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Food systems

Transforming food systems for all

What is a food system?

A food system includes all the aspects of feeding and nourishing people: growing, harvesting, packaging, processing, transporting, marketing and consuming food. It encompasses all the interactions between people and the natural world – land, water, the climate, etc. – and the natural world’s effects on human health and nutrition. It also includes the inputs, institutions, infrastructure and services that support the functioning of all these aspects, as well as the role of diets and cultural practices in shaping outcomes.

A food system is sustainable when it provides sufficient nutritious food for all without compromising the health of the planet or the ability of future generations to meet their own food and nutritional needs.

Why do food systems need to change?

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, food systems faced enormous challenges. Hunger had been on the rise for several years, affecting up to 811 million people as of 2020, while healthy diets were unaffordable for at least 3 billion. Meanwhile, climate change was already affecting production, and the need to address concerns related to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental footprint was growing ever more urgent. And the role of food systems in the emergence of new infectious diseases – as a result of both the loss of biodiversity due to unsustainable practices and the damage to ecosystems that it caused – had already been acknowledged.

Now, because of the effects the pandemic has already had on our food systems – and because of the potential additional effects still to come – nearly one in three people in the world did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of almost 320 million people in just one year.

Furthermore, only 10 years remain until 2030 – the deadline for achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and many of the goals remain far out of reach. In many cases, unsafe or unsustainable food systems are part of the problem. For this reason, we need a transformation of our food systems.

What needs to happen to change our food systems?

Transforming our food systems would encompass fundamental changes and enhancements in the institutions, infrastructure, regulations and markets that shape them, and the resources invested into them, in a way that makes them more equitable and sustainable – from the perspectives of both the workers who derive their livelihoods from these systems and the consumers who purchase the food. This would allow food producers (and other workers within food systems) to sustainably provide nutritious food for all and to be adequately rewarded for their work, so that they do not themselves become vulnerable to hunger.

UN Food Systems Summit

In 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a Food Systems Summit as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

There are five “action tracks” intended to highlight essential pathways for the transformation of food systems to support the SDGs. IFAD has been designated the UN Anchor Agency for Action Track 4, Advancing equitable livelihoods and value distribution.

IFAD’s main goals at the Summit will be to:

  • put small-scale farmers and other rural people at the heart of food systems transformation and of efforts to achieve the SDGs
  • use IFAD’s expertise and knowledge to advance discussions and contribute to action-oriented global commitments towards sustainable transformation of food systems.

Related events

Related events

IFAD at the 2021 Food Systems Pre-Summit

July 2021 - EVENT
This three-day Pre-Summit will bring together the efforts and contributions of the global engagement process designed to give shape to our ambitions to transform our food systems.

Spotlight on adaptation, resilience and small-scale farmers: How small-scale farmers are being left behind and what we will do to stop it

July 2021 - EVENT
Lessons learned from IFAD’s Adaptation to Smallholder Agriculture Programme to highlight practical ways to support the resilience of the small-scale farmers around the world.

High level workshop: Building bridges between social protection and productive inclusion policies in Latin America and the Caribbean

July 2021 - EVENT
How to integrate reforms in social protection programmes with agricultural and rural interventions to benefit family farmers and improve their resilience.

Related news

Related news

Food systems that ignore the needs of poor rural people are doomed to fail, warns IFAD President ahead of Food Systems pre-Summit

July 2021 - NEWS
If we ignore the challenges and needs of rural people in the world’s poorest countries, our attempts to create more equitable and sustainable food systems are doomed to fail, said the President of IFAD ahead of the UN Food Systems pre-Summit that begins in Rome on Monday.

FAO, FIDA y PMA crean alianza de cara a la Cumbre sobre los Sistemas Alimentarios de Naciones Unidas

May 2021 - NEWS
La FAO, el FIDA y el PMA realizarán tres diálogos en América Latina y el Caribe para buscar posturas comunes sobre desarrollo rural, agricultura resiliente al clima, alimentación escolar, comercio internacional, innovación y tecnología, y financiamiento al desarrollo.

Tanzania and IFAD partner to boost productivity, improve food security and build resilience of small-scale farmers in the face of the climate change 

May 2021 - NEWS
A US$77.4 million project signed by IFAD and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania will bring much needed help to 260,000 rural households facing the impacts of climate change.

Related stories

Related stories

Responding to the challenges of a year like no other: IFAD’s 2020 Annual Report

July 2021 - STORY
As the Food Systems Pre-Summit – in which IFAD is leading on long-term innovative solutions to strengthen our food systems – comes to a close, IFAD is launching our Annual Report, showcasing how our work and our niche expertise continue to deliver on ensuring the poorest people in rural areas across the globe will not be left behind.

Seeing the invisible, doing the impossible: A young Nigerian entrepreneur’s journey to success

July 2021 - STORY
Dorothy Chia Vandefan is nothing if not insightful. She describes herself as a serious-minded agricultural entrepreneur who can create opportunities where there seem to be none – and she’s right.

In Moldova, new frontiers for the honeybee business

June 2021 - STORY
Thanks to an IFAD-supported grant, Ecaterina’s honey business is taking off – and now she and her fellow entrepreneurs have a bigger market reach than ever before.

Related blogs

Related blogs

It’s time to think small

August 2021 - BLOG
Small-scale farmers and the rural poor have a crucial role to play in the restoration of ecosystems and the conservation of natural resources.

Bold actions for gender equality and women’s empowerment in food systems

July 2021 - BLOG
What does a gender just and equitable food system practically look like? A just and equitable food system is one in which women’s roles change from being invisible to being visible.

Strengthening food systems in Pakistan

July 2021 - BLOG
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 reported that more than half of the world’s undernourished are found in Asia (418 million). In Pakistan, Covid-19 has exposed vulnerabilities and inadequacies making nutrition a more complex challenge now.

Related news

Related news

Food systems that ignore the needs of poor rural people are doomed to fail, warns IFAD President ahead of Food Systems pre-Summit

July 2021 - NEWS
If we ignore the challenges and needs of rural people in the world’s poorest countries, our attempts to create more equitable and sustainable food systems are doomed to fail, said the President of IFAD ahead of the UN Food Systems pre-Summit that begins in Rome on Monday.

FAO, FIDA y PMA crean alianza de cara a la Cumbre sobre los Sistemas Alimentarios de Naciones Unidas

May 2021 - NEWS
La FAO, el FIDA y el PMA realizarán tres diálogos en América Latina y el Caribe para buscar posturas comunes sobre desarrollo rural, agricultura resiliente al clima, alimentación escolar, comercio internacional, innovación y tecnología, y financiamiento al desarrollo.

Tanzania and IFAD partner to boost productivity, improve food security and build resilience of small-scale farmers in the face of the climate change 

May 2021 - NEWS
A US$77.4 million project signed by IFAD and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania will bring much needed help to 260,000 rural households facing the impacts of climate change.

Related publications

Related publications

Food-system interventions with climate change and nutrition co-benefits: a literature review

June 2021
This literature review report explores the conceptual linkages between climate change and nutrition using a food system approach.

Research Series Issue 65: Impacts of agricultural value chain development in a mountainous region: Evidence from Nepal

May 2021
This analysis investigates the potential mechanism and the practical significance of the impacts of agricultural value chain development in a geographically challenging rural area of a developing country.

Resilient Food Systems Programme highlights 2020

March 2021
The 2020 Annual Report showcases the achievements and innovations of the RFS regional partners, country project teams and beneficiary communities across 12 targeted countries.

Food Systems Contact

Contact information

 

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