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One billion more people could join the ranks of those who can no longer afford healthy food |

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2021 The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report – Making agri-food systems more resilient to shocks and stresses – declares that without proper preparation, unpredictable shocks will continue to disrupt these systems.

The report defines shocks as short-term events that negatively impact the system, human well-being, assets, livelihoods, security, and the ability to withstand future shocks.

More stability

FAO stressed the need for countries to make their systems more resilient to sudden shocks such as COVID-19 the pandemic that played a large role in the latest world outbreak of hunger.

At the virtual launch event, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said, “The pandemic has highlighted both the resilience and the weakness of our agri-food systems.”

Agri-food systems – a network of activities related to the production of food and non-food agricultural products and their storage, processing, transportation, distribution and consumption – produce 11 billion tons of food per year and directly or indirectly provide jobs for billions of people.

The UN agency emphasized the urgency of strengthening their resilience to shocks, including extreme weather events and outbreaks of plant and animal diseases and pests.

While food production and supply chains have historically been vulnerable to extreme climate events, armed conflict, or rising global food prices, these shocks are increasing in frequency and severity.

Specific action

Besides, disruption of critical transport links could lead to higher food prices for an estimated 845 million people.

The report includes country-level indicators in more than 100 Member States by analyzing factors such as transport networks, trade flows and the availability of a healthy and varied diet.

While low-income countries generally face much more serious challenges, middle-income countries are also at risk.

In Brazil, for example, 60 percent of a country’s export value comes from a single trading partner., narrowing its possibilities if this partner country is hit by a shock.

Even high-income countries such as Australia and Canada are at risk from the great distances involved in food distribution.


Recommendations

Based on the findings of the report, FAO makes a number of recommendations.

The key is to diversify actors, resource sources, production, markets and supply chains to create multiple pathways to deal with shocks.

Supporting the development of small and medium-sized agri-food enterprises and cooperatives will also help preserve the diversity of domestic value chains.

Another key factor is connectivity. Well-connected networks cope with disruption faster by changing supply sources and channels for transportation, marketing, resources, and labor.

Finally, building the resilience of vulnerable households is critical to freeing the world from hunger. This can be achieved through improved access to assets, diversified sources of income and social safety nets.

CIAT / NeilPalmer

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