Food Systems


Fruit and vegetables on sale alongside other food items in a local market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg).

The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) published its 2020 annual report on activities and accomplishments from its five research flagships:

  • food systems for healthier diets;
  • biofortification;
  • food safety;
  • supporting policies, programs, and enabling action through research; and
  • improving human health.

Noting that the year 2020 was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, A4NH director John McDermott said: “The pandemic emphasized the importance of A4NH core research strengths: One Health, nutrition, and food systems, into which gender and equity considerations are integrated as critical to improve nutrition and health outcomes. As a result, A4NH research leaders and teams were called into central roles in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts during 2020 by CGIAR as well as in programs and projects in partner countries.”

The 10-year research program ended in December 2021 as CGIAR transitions to a new research structure and portfolio from 2022.

Access the A4NH 2020 annual report or read the online version.

Photo credit: Local food market in Addis Ababa (ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg)

There is a need for better understanding of how food systems operate in order to effectively address food safety and nutrition in low- and middle-income countries, says a new review paper.

The review published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems (Apr 2021) proposes that countries and international institutions provide an atlas of food system maps for key food commodities. This will help to fill current knowledge gaps in food system mapping and governance.

The review by scientists from the Royal Veterinary College, the University of Greenwich, the University of Liverpool and the International Livestock Research Institute presents the state of knowledge on existing methods of studying food systems towards improving food safety and nutrition.

The review found that food systems analyses vary widely in scope and quality, with most concentrating on specific food commodities as opposed to adopting a whole-diet approach when looking at nutrition or assessing a range of infectious agents when looking at food safety.

In the area of food safety, in-depth assessments of food systems can complement risk analysis to identify risky behaviours, understand institutional settings and improve codes of practice and enforcement. There is a challenge, however, in the area of nutrition, as existing tools on nutrition and food systems science are not yet being merged. 

Addressing food safety and nutrition in low- and middle-income countries will require better understanding of the drivers of the food systems and incorporation of codes of practice and enforcement which ensure access to safe and nutritious food.

It is also important to recognize that food systems are integral to health and thus ensure that food systems policy is aligned with health policy. This calls for interdisciplinary research on food systems encompassing consumption behaviour, value chain analysis, policy analysis, nutrition science and gender research.

Citation

Alarcon, P., Dominguez-Salas, P., Fèvre, E.M. and Rushton J. 2021. The importance of a food systems approach to low and middle income countries and emerging economies: A review of theories and its relevance for disease control and malnutrition. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 5: 642635.

Photo credit: Pulses on sale alongside other food items in a local market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg)

Roadside market. Mozambique, Angonia province (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

As the impacts of COVID-19 spread across the globe, the virus threatens more than health systems worldwide. It also poses serious risks to food security, local businesses, national economies and hard-fought progress by stakeholders at all levels towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The global response to the pandemic must be swift and science-based, harnessing knowledge for emergency response, recovery and resilience.

Research leaders in health and agriculture have launched a new COVID-19 Hub to consolidate existing scientific evidence and help support response, recovery and resilience measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned recently, immediate action on food systems is needed to prevent a global food emergency that could have long-term health effects.

The CGIAR COVID-19 Hub, coordinated by CGIAR, the world’s largest publicly funded agricultural research network, brings together the latest science on agriculture and health to inform a research-based response to the pandemic.

The International Livestock Research Institute joins the International Food Policy Research Institute, the CGIAR System Organization and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine as co-implementers of the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub.

Hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, the Hub provides a coordinated research response to the pandemic, convening researchers, funders and key stakeholders.

It focuses on supporting national response and recovery work across CGIAR research themes through the response, recovery and resilience phases of the pandemic, with work from across CGIAR’s global network of 14 research centres and 15 research programs and platforms, in close collaboration with other research organizations, policymakers, non-governmental organizations and many other stakeholders.

Photo credit: Fresh produce on sale at a roadside market in Angonia Province, Mozambique (ILRI/Stevie Mann)