By Dr. Linda Veldhuizen, Manager, SDSN Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems

On 30-31 August, Wageningen University and Research, host of SDSN Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, took centre stage for SDG 2, convening the conference Zero Hunger: Partnerships for Impact. Missed it? Here are 5 take-aways to bring you up to speed. More information on conference outcomes can also be found on the Wageningen website.

1. We need food system approaches

“From feeding the world to nourishing the world sustainably requires transforming our food systems.”– Lawrence Haddad

“Food system” is the new buzzword. Does it also add substance, or are we just overcomplicating things? I haven’t seen any evidence supporting the superiority of a food systems approach over, for example, a value chain approach. But I have learned that food systems thinking helps you identify opportunities and challenges beyond your normal scope. To make life easier, you can start by mapping a food system and then zoom in on one specific part – as long as you keep an eye on the connections to the wider food system.

2. Learn from the best

“What Africa is doing for agriculture today will determine the future of food tomorrow.” – Akinwuni Adesina

“By outsourcing your value chain you cannot outsource your responsibility.” – Paul Polman

“We saved lives, but we didn’t change lives.” – Ertharin Cousin

“Policies, institutions, and technologies are key.” – Shenggen Fan

“Tackling youth unemployment and food security is not about ‘making agriculture more sexy’, it is about making agriculture profitable.” – Ken Giller

“You have offered us food for thought and thought for food.” – Carola Schouten

3. Youth

An innovative part of the conference was that student teams in Wageningen and other parts of the world worked on SDG 2 challenges in the 36-hour Foodathon. These teams worked day and night, and inspired many participants to contribute. A great way to connect youth and experts!

4. No one can do it alone

“It is our collective responsibility to nurture a sustainable future where everyone can live well. This requires major transformations in all spheres of life everywhere, which can only be achieved through connections and bridges between disciplines, people, and territories.” – David Nabarro

Partnerships were central to the SDG conference. Let me highlight three new partnerships here:

  1. The Agrifood 5 Alliance (A5) between China Agricultural University, Cornell University, UC Davis, the University of São Paulo, and Wageningen University & Research was announced.
  2. Wageningen recently joined the Sustainable Development Solutions Network as host of the thematic network on Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, which Dr. Ken Giller Co-Chairs.
  3. The SDG conference ended by announcing the first winners of the Borlaug Youth Institute award, the result of a partnership between the World Food Prize Foundation and Wageningen.

5. Commitments

The SDG conference was all about making commitments, so what is my commitment? The session Trade-offs and synergies at different levels showed that models like MAGNET and IMAGE can offer useful insights in trade-offs and synergies at the global and national level. However, they cannot give insights in social processes or subnational levels. This is something I want to work on over the next few months. If you have any thoughts on this, please contact me!