By Russ Webster
President-Elect, AIARD and
President, Food Enterprise Solutions
Throughout the course of my career in international development, I’ve been continually reminded about how interconnected the world is. Not only does information technology bring us instant updates on what’s happening across the globe, but numerous networks – some formed through neighborhood, community or college-campus friendships, others through business relationships, others through following major social institutions like sports, others through the workings of large public sector institutions – link people from all walks of life through common interest or common cause.
This phenomenon holds just as true in the cases of agriculture and rural development – the key themes that bring us all together through AIARD. Farmers – the caretakers of resources and technologies that produce the food we all need – are interdependent on other key actors operating in rural areas. These include input suppliers, extension agents, cooperative managers, storage operators, post-harvest processors, truckers, purchasing agents for commodities – not to mention all of the people who work to build and maintain vital infrastructure: roads, energy, water, and telecommunications.
All of these actors, and the jobs they perform, go towards ultimately benefiting all of us – consumers. And, without the farm-to-market-and-everything-in-between system, we wouldn’t be able to carry on with our lives, our work, our contributions to society.
This is why I like to refer to agriculture as the job of fueling EVERYTHING we do. This is also why we need to be ever-mindful of supporting research, capital investment, policy and regulatory streamlining, and financing for all aspects of the system – production, processing, storage, distribution, retailing and even final preparation – towards the multiple goals of improved efficiency, reduced loss and waste, improved environmental sustainability, better retention of nutrient content, and improved access for consumers living in food deficient regions.
This year’s AIARD conference is designed to focus on a crucial dimension of this system connecting producers and consumers: food safety. We’ll hear from researchers, industry experts, development professionals, and donors on how they view both the challenge and the opportunity for improving food safety practices that can reduce loss, waste, and the incidences of foodborne illness. There will be plenty of time for networking, dialogue, and learning from new and old friends. We will celebrate our more-than-fifty-year history by recognizing the valuable contributions of students, members, and others who have furthered the cause of reducing global hunger and malnutrition, while also looking towards the future of our esteemed organization and exploring ways that we can grow our membership, facilitate ongoing opportunities for dialogue and learning, and further strengthen our support for future leaders in international agriculture and rural development.
Come and be a part of this network. I hope to see you there!
By Russ Webster, AIARD President-Elect
and Tatiana LeGrand, Chair of the Communications Committee
Safe food is a foundation for nutritious diets and is crucial for enabling producers to gain access to markets. We would like to bring to your attention several recent publications that emphasize more than ever the importance of the theme for our next conference, "Making Food Safe: Meeting the Global Challenge", that will take place at the Hamilton Hotel in Washington, DC at the end of May - beginning of June 2020.
The challenge of producing, trading, processing, and distributing safe and nutritious foods in developing countries is gaining importance in the ongoing dialogue about food systems strengthening. And attention is being drawn to the importance of non-farm businesses – formal and informal food enterprises of all sizes – in connecting producers with consumers, reducing food loss, and guaranteeing quality:
“Agricultural value chains are becoming more urbanized and consumer driven, with a greater emphasis on quality and food safety." Status Report 2019 by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), The Hidden Middle: A Quiet Revolution in the Private Sector Driving Agricultural Transformation, examines how the food systems are changing and what role the private sector is already playing in this process. The report also looks at how the private sector can further contribute to a thriving food sector. Among other issues, it highlights the role of regulations in this process:
“Governments should recognize that research shows that many traders sell substandard or fraudulent seeds, fertilizer and pesticides. This is also a developing issue in output markets with food safety. The key necessary public good is setting regulations and enforcing them.”
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, UNFAO, has recently released the 2019 State of Food and Agriculture report that is dedicated to understanding the pathways of food waste and loss as well as exploring strategies in moving forward on reducing food loss and waste. One of the interesting highlights from this report is that “Unsafe food is often diverted to lower-income groups that are physically and economically vulnerable to disease." Addressing such challenges is becoming increasingly important, in particular in areas where inequality is on the rise.
2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report: Productivity Growth for Sustainable Diets and More prepared by Virginia Tech University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences talks about other important aspects of improving food safety in food systems such as social protection and infrastructure improvements:
“Given the importance of the informal food sector to producers, consumers and the economy, policymakers need to consider how to increase the sustainability and safety of food produced and sold informally, and how to improve the working conditions and social protection of those involved in this vibrant and growing part of the food value chain."
Food safety plays a critical part in assuring that food stays safe at every step of the food value chains, all the way from production to harvest, throughout the processing, storage, distribution, retail, preparation and consumption by consumers. The report also highlights that “Productive sustainable food and agriculture systems need efficient, affordable and up-to-date systems for transportation and communications…It takes well-constructed, properly-maintained and interlinked infrastructure to move goods to markets efficiently, while preserving freshness, quality and safety of food and agricultural products.” Decision-makers have an important role to play in enabling all market actors operate in a way that serves this purpose.
These are just some examples that highlight the role and the challenges of food safety that the world is facing. Join us at AIARD’s 2020 Annual Conference from May 31 – June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC to discuss the many challenges of food safety in connecting farm to market and providing consumers across the globe with safe and nutritious food choices.
We encourage you to bring your ideas and experience as a panelist, speaker, small-group discussant or poster-board presenter – share with your peers across academia, industry, and government to become a part of the solution to zero hunger. You can still submit your abstract following this link as we extended the deadline till December 20th.
The mission of the AIARD BLOG
The mission of the AIARD Blog is to highlight and share thoughts, ideas and work from people who have devoted their careers to global agricultural development and hunger alleviation.