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Expo Talks: Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods


Feeding a growing global population while minimizing our environmental impact was the focus of Expo 2020 Dubai’s latest virtual thematic programme

February 24, 2021, 7:30 am

Feeding a growing global population while minimizing our environmental impact was the focus of Expo 2020 Dubai’s latest virtual thematic programme, Expo Talks: Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods, held on 23 February in association with PepsiCo, Expo’s Official Beverage and Snack Partner.

The talks brought together leading policymakers and food and nutrition security experts from around the globe to explore the urgent need for efficient, inclusive, and resilient food systems in a world where, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), more than 690 million people go to bed hungry, and where the fallout from COVID-19 has doubled the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity to more than 270 million.

Expo Talks: Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods, available on-demand, featured a series of panel discussions, including from Expo’s International Participants, on how to build a sustainable global food system, and examined innovations and new technologies that will enable us to serve a world that, by 2050, is predicted to be inhabited by more than nine billion people.

It also provided a glimpse of how Expo 2020 is already realizing its commitment to sustainable food systems through the landscaping, architecture, and gastronomy on site.

Opening the event, Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Today, food security stands as a hallowed and unassailable tenet of true human dignity. The capacity of all nations was tested in the early weeks and months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed the vulnerability of our global food value chain. Yet in the wake of that harsh examination, we are now presented with an opportunity to reimagine that chain and learn to make choices and implement systems that are much more sustainable”.

Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security, said: “Expo 2020 takes place against the backdrop of a pandemic that has shaken the world and interrupted its food systems to an unprecedented degree, threatening millions with hunger and malnutrition. The situation has given the forthcoming Expo with its theme Connecting Minds, Creating the Future a new significance – one that will see it as a vital forum for the world’s governments to engineer the transformation of global food systems.”

“Fortunately agricultural technology – AgTech – is one area that is giving us hope as it enables the production of food with minimal resources and reduced environmental impact. The UAE has taken a lead in this sector borne out of the necessity of improving its self-sufficiency to a certain degree because of the challenges it faces with crop growing at scale. The adoption of AgTech is enshrined in our National Food Security strategy, which has a target for the UAE to be a world-leading hub in innovation-driven food security by 2051.

“We will be showcasing our latest developments in food security in our UAE pavilion at Expo 2020. More importantly, we will be standing ready to share what we have learned with other countries during the six-month run of one of the biggest global community events ever staged.”

Eugene Willemsen, Chief Executive Officer – PepsiCo Africa, Middle East, South Asia, said: “At PepsiCo, we believe there is an opportunity to change how the world produces, distributes, consumes, and disposes of foods and beverages, to tackle the shared challenges we face. PepsiCo is in a unique position to use our scale for good, and we are targeting every stage of our complex value chain to use resources more efficiently, reduce emissions, replenish water, improve our products, and recapture packaging materials.”

The programme included From Farm to Fork: Building Resilient Food Systems, co-convened by the European Union and WFP, and featuring HE Mariam Almheiri; Janusz Wojciechowski, EU Commissioner for Agriculture; Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, Deputy Executive Director, WFP; and Aamer Sheikh, President and General Manager – PepsiCo Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

The session explored some of the innovative practices and technologies needed to transform the way the world produces, moves, consumes, and disposes of food, and highlighted the importance of collaboration. Mr. Wojciechowski praised the EU’s Farm to fork strategy as the first step towards sustainable food systems but noted that climate change and biodiversity are global challenges that require global solutions.

Calling for a global commitment and urgent, bold action, Mr. Abdulla stressed that building strong, reliable, resilient food systems was critical in the world’s journey to achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals.

Also in the spotlight were localized solutions to food, nutrition, and farming challenges, through sustainable agricultural practices, as well as new innovations that maximize productivity in rural and urban settings. The focus additionally fell on ways in which Expo 2020 is already supporting a number of food, agriculture, and nutrition-related projects across the world through its global innovation and partnership programme, Expo Live.

These include a Thai social enterprise that helps farmers grow Jasberry rice, a sustainable and scalable market-driven solution to poverty among farmers that allows them to generate 14 times more income than before; and the Abu Dhabi-based International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture, a nonprofit research center established in 1999 to address poor water quality and water scarcity issues. Expo Live funding is supporting the development of modular farms for desert and arid environments across the UAE.

Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods is the eighth in a series of 10 thematic talks – launched in October 2020 with Space – bringing together influential policymakers, thought-leaders, Expo participants and the public to help shape the thought-provoking content and conversations taking place during Expo 2020.

Running from 1 October 2021 until 31 March 2022, Expo 2020 Dubai will seek collaborative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues – including weeks dedicated to the Global Goals, Climate and Biodiversity, Knowledge and Learning, and Water – to help shape a better, more sustainable future for all.

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