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366. Investing in Resilient Food Systems in the Most Vulnerable Regions

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In August 2021, Nature Food published an article on the critical need to invest in resilient food systems, especially in the most vulnerable and fragile regions. Reversing the growing food security crisis will require deliberate targeting of vulnerable areas and a shift to equitable, sustainable and healthy food systems. Here is a brief summary of the major points discussed in the article.

The world's food and nutrition problems have been improving for decades, but have been on the rise again in recent years. The biggest culprit is the double burden of climate shocks and conflicts in regions that already face food security challenges, but the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating the situation. Reversing the food and nutrition crisis under a planetary boundary while achieving the global climate and sustainability targets will require a fundamental transformation of the global food systems. On the other hand, the need and methods in fragile social contexts have not been sufficiently discussed.

According to the article, the food system transformation needs to address the challenges and meet the needs of the most vulnerable regions for two reasons. First, the impact of food crisis is most acute in these areas. Many of the local people are dependent on local food systems and are often exposed to climate shocks and conflicts and have lost their ability to adapt to change, and ignoring these areas could exacerbate further food crises, conflicts, violence, and forced migration due to social injustice and environmental pressures. Second, many of the world's most important carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots are located in these areas, and their protection depends on governance of these natural ecosystems, which is already a burden for countries with many challenges and limited institutional capacity.

In order to maintain global food security in the long term, the authors elaborated that climate change response and biodiversity targets must also be met. This will require stopping the expansion of agricultural lands, improving sustainability and productivity in existing production systems, and restoring degraded soils. To achieve this in fragile situations, investments in integrated farm-livelihood approaches are needed, along with systematic and sustainable agricultural intensification. Through integrated soil and water management systems in the field, water harvesting, conservation tillage, and integrated watershed and landscape management planning, it is possible to increase productivity while maintaining diversity at the system level and reducing negative environmental externalities while reducing the burden on farmers. Small-scale agriculture should be central to these strategies. Sustainable intensification of agriculture can also be applied to livestock systems through agroforestry using fodder tree species to reduce methane emissions from food production while contributing to carbon sequestration. Sustainable intensification of livestock production is particularly important in fragile areas where livestock are a key asset and food source. Globally, the transition to a sustainable food system calls for a shift to a plant-based diet, which may have the opposite effect in vulnerable areas that are already experiencing food crises. In such cases, sustainable livestock production is one way to achieve the dual goals of food security and sustainability.

As the UN Food Systems Summit approaches, there is growing interest in whether an approach to food system transformation that is not only sustainable, but also equitable, can be guaranteed. There is no “one size fits all” solution, and comprehensive and context-specific approaches will be critical to achieving the goals of the global food system.


Queiroz, C., Norström, A.V., Downing, A. et al. Investment in resilient food systems in the most vulnerable and fragile regions is critical. Nat Food 2, 546–551 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00345-2

Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Director, Information Program)