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SPEECH DELIVER BY BLESSING A. AKINLOSOTU, PRESIDENT OF NIGERIAN YOUTH CONGRESS AT THE CONFERENCE ORGANIZED TO COMMEMORATE THE 2021 INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY ON THE THEME: TRANSFORMING FOOD SYSTEMS: YOUTH INNOVATION FOR HUMAN AND PLANETARY HEALTH ON THURSDAY, 26TH AUGUST 2021.

Protocol

Introduction

I am most delighted to welcome you all to this very important Conference and also have you all present in this epoch-making event. This is an indication of the readiness of our generation in joining hands with the Federal, State, and Local Government to move the Nation forward, by taking responsibility for issues and challenges affecting our present and future.

International Youth Day

In 1999, The United Nations General Assembly resolution 54/120 endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers of Youth (Lisbon, Portugal 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared International Youth Day which thereby bifurcated the annual Children and Youth Day Celebration. Youth day is to provide an opportunity to separately celebrate young peoples’ views and initiatives on a global scale.

Today, young people hold a crucial role in working towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and related frameworks. Recent global priorities have centered around fighting the impacts of climate change, unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, conflict, and migration. The international community has borne witness to young people’s unprecedented mobilization around the world, which has shown the massive power they possess to hold decision-makers accountable and as change agents. The Decade of Action announced by the Secretary-General in September of 2019 requires peoples’ action, inclusive of youth to generate an unstoppable movement pushing for such required transformations.

Food System

A food system includes all the aspects of feeding and nourishing people: growing, harvesting, packaging, processing, transporting, marketing, and consuming food. It encompasses all the interactions between people and the natural world – land, water, the climate, etc. – and the natural world’s effects on human health and nutrition. It also includes the inputs, institutions, infrastructure, and services that support the functioning of all these aspects, as well as the role of diets and cultural practices in shaping outcomes.

A food system is sustainable when it provides sufficient nutritious food for all without compromising the health of the planet or the ability of future generations to meet their food and nutritional needs.

The world is facing unprecedented challenges that affect the sustainability of our food and agriculture systems. From an ever-increasing and urbanized world population to deteriorating natural resources and loss of biodiversity, to climate change impacts, these challenges combined threaten the livelihoods of millions of family farmers across the globe.

Hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. Today, about 821 million – 1 in 9 people – are chronically undernourished, 1 in 3 people are malnourished and 1 in 8 adults suffer from obesity. To meet growing food demand from a projected population of close to 10 billion people in 2050, agricultural output will need to increase by about 40 percent compared to 2012. The bulk of this rise must come from family farmers who manage about 90 percent of the world’s farms, produce over 80 percent of the world’s food, but paradoxically, are often poor and food insecure while efforts in the past centered on boosting agriculture to produce more food.

Thus, today’s focus is to tackle the root causes of hunger and malnutrition through transformative changes to our food system. The way we produce, process, distribute and consume food must become wholly sustainable and contribute to healthy and affordable diets. As the driving force to transform food systems, innovation is central to lifting family farmers out of poverty, tackling unemployment for youth and rural women, and helping the world to achieve food security and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Agriculture Innovation

Agricultural innovation is the process whereby individuals or organizations bring new or existing products, processes, or ways of organization into use for the first time in a specific context in order to increase effectiveness, competitiveness, resilience to ensure environmental sustainability and thereby contribute to food security and nutrition, economic development or sustainable natural resource management.

a. Family farmers are innovators.

Family farmers have been innovating since the dawn of agriculture fostering the capacity of the millions of family farmers to innovate, as they face unprecedented challenges that affect their livelihoods as well as the sustainability of the world’s food and agricultural systems.

b. Innovation is more than technology.

Going beyond apps, drones, or farm machinery, innovation in agriculture involves different social, organizational, or institutional processes, ranging from access to markets, credit, or extension services to marketing produce in a new way.

c. Innovation is a complex process where multiple actors play different roles.

Governments and other key stakeholders, including civil society, farmer organizations, research bodies, and the private sector, all have a role to play in creating an environment that enables innovation in agriculture to flourish and generate solutions. Success hinges on connecting the drivers that influence innovation uptake.

Therefore, we need to increase the pace of innovation to overcome the challenges of the 21st century. Accelerating and scaling up innovation in agriculture can trigger the transformation needed to respond to feeding a growing and increasingly urbanized population, climate change impacts, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As the decade of family farming kicks off, the time is now to bring stakeholders together to share knowledge, invest and unlock the policy, pathways, and business models aimed at promoting innovation in agriculture while expressing confidence and trust that our Guest speakers/Panelists will speak to make positive improvement to the understanding of all and sundry on the subject matter of Transforming Food System, let me welcome and appreciate the presence of our eminent dignitaries to this epoch-making event.

Once again, I welcome you all to this important Conference, sit back, relax, engage, interact and enjoy the amazing experience the program promises to unveil.

Thank you and God bless you all.

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