Dubai: The landmark ‘Food For Future Summit’ and Global Agtech Expo opened at Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) today, forming a powerhouse of industry innovation and progress. The influential two-day summit, which is uniting the world with the aim of a food-secure future, features world leaders and food and agriculture innovators from international organisations, including the World Bank and several other key global partners.
Global Leaders’ Symposium
The Food for Future Summit comprises several key tracks, including the Global Leaders’ Symposium, which has brought together international ministerial delegations and leading executives from non-profit organisations worldwide to explore new solutions to enhancing food security.
In her opening address at the Symposium, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “For the first time in the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region, we are coming together to initiate dialogue at all levels to accelerate the global transition towards sustainable food systems. Over the next two days, we will explore new solutions and approaches to the most pressing food security challenges the world faces, and how we can come together as one global community to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
She went on to underline how the UAE is setting a leading global example through its ambitious policy agenda, aimed at building public-private partnerships and enabling AgTech innovations that will shape the future of food.
Need for timely action
Ban Ki-moon, the former United Nations Secretary-General, stressed how the world faced an urgent need to drive climate action, agricultural adaptation, and sustainable livelihoods if it is to cope with a projected 50 per cent rise in global food demand by 2050.
In a virtual address, Ban Ki-moon, now co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens in Vienna, told delegates about “the nexus of hunger, poverty, biodiversity, and climate change” and warned “if we do not take action in time, agricultural yields will likely decrease by 30 per cent”.
A riveting panel discussion titled ‘Good food for all— food as a connector for health and climate’ featured some of the most influential global leaders and policymakers, including Martien Van Nieuwkoop, global director, Agriculture and Food at the World Bank Group, and Ismael Roig, president EMEA at ADM, the world’s premier agricultural origination and processing company. The session highlighted the critical connection between climate change and health, and its impact on food security.
Countering headwinds of climate emergency
Addressing the symposium, Van Nieuwkoop said: “Governments need to fundamentally rethink their policies and put in place bold action. The world will need food for two billion more people by 2050, and yet the global food system is facing the headwinds of climate emergency, food insecurity, and growing hunger — the numbers are moving in the wrong direction. With one-third of all agricultural production lost to waste every year, equating to more than $1 trillion annually, we need to work seriously to address food production and waste. If this can be resolved, we would achieve a win-win situation of reducing greenhouse emissions while improving food security. There are big challenges in current food systems that are simply not fit for purpose, so it is vital that governments go beyond the business-as-usual approach and put in place global food systems that support healthy people, the planet, and economies moving forward.”
A delegation of eight African ministers underscored the vision of Africa in the 21st century as well as the significance of global agri-trade business facilitation, adoption of advanced tech-enabled food production, food risks, and crisis management.
First in the region
The event marks a first-in-the region partnership for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) and the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The partnership has yielded the launch of the MENA Agri-Food Innovation Days to enhance engagement of the public and private sectors, academia, and civil society in driving the required transformation of the region’s food and agricultural systems.
The carefully developed programme sheds light on impending global challenges, such as water scarcity, fertile land degradation, and climate change, placing additional pressures on the fragile agricultural ecosystems in the region. The sessions provide a forum for exchange of knowledge and best practices and promote innovation and technology adoption to improve capabilities to adapt the region’s food systems to be more productive, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable.
“The future of the agrifood systems will define humanity’s future and the region’s food and agriculture future. Agrifood systems start from the ground, not from the factory. If it starts from the soil, it will definitely have an impact on the environment. If we don’t address the soil, water, and rivers properly, there will be no base for agriculture and no highly qualified agricultural raw materials. That is why agrifood systems are very important for defining the future of humanity in the region,” said AbdulHakim Elwaer, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for the Near East and North Africa.
‘Making it Happen’ conference
Running alongside the MENA Agri-Food Innovation Days and the Global Leaders’ Symposium is the ‘Making it Happen’ conference, bringing real-life examples of innovation- and technology-enhanced food, agriculture, and supply chain solutions and best practices to the fore.
Meanwhile, empowering the community to drive change is the Generation Food stage, which is hosting a range of workshops spanning different topics related to food for the future global population. Sessions include a chefs’ training on plant-based nutrition led by Nestlé and a workshop guiding students to think creatively to solve food for futurerelated challenges, run by UAE-based social enterprise Goumbook.
Global movement for change
More than 100 global leaders, more than 140 exhibitors and 50 start-ups from more than 60 countries are participating in the Food for Future Summit and Expo — the first global gathering of the end-to-end food security ecosystem — united in a bid to thrash out a radical new approach to attaining a foodsecure world.
The Summit and its sister Global Agtech Expo are hosted by MOCCAE in partnership with FAO.