The UN Food Systems Summit – Voices from around the Globe - Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, 24 August 2021 - 

Ethiopia will take part in historic United Nations Food Systems Summit.

In September this year, the UN Secretary General will convene the first ever UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), a historic moment for centring food in many critical issues facing people all over our planet today: from hunger and malnutrition; to environment and nature; to livelihoods and human rights; to resilience to shocks and stresses like Covid-19 and the climate emergency. 

Ethiopia has bold aspirations for economic development, but food and malnutrition issues need to be overcome to achieve them. Some 37% of children under five here are stunted, and climate change will only exacerbate existing pressures like locust swarms, conflict, and rising food insecurity, especially through influencing rainfall and temperature patterns.

As the UNFSS pre-summit draws to a close, we reflect on Ethiopia’s engagement so far.

As a nation, Ethiopia joins over 125 countries that have embarked on coordinating efforts for inclusive, multistakeholder Food Systems Summit Dialogues to engage around the vision of the "people’s summit". All over the world, countries have been holding – and in some cases continue to hold – national and sub-national dialogues to surface and prioritise needs and actions.

These convenings bring stakeholders from different areas of public sector, national and subnational, representing ministries like agriculture, food, health, and environment together with private sector players like food industry bodies or small and medium-sized enterprises; together with UN agency representatives from the likes of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); together with academics and representatives from international and national Non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations (NGOs and CSOs); and finally and very crucially, together with representatives of stakeholders from groups with voices that too often go unheard – women’s groups, consumer groups, young people, indigenous people, and farmer organisations. 
Ethiopia’s UNFSS Dialogues: Raising awareness, connecting stakeholders, prioritising actions

In preparation for the UNFSS, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health share the responsibility for convening member state dialogues. An Ethiopian Food System (EFS) core working group consisting of public institutions, multilateral and bilateral organizations, the private sector, civil society organizations, and universities and research institutes have been supporting the country’s engagement to collaboratively chart a course for food systems transformation. 

Woman wearing a hat and jacket sitting on the ground in a market in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has bold aspirations for economic development, but food and malnutrition issues need to be overcome to achieve them. © Unsplash/ Erikhataway

GAIN Ethiopia has been proud to be part of this core working group helping to coordinate high-level round table and national dialogues in the run up to the UNFSS. 

The EFS vision has been formulated through a multi-stage and multi-sectoral process informed by a high-level roundtable discussion and background paper, followed by three sequential national dialogues. The high-level roundtable, background paper and First EFS National Dialogue evaluated the current state of the Ethiopian Food System and identified the key challenges that need to be addressed to drive transformation. The Second National Dialogue then identified and prioritized 22 key ‘game changing solutions’ to address the challenges identified in the First Dialogue. The Third EFS National Dialogue held in mid-July brought together key stakeholders to launch the EFS vision and affirm publicly Ethiopia’s commitment to create a strong and equitable food system that can deliver on the promises of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Ethiopia’s Homegrown Economic Reform Agenda. 

Emerging priorities for Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s Food System Transformation vision (the Roadmap and Food System Transformation Position Paper) are both endorsed by the Government of Ethiopia. This work also includes strong sustainability considerations and accountability mechanisms including monitoring and evaluation to inform and direct progress. 

To transform the Ethiopia Food system, the 22 identified game changing ideas (priority areas for action) have been divided into six clusters as follows:

  1. Nutrient dense food production; food safety, fortification and rural electrification & appropriate climate smart technologies: 1) Strengthen the national food safety management and control system of Ethiopia; 2) Support diversified nutrient-dense foods production by promoting smallholder, greenhouse and garden level production; 3) Promote and enhance the production and consumption of fortified nutrient dense staple foods; 4) Rural electrification to promote environmentally friendly and climate smart technologies; and 5) Improve young children’s, adolescents’ and mothers’ nutrition and dietary diversity.
  2. Supply and value chain development, national food based dietary guidelines and nutrition literacy and awareness creation: 6) Strengthen climate smart livestock value chains; 7) Promote innovations, government commitment and local ownership, as expressed in the Seqota Declaration; 8) Strengthen innovative strategies/ mechanisms of supply chain management and handling systems; 9) Sustained awareness creation and food and nutrition literacy to promote nutrient-dense foods; 10) National food based Dietary Guidelines to provide dietary recommendations for increased diet quality.
  3. Integrated policy-making, land reform, and improved government finance provision for agricultural and rural transformation 11) Implement land reform and land administration that will ensure the right to lease, and use it for collateral; 12) Introduce land use planning; resource planning, integrated landscape and watershed management; 13) Address deforestation and environmental degradation through implementing the Green Legacy, the massive tree planting initiatives; 14) Establish a finance system for farmers to access credit, get insurance services and offer farmers financial literacy to help enhance rural and agricultural investment.
  4. Agricultural technologies, innovation and agricultural input supplies: 15) Selection and timely supply of inputs and technologies to boost production and productivity 16) Advanced forecasting system for variables affecting agriculture-based activities on fine spatiotemporal weather models in Ethiopia.
  5. Access to markets, market Information, infrastructure and specialization: 17) Upgrading and strengthening national market information systems and related digital approaches; 18) Promote and facilitate the implementation of the agricultural commercialization for nutrient-dense commodities.
  6. Managing Risk and Protecting the Poor 19) Modernize and upscale indigenous food production and processing including linkage with the school feeding program; 20) Index based crop and livestock insurance as disaster risk mitigation measures; 21) Inclusive and sustainable social protection transfer including the use of digital fresh food vouchers; and 22) System for timely and effective shock response including the prevention and treatment of wasting and micronutrient deficiencies. 

Ethiopia at the UNFSS Pre-summit

On the occasion of the UNFSS Pre-summit convened in Rome and virtually with participants from all over the globe, the Ethiopian Minister of Health H.E Lia Tadesse said: "The Food System transformation is an opportunity for Ethiopia to address malnutrition and stunting.  The Ethiopia food system transformation that the country is embarking tries to leverage from existing initiatives to address the key challenges of malnutrition and stunting. Among the key challenges: accessibility and affordability of nutrient dense foods are the major ones. Thus, twenty-two game ganging solutions were identified during the food system transformation exercise. Thus, improving land management, diversifying food production, farm inputs, technology, creating access to finance for farmers, sustainable consumption of nutrient dense foods are the core focuses to address malnutrition and stunting in a sustainable manner."

Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture H.E Oumar Hussien also spoke on the occasion: "We believe achieving zero hunger is about inclusive development and about People, Planet, Partnership, and Peace. I assure you that Ethiopia will support the zero-hunger coalition as a matter of necessity, and this is fully envisioned in the Ethiopia food system transformation and finally we call up on all other stakeholders to be part of the zero-hunger coalition.’"

Ethiopia has heeded the call to work towards positive food system transformation by embarking on a consultative process to inform policy and what food system transformation for the country’s context should entail. GAIN Ethiopia remains committed to working to support country engagement with the UNFSS and food systems transformative processes. EFS also draw hope and inspiration from the knowledge that stakeholders from so many different areas – many of whom don’t often work together – are actively working to tackle the challenges in our food systems.

An Ethiopian proverb says "When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion" – and this is a lesson that we need to take forward into our food systems work. United, we can face even these most daunting challenges.