Giving Compass’ Take:
• Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition and Global Knowledge Initiative convened a panel to discuss and share best practices for investing in good food for emerging markets in order to advance SDG 2.
• How can you find opportunities to invest in good food? Where is the need greatest?
• Learn how access to healthy food helps grow a community.
Our global food system reinforces an imbalance between the world we have and the world we want. Bringing our haves and wants into balance with regard to the food system means encouraging it to meet the nutritional needs of people within the constraints of the environment we depend on. At this moment in the Anthropocene, human and planetary health face increasingly prodigious threats, while Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, calls us to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture, all by 2030. To achieve this urgent and multifaceted goal, we must course correct and evolve food systems with cognizance of the forces that brought them out of balance to begin with.
Modern societies, riding a wave of low cost and high convenience, looked to food systems to meet their needs and invested in new ways to increase yields and reduce the effort of food preparation. As a result, food has become fuel not just for our bodies but also for the engine of continuous economic growth. Globally, as the price of food became tethered to the price of oil, food price volatility led to social volatility.
The objective of this study was to identify innovation opportunities that have the potential to increase access to safe and nutritious foods in emerging markets in the next five years. We focused on emerging markets because they are a complex and rapidly growing point of systemic leverage.
In Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, one in three children suffers from stunting as a result of undernourishment. Simultaneously, more people are becoming overweight or obese in these regions, as urbanization brings consumers closer to highly processed, convenient foods. Together, these realities increase the threat of noncommunicable diseases and pressure on public health systems.
These pressures are on a trajectory to worsen between now and 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa is forecasted to more than double its population, adding 1.3 billion people over the next 30 years, while Asia will add another 700 million. How might food systems of the future manage this growth?
Promising options for renewable energy and off grid solutions are becoming affordable, increasing access to energy, and opening up the potential for energy dependent food processing to happen in areas where it was previously impossible. Might this increase the availability of local, diverse, nutritious food choices?
Population and economic growth are a pressing tax on local food systems in emerging markets. Because systems change is a function of incentives, causality and leverage, the radical change we require will be achieved through myriad forces such as regulation, increased efficiency and investment in emerging markets. The transformation needed in these systems takes time, but the time to start is now.
The innovation opportunities deemed most promising by the Delphi Panel combat inefficiency and focus on specific changes at select leverage points along traditional value chains. We refer to these priorities as the Delphi Directives. They are:
- Start with sustainable, nutritious foods. Production, processing, and consumption of sustainable local foods reduces long-term reliance on imports and can yield planetary and human health benefits.
- Invest in proximate processing. Processing and value addition closer to the point of production reduces postharvest loss, ensures nutrient retention, and increases the volume of nutritious foods on the market.
- Tackle traceability for safety and transparency. Efficient and transparent distribution enables access to wider markets, stabilizing demand and reducing price volatility, while ensuring food safety. \
- Keep it cool. Cold storage options at the last mile extend the life of nutritious food and make more nutrients available to vulnerable rural populations such as mothers, children, and adolescent girls.
The Delphi Directives incorporate the twelve innovation opportunities profiled in this report and provide a blueprint for maximizing investment impact at systemic leverage points where innovation can improve food systems, as illustrated below.
While our Delphi Panel believes these twelve opportunities represent areas where innovation can improve access to nutritious foods, achieving this goal will require action. Innovations do not scale up in a vacuum. They must contend with real-world systems, including the people, norms, policies, and infrastructure, that can either enable or hinder widespread adoption.