The global food system is not sufficiently sustainable, efficient or well-designed to respond as needed to growing biophysical and population pressures. The agricultural supply chains that underpin the current system account for up to 30 percent of global anthropogenic GHG emissions, consume half of all habitable land and 70 percent of freshwater, and are a major cause of biodiversity loss as well as the principal driver of phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. Almost a quarter of all food calories produced are lost in supply chains or wasted during consumption. In addition, the existing food system is also failing to deliver on its primary role of nourishing a growing global population: 1 in 3 people are malnourished, 155 million children are stunted, and 2 billion adults are overweight or obese.
Transforming this food system into an inclusive, diverse, resilient, regionally adapted and healthy model for the future will be critical in order to deliver on both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. More importantly, this transformation process will need to include small farms throughout Sub Saharan Africa, and Southeast and South Asia, which are responsible for 75% of crops and food in the region while at the same time comprising the agricultural land most vulnerable to climate change. Harnessing new technological advances (such as big data, machine learning, and internet of things) has the potential to drive this transformation through sustainable and inclusive supply chains.
This workshop will bring together stakeholders and practitioners to explore how digital technologies might be responsibly deployed to support small-scale farming. These technologies have the potential to tackle food security issues by enhancing farming operations and their predictive ability and approaches to mitigate risk, improving access to markets, finance, and supply chains, and allowing better management of natural resources. However, adoption of such technologies in smallholder settings continues to be challenging.
Understanding both the positive and negative socioeconomic and biophysical implications of technology adoption will be important to inform the collaborations, dialogue and governance needed to ensure digital technologies enhance smallholder inclusivity and bridge rather than entrench the digital divide, while safeguarding the interests of those most vulnerable. More specifically, this convening will address the opportunities and promises of technology usage and application across smallholder value chains as well as approaches and best practices for data management and governance that can build trust and support a fair and inclusive data economy in agriculture.