Select Speaking Engagements
Making Agri-Food Systems More Resilient to Shocks and Stresses
(SOFA 2021 Launch, FAO)
To prepare for shocks like COVID-19, countries must build the absorptive capacity of agri-food systems. This means achieving diversity in primary production, food supply, transport networks and making healthy diets accessible. The importance of early warning systems, timely forecasts and multi-risk assessments are key to anticipating and responding to major shocks. The State of Food and Agriculture 2021 presents country-level indicators of resilience of agri-food systems and provides guidance on how countries can prioritize policies to make their agri-food systems resilient.
Farmers and Foodscapes: Listening to Farmers as We Transform Global Food Systems
(The Nature Conservancy, co-hosted by Farmers’ Forum India)
To feed people without depleting the Earth, we must first acknowledge the existence of tradeoffs and understand the science to minimize them. For example, soil maps can show us what micronutrients are missing in the soil, so that we find proper solutions to improve soil health, instead of just creating a standard nitrogen fertilizer package, whose excessive use could harm the soil. Solutions should be cost effective, especially for smallholder farmers who play a central role in restoring food systems.
The World Food Forum 2021
Young people are best placed to rejuvenate our agri-food systems by bringing innovation and accelerating digital transformation. They can lead us to transition to sustainable production and consumption, and bridge the gap between different generations. With the World Food Forum, they have started a global movement. But they still need support to reach their enormous potential. We need to work with them as equals and remove barriers to youth leadership.
COVID-19 and Agriculture Trade Talks
Governments have kept global value chains remarkably resilient during the pandemic. International commitment was pivotal in deterring countries from taking unilateral measures that could have caused food crises. As a result, the impact on global food and agriculture trade was limited to short-term disruptions at the very beginning of the pandemic. As COVID-19 continues to threaten global public health, it remains vital to promote access to food, keep markets open, facilitate trade and boost social protection programs.
International Youth Day 2021
(World Youth Forum)
Because of the actions of older generations, today’s 1.8 billion young people will bear the brunt of climate change. Too many youths are also mired in conflicts, a major culprit of hunger. Empowered young people will accelerate the transformation of unjust and unsustainable food systems. They are already pursuing inclusion, innovation and initiatives to drive change. Almost five decades ago, Henry Kissinger said no child should go to bed hungry — young people will finally get us there.
Pre-Summit, Food Systems Summit 2021
(United Nations, Rome)
We are off-track and off-path from achieving SDG 2. Data tells us that we need to target interventions and work at the country level. This year, we have a combination of meetings and actions to this end. The Matera Declaration, for example, brings attention to sustainable food security and the importance of financing green recovery — which means investing in rural areas and the agriculture sector. The Food Coalition, another example, is an instrument to implement science-based action at the country level. This pre-summit is one of many occasions the international community has come together to coordinate efforts to achieve zero hunger.
Transforming Food Systems for Food Security, Improved Nutrition and Affordable Healthy Diets for All
(SOFI 2021 Launch at the United Nations; Press Conference; Key Findings)
The findings of this year’s State of the Food Security and Nutrition in the World are gloom. As many as 161 million people fell into the hunger trap due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, up to 811 million people suffered from chronic hunger in 2020; more than 2.3 billion lacked year-round access to adequate food. These findings urge us to act to counter the drivers of hunger (economic downturns & pandemic, conflict, climate change, costly healthy diets) through six pathways.
Putting Hunger Prevention Back on the Global Agenda
(Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg)
The coronavirus pandemic has worsened hunger and malnutrition. But countries can still use data to better target the hot spots and integrate the informal economy into the formal sector to cushion the blow. Time is running out to vaccinate Africa, critical for mitigating hunger next year. Large institutions like the IMF must understand that without investing in rural areas and agriculture, there can be no “green” or “fair” recovery.
The Gradual Rise and Rapid Decline of Middle Class in Latin America and the Caribbean
(Center for Global Development Event)
The extensive lockdowns, especially in South America, where more than half of the economy is informal, meant that those with jobs in the service sectors who’d been part of the middle class immediately lost their source of income. Without access to financial services, they fell into poverty. Countries have lost a huge opportunity to formalize informal economies, which would have limited the pandemic’s devastating effects.
High-Level Debate on Oceans
(UN General Assembly, 75th Session)
Fisheries offer a huge opportunity to improve nutrition and food security, especially as 3 billion people don’t have access to healthy diets. Real-time data are critical, because if we have better data, we have better capacity to model policy impacts and inform policymaking. For example, we estimate that fish consumption will grow by 25% by 2050. Since there will be 10 billion mouths to feed, the role of fish and fish products to improve nutrition will be critical.
