Инвестиционный центр ФАО

The challenge of diversifying food production and diet

FAO side-event at 50th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) Committee for Food Security

There is a wide recognition that our food systems are no longer sustainable. They do not provide a diverse and healthy diet, the systems of production are damaging to the environment and the economic gap between actors is widening.

"We know that our food systems are unsustainable, it's not a new message," said Wilhem Olthoff, Deputy Head of Unit for Sustainable Agri-Food systems and Fisheries in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships. He was a key note speaker at the side-event on food diversification during the 50th session of the Committee on Food Security held in Rome on October 13. "However, what is new is the need to start faster towards operational change."

As highlighted during the event, the practice of monocropping is dominant in many countries, with production focused on cash crops or subsistence cereal crops. For instance, in Zambia and Eswatini, maize account for 64 percent and 84 percent respectively of the area under production, while in Lao’s People Democratic Republic, rice is the dominant crop. As a a result, the staple diet in many countries is based on cereals which leads to protein deficiencies.

Such findings were the result of a global food systems assessment (FSA) undertaken jointly in 50 countries by the European Union (EU), FAO and the French international agriculture research center, CIRAD. Using a holistic approach to food systems, the FSA methodology helped highlight the interactions between the different sectors and identify the drivers leading to the system's imbalances. Lack of diversification was identified as one of the pressing issues in terms of nutrition and production.

Acccording to Elizabeth Nsimadala, Agripreneur and President of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, also a pannelist on the side-event, 30 percent of children in Africa suffer from protein deficiencies. In Nigeria, nearly half of the population do not consume the required amount of proteins. "Affordability is an important aspect," she said, " in many cases, food represents more than 50 percent of the household budget, that affects the protein consumption."  One of the solutions is to promote plant-based proteins such as beans, pulses and lentils which can produce up to three crops a year and improve soil fertility at a more affordable cost.   

Another solution highlighted was to draw knowledge from indigenous communities who nurture 80 percent of the world's remaining biodiversity and try to maintain a diverse diet, by combining their ancient knowledge with modern climate-smart approaches. "One of our biggest challenges is climate change," said Watson Puiahi, Director of ILuKim Sustainability Solomon Islands and representing the indigenous community of the Solomon islands in the Pacific. "there is a linkage between diversified food and environmental sustainability."

At global level, the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, which coordinates global campagning around the goal of Ending Hunger and achieving Food Security, is building a coalition between partners to double the consumption of beans.

Meanwhile as a follow-up to the FSA, the EU and FAO will start an action programme in five countries, including Sierra Leone, towards the sustainable transformation of food systems.

"We need a plan to work together and remove the silos," said Minister Francess Piagie Alghali, Minister of State, Vice President’s Office of the Government of Sierra Leone, speaking at the event, "only with a clear plan, we will be able to introduce lasting changes."