A data-driven approach to food system transformation

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"Data-driven approaches are critical to enable us to make targeted interventions in areas where we can make the greatest impact." For Felix Pensulu Phiri, Director of Nutrition in the Malawi Ministry of Health, the recommendations in the evidence-based and costed country roadmap for food system transformation developed for Malawi is a promising path forward.  

Malawi faces many challenges. Agriculture is the leading employer in the country, accounting for over 75% of total employment. However, the majority of agricultural producers consists of smallholder farmers, many of whom are poor. Food insecurity is prevalent, estimated to affect 51% of the population, while only 30% of the population can afford a nutritious diet.  

Despite acknowledging these challenges, Felix remains optimistic that by implementing the most effective interventions alongside adequate resources, a sustainable food system transformation of Malawi’s food system can be achieved. His department has already taken steps to integrate the roadmap’s recommendations in the country’s nutrition policy. “The roadmap provides a pathway to end hunger. It's doable and we can move forward as a country.” 

Similarly, to Malawi, the Zero Hunger Coalition has begun preparing a roadmap to transform food systems in Madagascar. 

At a recent event held during the UN Food System Summit Stocktaking Moment, the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock (MINEA), Ramilison Harifidy, spoke about the value of the roadmap and its recommendations to tackle the issues affecting his country. “Madagascar aims to overcome the blockages that prevent its transition toward a sustainable and equitable food system. Combining strong government support with interventions based on research and data, we will overcome the challenges ahead.” 

The government’s attention will be directed towards key interventions such as crop diversification, access to nutritious food through school meals programmes and food banks, transportation and irrigation infrastructure, and support for climate smart agriculture and fostering women and youth entrepreneurship. 

The approach taken by the Zero Hunger Coalition appeals to donor governments. For Martin Hoppe from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in Germany, “We are finding our way towards equitable and sustainable food systems using science as our guiding star. The Zero Hunger Coalition is instrumental to achieving SDG 2 and ending hunger.” 

The Zero Hunger Coalition, which launched during the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021, brings together 30 countries in addition to 46 companies who have committed nearly USD 560 million to end hunger as part of the Coalition’s Private Sector Pledge 

According to Francine Picard, who coordinates the Coalition on behalf of the Shamba Centre for Food & Climate, “The Zero Hunger Coalition empowers countries to forge a path towards sustainable solutions, addressing not only hunger eradication but also promoting healthier diets and tackling climate change.” It does so through three pillars: evidence-based and costed roadmaps, a match-making programme and the private sector pledge.  

To date, roadmaps have been developed for Ethiopia, Malawi and Nigeria while two further roadmaps, for Madagascar and Zambia, will be finalized by the end of the year.  

By offering measurable data to understand the most effective interventions to end hunger sustainably, these roadmaps help shape government policy and donor funding. As Martin Hoppe concludes, “It is my firm conviction that nations who forge the most compelling national pathways through inclusive dialogues and grounded in scientific evidence will garner the greatest support from international institutions, partner countries, and, perhaps most importantly, the private sector.” 

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