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  • Rethinking the food system to tackle triple burden of malnutrition

Rethinking the food system to tackle triple burden of malnutrition

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The global narrative on food security and nutrition is not new: 1 billion people go hungry because they do not get enough food to eat; 3 billion people are malnourished because they lack nutritious food; 2.5 billion people are overweight often because they consume too many empty calories.

International scientists are trying to find innovative solutions to tackle these layers of food insecurity, known as “the triple burden of malnutrition.”

The best approach to balancing nutritious food supply and demand means reevaluating the way food is produced and distributed and by addressing environmental challenges, including climate change and poor land management strategies.

Watch: Enhancing food system resilience 

“We need better and more sustainable food systems and within that, to determine what role forests, trees and agroforestry play,” said Vincent Gitz, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), who moderated a recent discussion on enhancing food system resilience at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Solutions could be found by moving away from production-centric notions, which focus on increasing crop yields through agricultural intensification, toward transformation of food production systems, said keynote speaker John Ingram, leader of the Food Research Programme in the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, which coorganized the discussion with FTA.

The various stages of food production – including storage, packaging, sales, consumption and disposal – result in disparate socioeconomic and environmental outcomes, Ingram said.

“We’re trying to establish how to manage the tradeoffs between the two by exploiting potential synergies with intervention,” he added, listing various environmental food-related challenges.

By charting projected increases in population and wealth, as part of his research, Ingram extrapolated future calorie consumption, demonstrating that food system challenges are interconnected.

Women display foraged and cultivated forest foods at a food fair in Luwingu, Zambia. Photo by Joe Nkadaani/CIFOR

“The environmental consequences of meeting this demand under current food system practices and consumption trends are dire,” he said. A linear projection over the next 10 years based on current trends shows that more than half the population would be overweight.

“The challenge is to achieve food security for a growing, wealthier, urbanizing population while minimizing further environmental degradation against a background of stresses and shocks: natural resource depletion; many stagnating rural economies, changing climate and extreme weather, and social and cultural changes,” he added.

Read also: John Ingram presents enhancing food system resilience

The aim is to develop resilience through a healthy food system so that these food system stresses can be addressed, while also laying the groundwork to tackle unpredictable events at the same time. Adaptation through reorganization of the food system is key, Ingram said.

“There was a notion we wanted sustainable diets,” he said. “What we actually want is sustainable systems delivering healthy diets.”

The challenge is to ramp down and ramp up simultaneously, he said. On the one side, the human health agenda must be addressed, which involves the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Environment. On the other, the development agenda must work toward providing food security and nutrition for those who do not yet have it, which involves the CGIAR agricultural research partnership and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“The important thing is looking for this word ‘synergy’; it really should be possible to get these two agendas hand-in-hand, and one of the best ways to do it is to include business more overtly in this equation,” Ingram said. “It’s the agents of change, the food system actors that we need to engage. And that means everybody.”

John Ingram speaks during the “Enhancing food system resilience” event. Photo by Tegar Agusta/CIFOR

FORESTS AT FOREFRONT

Forests have a vital role to play in restructuring food production systems and in maintaining environmental equilibrium. More than a billion people rely on forests and forest resources, which provide an important safety net at times of food and income insecurity, said Terry Sunderland, senior associate with CIFOR and a professor at Canada’s University of British Columbia.

It is paramount to ensure that the contribution of forests and trees is optimized across the four pillars of food security and nutrition – availability, access, utilization and stability – in a context of climate change and increasing demands on land for wood, food energy and ecosystem services, Sunderland said.

The international community must recognize that research has shown that people living closer to forests have better diets, and must integrate forests into food policies, he added.

Read also: Terry Sunderland presents key findings from the HLPE report on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition 

World Agroforestry (ICRAF), for instance, has developed a portfolio to recommend ecologically suitable combinations of food trees and crops to provide year-round harvests. The project aimed to boost fruit and vegetable consumption, which is often consumed at a rate far lower than recommended by WHO, said ICRAF scientist Stepha McMullen.

“Without this documentation, it could mean that certain crops are overlooked, particularly in agriculture and nutrition planning projects and policies,” she said.

Indigenous and underutilized food tree and crop species are key in local food systems because they are often more adapted to the landscape and therefore more resilient in the face of climate change.

The mainstreaming of these foods into wider use is necessary to ensure communities are harnessing their total value, McMullen said.

LOCAL TO GLOBAL

Policies focused on sustainable intensification of agriculture can have a negative impact on the quality of diets of people living in those producing landscapes, said Amy Ickowitz, team leader of Sustainable Landscapes and Food at CIFOR.

If fewer types of food are grown in a landscape, there are fewer types available for consumption, she said.

Proponents of the “land sparing” agricultural intensification theory argue that it will result in higher incomes and better access to markets. However, studies have shown that fruit and vegetables found in local markets don’t travel very far, which means there will be less diversity unless food is imported, creating an ecological footprint.

A 14-year study of 200 households in Indonesia, which concluded in 2014, showed that declines in production and dietary diversity among rural houses are increasing – declines in fruit, vegetable and fish consumption, but increases in the consumption of meat, fat and processed foods.

