In less than two weeks, the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) will take place during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA. Leading up to this event, countries are convening national dialogues to gather issues, challenges, and solutions for their own food systems that will feed into the Summit’s larger discussion. In addition to these national dialogues, organizations around the world are also conducting independent dialogues to add a multitude of perspectives and voices to the process.
In Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Agriculture is leading work on the UNFSS 2021 and just completed a series of national and provincial dialogues to identify the most pressing and important challenges for the country’s food systems. These consultations included relevant Government officials at national and provincial level and other key entities working on agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and related sectors including cross-cutting areas interlinked with food systems. In parallel to the national dialogues, a series of independent dialogues was conducted to capture youth and youth perspectives as well.
Overall, it can be highlighted that Sri Lanka’s food systems are faced with multiple challenges such as climate change affecting weather and growing conditions, disaster events, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting supply chains, and market-related factors. 80% of total food production in Sri Lanka comes from smallholder farmers which operate with an average farm size of less than two hectares. This leads to difficulties due to land fragmentation, operation of machinery and other equipment, and low financial resources of individual farmers.
The first action track of the UN Food Systems Summit addresses the need for everyone to have reliable and sufficient access to food and nutritional security. This is made harder by gaps in agricultural infrastructure (for example cold-storage facilities), gaps in seed distribution mechanisms and seed quality, lack of appropriate farm machinery and equipment, harvest and post-harvest losses, lack of awareness of food safety and nutritional quality standards, and limited direct access to markets.
Another key strategy could include the promotion of locally available nutritious foods or plant-based food options, and the strengthening of home garden and agroforestry cultivation.
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