Think20 Forum on Climate Change
(G20 High-Level Forum on Climate Change)
Food crises are happening across the globe due to climate change, conflicts, and Covid-19-induced economic downturns. Africa has also had locust infestations. The concept of building “resilience” of agri-food systems, as opposed to that of an individual household, is new. It means minimizing risks (vulnerability) and coping with shocks when they occur (capabilities), so that countries not only survive shocks when they occur but continue to make improvements throughout.
Connecting the Dots
(Conversation with Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairman of Farmers’ Forum India)
Making agriculture and food systems work for everyone and for the environment requires a combination of evidence-driven solutions. They range from access to information that allows farmers to sell their products at competitive price, with minimum transaction costs, to effective financial instruments and trade policies.
Food for Earth Day
(The World’s Largest Live Lesson on Feeding the Future)
Access to healthy diets is a human right. We need to transform agri-food systems to feed everyone and protect our planet. Some areas that can play a critical role in this transformation are aquaculture, digital technologies, food loss and waste reduction.
Trade, the Environment and Sustainability: A Focus on Green Recovery in a COVID-19 Era
(WTO High-Level Panel)
Trade is key to ensuring food security, as it moves food from surplus areas to deficit ones. Likewise, understanding developments in global agriculture and food markets, and trade policies are crucial for reducing trade-offs between international trade’s economic, environmental and social effects. It’s also essential in addressing financial shocks, natural disasters and public health crises to achieve sustainable recovery.
The Impact of Disasters and Crises on Agriculture and Food Security 2021
(Report Launch Event)
Disasters impact agriculture disproportionately. Their growing frequency and intensity are threatening people’s lives and livelihoods, and jeopardizing food systems. The best way to manage risks is to have data and science for evidence-based action. Investing in this will have significant economic return and ensure agriculture’s role in achieving a sustainable future.
Digital Agriculture: New Frontiers for the Food System
(World Bank Event)
While the private sector seems way ahead of the game when it comes to digital agriculture, without the public sector, its efficiency, equity or sustainability cannot be guaranteed. Most important, governments must level the field to reduce digital divide. Digitalization shouldn’t increase concentration and exclusion; it should increase inclusiveness and competitiveness in the markets, so that everyone has better access to technologies.
UN Food Systems Summit: How to Incentivize Food Loss and Waste Reduction
(IFPRI Special Event)
About 14 percent of globally produced food is lost, and 17 percent is wasted. Cutting food loss and waste requires building a business case. Governments, development banks, private companies all have a role to play. Policies that encourage food loss and waste, such as harmful subsidies and lack standards, need to be examined. We need to accelerate innovation, and improve data and technology. Finally, reduction efforts should take place in parallel in developed and developing countries.
Transforming Food Systems for Affordable Healthy Diets: Global and National Strategies
(Jakarta Post Webinar “Up Close”)
Poverty and inequality are endemic in agri-food systems, by far the world’s largest economic system. And while achieving transformative change is the core aspiration for the Sustainable Development Goals, systemic interactions and trade-offs make it complex. To handle this, we need models and open platforms for data sharing. And we need to bring science into the governance process. The Food Systems Summit 2021 presents a unique opportunity to test new models for integrating science and policy.
The future of food systems is about increasing resilience. This means minimizing vulnerabilities and coping with risks when they occur. Investments in early warning systems, promotion of “one health” approach to prevent zoonotic diseases, and access to agricultural insurance can minimize vulnerabilities. To cope with risks, COVID-19 recovery plans must be linked to robust social protection programs and trade; infrastructure initiatives should be linked to financial systems; smart investments in digital innovations in food and agriculture is critical.
The European Food Systems: The Transition Toward Sustainability and Climate Mitigation
We face significant crises today. More than 690 million people are undernourished and soon an additional 130 million people could join their ranks. The European “Green Deal” and the “Farm to Fork” strategy offer an opportunity to transform the region’s agri-food systems, essential in producing healthy foods sustainably and cutting food loss and waste. It is paramount to measure and minimize the trade-offs of policies to achieve the goal of eliminating hunger.
Overcoming Water Challenges in Agriculture
(SOFA 2020 Launch at FAO)
Today, 1.2 billion people live in agricultural areas that suffer from a high recurrence of drought or extreme water scarcity. The State of Food and Agriculture 2020 takes stock of the situation and proposes a three-pronged strategy to respond. First, ensure more productive use of water in agriculture. Second, secure water for ecosystem function. Third, provide equitable access to water for everyone.
