Leading experts from around the world gathered at Expo 2020 on 16th October 2021 for a series of panel discussions on food security and future solutions. This all came as part of the mega-event’s World Food Day programming, in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Inaugurating the day’s sessions, Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “We are global citizens, and we need to do our part as well as help others. Our national food security strategy will make the UAE a world-leading hub of innovation-driven food security in the next 30 years.”

Even before COVID-19, many of the world’s population suffered from hunger. Others went malnourished, with no access to healthy diets. According to the most recent estimates, more than 51 million people in the Near East and North Africa region are hungry, while the agri-food systems of the world are under tremendous stress from loss of biodiversity and climate change.

In his annual video message, Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres said: “This World Food Day, we commit to take transformative action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals through food systems that deliver better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for every person.”

Máximo Torero Cullen, Chief Economist of the FAO, in his keynote speech, added: “Widespread hunger persists because of five factors: COVID-19, climate variability, conflict, cost, and the affordability of healthy diets, as well as economic slowdown and downturns. COVID-19 has pushed another 140 million people into poverty, and the impact is unequal between countries, which means it will have a long-term effect on food insecurity.

“The FAO uses real-time data to identify hot spots, and to see where and what the challenges are. We use innovation and technology to find the best solutions, as well as science, and we ensure that all of the data and everything we use is inclusive to all, especially smallholders.

“If we can attract an annual investment of approximately USD39-50 billion until 2030 to fund targeted interventions, including agricultural R&D, innovation, digital agriculture, and the reduction of food loss and waste, with literacy improvement for women and social protection programmes, then we can implement low-cost, high-impact interventions that can help hundreds of millions of people get rid of hunger.” HE Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri explained how the UAE is offering community-focused solutions. The Minister said: “One particular aspect of sustainable food systems we are actively working on is urban farming, an emerging form of agriculture that has huge potential in meeting SDG2 [United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 2: to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030] by placing crop production at the heart of the community.”

– By Ronak Kotecha