Our Food Systems Need Transformation

By Zoltán Kálmán
ROME, Aug 28 2019 – The right to food is a universal human right. Yet, over 820 million people are going hungry, according the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2019). In addition, 2 billion people in the world are food insecure with great risk of malnutrition and poor health” 1.

Another report 2 describes the situation even more worrying: “At the global level, one person in three is malnourished today and one in two could be malnourished by 2030 in a business-as-usual scenario. While hunger remains a critical concern, malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity) now affects all countries, whether low-, middle- or high-income. Those different forms of malnutrition can co-exist within the same country or community, and sometimes within the same household or individual.”

Against this backdrop, the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) 3, which is, at the global level, the foremost inclusive and evidence-based international and intergovernmental platform for food security and nutrition (FSN), requested a High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) 4 to prepare a report on nutrition and food systems. The comprehensive HLPE report 5 is the basis for a series of inclusive, multi-stakeholder discussions at global and regional levels, including e-consultations, to provide inputs for shaping the Voluntary Guidelines (VGs) on Food Systems and Nutrition.

The zero draft 6 of the VGs provides a comprehensive overview on the situation of food security and nutrition. However, among the causes of malnutrition, appropriate reference to the root causes is still missing: poverty and inequalities. Due to their extreme poverty, many people do not have access to enough nutritious food, although it should not be a privilege, it is a basic human right. This confirms the need for transformation of our current food systems and make them more sustainable.

One basic problem is the misconception of low food price policy. The impacts of low food prices on the consumers’ behaviour are significant, including their buying preferences. The situation of “low food prices” appears to be the result of competition among retailers and as such, they seem to be positive, favouring the poor people. In reality, all people, including the poor, suffer the consequences of low food prices, which regularly mean low quality of food. Low quality, ultra-processed food (frequently with high fat, sugar and salt content, the so-called junk food) have serious consequences on the nutrition status of the poor populations, leading to obesity, overweight and other non-communicable diseases. Food prices generally do not reflect the real costs of production, ignore the positive and negative impacts (externalities) of food systems on the environment and on human health.

For the right decisions to transform our current food systems, true cost accounting is essential, giving due consideration to all environmental and human health externalities. This could help shape the VGs, recommending appropriate measures, policy incentives in support of sustainable solutions. There are ample scientific evidences related to the true costs of food and there are several studies 7 available on this topic.

In addition, artificially distorted, low food prices have a strong impact on the food waste as well. Cheap food conveys the message that it does not represent a real value and consumers will throw away food more easily. Higher food prices (reflecting the true costs of food) would discourage consumers to buy more than they effectively need. Realistic prices of food do not imply generally high food prices. Only the prices of those (ultraprocessed, junk) food would go up which do not internalize the environmental and public health externalities. Studies show that as a result of true cost accounting, locally produced, fresh, healthy, unprocessed (whole) food would become more competitive, for the benefit of those who produce them, and in particular, the consumers and the whole society. The solution for the poor is not cheap food, but decent work and wages, essential to combat extreme poverty. In addition, the costs of decent wages are much lower than the benefits of saving great amounts of public health care expenditure.

For the transformation of our food systems, sustainability should be the driving principle, paying due attention to the (so far ignored) environmental and social dimensions. Obviously, the economic dimension should also be considered, keeping in mind, however, that economic sustainability is nothing else but the result of the financial policy incentives or subsidies, promoting one or another type of food systems. In this regard, national legislators have enormous responsibility in providing the appropriate policy incentives to those food systems, which are sustainable. Sustainability addresses climate change adaptation and mitigation concerns as well, and goes well beyond, it provides adequate responses to a number of other environmental challenges (biodiversity loss, soil degradation) and to social issues as well, like rural employment.

The VGs are expected to provide assistance for the transformation of food systems and to make them more sustainable, in order to eliminate hunger and all forms of malnutrition and to supply fresh, diverse, nutritious food for a healthy diet for all.

