The World Food Day 2022, observed on October 16, also commemorated the 77th anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), launched a call for action and global solidarity to transform agrifood systems in a bid to foster inclusive economic growth, address inequality, increase resilience, and achieve sustainable development.
According to the 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, prepared by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO, the Caribbean was reported to be the subregion with the highest cost of healthy diets in the world. In Jamaica, there has been a two per cent increase in the cost of healthy diets between 2017 and 2020. Paradoxically, two-thirds of those experiencing high and acute food insecurity globally are themselves rural food producers, and women are 15 per cent more likely than men to moderately or severely experience food insecurity. The current pressures of high food and fuel food prices compounded by the ongoing climate crisis call for renewed investment in smallholder farmers’ capacity to produce food for local markets. This requires a thorough transformation of our local and global food systems to ensure that they can meet the current and future challenges by becoming more environmentally resilient and recognised as a central engine of future circular economies.
FOOD SECURITY PLAN
In Jamaica, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has been leading a multisectoral food-security plan called the Grow Smart Eat Smart campaign that constitutes a vibrant call for action for a national collective effort to transform the agrifood system. This strategic approach and critical campaign can bolster the local agricultural value chain, promote food and nutrition security for all, reduce food waste and loss of locally produced foods and create inclusive and resilient agro enterprises. In addition, the campaign will foster greater care for natural resources such as soils, water, and biodiversity. This proposal is putting the smallholder farmers at the centre of a much-needed transformation. The FAO has encouraged its country members in Latin America and the Caribbean to do the same by promoting transformation of global agrifood systems. Our agrifood systems are interlinked to all areas of our lives and economy – from agriculture to natural resources to energy to health – they hold great potential as vehicles for a more equitable and prosperous future.
The FAO, working closely with the Government of Jamaica and in alignment with other UN agencies present in the country, has recently begun implementation of its new Country Programme Framework for 2022-2026. The FAO is focusing on supporting the Government of Jamaica in realising achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals with particular emphasis on eradication of poverty, ending hunger and malnutrition, and reducing inequality. The FAO provides technical assistance in Jamaica in projects such as reducing food loss and food waste; providing assistance to youth and women to implement agrifood businesses in the rural and peri-urban territories of the Kingston Metropolitan Area; improving rural livelihoods and enhancing climate change resilience of vulnerable smallholders; and assisting in improving the protection and sustainable management of mangrove ecosystems and biodiversity.
These initiatives ensure social and economic support to the most vulnerable sectors of Jamaica’s population who grow and feed the country and their families while being vulnerable to food insecurity. In addition, these initiatives contribute to the protection of people’s livelihoods, to the improvement of agricultural infrastructure and also promote better production, better nutrition, better environment, and better lives for all Jamaicans.
FAO Jamaica has recently approved a new project through FAO Global Digital Village Initiative that seeks to improve access to online technologies of farmers with special focus on women and youth. As more rural areas gain easier access to online tools, they are able to not only access better information but also to access more opportunities for marketing of their produce as well as weather and climatic services.
Finally, it is important to emphasise that the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit and other multilateral initiatives have initiated numerous country-led “roadmaps” or “pathways”. These roadmaps, often resulting from a participatory dialogue, constitute key priorities for each country for the sustainable transformation of their food systems. Development of such road maps is supported by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Jamaica with the support of respective UN agencies to align with the Government of Jamaica’s key strategic goals for making its food system more resilient to future shocks.
In conclusion, Jamaica can empower those left behind through transforming how food is produced, consumed, and distributed. The Government, the private sector, academia, and civil society need to empower the most vulnerable through the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient agrifood systems.
Dr Crispim Moreira is FAO Representative for Jamaica, The Bahamas and Belize based in Jamaica. Twitter: @crispim_moreira