Towards Sustainable Food System Transformation in the Global South


by A4NH

An unbalanced plate threatens not only human nutrition and related poor health outcomes, but also the planet. However, what does it take to create a healthy plate – for the developing world – based on sustainable food systems? Agricultural and nutrition scientists from CGIAR sought to answer this question during a side event held at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS46) in Rome, Italy. Delegates from 126 countries, key UN organizations, and more than 200 private sector and civil society representatives had gathered at CFS from 14-18 October to review the 2019 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report (SOFI 2019) and the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Nutrition.

Namukolo Covic addresses CFS side event on sustainable food systems. Photo: G.Napolitano/FAO

"It's very clear that current food production and consumption practices are not very conducive to the type of sustainability that we require or desirable nutrition and health outcomes, and that some actions are needed," said Namukolo Covic, Research Coordinator with the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), during her keynote address.

The publication of the influential EAT Lancet report on sustainable and healthy diets last January has spurred debate by calling for significant reductions in the consumption of animal-source foods and increased consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and plant proteins.

The report's radical recommendations are shaping the development agenda, especially in the Global South, where diets are far from meeting various micro- and macro-nutrient needs of most populations, particularly women, children, and adolescent girls in rural areas, and where many livelihoods are built around integrated crop and livestock production systems.

With the publication of these seminal reports, it is important to consider how recommendations would fit into food systems in the Global South.

"Equal treatment is not what is always needed. But lessons should be learned to chart a more positive direction in Africa and Asia, avoiding mistakes that have already been made elsewhere," said Covic.

This post is an excerpt of a summary of the CGIAR event at CFS46. Read the full post, written by Vivian Atakos with contributions from Namukolo Covic, Ekin Birol, Jean Balié, Temina Lalani-Shariff, KC Santos, Janet Hodur, Peter Goldstein, and James Stapleton, here.

November 6, 2019

The conference provided an example of how work done by different A4NH flagships open opportunities for experience sharing across countries.

October 31, 2019

Event will explore how countries are assessing and acting on food system transformation – considering consumption and food environments, food supply and sustainability, health, and socioeconomic outcomes, with discussion about challenges, opportunities, and trade-offs.

October 29, 2019

Rates of overweight and obesity are rising at an alarming rate in India, especially among women. IFPRI Research Fellow Avinash Kishore discusses the impacts of changing food environments.