World Food Day 2019 in Ethiopia – Why we need to embrace circular food systems?


World Food Day was celebrated around the world and in Ethiopia on 16th October 2019. Below are reflections from AgriProFocus Coordinator Meskerem Ritmeester, who organized the World Food Day event in Addis Abeba.

“The current linear food system that is focused on productivity has supported a fast-growing population and fueled economic development. Yet, it has not eradicated different forms of malnutrition. In fact, after a period of decline, world hunger is on the rise again, trending with an aggressive increase in overweight and obesity. Moreover, the linear food system has come at great cost to our environment and is no longer fit to meet our long-term needs. Transitioning to a circular food system has been identified at a global level as an opportunity to make our food system economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. In short, a circular approach aims to make our food system eco-efficient, climate smart, and to reduce food waste and food losses significantly. Hence, a circular approach can contribute to food security and multiple other United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. SDG 1 No Poverty, SDG 2 Zero Hunger, SDG 3 Good Health & Wellbeing, SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 13 Climate Action, SDG 14 Life below Water, and SDG 15 Life on Land). Properly nourished people can lead to healthy and productive lives and by protecting and nurturing the earth systems future generations can do the same.
The World Food Day in Ethiopia was organized by the international multi-stakeholder network in the AgroFood sector called ‘AgriProFocus’, in collaboration with The Embassy of The Netherlands in Ethiopia and the Wageningen University Alumni Fund on 16 October 2019. The main aim was to provide a place where government and research institutions, entrepreneurs and civil society shared inspiring insights into the challenges and best practices on the ground when striving for a circular food systems approach in Ethiopia. This event also created a space where multi-stakeholders partnerships were initiated across nations, sectors, and professions. The morning session started by informing our audience about the current trends and status of malnutrition globally and discuss the underlying root causes from a systems perspective. For this, keynote speeches were given by the MoA Food & Nutrition Coordination Office Director Ms. Alemtsehay Sergawi and The Ambassador of The Kingdom of The Netherlands (EKN) to Ethiopia Mr. Bengt van Loosdrecht. Ms. Alemtsehay Sergawi (FNCO) explained that, “unlike in many developed countries where most of the food loss occurs close to consumption, in Ethiopia, more of our food loss occurs earlier in the value chain, and closer to the production side. Greater coordination between food systems actors is required for us to address our food loss and achieve our nutrition goals”. Thereafter, a leading experts’ round table discussed topics such as the opportunities to use circular business models whereby Mr. Lars Windfuhr from Hyatt Regency Hotel in Addis Ababa and Mr. Gedion Shone (Woljeejii Agricultural Industry PLC – EM Technologies) shared their own success stories in turning food waste into a resource to be used again. Throughout the day, there was a food exhibition where 20+ food exhibitors were able to showcase their healthy and indigenous food products and other modern / digital technologies that support a healthy and efficient food system that reduces food loss and food waste. The afternoon breakout sessions (1. Circular Economy & The Land, 2. Circular Economy & Technology, 3. Circular Economy & The City) were used to give all the participants the chance to discuss in more detail the various aspects of circular economy for food security and to answer the “how” and “what” questions and showcase circular solutions fit for the Ethiopian context. Finally, NEED nutritional products and services PLC joined hands with AgriProFocus Ethiopia and invited mass media for a press conference during the World Food Day and broadcast a summary of the World Food Day in their TV Show called “Sewegna” on Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC) to inform the general public about the need to transform the whole food system in order to sustainably improve food & nutrition security for Ethiopia’s 100+ million citizens.
AgriProFocus is an international multi-stakeholder network within the AgroFood Sector. Although AgriProFocus is funded by The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it has AgriProFocus country networks in 10 African and 2 Asian countries, and worldwide 2500+ online platform members. In Ethiopia, AgriProFocus has over 2500 online platform members that are a mix of public sector (including knowledge institutions), private sector, and civil society actors that are all active in making the AgroFood sector more inclusive and sustainable in order to achieve food and nutrition security for all. AgriProFocus in Ethiopia uses the power of its network to create linkages, joint learning and influence higher level government through collective impact in areas related to urban agriculture, agroecology, horticulture and dairy sector development, and the inclusion and promotion of youth and women in agriculture. Feel free to become a member of the AgriProFocus network in Ethiopia to stay up to date about our activities and freely promote yourself, your products and services.”