December 27, 2021

FAO Publishes The State of Food and Agriculture 2021

FAO Publishes The State of Food and Agriculture 2021

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently published The State of Food and Agriculture 2021. The report comes after the COVID-19 pandemic showed vulnerability within the agrifood system globally. 

“Agrifood production and supply chains have historically been vulnerable to shocks – from droughts and floods to armed conflict and food price hikes – and are under growing pressure from longer-term stresses, including the climate crisis and environmental degradation,” the report states. “But the COVID-19 pandemic is exceptional in that it has shown how a shock of global proportions can occur suddenly, spread rapidly, and compromise the food security, nutrition status, and livelihoods of billions of people to an unprecedented degree and over a long period.”

The overall theme of the report is to offer guidance on policies to increase the food supply chain strength, support those in the agrifood industry, and ensure sufficient food for all. The report analyzes the previously mentioned vulnerabilities of the food supply chains and how different households cope as risks and shocks appear. The report also notes options to minimize trade-offs that future resilience might have with efficiency and inclusivity. 

The State of Food and Agriculture 2021’s critical, take-home messages include: 

  1. To preserve their functionality and ensure the food security, nutrition, and livelihoods of millions of people, agrifood systems must become more resilient to increasing shocks and stresses of diverse origins, both biophysical and socio-economic.

  2. Because agrifood systems are complex – including primary production, food supply chains, domestic transport networks, and households – and involve many interlinked actors, a shock in any component can spread rapidly throughout systems.

  3. The fragility of agrifood systems can affect large numbers of people: already 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet and an additional 1 billion would join their ranks if a shock reduced their income by one-third. Food costs could increase for up to 845 million people if a disruption to critical transport links were to occur.

  4. Of the five distinct resilience capacities, agrifood systems must have – to prevent, anticipate, absorb, adapt, and transform – absorptive capacity is critical in confronting unforeseen shocks and is complementary to risk management of shocks that can be anticipated.

  5. Key to building the absorptive capacity of agrifood systems is diversity in food sources (domestic production, imports, or existing stocks), diversity of actors in food supply chains, redundant and robust transport networks, and affordability of a healthy diet for all households, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.

  6. Risk management strategies for shocks such as droughts, floods, and pests – including multi-risk assessments, timely forecasts, early warning systems, and early action plans – are key to helping all agrifood systems’ actors prevent and anticipate major disruptions to systems and avoid human suffering and costly recovery interventions.

  7. Enhancing the resilience of food supply chains requires government support to develop small and medium agrifood enterprises, cooperatives, consortia, and clusters, as well as social protection programs.

  8. Resilience capacities of rural low-income households, in particular small-scale producers whose livelihoods are increasingly vulnerable to climate shocks and depletion of natural resources, can be significantly strengthened through education, non-farm employment, and cash transfers.

  9. Ensuring economic access to sufficient food for a healthy diet always is a key dimension of agrifood systems’ resilience. Policies and investments that reduce poverty, generate decent employment, and expand access to education and basic services, as well as social protection programs when needed, are essential building blocks of resilience.

  10. Building resilient agrifood systems should be a key policy objective and must ensure that all agrifood systems’ components function well over time. This requires mainstreaming resilience in agrifood policies and greater coordination across all relevant sectors and layers of government institutions to ensure policy coherence.

Read the report here.