Creating a more sustainable global food system demands innovation in food technologies, and collaboration at the highest levels of government. These demands were echoed by many prominent leaders who attended the recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia.
More than 500 participants from 30 countries congregated at the Forum on October 30 and 31 to discuss progress on the latest food research, as well as ideas for how to transform food systems in Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.
Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned in his opening remarks that “food can trigger political problems if not managed well.” He hoped that the “EAT Forum can reach a collective understanding through international collaboration among development actors from various sectors.”
After a steady decline for more than a decade, global hunger is again on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, according to a recent UN report. The increased number of those going hungry — from 38 million people last year to 815 million people today — is reported to be mainly caused by civil conflicts, and exacerbated by climate-related catastrophes.
Food can trigger political problems if not managed well
Gathering leaders from science, politics and business, the EAT Forum aimed to promote a more holistic approach to food, health and sustainability, filling knowledge gaps, pushing for integrated food policies and finding win-win solutions.
A HIGH-LEVEL ISSUE
“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets,” EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen said in her opening speech.
“We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector, from multinationals to local entrepreneurs, to create new products, services and sustainable business models,” she added.
Indonesian Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that “food security has become a prominent issue due to rapid growth in global population.”
“Food security, energy security and water supply are becoming key factors for many economic activities in the world. Improvements in technology and innovation are definitely going to create both opportunities and increasing productivity, but also challenges,” she said.
Scientist Terry Sunderland from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) commended the EAT forum for its success in gathering a large number of stakeholders in the food sector, including high-level politicians.
“Getting politicians to recognize the limitations of our current food systems is a great start. Things will not change overnight, but the event in Jakarta is raising awareness. People are listening,” he said.
A HOLISTIC VIEW ON FOOD SECURITY
Amy Ickowitz, another CIFOR scientist who participated in the event, said the issues covered in the Forum are in line with CIFOR’s research. But while the Forum focused more on the impacts of food systems on land-use change, CIFOR’s Sustainable Landscapes and Food team “also focuses on the flip side — the impacts of land-use change on smallholder diets,” she said.
The team recently published a paper looking at the relationship between forests and tree-based agriculture, and the diets of children in Indonesia.
Sunderland added that when talking about food security in Indonesia, forests and fisheries play an integral role.
Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important
“Inland and marine fisheries stocks, and how they interplay with dietary and nutritional diversity, are important. We need to understand, what are the future demands for fisheries and how will this play out in terms food security? It supports we have done in the past five, six years in terms of moving towards dietary diversity,” he said.
“More support should be given to smallholder farmers so they can reduce their post-harvest waste, so they can trade in a market that’s fair and equitable. And slowly get that mindset that the transformation of our food system can be a positive thing.
“Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important,” he added.
The EAT Forum was jointly organized by the Indonesian Government and the EAT Foundation.
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