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"Overview: Sustainable agriculture production and diversification for healthy diets Dr. Anna Herforth Independent Consultant, USA "


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The International Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition was jointly held by FAO and WHO in December 2016 to explore policies and programme options for shaping the food systems in ways that deliver foods for a healthy diet, focusing on concrete country experiences and challenges. This Symposium waas the first large-scale contribution under the UN Decade of Action for Nutrition 2016-2025. This presentation was part of Parallel session 1.1: Sustainable agriculture production and diversification for healthy diets"

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"Overview: Sustainable agriculture production and diversification for healthy diets Dr. Anna Herforth Independent Consultant, USA "

  1. 1. Overview: Sustainable agriculture production and diversification for healthy diets Dr. Anna Herforth Independent Consultant, USA
  2. 2. Food systems are not adequately supporting nutrition Approximately… • 800 million hungry • 2 billion affected by hidden hunger • 2 billion overweight or obese
  3. 3. Nutritious food shortage • Given world food supplies, it is possible, in theory for all people to consume sufficient calories, but it is impossible for all to consume healthy diets.
  4. 4. Source: Keats and Wiggins 2014; 2009 data from FAOSTAT
  5. 5. Food Supply in Sub-Saharan Africa Source: Herforth, A. In: Sahn, D. (Ed.) The Fight Against Hunger and Malnutrition. Oxford University Press (2015). Data from FAOSTAT. Dotted lines represent need
  6. 6. Food Affordability in rural Bangladesh Slide Source: Howdy Bouis; Food and Nutrition Bulletin, Mar 2011
  7. 7. Dietary problems mirror food supply Source: Global Burden of Disease Study, GBD-compare tool
  8. 8. Supply side actions are critical • Supply side policies influence what is produced in agriculture, and how • Currently, supply side policies are often not aligned with the food needed to support healthy diets and nutrition
  9. 9. Doesn’t production reflect consumer demand? • In a perfect market system, it should • In reality: – There are numerous supply-side barriers to production, especially for perishable foods – Public investment/support policies do not clearly mirror demand – Private companies influence both supply and consumer demand
  10. 10. Supply side barriers • Perishability – Good transportation and strong market linkages are essential for producers to risk investment in perishable foods • Disease and pest resistance issues • Access to quality seeds, land/water/forest  Low supply response; unmet demand for diverse nutritious foods  Public support needed for R&D, infrastructure, farmer organizations “High value crops” are higher value – so why isn’t everyone growing them?
  11. 11. Public investment priorities: More of the same No other food groups mentioned… Food for 2050
  12. 12. Whose demand? Food companies act as script- writer and translator between consumers and producers Producers Food companies Consumers
  13. 13. Homogenization of crop varieties • Over the past 50 years: – per capita food supplies have expanded in calories, protein, and fat, with increased proportions from energy-dense foods – National food supplies worldwide became more similar in composition, correlated with an increased supply of a small number of cereal and oil crops • Nutritionally important diversity is eroding Source: Khoury et al., 2014, PNAS
  14. 14. More of the same and the planet • Increasing production and consumption of refined starches and sugars, fats, oils and meats  Biodiversity loss – By 2050 these trends  approx. 80% increase in agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (Tilman and Clark 2014) • Impossible to avoid 2°C increase if trends in meat consumption continue (Hedenus et al. 2014) – Sustaining trends depends heavily on abundant cheap staple grains and unsustainable methods of animal production
  15. 15. Future supply: Climate change Source: Springmann et al., Lancet 2016
  16. 16. In sum, nutritious non-staples are: • Harder to grow and sell (lack of infrastructure, R&D) – Will become even more challenging (climate change) • Not supported by subsidies and other forms of public support equivalent to staple crops and oilseeds • Being displaced in diets by aggressive marketing of ultra-processed foods that require low-cost staple crops and oilseeds Imbalanced diets, imbalanced support!
  17. 17. Supply side policies can do more • to remove barriers to diversified production • to incentivize production and consumption of nutritious foods most lacking in diets around the world • The focus needs to be on horticulture, legumes, and small-scale livestock and fish – foods which are relatively unavailable and expensive, but nutrient-rich – and vastly underutilized as sources of both food and income.
  18. 18. Key Recommendations • Facilitate production diversification, and increase production of nutrient-dense crops and small-scale livestock (for example, horticultural products, legumes, livestock and fish at a small scale, underutilized crops, and biofortified crops) • Improve processing, storage and preservation to retain nutritional value, shelf-life, and food safety, to reduce seasonality of food insecurity and post-harvest losses, and to make healthy foods convenient to prepare. • Expand market access for vulnerable groups, particularly for marketing nutritious foods
  19. 19. Food security • when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious foods to meet dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (FAO, 1996).
  20. 20. Accountability • Monitor availability and access to diverse, and nutritious foods. – Not just calorie supply, or supply of a few crops • Our targets need to match our goals.
  21. 21. We face a nutritious food shortage: Given world food supplies, it is impossible for all to consume healthy diets. • “More of the same” is unsustainable for human and environmental health. • Policies need to support diversified production for healthy diets and sustainability.