“This is the classic nutrition transition we’re seeing in many parts of the world,” Ickowitz said.

Solutions proposed for solving some global challenges can sometimes have negative impacts on local diets on producing landscapes, she said. People in traditional systems often do eat lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes, some of the food items disappearing from local diets.

“We need to be careful not to try and solve some problems in one part of the global food system by making things worse elsewhere,” Ickowitz said.

By Julie Mollins, senior editor and writer for CIFOR.


The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

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When Rosalina Heni is not working in the rice paddy fields in Ribang Kadeng village in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, she gathers vegetables in the surrounding forest for her family to eat.

By contrast, in nearby Sekadu Village, local resident Maria Ludiana can no longer collect enough ferns, bamboo shoots and other vegetables to feed her family because an oil palm plantation has supplanted the natural growth forest.

“Right now, we buy more,” Ludiana says in a new video produced by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “The difference is that before, everything was natural – natural foods, spices. The types of meat we eat have started to change.”

Watch: Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia

The subsistence livelihoods of more than 150 million residents of rural areas in Indonesia are at risk from oil palm expansion, according to scientists studying impact on nutritional status and diets as part of a research project funded by the Drivers of Food Choice (DFC) Competitive Grants Programs, which is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and managed by the University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health, USA.

In some circumstances the scientists have already observed traditional diets being abandoned.

“So far, we’ve seen that the people who live in the forest rely on nature – nature becomes their main way to get food,” says Yusuf Habibie, lecturer in the Department of Nutrition in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Brawijaya in the city of Malang in East Java province. “Then, when land is converted to oil palm plantations, with no forests, people lose access to wild food from the forest. Instead they start to purchase more food, including packaged foods.”

Forests and agroforestry systems which combine trees and crops play important roles in food security and nutrition, says CIFOR Scientist Amy Ickowitz, observing that communities in West Kalimantan eating forest foods, including fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, are getting all nutritional components found in healthy diets.

“Forests can play an important role in making our global food system more sustainable and more environmentally friendly, while making an important contribution to healthy diets ,” Ickowitz says, adding that improving food security and nutrition is not always as simple as raising incomes in rural communities; oil palm companies, governments, and researchers need to work together to find ways to make sure that landscape change does not harm health and nutrition while improving incomes.

If there are no plants, where are we going to be if not dead, queries Bandi, a respected elder living in the village of Sungai Utik.

“Nature is our supermarket,” he says. “If there is no forest, where can we get this variety of food? We will be forced to buy.”

Scientists are continuing their research into the impact of plantations on local forests in Indonesia. As yet, they have not compared oil palm with rubber plantations, which may not have the same impact on local diets.

For more information on this topic, please contact Amy Ickowitz at [email protected].

By Julie Mollins, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
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  • Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia

Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Subsistence livelihoods of residents of rural areas in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan are at risk from oil palm expansion, according to scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research and the University of Brawijaya.

This video was first published by CIFOR.

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  • Human diets drive range expansion of megafauna-dispersed fruit species

Human diets drive range expansion of megafauna-dispersed fruit species

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Neotropical fruit species once dispersed by Pleistocene megafauna have regained relevance in diversifying human diets to address malnutrition. Little is known about the historic interactions between humans and these fruit species. We quantified the human role in modifying geographic and environmental ranges of Neotropical fruit species by comparing the distribution of megafauna-dispersed fruit species that have been part of both human and megafauna diets with fruit species that were exclusively part of megafauna diets. Three quarters of the fruit species that were once dispersed by megafauna later became part of human diets. Our results suggest that, because of extensive dispersal and management, humans have expanded the geographic and environmental ranges of species that would otherwise have suffered range contraction after extinction of megafauna. Our results suggest that humans have been the principal dispersal agent for a large proportion of Neotropical fruit species between Central and South America. Our analyses help to identify range segments that may hold key genetic diversity resulting from historic interactions between humans and these fruit species. These genetic resources are a fundamental source to improve and diversify contemporary food systems and to maintain critical ecosystem functions. Public, private, and societal initiatives that stimulate dietary diversity could expand the food usage of these megafauna-dispersed fruit species to enhance human nutrition in combination with biodiversity conservation.

Access this publication via the publisher’s website.

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  • Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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Fish for sale in a local market in Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding more sustainable ways to feed the world at the EAT Food Forum in Jakarta.

Creating a more sustainable global food system demands innovation in food technologies, and collaboration at the highest levels of government. These demands were echoed by many prominent leaders who attended the recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia.

More than 500 participants from 30 countries congregated at the Forum on October 30 and 31 to discuss progress on the latest food research, as well as ideas for how to transform food systems in Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned in his opening remarks that “food can trigger political problems if not managed well.” He hoped that the “EAT Forum can reach a collective understanding through international collaboration among development actors from various sectors.”

After a steady decline for more than a decade, global hunger is again on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, according to a recent UN report. The increased number of those going hungry — from 38 million people last year to 815 million people today — is reported to be mainly caused by civil conflicts, and exacerbated by climate-related catastrophes.

