In an open letter to the United Nations and national governments, global experts and leaders are calling for collective, proactive action to address the impacts of COVID-19 on food systems around the world. Ann Tutwiler, Steering Committee Chair of CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), joined over 170 others as a signatory.
The memo endorses efforts led by leading international organizations and emphasizes that while COVID-19 is a major public health crisis, it is also putting food systems under immense stress. Governments must scale up initiatives to maintain and protect food supply chains.
“Concerted actions are urgently needed to ensure crops can be harvested and planted in the coming months and establishing efficient food collection and distribution systems that can deliver nutritious food to hungry people, especially women and children,” the letter reads.
Tutwiler's fellow signatories include former Prime Ministers, Presidents and other high-profile leaders and experts from around the globe.
The letter also highlights the opportunity the world has to re-emphasize the importance of better managing our natural resources, such as conserving agro-biodiversity and improving soil health and water quality.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during and after the pandemic — especially for countries already behind — demands more transdisciplinary research, the letter urges. It calls on the international community to help the poorest countries with on-the-ground action, and draws attention to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit as an opportunity to refine global efforts to address ongoing challenges including nutrition and climate change.
“We’ll need massive coordinated efforts to stave off major food crises,” says Tutwiler. “I’m joining my esteemed co-signatories because I believe we are up to the challenge. But we need to act now and we need to act globally.”
WLE is working on a range of related issues, including bioversity protection and city region food systems. The Program is also launching the Commission on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (CoSAI) to drive forward innovations that bring more sustainable and intensified agriculture.