Food Systems in time of crisis | AGRF | Dar es Salaam
08 September 2023
Food Systems Stakeholders
I am delighted to have joined you for this enlightening session, which highlighted the crucial role that young refugees, migrants and displaced persons can play in our Food Systems, especially in fragile contexts. At the end of 2022, a staggering 108 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide due to persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. This included 35 million refugees and 63 million internally displaced persons. Additionally, in the same year, we witnessed 281 million international migrants. Together, this adds up to nearly 400 million people, each with their stories, dreams, and potential.
Many of these individuals, driven by hope and resilience, have found their place in our food systems, from sowing the seeds to serving meals. Yet, in their journey, they grapple with immense challenges, including poverty, malnutrition, and deprivation of fundamental rights.
The Sustainable Development Goals, at their very core, emphasize the principle of "leaving no one behind." As the United Nations, we hold this commitment in the highest regard. Refugees, displaced persons and migrants stand among the most marginalized in our societies. Their plight underscores our collective responsibility, and our approach should not just be ‘aid’ but also ‘empowerment’.
It is imperative that we change the prevailing narratives surrounding these populations. They are not merely statistics or faceless masses; they are individuals, just like each one of us. The circumstances they have faced may be dire, but their potential remains vast. The youth among them, especially, with their adaptability, innovation, and enthusiasm, can help bring transformative changes to our food systems.
Today's panel discussions have brought forward compelling narratives of how, when given the opportunity, young refugees, migrants and displaced have not just contributed, but also enhanced our Food Systems. This is a testament to the boundless potential that largely remains untapped.
In recent years, our region, including Tanzania, has been facing major challenges due to various factors: including COVID-19, climate crisis, effects of the Ukraine War. They all impacted on our food systems. Displacement increased by 5 million refugees or asylum-seekers and 9 million internally displaced in 2022. COVID-19 disrupted mobility, affecting livelihoods tied to food systems. Economic losses, lockdowns, inflation and supply chain issues worsened food insecurity, particularly for vulnerable groups.
Addressing these challenges requires humanitarian responses as well as development action. And we must recognise the critical role of food systems. It is important that people can get the help they need during crises. To address food security withing countries and within regions, we need to recognise the role of remittances, importance of adapting migration rules for essential workers in food production and supply chains, promoting gender- and youth-sensitive responses, and improving data collection and coordination among various stakeholders.
UN Agencies in Tanzania and across the region have been working together with many partners and stakeholders to help create resilient, sustainable, and climate-smart agri-food systems with durable solutions for refugees and displaced people, focusing on gender inclusivity and equality. Young refugees and migrants can play a transformative role in food systems and rural development if they are adequately supported to increase their knowledge, skills and overall capacity and if given the opportunity.
In Rwanda, we have inspiring examples of joint programmes. Supported by UNHCR, WFP, FAO, the Government of Rwanda, and private sector partners, an agricultural project has successfully brought together more than 1,400 refugees and members of the host community. This initiative aims to create a strong evidence base on how to enhance self-reliance by focusing on livelihoods and economic inclusion, within a comprehensive, whole-of-society approach. Aligned with national priorities to grow investment in agriculture, the programme was possible with a crucial government allocation of 55 hectares of land for the mixed agricultural cooperatives.
In Uganda, FAO in collaboration with UNHCR, the Government of Uganda and private sector, has been working to promote self-reliance of refugee and host community households. This involves building the capacity of some 2,400 refugees and host community members to engage in market-oriented sustainable production and agribusiness, to develop profitable and sustainable value chains, and to provide scalable energy solutions for cooking, to support agricultural livelihoods and diversify their income.
Closer to home, in Tanzania, an area-based UN joint programme, which involves 17 UN agencies, is supporting the building of climate resilient agri-food systems in the Kigoma Region, which hosts over 250,000 refugees. Refugees are supported to establish kitchen gardens and grow nutritious food to complement food rations in the camps, and they also acquire skills that can help them rebuild their lives when returning to their country of origin.
Esteemed colleagues and partners present today, your roles are pivotal. Your advocacy, your efforts and your commitment can shape a future where these young women and man are not just seen as beneficiaries, but as contributors. The inclusion of young people in Agri-Food Systems is not merely an act of support - it a strategic initiative that amplifies our journey towards sustainability.
Our collective aspirations, embodied in the SDGs and the African Union Agenda 2063, call for us to recognize that sustainable food systems are integral to achieving broader developmental goals. Harnessing the potential of our youth – including those displaced, migrating, or seeking refuge – should be the cornerstone of this vision.
Together, let us chart a path where everyone is a stakeholder in sustainable, inclusive and prosperous food systems for Africa.