Urgent Call for Agri-Food Systems Transformation to Achieve Healthy Diets for All
(FAO Special Seminar on Food and Nutrition)
There’s an urgent need to build resilience around food systems by using accelerators such as big data, technology and innovation. But if governance, human capital and institutions are overlooked, these accelerators will not be able to reduce inequality. To help countries minimize future risks, FAO is investing in early warning systems, working to prevent the emergence of zoonotic reservoirs, and increasing access to agricultural insurance.
Economic Growth vs. Integral Human Development
(The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences)
Global hunger is driven by lack of access to food, not availability of food. The global recession caused by COVID-19 has exacerbated food access for the poor, making inequality worse. The tough situation has forced governments to look at things differently. While a significant investment in infrastructure, innovation and technology that look past simple infrastructure upgrades can spur growth, without addressing inequality, progress in poverty reduction will not last. Inclusive growth requires complements: governance, human capital and institutions.
Agri-Food Trade Policy in Europe and Central Asia During COVID-19 and Beyond
(Food and Agriculture Organization and World Trade Organization)
With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, the major threat is the pandemic-induced recession. Erasing decades of progress made in poverty reduction, it could push as many as 132 million people into the hunger trap just in 2020 and exacerbate global hunger. So we are in a very risky situation — without food and health, we could fall off a cliff. Technology, innovation, data, human capital, institutions, and good governance can help us become more resilient.
Partnering to Transform Food Systems Globally
Climate variability, conflict, economic downturns and surprises (like COVID-19) are the core drivers of hunger. Even before the pandemic, 690 million people were undernourished. Now the pandemic-induced recession and job losses have people struggling to buy food, contributing to the rise of hunger and deepening inequality. The only solution is to reform our food systems, so that it becomes more efficient, inclusive and resilient.
Global Food Supply Chains: An Early Assessment of COVID-19 Impacts
(Center for Strategic and International Studies)
Food insecurity is rising, but it’s not due to disruptions to global food supply chains. Food is becoming harder to come by because of the recession and loss of jobs. Moreover, developed countries’ expansive stimulus packages are negatively affecting developing countries’ economies and contributing to their food price hikes. Countries must focus on building resilience of their food systems to prepare for the next shock.
Food Trade Policy, G20 and COVID-19
(World Trade Organization)
Similar to the situation earlier this year, food markets face uncertainties. The fallout from the pandemic, including weak economic growth, unstable energy and currency markets, and continued trade tensions are some of the major challenges. Nonetheless, current prospects point to generally well-supplied markets. As was the case before, the issue is access to food, as hundreds of millions of people remain undernourished, in spite of abundant supply.
Addressing Food Loss and Waste: A Global Problem with Local Solutions
(The World Bank)
FAO’s efforts to cut food loss and waste center around data, technology, innovation and governance. For example, FAO has launched the Food Loss Index to better understand the problems of food loss and where in the value chains they occur, so that they can be better targeted. As COVID-19 recession deepens, governments must focus on helping farmers build resilience. FAO has been making catalytic investments, and the World Bank has the resources to scale up these efforts.
Global Value Chains, Smallholder Farmers and Digital Innovations
(SOCO 2020 Launch at FAO)
The State of Agricultural Commodity Markets 2020 focuses on the role of trade in sustainable development. It is difficult to believe that today 690 million people are undernourished, and that 3 billion people cannot afford healthy food. Global value chain is the most efficient way to make food available for everyone. Our job is to bring smallholder farmers into global value chains through innovation, technology, education and governance, so that they can reach their productivity potential and escape poverty.
Planet, People, Prosperity
A Thriving World for Our Future Generation
(Future of Food Institute)
Today, there are 3 billion people who cannot afford to buy healthy foods. The need for change has never been greater. But as COVID-19 has shown, food systems are resilient and flexible. By taking a holistic approach, in which everyone plays a part, especially young people, we can create a movement to transform food systems and make progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.
Why the Andes, Why Now?
Role of the Andean Region for Human and Planetary Health
(Andean Initiative and International Potato Center)
The Andes host the greatest range of mountain biodiversity and are the frontier of agriculture in the highest altitude in the world. Climate extremes are embedded in traditional smallholder management practices. By better understanding climatic extremes experienced in the Andes, we can better prepare for what might happen elsewhere in the world.
Transforming Food Systems for Affordable Healthy Diets
(SOFI 2020 Launch at the United Nations; Press Conference; Key Findings)
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 has critical data updates on China and other countries, allowing more accurate estimation of the number of chronically undernourished people across the globe: about 690 million people went hungry in 2019, up by 10 million from 2018. To stave off lasting damage to health, governments must offset the soaring cost of healthy diets, especially in regions that have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Food Security in the Pandemic
(The New York Academy of Sciences)
Most of the world’s hungry people live in poorer countries where sources of income — from tourism to remittances — have dried up due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Governments must respond by equally protecting and promoting health, food and the economy.
