The worst of Covid may be behind us, but we are not yet out of danger. Obviously the Delta variant is a lot more complicated than we think it is. In many parts of the world (including India), there still exists a real threat of the pandemic going from a health crisis to an economic crisis and thence to a food crisis. Even now, it is a mystery as to why some regions are witnessing a sharp rise in Covid cases, despite relatively high rates of vaccination. In some of the most vulnerable regions, this threat is heightened by global warming and climate change.
As we begin undertaking a transformation of food production systems, we need to remember that such transitions center around people. The aim should be to prioritize socioeconomic solidarity and a focus on rural growth, rather than simply improving supply chain efficiency. We must build greater trust that food systems work for people, rather than the other way around. This has to become an integral part of the global post-Covid nation building philosophy.
There are some uncomfortable truths about our role in the world’s "agri-food" systems.
Humankind is using half of the habitable land on earth to produce the food we consume daily
Up to a third of that land is degraded, risking the long-term sustainability of our food system
Up to two thirds of biodiversity loss worldwide is attributed to food and land use patterns
Over two thirds of fresh water used in agriculture and food production and a third of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to current food and land usage.
It is clear that our present food production patterns are a major part of the problem – but, they could also become, potentially, an even larger part of the solution. For this, we need to identify the structural bottlenecks that need to be systemically addressed, and formulate an integrated multi-stakeholder response to them. However, we may not be able to address the interconnected nature of these risks through traditional policy levers alone. A macro perspective is necessary. Silo thinking must be overcome. Efforts should be aligned, not duplicated. We need to value overall outcomes as much as issue/sector specific processes.
Adopting an integrated approach to food system challenges will necessitate the development of interdisciplinary platforms that are scalable both at the regional and national levels, as well as across global value chains. All the piecemeal progress achieved so far should rapidly become a well-coordinated global effort encompassing the entire food chain. That is the only way we can hope to meet the scale and urgency of the challenge.
People are aware that our health and wellbeing of our planet depend on the availability of sustainable food. But many are still unfamiliar about how unsustainable our current "agri-food systems" are. As individuals, we participate daily in these systems. Our choices and actions impact them in interconnected ways. We need to take more responsibility regarding the current situation, and sincerely attempt to change it for the better.