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Window for transforming food systems closing fast

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021 00:00 |
United Nations. Photo/Courtesy

By 2030, it was forecast that the world should have achieved 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as planned but detours such as Covid-19, climate change, exponential population growth among others, have brought into question viability of linear development models as a means to attaining these goals.

The United Nations, out of abundance of caution, after consultation with a number of stakeholders, said realising SDGs lies in Transformation of Global Food Systems.

Understandably, food systems touch every facet of life because it involves people and activities in production, processing, transporting and consumption of food from local to the global level.  

Essential issues

This knowledge compelled the Office of UN Secretary General to call for organisation of Food Systems Dialogues, in all levels that will culminate at the People’s Summit  to be held in September 2021 at the UN General Assembly in New York.

The local dialogues are meant to elucidate essential issues informing changes in the local and national level.

The information obtained at the lower level of Food Systems Dialogue, could act as a springboard for global conversation necessary to bring about global food systems transformation.

It is unfortunate that the cumulative global danger of unhealthy food systems, is not visible nor well understood in different policy arena. 

This has in turn brought some laxity among policy makers in establishment of proper policies that could transform local food systems.

Time to rectify the situation is running out, as most planetary boundaries are almost being violated, hence danger of entering the red zone, where unfathomable global consequences will be manifested in various local environments.  

To demystify the danger that abound if local leaders won’t act now to transform food systems; one needs to think of unavailability of safe drinking water occasioned by pollution as an example.

Further, unsustainable agricultural practices such as overuse of fertilisers, other poisonous chemicals and deforestation will lead to loss of biodiversity. This will destabilise the entire global system.

The interdependent relationship between food systems and other global systems cannot be over-emphasised. According to the UN, Food Systems affect the health of human beings, environment, economies and culture.  

Impending crisis

To get local, national and global leaders to act to avert the impending crisis, there is need for intensive debate on the failure of the economy, loss of jobs, that will be occasioned by unsustainable food systems. 

This is where local Food Systems Dialogue could play a major role. Raising the conversation to a national platform to compel policy makers to initiate appropriate policies.

For instance, after the devastating impact of corona virus, part of the conversation in Kenya should be how to restore and transform food systems to enable growth of the economy and improvement of livelihoods.

However, it is clear voices on food system transformation have been subdued by larger political questions on leadership and governance.

To build back better after the global pandemic, young people must take the opportunity to engage in shaping local and global conversation on development.

This can be done through establishment of independent dialogues on key issues globally. 

To get onto the policy making table, young people must use available digital tools and they should make their views known.

However, it must be acknowledged that change sought is like that journey of a thousand miles, starting with a single step now. There is need for patience, collaboration, and commitment. 

But the government and other global actors must be deliberate in involving youths in designing and implementing development plans.

As a repository of the future, young people must be taught how to tie the knots of policy making.

This will ensure countries have a smooth transition for posterity.—The writer is an  International Food Sytems Policy Analyst — [email protected]

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