Latin America in 2020: Another Last Decade?
(The Oxford Union Latin America Debate)
From South America and the Andes to the Caribbean, Latin American nations vary in their vulnerabilities to COVID-19 and financial capacities to respond to it. By tackling inequality and investing in education and institutions, they can remove barriers to development, education and trade to fuel long-term growth.
Food Security and COVID-19
(Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg)
The situation today is different from the 2007-2008 global food crisis because, unlike then, there is plenty of food. The global stocks of food staples are high and healthy harvests are expected. But keeping the food supply chains operating is key to averting a food crisis. Trade restrictions and panic hoarding will only disrupt supply chains, creating artificial shortages.
Moving Forward on Food Loss and Waste Reduction
(SOFA 2019 launch at CSIS)
From improving food security and economic efficiency to carbon sequestration, reducing food loss and waste can bring tremendous benefits. The challenge is to improve data to find out how much food is lost and identify critical loss points in the food supply chain to develop effective interventions. The State of World’s Food and Agriculture 2019 takes policymakers to tasks.
Food Loss and Waste Reduction Can Improve Food Security and Climate Change
(SOFA 2019 launch at FAO)
Based on data from governments and independent studies, The State of Food and Agriculture 2019 estimates that globally, around 14 percent of food is lost between post-harvest and wholesale stages of the food supply chain. It argues that with improved data, food loss and waste reduction can help improve food security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Economic Resilience Is Key to Protecting Food and Nutrition Security
(SOFI 2019 launch at the United Nations New York)
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 alerts us that economic turmoil negatively affects food security and nutrition. Countries need to act now to boost social protection programs and protect incomes. In the longer term, they need to make investments to reduce economic vulnerability and inequality.
The Ranks of Hungry People on the Rise
(SOFI 2019 launch at IFPRI)
Using detailed methodologies, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 makes official data from governments public and explains what they signify. It offers analysis of the drivers of hunger and malnutrition with a special focus on the impact of economic slowdowns and downturns.
The Political Economy of Food Systems
(EAT Forum 2019)
The current food system is not sustainable. In order to implement best practices from pioneering countries like New Zealand, we need to first build a common understanding of what “food systems” are and align incentives with evidence. David Nabarro moderates the discussion and Vicky Robertson joins in. See Torero’s EAT bio.
Digital Agriculture Transformation: Challenges
Ours is a world of agriculture, one that comprises smallholder farmers, 40% of whom are women. For digital technology to benefit smallholder farmers worldwide, we need to ensure that it is affordable and adaptable for the poor, and that users have capability to take advantage of it. We need efficient regulatory mechanisms to make sure the digital divide doesn’t grow deeper.
Food Systems, Smallholder Farmers and Climate Change
(Future of Food Talks)
Today we need to feed more people, generate more employment and be sustainable. If we understand these relationships, we can prioritize our investments.
The Impact of Food Loss and Waste
(Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2019)
The impact of food loss and waste on the availability of increasingly scarce resources and how it can be tackled.
Robotics and AI for Food Security and Innovation
(Robotics, AI and Humanity Workshop at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences)
In order to sustainably feed nearly 10 billion by 2050, the world must achieve a great balancing act, including closing the food gap and supporting economic development while reducing environmental impact. Technological innovations have significant potential to achieve this balance and improve food security.
How to Achieve Gender Equality
(Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
Women represent 50 percent of the world population, but only 38 percent of human capital in the world. If women made the same amount of income that men do, the world’s GDP would essentially double.
The Role of Information
(International Forum on Food Safety and Trade)
Information plays a critical role in improving food safety across value chain and bridging the digital gap. It is only with information that people will be able to change their behavior.
Disruptive Digital Innovations in Value Chains
(22nd ICABR Conference)
For digital technologies to help the world achieve a great balancing act — of closing the food gap, supporting economic development and reducing environmental impact — we need to ensure that they promote innovations, equality and inclusion.
Connectivity as Human Right
(Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Foundation for Worldwide Cooperation)
Three billion people around the world still do not have access to the Internet. Connectivity is paramount, but content and the capability of the users are also important. Children can play a significant role in bridging the information gap.
Connectivity, Content and Children
Children using mobile phones help their computer-illiterate parents overcome some of the most serious problems facing farmers in the developing world.
Global Hunger Index 2011 Launch
(World Food Prize/Borlaug International Symposium)
The index provides a multidimensional measure of global, regional, and national hunger. By bringing the results every year, it raises awareness and shows progress overtime. It also shows which countries are performing well and gives incentives to those that lag behind.