Building inclusive food systems: 2020 Global Food Policy Report Released
Updated at 1587385241
Photo credit: G.M.B. Akash/Panos

Inclusive, sustainable food systems are crucial for long-term economic and food security, particularly in light of the new challenges presented by COVID-19.

This is the main message of the 2020 Global Food Policy Report, released by IFPRI on April 7. The annual report, centered this year on the theme of building inclusive agrifood systems, emphasizes that while global, regional, and local food systems present a wealth of opportunities, many vulnerable populations remain left behind. This includes smallholder producers, rural populations, women, youth, and people impacted by conflict. As the economic, poverty, and food security outcomes of the global pandemic become clearer, it is likely that this gap will widen even further, unless conscious action is taken to close it.

Robust and inclusive agrifood systems can provide a range of benefits. They ensure that all people have access to affordable, safe, and nutritious food, thus improving global health and wellbeing outcomes. They open up opportunities for poor populations to earn higher incomes through the production, processing, trade, and sale of higher value foods, thus reducing hunger and poverty and increasing broad economic growth. All of these benefits can contribute to greater access to education and healthcare, increased civil and political stability, and reduced risk of conflict.

Building agrifood systems in such a way that vulnerable populations can participate in and benefit from activities all along the supply chain, from production through distribution and consumption, will require strong, targeted policies across the board. Broadly, these policies include:

Investing in infrastructure
This includes investments in roads, electricity, ICTs, storage facilities, etc., particularly in rural areas. Improving transportation infrastructure will help improve market functioning and increase both rural producers’ and rural consumers’ access to markets. Improvements in communications technology, on the other hand, can help producers, processors, and traders get the latest weather, production, and price information, enabling them to make better informed decisions about what and how much to produce and when and where to sell it.

Establishing and strengthening social protection programs
Programs like school feeding programs that source food from local smallholder producers can benefit both vulnerable consumers and poor producers. Similarly, linking cash transfer programs to agricultural production or nutrition assistance programs can help ensure that vulnerable households have reliable access to safe, nutritious foods without placing them in undue financial hardship, thus preventing a further fall into poverty.

Building capacity and empowerment
To successfully engage in modernized food systems, vulnerable populations need to be supported by a strong enabling environment. This includes both formal laws and informal community systems to ensure rights to land and livelihoods, incentives for private sector stakeholders to invest in inclusive food systems, and enhanced opportunities for training and education to help producers meet stronger food safety requirements or launch more lucrative off-farm food system ventures.

The 2020 GFPR also provides regional analysis of recent food system trends. The report finds that while Africa south of the Sahara has made significant effort to include women, smallholder farmers, and youth in the broader food system, large inequalities remain. It also points out that while the new African Continental Free Trade Area could increase exports and improve food security and economic resilience in the region, not all populations will benefit, and efforts need to be made to protect the livelihoods and food security of the “losers.”

In South Asia, food systems have undergone significant transformation and modernization in the last decade as populations have become more urbanized and demand for more diverse diets has increased. Consumption of higher value, higher nutrition foods like fruits and vegetables has increased in households’ food baskets. Similarly, food processing has grown to take up a larger share of GDP, offering more opportunities for off-farm employment. Still, the region will need to maintain focus on providing a strong enabling environment and strong social safety net programs in order to ensure that food systems grow in a way that is inclusive and sustainable.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, many countries have undergone a recent economic downturn and are expected to see worsening poverty and food insecurity, according to the report. At the same time, urbanization and the growth of foreign investment in the region’s food sector provide opportunities for increased employment in the agrifood system. Greater investment and research into the region’s food system is needed in order to leverage these opportunities, particularly for marginalized populations.

The 2020 GFPR utilizes a wide range of data and indicators, including the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI), the Food Policy Research Capacity Indicators (FPRCI), Agricultural Total Factor Productivity, data from the IMPACT model, and data from the SPEED (Statistics on Public Expenditures for Economic Development) model.