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

Donor Platform’s Committee on World Food Security Side Event: Innovative approaches to sustainable finance for food systems transformation

oktober 2023 - EVENT

This session will provide examples of how donors can mobilize responsible investment from the private sector and present the results of new research by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development and the Shamba Centre for Food & Climate on how donors can develop partnerships with funders to drive investment in smallholder farmers.

IFAD at the Africa Food Systems Forum 2023

september 2023 - EVENT

AGRF brings together agricultural stakeholders to commit to programmes, investments and policies that move African agriculture forward.

The UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment

juli 2023 - EVENT

This stocktaking moment will further reaffirm the world’s commitment to act with urgency, at scale and in line with the promise of the SDGs.

Related news

Related news

Experts and practitioners come together to improve nutrition outcomes in agricultural development in West and Central Africa

november 2023 - NEWS

A regional knowledge and experience sharing workshop that addresses nutrition, rural development and food system transformation began today in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Improving food and nutrition security in West and Central Africa is crucial. It is estimated that 29.8% of the population of West Africa and 13.9% of the population of Central Africa are undernourished.

New partnership to promote decent work across food systems

juli 2023 - NEWS

A new multi-stakeholder partnership to advance labour and human rights, decent jobs and fair and adequate incomes and wages within the agri-food sector has been formed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), IFAD, and CARE International.

New analysis: Rising obesity rates in developing countries linked to high cost and limited availability of healthy foods

juli 2023 - NEWS

Steep price gaps between healthy and unhealthy foods, coupled with the unavailability of a variety of healthy foods, are driving rising obesity rates in both urban and rural areas of developing countries, according to a literature review released by IFAD.

Related stories

Related stories

2022: Resilience in the face of adversity

december 2022 - STORY

As we near the end of 2022, IFAD looks back on some of the themes that defined a year of dramatic change. 

A year of rural stories

december 2023 - STORY

For countless people in IFAD-supported projects, 2023 was a year in which their lives changed. Here are some of the stories we told over the past 12 months.

 

Agricultural programmes are key to food security and dietary diversity

juli 2023 - STORY

Agricultural programmes are key to food security and dietary diversity in rural areas, we must continue investing in them.

 مدونات ذات صلة

Contentverzamelaar

A decade of progress for small-scale farmers in Cuba

september 2022 - BLOG

Marking ten years in Cuba, IFAD’s Country Director met small-scale farmers and partners to discuss progress made and what is yet to be done.

After the earthquake in Türkiye, rural people need more support than ever

april 2023 - BLOG

In southern Türkiye countless farming communities are suffering after losing their homes and livelihoods to the devastating earthquake that struck the country.

Amplifying rural needs and voices: A conversation with Helene Papper

september 2021 - BLOG

It’s clearer than ever before: to address global crises, the communities who implement solutions must be involved, their voices heard, their knowledge included. But how do we bring forward voices from the world’s most remote areas?

Related publications

Contentverzamelaar

Addressing overweight and obesity in LMICs in rural development and food systems: A comprehensive literature review

juni 2023

This literature review explores how IFAD can contribute to food system transformation and mitigate the rising incidence of overweight and obesity in low and middle-income countries.

Addressing overweight and obesity in LMICs in rural development and food systems: A country mapping

juni 2023

This report combines the results of an exploratory country mapping commissioned by IFAD on overweight and obesity.

Agroecology: a holistic path towards sustainable food systems

juni 2022

Agroecology applies ecological principles to agriculture and ensures a regenerative use of natural resources and ecosystem services, while addressing the need for socially equitable food systems in which people can choose what they eat and how it is produced.

Food Systems Contact

Contact information

 

[email protected]