Sean de Cleene
Head of Food Systems, World Economic Forum
Head of Strategy, Food Systems, World Economic Forum
As we enter the next stage of the COVID-19 crisis, governments, businesses and civil society must work together to ensure global food systems are accessible and sustainable.
Over the last year, the frailties in production and supply of food have seen world stock levels in cereals go down and millions of jobs impacted across the agricultural and food value chain. We continue to see food price increases and ongoing financials losses. Food insecurity continues to grow. The World Food Programme, estimates there are 151 million people facing acute hunger across 40 countries.
Emerging out of COVID-19, as economies open at different rates, we are likely to see disparities in supply and demand. Therefore, the building of more resilient and sustainable food systems is even more important. Greater understanding of the nutritional needs of high-risk groups also needs to be a top priority.
There are three ways businesses can be more sustainable: take a holistic, systems approach to collective action, shift our mindsets to adapt to our current unique situation and putting people first.
We need to actively engage the more than 500 million smallholder farmers and 7.7 billion consumers around the world. Demand-driven and inclusive ways of working across food systems need to be embedded in global, regional and country approaches.
We need to build business models which promote social solidarity and rural economic growth in equal measure to supply chain efficiency. Food systems should work for people, not the other way around.
We need to build business models which promote social solidarity and rural economic growth in equal measure to supply chain efficiency.
A multi-stakeholder approach led by local and regional partners allows each partnership to maintain its uniqueness while harnessing the collective capacity towards a significantly wider shared outcome.
By embracing complexity and designing for scale, the level of ambition for who can benefit from better functioning, more equitable and sustainable food systems initiatives can go from tens of thousands to billions.
Shifting mindsets to adapt to today
COVID-19 has expedited the need to build resilient-ready food systems. This requires a genuine emphasis on building food chains that benefit everyone, where the risk burden is better shared and the true cost of food production is properly assessed.
Actions taken to protect, manage and restore food systems will have to be smarter enabling more open, inclusive and trustworthy innovation solutions.
During the pandemic, in communities around the world, localised action networks sprung into operation to feed significant numbers of disadvantaged community members. Whilst initially relying heavily on volunteers, as the crisis continues social entrepreneurism is developing viable and scalable business models that need to be actively promoted to reinforce solidarity around local food value chains and the promotion of localised food systems resilience.