Smart Food – food that fulfil all criteria of being good for you (nutritious and healthy); good for the planet (environmentally sustainable); and good for the farmer (climate smart, potential to increase yields, multiple uses).
The key objective of the Smart Food initiative is to diversify staples across Africa and Asia. By focusing on staples, often 70 per cent of the plate and eaten three times a day, Smart Food Initiative plans to have the biggest impact. To achieve this, the initiative focuses on a couple of Smart Foods to not just popularize but bring into mainstream.
Smart Food is one of the solutions that contributes to addressing some of the largest global issues: poor diets (malnutrition to obesity); environmental issues (climate change, water scarcity and environmental degradation); and rural poverty.
The strategy adopted to achieve this involves:
Developing the Smart Food concept and messaging through scientifically backed information, marketing strategies and materials, and classification and accreditation of Smart Food.
Creating a demand pull with consumers for smart food by undertaking a viral campaign, facilitating processing of modern convenience products with smart foods, and facilitating engagement with the health, food service and media industries.
Ensuring that smallholder farmers and rural communities in Asia and Africa benefit by providing on-farm support, connecting farmers to value chains, linking Smart Food with health activities on the ground, and advocacy for policy support, research and development.
Filling the knowledge gaps: Identifying and addressing the gaps and scientific research needs on how these food affect you (nutrition and health), the planet, the farmer and the whole value chain (cooking, processing, marketing).
APAARI’s involvement in Smart Food
Leading agriculture organizations from Africa and Asia have joined hands to take on a bold initiative to create a big new industry, with the intent of bringing some Smart Foods back on the plate as major staples. Targeting staples lays the foundation to generate major impacts on health and the agri-food system. The inaugural meeting and signing of agreements by the largest agriculture associations in Africa and Asia took place on 13 January 2019. APAARI is one of the key institutions in this Afro-Asian consortium.
“This new partnership strengthens collaborations between Asia and Africa and can open up opportunities to join forces at any point along the value chain, from consumers through to processors, chefs through to farmers, researchers and others,” Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT.
This culminated in the formation of the Smart Food Executive Council led by – the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF), Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), along with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) which set in motion the Smart Food initiative in 2013.
“I see how we can make Smart Food a household name. We need to link and synergize other existing programmes along the whole value chain. Capacity building will be one opportunity especially in taking a holistic Smart Food approach where issues around nutrition/health, environment and farmer welfare can be tackled,” said Dr. Ravi Khetarpal, Executive Secretary, APAARI.
This partnership is part of a new effort to make a major contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The approach is to focus on diversifying staples. Given that staples may typically constitute 70% of a meal and are often eaten three times a day, diversifying them can have a pronounced impact on overcoming malnutrition and poverty and coping with climate change and environmental degradation.
“We see history unfolding before us as this is how big things emerge. Smart Food resonates with the desire to see the power of science translate into reality. I am happy that Smart Food is now institutionalized. FARA is excited to cooperate in this partnership and hold this partnership responsible for the success,” shared Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director, FARA.
SMART Food is a movement based not just supplying knowledge and innovations, but more about thinking from the agricultural innovation system perspective with very complex interactions that require different approaches and international cooperation. Envisioned to make a major impact, the initiative focuses on the staples and diversifying staples that consist typically about 70 per cent of the plate in many countries.
Smart Food is a noble and novel idea and well thought through. The major staples did not get to where they are by accident. There are benefits and financial viability, but this viability varied for different value chain players. We need to learn from these successes and ensure financial sustainability. Engaging with large players is a part of making this come to reality to ensure benefits to smallholder farmers and the environment,” highlighted Mr. William Asiko, Board member, FANRPAN.
APAARI is promoting this initiative in Asia-Pacific and is collaborating with its partners of the Afro-Asian Consortium on the next steps to launch regional communication campaigns. It is also supporting ICRISAT in mobilizing resources for this global initiative with potential of achieving a huge impact on poverty reduction and environmental conservation.
“This approach is a fitting response to today’s major global issues. We want to add to the big crops; not displace them. Moving from the Big 3 staples (rice, wheat and maize) to having more, the Big 5 and later the Big 7, is an important aim. Now we have to go from a pitch to reality. Key to this are the nutrition and climate change adaptation needs and this is core to Smart Food. Smart Food crops have been neglected for reasons other than value as they are inherently nutritious and adaptable to diverse farming systems. We need to promote these inherent values,” pointed out Dr Abdulai Jalloh, Director of Research and Innovation, CORAF.
This will contribute to the SDGs for overcoming poverty and hunger (SDG 1 and 2), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), along with adaptation to climate change (Goal 13). The approach taken will include gender equality (SDG 5) and action through partnerships (SDG 17).