From brainstorming solutions for food security and mitigating climate change based on science and innovation to highlighting the links between healthy eating and a healthy planet – a youth-driven World Food Forum on Friday 21 October 2022 wrapped up five days of intensive dialogue, networking and investment pitching aimed at addressing the world’s growing food crisis.
Speaking in a closing ceremony which offered a rich mix of indigenous youth advocacy, music, poetry and film, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said: “I am impressed by the many ways policy, science, technology, innovation and investment have converged to spark the actions we need for a better food future.” He added: “The future I always believe is brighter!”
Energizing the gathering has been the urgency of bringing diverse perspectives to bear towards its goals of finding solutions for food security and improving agrifood resilience; raising awareness of the links between dietary and planetary health; and identifying bold, actionable science based solutions to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis, while also increasing access to healthy diets for all.
Qu was joined by counterparts from the other Rome-based Agencies (RBAs), featuring Assistant Vice President Satu Sala from the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Arif Husain, Chief Economist and Director of Research, Assessment and Monitoring, from the World Food Programme (WFP), as well as youth, science, investment and cultural leaders, who all testified to a new sense of momentum in the continuing collaboration of all stakeholders towards agrifood systems transformation and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The forum brought together three concurrent streams, focusing on youth, science, technology and innovation and FAO’s flagship Hand-in-Hand Initiative pairing prospective investors with countries in greatest need of support. Among the key achievements:
In the WFF Global Youth stream: Youth spoke up and clearly defined the policies and solutions they want to see in their regions and in the world. Key points of Regional Youth Action Compendium drafts from the event are to be taken to the COP27 summit in Egypt. The forum introduced a food and agriculture-related youth policy group and a young scientists group to further substantiate the drafts and carry them further to all relevant multilateral meetings ahead. There were round table dialogues including young farmers, young media professionals, Indigenous Youth. The Global Youth Forum brought game-changing research and innovation in the Transformative Research Challenge and Startup Innovation Awards, as well as cultural celebrations to inspire people worldwide to join the movement for transforming how our food is produced, delivered and consumed.
In the FAO Science, Technology and Innovation stream: Participants in the Science and Innovation Forum explored harness science and innovation for all areas of agrifood systems, including sustainable livestock, blue transformation, innovation in improving access and affordability of fertilizers, and many others. They also learned about the transformative potential of traditional diversification and the application of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge. A new transformative partnership was celebrated between FAO and the Wageningen University and Research, as well as the three French research institutes for rural and agricultural development, and environment: CIRAD, INRAE and the IRD. And the stream explored how to fast-track science and innovation to enhance climate action and improve nutrition with sustainable agrifood systems.
And in the FAO Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum: 20 countries presented investment impact opportunities and held bilateral meetings and 3 regional initiatives were highlighted. Significant investment pitches were made and a process started with many investors coming from multilateral and regional banks as well as from the private sector and investment funds. Many new partnerships were formed, and significant investments are already happening, with more to come. In addition, the growth potential and various finance structures of the agrifood sector were explored. The FAO Investment Center and Regional Offices will continue to support and accelerate investment processes with countries.
Organizers stressed there is no one individual thing that made this year’s World Food Forum a success, but instead it was the coming together of all the different perspectives, and all the stakeholders, across regions and generations. The three interlinked streams highlighted the importance of collaboration between the current and next generation. And our combined ingenuity in science, technology, innovation – and investments give us the best hope of creating a better food future, leaving no one behind.