UN calls for sustainable investment in food systems


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The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Maria Ribeiro has called for sustainable investment in food systems to achieve healthy diets for all.

In her remarks to mark this year’s World Food Day held under the theme “Grow, Nourish, Sustain Together with Nature” Ms. Ribeiro called on stakeholders to invest in a healthy and sustainable relationship with nature.

“The theme of this year’s World Food Day 2020 is “grow, nourish and sustain together.” We must invest in a healthy and sustainable relationship with nature, not just ourselves, but our environment. It is our new social contract for nature.

“Almost three-quarters of the earth’s land’s surface has already been transformed from its natural state, and the pace of conversion is accelerating. This is disrupting ecosystems and threatening the very foundation that supports our existence. The occurrence of disasters and pandemics slows down development and at the same time weakens the ability of people, communities, and countries and systems to foresee, cope, and recover from the losses,” Ms. Ribeiro said.

This year has brought with it its fair share of challenges. These include the drought, some socio-economic economic challenges, residual impact of Cyclone Idai compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN senior official said despite the challenges, it is important to celebrate the successes and accomplishments in the sector.

Today, the world is celebrating the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s 75th anniversary and its great strides in supporting its Member Countries to achieve food and nutrition security.  

Just last week, the Nobel Prize was awarded to WFP in recognition of its work and the dedication of its thousands of staff who risk their lives daily to deliver food to the hungry. The United Nations turns 75 next week thanks to the entry to force of the UN Charter on 24 October 1945.

Ms. Ribeiro said these milestones packed in October are cause for celebration and a boost the resolve to “grow, nourish, sustain together” – better and bigger.

The UN Charter, celebrated in the same month as World Food Day every year, remains the binding social contract for humanity to advance cooperation, peace, human rights, social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. The right to food is a core aspiration enshrined in the Charter and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Food security is also prominently entrenched in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs which 193 UN Member States including Zimbabwe adopted.

Without big improvements in the food supply chain, many fragile nations are set to become increasingly vulnerable to financial volatility and climate shocks.

“Our smallholder farmers need support to grow crops in a more sustainable way, then store and transport their produce to markets, and ultimately improve their own livelihoods. When food makes its way from the farm right along the supply chain and onto people’s plates in a way that’s effective and fair, then everyone benefits.”

The recently released Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) reports that the COVID-19 pandemic severely threatens an already critical and fragile food and nutrition security situation, arising mainly from the prevailing macroeconomic conditions and consecutive years of drought.

So severe is the country’s food insecurity, for the first time ever, one WFP lean season assistance programme was immediately succeeded by another. Moreover. UN efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic have limited daily activities, including those who grow and deliver the food. The COVID-19 pandemic risks further escalating millions of food-insecure households.

The UN has reported that in rural areas 5.5 million will be food insecure which is 56% of the rural population and 2.2 million which translate to 29% urban population. However, the full impact of the virus on food and nutrition security is not yet known, nor will likely be known, as the spread of the virus continues to evolve differently.

The UN team in Zimbabwe is working closely with the Government to achieve zero hunger and address vulnerability in food and nutrition insecurity across the board.

Ms Ribeiro highlighted a few key result examples:

  • Under the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Programme funded by World Bank and managed by UNOPS,-  UN agencies (WFP, FAO, UNICEF and WHO) are working to support resilient recovery through the provision of livelihood opportunities, health, nutrition,  restoration of crop and livestock production as well as community infrastructures.
  • FAO, WFP and UNDP are supporting in rehabilitating and operationalize over 34 irrigation schemes in Manicaland, Masvingo and Matabeleland South provinces.
  • WFP remains at the forefront providing in cash and in-kind food assistance to drought affected rural communities, economic and COVID-19 affected urban population, communities affected by Cyclone and specific groups such as refugees and asylum seekers in Zimbabwe.
  • FAO is supporting Government to review the National Land Policy; whose objective is to provide a policy environment that will assist to unlock the value of the land and increase investment in the agricultural sector. This, we hope, will increase both food production and food security, while surplus will be exported to generate the much-needed foreign currency.
  • FAO has also been at the forefront assisting with increasing livestock production and animal health. Smallholder farmers were assisted with stock feed for breeding cattle, vaccination of livestock against several livestock related diseases and ailments.
  • UNDP is supporting over 840,000 people in 18 vulnerable districts with resilience building through on farm such as adoption of drought tolerant seeds (maize, sorghum, cowpeas) and with off farm projects. In addition, UNDP supported national efforts with land audit to enhance land use and management for food security.
  • The support from our long-standing partners from European Union, Sweden and United Kingdom to a multi-partner initiative fund, Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund has facilitated the protection of development gains in the face of natural and economic disasters including the measures to minimize the effect of COVID-19. Activities by ZRBF has contributed to more varied food sources for household members in 18 districts in Zimbabwe.
  • In addition, the UN and its agencies have been working in building capacity of smallholder farm households to achieve sustained income increases through improved food and nutrition security. The UN system has:
  • Raised smallholder farm productivity by promoting resilient, improved and climate appropriate agricultural practices.
  • Increased access by smallholder farmers and their value chain actors to rural finance.
  • We have helped to develop innovative ways of linking farmer groups and commercial markets.
  • We helped to enable the introduction of Biofortified vitamin “A” maize variety in the country, resulting in over 250,000 farmers producing and consuming the variety. Similar gains have been attained for the roll out of High Iron and Zinc beans (NUA45) and Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP).

She emphasised the fact that the UN in Zimbabwe will continue its support to the country and work with the Ministry of Agriculture in its effort to achieve zero hunger, food and nutrition security under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development.