World Food Day 2021: Answering the Call for Sustainable Food Systems

In the past year, we have seen a growing call for sustainable food systems, for a stronger focus on climate change, and crucially, for stronger partnerships to meet the challenges facing communities around the world. We have seen multiple organizations working on the food security challenges: United Nations convening the UNFSS, to BMZ’s ongoing support for the One World – NO Hunger initiative, and the Biden Administration pushing for climate financing, partnerships, and improved food security.

As all of these organizations have stressed, the coming decade will be critical for our future. 

How can we meld these many different, interconnected calls together? How can we help the most vulnerable adapt to climate change and improve their food insecurity and livelihoods, becoming resilient to the coming climatic effects? What should we do to impact the one billion people around the world who work in agrifood systems? 

Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) has a plan for how we get from our current unsustainable, environmentally-damaging food systems to sustainable, environmentally-friendly, climate-resilient agrifood systems. It starts by going to the beginning of our food value chain and targeting the base of the pyramid and smallholder farmers who are the key for transforming agricultural production. WE4F works with water-food, energy-food, and water-energy-food companies that directly and sustainably impact food production and processing. Let’s take a closer look at the innovations currently supported.

In the mountains of Lebanon resides GoBaladi, a WE4F innovator working with the Middle East and North Africa Regional Innovation Hub (RIH). Their innovation focuses on developing sustainable, eco-friendly goat dairy products that connect farmers to consumers, improving rural climate resilience and urban food security. As the Lebanese economy worsens and energy crises grow, cow dairy becomes financially and ecologically unsustainable. Goat dairy offers a climate-friendly alternative. Additionally, GoBaladi’s usage of solar energy for processing enables them to avoid relying on unstable energy sources. 

South of GoBaladi by about 6000 miles is ITIKI-CUT, a legacy innovator part of the Southern and Central Africa RIH. ITIKI provides a technology that helps smallholder farmers combat the effects of climate change through indigenous historical knowledge and meteorology. It used to be that farmers could rely on weather patterns to inform them of the correct time to plant crops, but now, as weather patterns change, previous indicators of rain are becoming less accurate. By combining indigenous knowledge with scientific instruments, ITIKI-CUT’s drought prediction tool,  provides farmers with localized weather forecasts that improve agricultural output by 10%.

In Bangladesh, the South and Southeast Asia RIH is working with Pumpkin Plus, an innovator that leverages a sand-bar cropping method to improve women and base of the pyramid farmers’ livelihoods. By using these temporary, fertile lands, farmers are able to grow valuable crops that increase their incomes and mitigate the effects on climate change. 

In addition to innovators, WE4F develops public-private partnerships focused on impacting climate resilience and food security. The East Africa and West Africa Regional Innovation Hubs leverage public-private partnerships that combine capacity development, technical assistance, and sustainable technologies to improve farmers’ livelihoods.

Arid Northern Kenya is home to the Turkana Basin Institute, a research organization that is branching into hydroponics and solar-powered water pumping. Through a PPP with the East Africa RIH, local community members are receiving training on hydroponics and business development. As highlighted in the recent mini-doc, the only way to grow fresh produce in this dry region is through hydroponics and greenhouses. The skills gained through this PPP will help the local community become more food secure and resilient to the effects of  climate change. The new solar-powered water pumping and reverse osmosis system also replaces the previously-used diesel pump.

In Ivory Coast, the West Africa RIH is working with the University of Daloa to increase the usage of agroforestry by educating students, cooperatives, and local residents. The partnership will demonstrate how biodiversity protection and carbon sequestration go hand-in-hand with food security and developing sustainable, local businesses.

“PEEPA/WE4F is showing its support for the sustainable production of agri-food products as well as for the preservation of nature through its contribution to the implementation of a demonstration project of agroforestry techniques integrating a solar irrigation system and promoting good agricultural practices in this period of galloping deforestation. We dare to hope for an effective appropriation of this revolutionary agricultural technique by the 37 agricultural cooperatives identified within the framework of this project and more specifically in the western zone of the country which is considered as the granary of Côte d’Ivoire’’.

Hannah Zander – Technical Advisor of the WE4F project, West Africa Regional Innovation Hub

On World Food Day, we join countless others looking towards the future and thinking about our current actions. We also invite companies, nonprofits, and academic organizations in alignment with our goals to transform our food systems. Companies and nonprofits may want to apply to our two open Calls for Innovations in South and Southeast Asia and the MENA region. A third call in Southern and Central Africa will open in November. We also welcome potential partners and other organizations to contact us and learn more about our program.