Positioning food systems to deliver sustainable, affordable, and healthy diets for all in Ethiopia and setting the scene for the UN Food Systems Summit

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A recording of the event is available here.

On 9 February 2021 the Global Panel co-hosted an event with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to discuss the topic of food system transformation. The Ethiopian delegation was led by H.E. Dr Lia Tadesse, Minister of Health, H.E. Mandefro Negussie, State Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and H.E. Dr Fikru Regassa, State Minister, Ministry of Agriculture. The event involved 35 senior officials from diverse ministries in the Ethiopian Government, as well as representatives from leading international organisations, including David Nabarro, Strategic Director, 4SD and Special Envoy on COVID-19, WHO; Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition; and Gerda Verburg, Coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. Global Panel Chair, Sir John Beddington and Global Panel Members Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Tom Arnold and Emmy Simmons were also in attendance.

The High-level Roundtable was convened to support the development of Ethiopia’s vision for the transformation of its food system and to review the evidence and recommendations in the Global Panel’s recent Foresight Report, Future Food Systems: For people, our planet and prosperity. It comes at a critical time as the recommendations from the roundtable will help to frame Ethiopia’s engagement with the forthcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit in September 2021.

Since 2000, Ethiopia has made significant progress on reducing malnutrition. Between 2000 and 2019, child stunting prevalence fell from 58% to 37%, with the percentage of underweight children nearly halving to 21%. However, many challenges remain. The cost of a nutritious diet is unaffordable for most households. Certain nutritious foods have seen increased prices in recent years, combined with insufficient supply. Post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables remains high at more than 30% and challenges around food safety, environmental stress and resilience (in the wake of COVID-19) remain.

Against this sobering picture, presentations by Dr Ferew Lemma and Dr Sisay Sinamo set out a vision for the transformation of the Ethiopian food system, with the prospect of better nutrition and health, and job creation and sustainability. Professor Patrick Webb, Technical Advisor to the Global Panel presented evidence and recommendations from the Panel’s Foresight 2.0 report. All speakers emphasised the need for a perspective which encompasses the entire food system; for practical steps to forge a coordinated approach across Government; identifying and prioritising ‘game changers’; focusing on key challenges; and embedding the importance of sustainability in future plans.

The Global Panel looks forward to further engagement with the Ethiopian Government to exchange views on the key steps to deliver the necessary food system transition, and the implications for the United Nations Food Systems Summit and Nutrition for Growth Summit taking place later this year.