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Dialogue on food systems and the COVID-19 pandemic

July 8, 2021
Amena Khaturn selling vegetables at Hazaribagh in Dhaka.
UN Women/Fahad Abdullah Kaizer

COVID-19 is having a major impact on household production of and access to good-quality, nutritious food. Loss of income, increasing food prices, and restrictions on the movement of people, inputs, and products have undermined food security in many parts of the world. Frequently, the hardest hit are women and those who work in informal economies. 

In preparation for the United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit in mid-September 2021, IDRC, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) are co-hosting a dialogue  on “Building resilient and sustainable food systems: what are the emerging lessons from communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.” On July 9, 2021, this meeting will bring together experts and decision-makers from Asia, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa to generate ideas for action to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on food systems and livelihoods. 

Food systems experts, policy actors, donors and civil society representatives will reflect on emerging lessons and generate priority actions to respond to food-security challenges in a way that addresses informality and gender dynamics. The outcomes of the dialogue will feed into the UN Food Systems Summit process and help guide individual and collective action towards a future of food that is sustainable, equitable, and secure.  

Evidence for pandemic response and recovery 

Since the onset of the crisis, IDRC has invested approximately CA$55 million to support more than 60 research projects to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 20 of these projects across Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia are generating the evidence required to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the food systems and livelihoods of the most vulnerable. They also aim to inform responses to promote more inclusive and resilient food systems. Evidence emerging from this work points to the ways in which the pandemic is reinforcing inequality, and it puts forward recommendations for a more inclusive recovery:  

IDS supports IDRC and the research partners in the COVID-19 Responses for Equity initiative to maximize the learning generated across the research portfolio and deepen engagement with governments, civil society, and the scientific community.

Over the past year, ACIAR has supported research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems in the Indo-Pacific region, primarily from the perspective of smallholder farmers and fishers. ACIAR has commissioned a multistage assessment of COVID-19 impacts. The first stage rapidly developed a picture of food-system vulnerabilities that helped inform its response and support to affected projects. The final stage of assessment will be released later this year and will consider the ongoing impact of the pandemic on affected communities. ACIAR remains committed to boosting resilience of agricultural systems during this time and has funded 40 small projects through its alumni network to ensure continued support for local food security in its partner countries and has funded 40 small projects through its alumni network to ensure continued support for local food security in its partner countries. 

The UN Food Systems dialogue builds on an enduring partnership between ACIAR and IDRC, including the recently launched Food Loss Research Program. IDRC and ACIAR are committed to continuing to push for evidence-based solutions that foster more resilient, inclusive, and healthy food systems and livelihoods for the future.