Editor's Note [Volume 23 No. 8 (2023)]


Food Systems Stocktaking

What can we expect from the ongoing UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment? This is the question we asked when we published the last issue.

The UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment took place in Rome between July 24-26, 2023. It comes 2 years after the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) which aimed to find solutions for sustainable, inclusive, resilient, and equitable food systems, and ultimately realizing Zero Hunger by 2030.

Globally, progress towards Zero Hunger by 2030 has slowed and is threatened by multiple crises such as the climate crisis, the rising cost of living, and the debt crisis witnessed in African countries. The 2023 SOFI (State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World) report presents grim statistics: 122 million more people are going hungry than in 2019, 3.1 billion people in the world are unable to access a healthy diet (134 million more from 2019), and it is projected that almost 600 million people could be chronically undernourished in 2030.

During the 2021 UNFSS, 117 countries made commitments called National Pathways that outline the actions and roadmap each country would take to transform its food systems. At the stocktaking event, 107 countries submitted voluntary progress reports. However, in many countries, food systems have yet to gain political traction to guide policy action. There are contradictions in policy directives, for example, the lifting of a 6-year ban on logging in Kenya in the face of climate change is causing environmental degradation of our water sources and soil. So, the three-way connection between drought, soil erosion, and food security is missing. Concerned environmental groups have taken the matter to court which has restored the moratorium on logging.

Further, the accepted notion that increasing the availability of food and reducing the cost of production as the solution for food security no longer holds. With the rising costs of living, people are unable to afford healthy food. In Kenya, for example, people spend 50% of their income on food and households purchase 80% of the food consumed. Therefore, we expect to see fiscal policies aimed at raising people’s purchasing power and not punish the poor through taxation on essential foods.

During the stocktaking event, heads of state and government called for a human-rights approach to solving the problem of hunger. Human rights approaches consider the impact of food systems on the enjoyment of other human rights, including the right to food, the right to health, the right to work, and the right to a healthy environment. They focus attention particularly on the most affected groups and on how their right to food, work inter alia should be prioritized in food systems.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, explained that “the right to food can turn a national pathway into an action plan because it provides a language of action that enhances people's dignity". In other words, the messaging is very important.

The important role of local government in food systems governance should not be missed. Local government is nearer to the people and can make a real difference in the inclusive governance of food systems through policies that respond to the needs of the people. At the local level, the interaction between the government and the people, people with nature, and the social and cultural interactions between people and their food are closer.

From the stocktaking moment, we expect to see civil society actors and marginalized groups, such as smallscale producers, indigenous people, women, and youth) meaningfully participating in food systems governance, because they make crucial contributions towards food systems transformation through grassroots innovations, proposing legal and policy changes and holding duty bearers accountable. We also expect to see the issues of the most affected reflected in the national pathways and policies, such as investments in safety nets, food safety, food sovereignty, and enabling economic access to food.

In conclusion, for food systems transformation to mean something, it needs to address the needs of the most affected. Food systems governance should be inclusive, transparent, and accountable. Governments should fulfill their national and international commitments. Otherwise, these meetings and conferences are in vain.

Njeri Karanu
Assistant Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND