When Máximo Torero Cullen –the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations – FAO, Chief Economist grabs an opportunity to dialogue about food, nothing is left untouched. And such an occasion came on April 21 when FAO – Uganda and sister agencies – UNDP as well as UNEP organised a high level meeting on April 21 at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
The dialogue under the theme: ‘Collaborating to Accelerate Food Systems Transformation in Uganda’ was one of a series of planned activities organised in the preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit, scheduled for September, this year in New York.
The Serena dialogue targeted to identify entry points in Uganda’s ongoing plans and programmes supporting the food and agriculture sector in the country, which can best influence food systems projects under the different UN agencies’ support. Experts deliberated on issues regarding to National Policies and Plans in relation to Food System Transformation – including the National Development Plan III 2021-2025; the National Zero Hunger Strategy 2020-2030; and the National Agro-industrialization Action Plan -PIAP 2021-2025.
Mr Torero who joined the dialogue via zoom; was elaborate in his submission – tackling issues from different angles.
He noted that the food systems transformation was necessary though complex, which requires the need for understanding, cooperation, new forms of governance, and value and behavioural change.
Mr Torero said that the world wasn’t on the right path to achieving food security and nutrition targets; highlighting that it was the reason there were 690 million people suffering from chronic hunger, up by nearly 60 million in the five years; 144 million, reflecting 21%, of children under the age of five, stunted; while 47 million are wasted – 38% of whom are overweight.
“More than 2 billion people suffer from overweight and obesity. A healthy diet is 5 times more expensive than an energy (caloric) sufficient diet, and 60% more expensive than a nutrient sufficient diet. More than 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet,” revealed the expert under a keynote presentation: ‘Motivation, Science and Governance.’
He added that humanity was waging war on nature – the reason carbon dioxide levels had reached 148% of pre-industrial points in 2019.
“Today, we are at 1.2 ºC of warming and already witnessing unprecedented climate extremes and volatility in every region and on every continent.
“We are headed for a thundering temperature rise of 3-5 ºC this century. Food systems are one of the main reasons we are failing to stay within our planet’s ecological boundaries.
“Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes. Deserts are spreading. Wetlands are being lost. Every year, we lose 10 million hectares of forests, (according to the UN Secretary- General António Guterres’ paper); “State of the World,” – Columbia University, Dec. 2, 2020,” revealed Terero.
He emphasized that worldwide one billion people were employed through Agri-Food Systems production, harvesting, services, processing, and distribution while an additional 3.5 billion earn their livelihoods through the same set.
According to Mr Torero, more than 80% of the extreme poor live in rural areas, and, of these, 75% earn some part of their living through agri-food systems with women comprising nearly 50% of employment in agriculture in low-income countries – representing less than 15% of all landowners.
Mr Torero said humans know the accelerators of change towards a healthy living but lacked understanding of how and where to apply them. He listed technology, innovations, data, governance, human capital and institutions as key accelerators of change.
The dialogue attracted participants from a wide-range of stakeholders – including UN agencies, government ministries and parastatals, civil society organs, private partners and well as individuals – attending practically and through online.
FAO Representative to Uganda, Mr Antonio Querido in his capacity as the chief organizer, highlighted noted that the Food Systems Summit targets to launch new action that would transform the way people produce and consume food in a bid to deliver the 17-Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs through a viable approach that interconnects the much needed solutions to the agricultural challenges.
The Permanent Secretary – Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries – MAAIF, Mr Pius Wakabi, presided over the meeting as chief guest – standing in for his line minister.
He said that the vision of his ministry was to transform the sector from substance farming to commercial agriculture; from food security and nutrition to job creation; and increase farmers’ incomes through export earnings.