QU Dongyu: Science and innovation are at the core of FAO’s efforts to fight hunger

London – Fighting global hunger requires greater and better investments in science, technology and innovation to ensure that our agrifood systems are able to produce more with less while leaving no one behind, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) told a Global Food Security Summit in London on Monday.

QU Dongyu was invited to attend a panel discussion on “Harnessing science and technology for food security” by the government of the United Kingdom, together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), as part of a global summit designed to galvanize action to tackle hunger and malnutrition.

The summit focused on the best of science and innovation to prevent food insecurity and malnutrition.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and the United Arab Emirate’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam Almheiri, were among those addressing the summit’s plenary.

Qu was invited to set the scene for the panel discussion, which focused on the unprecedented challenges facing global agrifood systems. These include ongoing conflicts, and the impacts of the climate crisis leading to extreme weather events that are reducing crop yields.

In this context, science and technology have the potential to unlock substantive growth in the Global South, reduce global food prices, tackle hunger and enable healthier diets by improving food availability, accessibility and affordability. It is also essential for tackling the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

Qu noted that science and innovation are at the core of the FAO Strategic Framework for the next decade, and key accelerators for meeting the aspiration of the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.

Qu called for a “stable and consistent commitment from politicians” to deliver the benefits of science and technology to all, as well as the right investments at the right stages.

“Let’s work together hand in hand,” Qu said.

The panel discussion was opened by the United Kingdom’s Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology, Andrew Griffith, who talked about the hurdles facing the need to feed a growing population amid the climate crisis.

“There has never been a greater imperative to act,” Griffith said, noting that his government was committed to delivering a “bold” transformation of agrifood systems.

Also taking part in the panel discussions were Beth Dunford, Vice President of the African Development Bank, who spoke about the need to develop technologies at scale; and David Ernest Silinde, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, who also emphasised that technology and innovation should be available for all. Investing in human capital should also play a key role, he said.

FAO’s work

FAO will launch a Global Roadmap for the simultaneous achievement of a world free of hunger by 2030, while not breaching the 1.5 Celsius degree threshold, at the upcoming COP28 meeting in the United Arab Emirates.

The Organization is already using innovative applications such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and diverse high-quality data and information sources needed for impactful digital solutions that benefit small scale producers. Digital tools developed by FAO are also being adopted to improve early warning, risk forecasting, biosecurity, and mitigation measures for health threats within the One Health approach.

All of these were highlighted at the recently held FAO Science and Innovation Forum 2023.  The Forum noted that science, technology and innovation must be tailored to local conditions across national agrifood systems; there is a critical need to embrace inclusivity and equitable partnerships and engage youth, women, and Indigenous Peoples in shaping the future of agrifood systems; and the critical need for cross-sector collaboration to achieve transformative change was reinforced.

Source : Fao