Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

16 October 2021

World Food Day

What can governments do ?

Better policies and legislation, investment and good governance can build nature-friendly, sustainable agri-food systems that are more inclusive and resilient. Governments and institutions can make healthy diets a reality for all through a strategic, integrated and inclusive approach across sectors. Innovation, indigenous knowledge, women and youth all have a role to play in achieving a greener, fairer and better world for all.

In nature, everything is connected. Governments should focus on efficient, evidence-based policies that benefit people and the planet. They should consider the links between the many areas influenced by agri-food systems – agriculture, health, education, environment, trade, and employment, to name a few. This approach helps to pool resources, formulate common objectives and avoid duplication.

By increasing investments to end hunger, doubling the incomes of small-scale farmers and limiting agricultural emissions, governments can create more efficient, resilient, inclusive and sustainable agri-food systems. Farmer incentives are a good way to encourage the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and foster a bottom-up approach to sustainability.

When institutions and governance are strong and transparent, effective joint action during crises becomes a reality! During the COVID 19 pandemic, coordinated responses of public, private and charity partners provided healthy food to vulnerable people in several cities around the world. Inclusive governments make change happen by nurturing dialogue with various stakeholders. Give smaller enterprises and producers, marginalised and indigenous peoples, women, and community groups a voice.

Diversity is the very essence of life. Agroecology is a sustainable, resilient and innovative way of farming that champions biodiversity. Agroecology and climate smart production practices that respect biodiversity need to be at the heart of government policy-making. Governments need to find a balance between land that is dedicated to food and nature to nurture people and the planet. Restoring forests on spared farmland, for example, improves soil quality by stopping soil erosion, combats climate change and revives native ecosystems.

Good nutritious food is often more natural and environmentally friendly. Governments need to encourage the private sector to offer healthy food choices that are produce sustainably and avoid excessive processing. New regulations and initiatives need to support national food-based dietary guidelines and increase nutrition awareness, education and culinary skills. Some examples include clear front-of-package food labelling, the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, and where necessary, product fortification.

Already consuming up to 70% of the world’s food supply, cities need to be sustainable development hubs. Governments need to build cities that boost rural-urban ties, promote urban agriculture and biodiversity, host wide green spaces and offer fresh food markets, while reducing food waste. By planting trees or supporting community gardens through grants, municipalities can foster a sense of community, connect people to nature and improve diets.

Around 14% of the world’s food is lost before it reaches the market. Governments can invest in storage facilities, roads, markets and market information systems to minimize post-harvest food loss. They can also empower supply chain workers with better tools to tackle waste – access to logistical support, affordable technologies and training. Efforts to reduce food waste involve building consumer awareness and ensuring that private companies manage waste responsibly.

One tiny seed can go a long way. Just as seed banks preserve priceless information and resources for our planet’s future, knowledge and research is vital for evidence-based decision making. Governments must invest in national statistical and monitoring systems, and the capacity to analyse information. FAOs Geospatial Platform and the Data Lab for Statistical Innovation are good examples of how big data on food, agriculture, socio-economics, and natural resources can come together. The result? Informed decisions based on a more sustainable approach to nature.