Written by Dr. Jan Low
One of the Global Challenges being addressed at the 3rd International Conference on Global Food Security, held 3rd -6th December, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa, was how sustainable agriculture could serve the foundation of food security and exploit its potential to secure livelihoods. Another major focus was on how the triple burden of malnutrition (undernutrition, micronutrient malnutrition, and obesity) affect all countries in the world.
At a keynote plenary session, 2016 World Food Prize laureates, Robert Mwanga and Jan Low, described how the effort invested in breeding adapted vitamin A rich orange-fleshed sweetpotato and developing delivery systems to help ensure their effective delivery could serve as a model for other underinvested in nutritious crops to address these global challenges.
Over 400 delegates attended this meeting, organized by Elsevier (the publishing house) in association with the University of Pretoria, the University of Western Cape, and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security. The conference venue was located near the famous Waterfront. In addition to numerous plenary and side sessions, there were poster sessions and a field trip.
The Roots, Tubers and Banana (RTB) program organized a sponsored symposium on the timely topic of the Science of scaling: connecting the pathways of agricultural research and development to improve rural livelihoods. Flagship leader Marc Schut of IITA had spent months aligning seven speakers into two sections, one on the Science of Scaling and the other on the Practice of Scaling. As part of the latter, as co-leader of the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative, Jan Low presented the case study on Building a community of practice for orange-fleshed sweetpotato development and dissemination at scale. There is no doubt that many governments and organizations are struggling to get promising technologies disseminated and adopted to reach millions of users. As pointed out by RTB leader Graham Thiele, this is a critical area needed more systematic research as efforts to improve agri-food systems intensify.
There seemed to be considerable agreement that current food systems are broken and there is a need for a concerted effort to shift from just feeding the growing population to nourishing people. The conference presented evidence on existing conditions and many innovative ideas on potential solutions.