UN’s First-Ever Food Systems Summit to Fight Impending Emergency

Women of the Batwa community tilling the soil in preparation for
planting potatoes, in Gashikanwa, Burundi. Credit: FAO/Giulio

By Agnes Kalibata

Food systems involve all the stages that lead up to the point
when we consume food, including the way it is produced,
transported, and sold. Launching a policy brief
on food security
in June, UN chief António Guterres warned of
an “impending food emergency”, unless immediate action is

My commitment to improving food systems is closely linked to my
early life as the daughter of refugees.

“I was born in a refugee camp in Uganda, because my Rwandan
parents were forced to leave their home around the time of colonial
independence in the early 60s.

Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy for 2021 Food Systems Summit.
Credit: CIAT/Neil Palmer

Thanks to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), were given land, which allowed
my parents to farm, buy a few cows, and make enough money to send
me and my siblings to school. This allowed me to experience,
first-hand, how agriculture, in a functioning food system, can
provide huge opportunities for smallholder communities.

I took this appreciation with me when I eventually returned to
Rwanda, as Minister for Agriculture, working with smallholders and
seeing them grab every opportunity to turn their lives around
against all odds. This was probably the most fulfilling period in
my life.

But, I have also seen what can happen when threats like climate
change, conflict and even more recently, a pandemic like Covid 19,
hit the world’s farmers, especially those who are smallholders,
like my parents were.

As a daughter of farmers, I understand how much people can
suffer, because of systems that are breaking down. I often reflect
that I, and other children of farmers my age that made it through
school, were the lucky ones because climate change hits small
farmers the hardest, destroying their capacities to cope.

My experience has shown me that, when food systems function
well, agriculture can provide huge opportunities for smallholder
communities. I am a product of functional food systems, and I am
fully convinced of the power of food systems to transform lives of
smallholder households and communities, and bring about changes to
entire economies.

I’m extremely passionate about ending hunger in our lifetime:
I believe it’s a solvable problem. I don’t understand why 690
million people are still going to bed hungry, amidst so much plenty
in our world, and with all the knowledge, technology and

I have made it my mission to understand why this is the case,
and how we can overcome the challenges we see along the way. That
is why I gladly accepted the offer by the UN Secretary General to
be his Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit.

Female farmers in discussion with former Rwandan Minister for
Agriculture, Agnes Kalibata (far left). Credit: UN Food Systems

Why food systems need to change

Today’s food systems do not respond to what we need as people.
The cause of death for one in three people around the world is
related to what they eat. Two billion people are obese, one
trillion dollars’ worth of food is wasted every year, yet many
millions still go hungry.

Food systems have an impact on the climate. They are responsible
for around one third of harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are
causing climate change, which is interfering massively in our
ability to produce food, upending farmers’ lives, and making the
seasons harder to predict.

We have built up a lot of knowledge around the things that
we’re doing wrong, and we have the technology to allow us to do
things differently, and better. This isn’t rocket science: it’s
mostly a question of mobilizing energy, and securing political
commitment for change.

Galvanise and engage

The main impetus behind the Food Summit is the fact that the we
are off track with all of the
Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) that relate to food
systems, principally ending poverty and hunger, and action on the
climate and environment.

We want to use the Summit to galvanise and engage people,
raising awareness about the elements that are broken, and what we
need to change; to recognize that we’re way off track with the
SDGs, and raise our ambitions; and to secure firm commitments to
actions that will transform our current food systems for the

Traditional Hadong Tea Agrosystem in Hwagae-myeon, Korea,
cultivate indigenous tea trees around streams and between rocks in
hilly areas surrounding temples. Credit: Hadong County, Republic of

Pulling together the UN System

The UN system is already doing a lot of work in this area, and
we’ve pulled together several agencies and bodies to support the

We have formed a UN Task Force to channel the existing research,
so that nothing falls through the cracks, which will work closely
with a core group of experts we have assembled, which is looking at
scientific data pooled from institutions all around the world. At
the same time, we are examining national food systems, to see what
is and isn’t working.

We are going to pool all the information, evidence and ideas we
receive, and create a vision for a future food system that benefits

At a briefing on the Food Systems Summit held recently,
Amina Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, noted that a
transition to more sustainable systems is already underway, with
countries beginning to “take action and change behaviours in
support of a new vision of how food arrives on our

UN Member States, she continued, are increasingly aware that
food systems are “one of the most powerful links between humans
and the planet”, and bringing about a world that “enhances
inclusive economic growth and opportunity, while also safeguarding
biodiversity and the global ecosystems that sustain life. “

The Summit objectives

• The 2021 Food Systems Summit will bring
together the UN System, and key leaders in food-related fields, to
bring food systems in line with the goals of the 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development
, the UN’s blueprint for a
better future for people, and the planet.
• The main objectives, or action tracks, of the summit, will
launch bold new solutions or strategies to deliver progress on the
SDGs. The five tracks look at ensuring safe and nutritious food for
all; shifting to sustainable consumption patterns; boosting
nature-positive production at sufficient scale; advancing equitable
livelihoods and value distribution; and building resilience to
vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses.
• Participants, including experts such as farmers, indigenous
peoples and academics, will explore ways to make food systems more
resilient to vulnerabilities and shocks, including those linked to
climate change.

*This article was first appeared in UN News, a
publication of the United Nations.


The post
UN’s First-Ever Food Systems Summit to Fight Impending
appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Agnes Kalibata, in an interview with UN

Agnes Kalibata, UN Special Envoy for 2021 Food Systems
Summit and a former Rwandan Minister for Agriculture, has been
tasked with leading the first-ever
UN Food Systems Summit
, on a date to be determined next year.
In an interview with UN News, she outlined her vision for a
transformed international system that is more resilient, fairer,
and less harmful to the planet

The post
UN’s First-Ever Food Systems Summit to Fight Impending
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
UN’s First-Ever Food Systems Summit to Fight Impending