Gathering leaders from science, politics and business, the EAT Forum aimed to promote a more holistic approach to food, health and sustainability, filling knowledge gaps, pushing for integrated food policies and finding win-win solutions.

Read more: Feminism, forests and food security

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

A HIGH-LEVEL ISSUE

“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets,” EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen said in her opening speech.

“We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector, from multinationals to local entrepreneurs, to create new products, services and sustainable business models,” she added.

Indonesian Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that “food security has become a prominent issue due to rapid growth in global population.”

“Food security, energy security and water supply are becoming key factors for many economic activities in the world. Improvements in technology and innovation are definitely going to create both opportunities and increasing productivity, but also challenges,” she said.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Terry Sunderland from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) commended the EAT forum for its success in gathering a large number of stakeholders in the food sector, including high-level politicians.

“Getting politicians to recognize the limitations of our current food systems is a great start. Things will not change overnight, but the event in Jakarta is raising awareness. People are listening,” he said.

Read more: Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security, nutrition and the SDGs; Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda

A HOLISTIC VIEW ON FOOD SECURITY

Amy Ickowitz, another CIFOR scientist who participated in the event, said the issues covered in the Forum are in line with CIFOR’s research. But while the Forum focused more on the impacts of food systems on land-use change, CIFOR’s Sustainable Landscapes and Food team “also focuses on the flip side — the impacts of land-use change on smallholder diets,” she said.

The team recently published a paper looking at the relationship between forests and tree-based agriculture, and the diets of children in Indonesia.

Sunderland added that when talking about food security in Indonesia, forests and fisheries play an integral role.

“Inland and marine fisheries stocks, and how they interplay with dietary and nutritional diversity, are important. We need to understand, what are the future demands for fisheries and how will this play out in terms food security? It supports we have done in the past five, six years in terms of moving towards dietary diversity,” he said.

“More support should be given to smallholder farmers so they can reduce their post-harvest waste, so they can trade in a market that’s fair and equitable. And slowly get that mindset that the transformation of our food system can be a positive thing.

Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important,” he added.

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


The EAT Forum was jointly organized by the Indonesian Government and the EAT Foundation.

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or Amy Ickowitz at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

  • Home
  • Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Fish for sale in a local market in Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding more sustainable ways to feed the world at the EAT Food Forum in Jakarta.

Creating a more sustainable global food system demands innovation in food technologies, and collaboration at the highest levels of government. These demands were echoed by many prominent leaders who attended the recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia.

More than 500 participants from 30 countries congregated at the Forum on October 30 and 31 to discuss progress on the latest food research, as well as ideas for how to transform food systems in Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned in his opening remarks that “food can trigger political problems if not managed well.” He hoped that the “EAT Forum can reach a collective understanding through international collaboration among development actors from various sectors.”

After a steady decline for more than a decade, global hunger is again on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, according to a recent UN report. The increased number of those going hungry — from 38 million people last year to 815 million people today — is reported to be mainly caused by civil conflicts, and exacerbated by climate-related catastrophes.

Gathering leaders from science, politics and business, the EAT Forum aimed to promote a more holistic approach to food, health and sustainability, filling knowledge gaps, pushing for integrated food policies and finding win-win solutions.

Read more: Feminism, forests and food security

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

A HIGH-LEVEL ISSUE

“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets,” EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen said in her opening speech.

“We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector, from multinationals to local entrepreneurs, to create new products, services and sustainable business models,” she added.

Indonesian Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that “food security has become a prominent issue due to rapid growth in global population.”

“Food security, energy security and water supply are becoming key factors for many economic activities in the world. Improvements in technology and innovation are definitely going to create both opportunities and increasing productivity, but also challenges,” she said.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Terry Sunderland from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) commended the EAT forum for its success in gathering a large number of stakeholders in the food sector, including high-level politicians.

“Getting politicians to recognize the limitations of our current food systems is a great start. Things will not change overnight, but the event in Jakarta is raising awareness. People are listening,” he said.

Read more: Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security, nutrition and the SDGs; Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda

A HOLISTIC VIEW ON FOOD SECURITY

Amy Ickowitz, another CIFOR scientist who participated in the event, said the issues covered in the Forum are in line with CIFOR’s research. But while the Forum focused more on the impacts of food systems on land-use change, CIFOR’s Sustainable Landscapes and Food team “also focuses on the flip side — the impacts of land-use change on smallholder diets,” she said.

The team recently published a paper looking at the relationship between forests and tree-based agriculture, and the diets of children in Indonesia.

Sunderland added that when talking about food security in Indonesia, forests and fisheries play an integral role.

“Inland and marine fisheries stocks, and how they interplay with dietary and nutritional diversity, are important. We need to understand, what are the future demands for fisheries and how will this play out in terms food security? It supports we have done in the past five, six years in terms of moving towards dietary diversity,” he said.

“More support should be given to smallholder farmers so they can reduce their post-harvest waste, so they can trade in a market that’s fair and equitable. And slowly get that mindset that the transformation of our food system can be a positive thing.

Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important,” he added.

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


The EAT Forum was jointly organized by the Indonesian Government and the EAT Foundation.

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or Amy Ickowitz at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


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