1 http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/
2 HLPE. 2017. Nutrition and food systems. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and
Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, Rome.
3 http://www.fao.org/cfs/home/en/
4 http://www.fao.org/cfs/cfs-hlpe/en/
5 http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7846e.pdf/
6 http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/cfs/Docs1819/Nutrition/CFS_Zero_Draft_Voluntary_Guidelines_Food_Systems_and_Nutrition.pdf
7 http://www.fao.org/family-farming/detail/en/c/436356/; or http://teebweb.org/agrifood/measuring-what-matters-in-agriculture-and-food-systems/.

African Risk Capacity and Africa CDC Sign Partnership Agreement to Strengthen Disease Outbreak Preparedness

ASG Mohamed Beavogui, Director-General, African Risk Capacity (Right) and Dr John Nkengasong, Director, Africa Centre for Disease Control (Left) at the signing of the Partnership Agreement during the ongoing TICAD7 in Yokohama, Japan.

By African Risk Capacity
Aug 28 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The African Risk Capacity (ARC) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) have signed a Partnership Agreement to establish a collaborative framework to help African Union Member States strengthen preparedness and emergency response against infectious diseases, of epidemic nature.

ARC and Africa CDC have been working together, in collaboration with other stakeholders, on establishing the “Africa Epidemic Preparedness Index” which is an innovative project for strengthening outbreak preparedness assessment within the framework of the International Health Regulation (IHR 2005) compliance.

“This is in line with our ongoing strategic and technical collaboration to provide AU Member States with an array of risk management tools, including early warning, contingency planning, and alternative financing options against infectious disease outbreaks. The next steps will be how quickly we can assist Governments to begin strengthening capacities for risk reduction and mitigation before the next outbreak….”

UN-ASG Mohamed Beavogui, DG, ARC Yokohama

“This Agreement is in line with our ongoing strategic and technical collaboration to provide AU Member States with an array of risk management tools, including early warning, contingency planning, and alternative financing options against infectious diseases”, said ASG Mohamed Beavogui, the Director-General of ARC.

“The next steps will be to explore how quickly we can assist Governments to begin strengthening capacities for risk reduction and mitigation before the next outbreak. Particularly, to encourage prioritization of investments in emergency preparedness and response plans for effective recovery from public health events”, he concluded.

The Outbreaks and Epidemics (O&E) insurance programme of the African Risk Capacity was born in the wake of the devastating 2014 West African Ebola crisis. The lessons from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, revealed that, in addition to weaknesses in health systems, slow unpredictable funding was a major contributing factor to the inability of the Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to rapidly respond to the initial outbreaks.

Therefore, the ARC Conference of the Parties, States and African Ministers of Finance in 2015, requested for a product to address Africa’s financing needs to contain outbreaks of viruses and diseases common to the African continent, and in the event of spread or secondary transmission.

“Establishing early warning and response surveillance platforms to address all health emergencies in a timely and effective manner towards supporting public health emergency preparedness and response are pivotal to our work”, said Dr John Nkengasong, Director, Africa CDC. “Our partnership with ARC will consolidate this effort and provide a good synergy to support Member States in health emergencies response in addition to promoting critical partnerships to address emerging and endemic diseases and other public health emergencies”.

The Africa CDC supports all African Countries to improve surveillance, emergency response, and prevention of infectious diseases. This includes addressing outbreaks, man-made and natural disasters, and public health events of regional and international concern. It further seeks to build the capacity to reduce disease burden on the continent. It is a specialised technical institution of the African Union that serves as a platform for Member States to share knowledge, exchange lessons learnt, build capacity, and provide technical assistance to each other.

About African Risk Capacity (ARC): The African Risk Capacity model is an innovative, cost-effective, and is proving that it can assist Member States to strengthen their capacities to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, thereby achieving the food security for their populations. Since 2014, 32 policies have been signed by Member States with US$73million paid in premiums for a cumulative insurance coverage of US$553million for the protection of 55million vulnerable population in participating countries.

ARC is now using its expertise to help tackle some of the other greatest threats faced by the continent, including outbreaks and epidemics.

For more information, please visit: www.africanriskcapacity.org PRESS CONTACT Chinedu Moghalu chinedu.moghalu@arc.int; chinedu.moghalu@wfp.org Contact on ARC O&E Insurance Programme: Robert Kwame Agyarko, robert.agyarko@arc.int