Shanahan, Young Sohn, Bill Tai, and several agritech start-ups. The participants offered tips and tricks for entrepreneurs supporting sustainable development for agri-food systems transformation.

Over the course of this must-see event for all young entrepreneurs, that also covered critical topics for investment support, there were four important focuses: global visibility, access to venture capital and investment, corporate strategic partnerships, and world-class mentorship. Delving into these focuses, offered young people encouragement to get involved in entrepreneurship to build a better food future. The session recording can be watched here.


Innovation awards for startups

Due to the importance of future generations and their impact on global and local agri-food systems, young innovators were awarded for their standout entrepreneurship and promising potential to transform these during this flagship event. The EBRD, a Centre’s partner, was part of the evaluation committee together with some of the Centre staff and final judging panel of the inaugural ‘WFF Startup Innovation Awards,’ powered by the Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC). The panel of judges was chaired by Beth Bechdol, FAO Deputy Director-General, and Máximo Torero Cullen, FAO Chief Economist. Iride Ceccacci, EBRD Head of Agribusiness Advisory, was a judge.

In this first edition, 12 finalists were selected by evaluators from over 3700 startups for their promising potential for investment and positive impact on global and local agri-food systems.  The final winners of the awards won in each of the following four categories: Better Environment, Better Life, Better Nutrition, and Better Production. The session recording can be watched here.


WFF/EBRD initiative and outcomes

Furthermore, in line with the Centre and EBRD work with retailers and more sustainable inclusive value chains, the innovation day event offered an opportunity to announce an exciting joint WFF/EBRD youth initiative with Migros Turkey's innovation platform, MigrosUP to work together with young innovators and entrepreneurs in the next cycle.  The teaser video can be watched here.

The World Food Forum confirmed that the power of youth has prevailed once more by attracting 22,000 unique visitors to its website and 89,000 content views over the course of the event, these numbers are still increasing. For this reason, it is clearer than ever that in the future this flagship event will continue providing space for young actors that are working towards transforming the world to be recognized and empowered, and the Centre aligns to these goals by committing to improving the lives and livelihoods of world’s citizens by developing and offering investment opportunities, and international partnerships.


Headline banner: Young researchers and startups honoured and mentored by private sector at World Food Forum 
Photo credit: WFF website.