As COVID-19 fractures food systems, global experts issue roadmap to avert post-pandemic food shocks caused by climate change - New CCAFS report

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Influential voices from six continents present path to climate-smart, food-secure future in wake of new UN report warning climate stress contributing to COVID “food emergency”

With COVID-19 intensifying hunger even in wealthy countries, influential food, agriculture and environment experts from six continents today responded to this bracing wake-up call with an ambitious roadmap for resetting food systems that were already being hit hard by climate change. It offers the most comprehensive global plan to date to rebuild all types of food production around the world—from smallholder farming to large-scale production—that have been rocked by the pandemic but will face even greater challenges from climate change.

The report, “Actions to Transform Food Systems Under Climate Change,” was developed under the guidance of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). It comes close on the heels of a new assessment from the United Nations warning the pandemic could precipitate a “global food emergency.” The UN is especially concerned about food systems in places like sub-Saharan Africa that prior to the pandemic were reeling from a surge in droughts and floods—and where global heating is likely involved in East Africa’s ongoing battle against locust swarms.

“It’s time for all of us to get talking about food and most importantly about food systems,” said David Nabarro, a World Health Organization Special Envoy for COVID-19 and Curator of the Food Systems Dialogue who is kicking off a round-the-world “relay” briefing on the action plan. “That’s all the different elements—from food production to processing to marketing and consumption, and all the steps along the way.”

The report lays out a clear, 11-part plan—and points to a wide number of readily available innovations—that can make food systems far more resilient to both climate and non-climate shocks.

The 11 actions (listed in detail below this document) include efforts to sustainably increase food production in developing countries in ways that increase incomes and food security in poor, agriculture-dependent rural communities. Doing so, the report states, could dramatically reduce the need for humanitarian assistance in the coming years, freeing up billions of dollars for investing in social safety nets. The report also offers strategies to avoid expanding food production into carbon-rich tropical forests and explores options that can support healthy, climate-friendly diets.

In addition, the report lays out a policy framework for directing US$320 billion in public and private finance to food systems transformation. And it seeks more support for “youth-centered social movements” committed to building sustainable food systems, noting they can be especially effective agents of change.

“Our work over the last 10 years to address the impacts of climate change on food production, and vice versa, has produced a series of transformative interventions that can energize efforts to ‘build back better’ in the aftermath of COVID-19,” said CCAFS Director Bruce Campbell. “This endeavor is especially important for several hundred million smallholder farmers in the developing world. They were already struggling against climate change before this pandemic hit and will face even greater climate threats long after it has ended.”

Food Solutions from Around the World Present Opportunities in Time of Crisis

While there are concerns the pandemic could significantly increase hunger and malnutrition in the short-term, the report points to even greater dangers looming in the coming decade as temperatures rise, weather extremes become more common and rainfall less predictable.

At the same time, the report offers an abundance of evidence that farmers and food systems around the world are not destined for disaster—especially if the lessons from COVID-19 awaken action to confront climate impacts. The launch today features more than a dozen farmers and influential food and agriculture voices speaking live in a global “relay” from Ethiopia, Australia, Vietnam, India, Mali, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Colombia and the United States. They will present a wide array of solutions for creating a new era of climate-smart food production.


Transforming Food Systems Under a Changing Climate is an initiative that brings together leaders in science, business, farming, policy and grassroots organizations to identify pathways for transformation. The initiative is led by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) together with a wide range of partners that aims to realize a transformation in food systems by mobilizing knowledge and catalyzing action.

Editor’s Note: To join the virtual launch event, sign up at Download the report at

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Saburi Chimi
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