Together with more than 1,500 academics, scientists, and policymakers, we participated last week in the Rice Olympics.
The event—formally known as the International Rice Congress (IRC)—provides a unique window on the latest innovations and policies about the globe’s most important staple crop.
“Rice isn’t just a crop,” said Rajan Garjaria, Executive Vice President for Business Platforms at Corteva Agriscience. “It’s a way of life. A place can be made or broken, based on their rice crop.”
The Congress discussed a breadth of topics, but what stood out the most is that rice can be instrumental in making people healthier and in sustaining the planet.
The South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), a World Bank partnership that aims to improve food and nutrition security across the region, participated in the Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems and Diets and presented its latest research on linkages among food prices, diet quality, and nutrition security.
Overall, the event underscoredand discussed relevant strategies to transform nutrition security challenges into opportunities.
Here are our five takeaways about food, nutrition, and sustainability in South Asia and beyond:
- Diverse foods are unavailable and unaffordable to many. While it often seems that there are many food options on supermarket shelves— thousands of seemingly different products are made from only six food products, including wheat and corn. Further, the availability of diverse foods is just one piece of the puzzle as they also must be affordable to meet consumers’ demand. As rice prices increase, relative to nutrient-rich foods, people will diversify their diets away from rice. But, this substitution effect is only one part of the picture. Since many people consume plenty of rice, as rice prices increase, the income available to purchase other foods becomes constrained. This is particularly apparent in South Asia, where evidence shows that higher rice prices actually reduce diet diversity.
- nine out of 10 countries face this double burden of malnutrition, including India, which is home to 40 percent of the global underweight population but is ranked fifth in global obesity. As such, tackling both undernutrition and overnutrition will require much more than the current set of strategies available to us.
- Food systems do not only contribute to the sustainability of the planet, but they are also themselves affected by a changing planet. Climate change is threatening to change the conversation about nutrition, away from food quality back to an issue of food quantity. Climate change lowers the yields of key cereals, including rice. Exciting progress has recently been made to strengthen our adaptation to climate change. The world’s largest rice gene bank—which stores 136,000 varieties— has secured indefinite funding. The gene bank is used to develop varieties that can withstand drought and flooding. Additionally, the gene bank preserves genetic variation, to help cope with biotic and abiotic stresses which may challenge rice production, around the world in years to come.
SAIFood would like to thank the World Bank and authors, Felipe Dizon and Anna Josephson, for allowing us to repost their original blog.
TO find out more about the World Bank’s development in South Asia:
Dr Felipe Dizon
Dr Dizon is an Economist in the Agriculture Global Practice of the World Bank, South Asia region. His current work focuses on two areas— one on food security and nutrition issues and its links to agriculture, and the other on financial inclusion through the design, delivery, and evaluation of financial products for the poor. Prior to joining the World Bank, he designed and managed field-based research projects in Guatemala, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Uganda, and Zambia. He holds a Ph.D. in Agriculture and Resource Economics from the University of California, Davis, an MA from the University of San Francisco.
Dr Anna Josephson
Anna Josephson is an Assistant Professor of Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of Arizona. She works with the Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank. Dr. Josephson’s work examines issues of gender, labor, and households, focusing on the context of agriculture in economic development. Dr Josephson holds both a Ph.D. and M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University.