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A message from Dr. Nafees Meah, Regional Representative for South Asia, IRRI

On World Food Day, I wish to recognize the remarkable resilience of South Asia's agricultural system to the shocks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, we've seen a decrease in incomes from the economic impact of the pandemic, which has resulted in further nutritional insecurity as consumers and communities cut back on high-cost foods such as animal products, fruits, and vegetables.

Because they impinge on so many aspects of society, food systems are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The current food system(s) in South Asia needs to be transformed to deliver benefits for planet and people. This means:

  • providing access to affordable, nutritious, and healthy food for all;
  • ensuring sustainable food production, processing, trade, and retailing;
  • mitigating and adapting to climate change; and
  • improving smallholder farmer livelihoods

We at IRRI and the CGIAR are appreciative of the partnerships we've built in the region for the last fifty years. We are committed to continue working with stakeholders to sustainably transform our food systems in the lead up to 2030 and beyond.

We have been building a robust evidence base to serve as the foundation of transformative policies and help fast-track the adoption of innovations and technologies at scale.

This requires engaging with farmers as well as with private sector actors (seed companies, millers, agricultural machinery manufacturers and retailers) and civil society organisations (CSOs) to scale up innovations, such as precision agriculture and ensure that the focus is on increasing the overall productivity, aggregate profitability and efficiency of the food system from farm-to-fork.

We are working with governments to develop policy frameworks that speed up the expansion and dissemination of improved varieties, create the right incentive framework for farmers engagements, promote contract farming and aggregation market institutions, build agri-logistics infrastructure (climate-smart supply chains) for farmers of the region, and implement market information systems.

We are engaging with private sector actors to create new markets, study ways to make more productive use of existing inputs (seeds, fertilizers), improve post-harvest technologies, and develop more nutritious local food products.

We are engaging with CSOs to create alternative livelihood pathways for women and youth, build social protection mechanisms, support entrepreneurs in the food system, and develop self-sustaining business organizations.

In sum, we are committed to working with our partners from the development sector and industry to strengthen national food security in South Asia and in the countries where we are present. If we can do that, we will be able to count on a resilient and sustainable food system for all, one capable of achieving food security for all citizens.

Read Nafees Meah and Ranjitha Puskur’s feature article on the “Role of research and innovation in transforming food systems in South Asia” here.