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5 December 2022
Food systems

Multisector cooperation needed to combat global food insecurity

Facing growing food insecurity in the world, it is vital to transform the food system. The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA) and the Swedish FAO Committee hosted a seminar to discuss the challenges and opportunities to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security. The seminar included perspectives from the UN, academia, the private sector and civil society.

Challenges to food security

Máximo Torero, Chief Economist of the FAO of the United Nations in Rome, spoke on the challenges for food security. He highlighted the need for change in how we work within the agri-food system. The drivers of food insecurity include war, the COVID-19 pandemic and a changing climate. Climate change acts as a risk multiplier that further endangers major crop yields and extreme weather changes affect the most vulnerable. The global agri-food system is built on insecurity, which ultimately impacts food affordability, explained Torero. It is not an issue of missing calories to feed the world, it is an issue of distribution and accessibility.

Dr Caroline Delgado, Senior Researcher and Programme Director at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, recognised the connections between conflict and food insecurity. She pointed out that it rarely gets the attention it deserves. The causes behind the exposure to violence are multifaceted. Some examples are the lack of government spending on social welfare, competition over natural resources and confinement. The accessibility to nutritious food is also inhibited by rising violence around the world – the overall food insecurity experienced by many triggers violent conflict. For example, the struggle to survive has resulted in increased recruitment to Boko Haram in Nigeria, explains Dr Delgado. As much as violence affects security and survival worldwide it can also have implications on trade.  For instance, one way the war in Ukraine has impacted the food system is by interrupting the supply of fertilizers – driving up the price.

Opportunities for a transformation

Rising food prices and fertilizers have been a challenge, Rishanthy Renganathan, the Programme Coordinator at We Effect, Sri Lanka, spoke of ways smallholder farmers in the country handled the country’s economic crisis through the development of home gardens. By growing their food in their backyards, smallholder farmers could ensure food on their tables. In addition, any surplus could be sold at local markets, providing an income to the household.

Another opportunity for smallholder farmers is through cooperation. Alarik Sandrup, Director of public and regulatory affairs at Lantmännen, described the crucial role cooperation between farmers has played in Sweden. Their success could work as an inspiration for other farmers around the world. He mentioned the potential for global collaboration between farmers, despite differences among countries and stakeholders. Sandrup still sees similarities and patterns that enable an exchange of knowledge and experience.


Marija Milivojevic, Deputy Director, responsible for FAO at the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation.

Photo by Carolina Yang

Ensuring food security, however, will need to see a transformation in all parts of the food system. Marija Milivojevic, Deputy Director, responsible for FAO at the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation, argued that a system perspective is needed to see food security in a wider context. Cooperation must therefore occur in every part of the food system.

Actors, such as civil society and the private sector, have become big players in the agricultural sphere today, explained Sandrup. He pointed out an “unbalanced situation between strong and, to some extent, fragile companies that must be handled with care.” To live up to the goal of leaving no one behind, it is important to talk about how trade affects every part of the food system. ”Free trade is fine, but it also has to be fair,” asserted Sandrup.

Leaving no one behind

Aditi Kapoor, a Technical Advisor at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, addressed the need to map how the food system is built up and how different stakeholders are affected, ultimately ensuring that no one is left behind. Kapoor further stressed the necessity to include age and gender mapping when discussing food security. Young girls often work in the fields and are the last to get fed. There is also a need to focus on urban landscapes regarding food production. Kapoor continued, “much of the focus until now has been on rural landscapes.”

However, people living in rural areas are directly or indirectly affected by the agricultural sector, making them vulnerable to food security, argued Sandrup. On the importance of investment in agriculture, he claimed its effectiveness as a tool to combat poverty compared to investments in other sectors. The share of the global budget for aid, for example, has decreased over the years. So, according to Sandrup, “global foreign aid to the agriculture sector is around 5 per cent, compared to 20 per cent in the 1980s.” Sweden’s aid to the agricultural sector has also gone from being above the global average to currently being below the global average.


Dr Elisabeth Simelton, Senior Policy Specialist at SIDA on Agriculture (to the left) and Katy Harris, moderator of the event (to the right).

Photo by Carolina Yang

Dr Elisabeth Simelton, Senior Policy Specialist on Agriculture at SIDA, explained that Swedish aid does not have a strategy for food security and agriculture. Instead, food security is integrated into two main sectors, “inclusive and economic development and ‘environment and climate.” She mentioned that food security perhaps hasn’t had the same priority as climate, environment and economic development, which could be due to the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger being on track before the pandemic hit.

She further emphasised that the reasons for food security are diverse. There is more than one solution to food security. Seeing more seamless transitions between humanitarian and development contributions, especially during prolonged crises, is one example of how SIDA works towards leaving no one behind.

In addition, the audience shared inspiring examples of solutions to address global food insecurity and prevent future food crises.


Written by Nathalia Grandon, SIANI Intern