11th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA): ‘Agriculture Goes Digital – Smart Solutions for Future Farming’
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During the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, which took place in Berlin, Germany, from 17-19 January 2019, the World Bank organized an expert panel themed, ‘What’s Cooking: Re-thinking Farm and Food Policy for the Digital Age’.

The event aimed to increase awareness about the public policies that can guide structural changes of digital agriculture towards achieving national development strategies and the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The International Green Week (IGW) in Berlin, Germany, one of the biggest agricultural fairs in Europe, is a standing feature and the first important agriculture event of the year. It is framed by the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin, an international conference that focuses on central questions concerning the future of the global agri-food industry. The 11th edition of the Global Forum convened from 17-19 January 2019. It was dedicated to the subject, ‘Agriculture Goes Digital Smart Solutions for Future Farming.’ Over 2,000 international visitors from politics, private sector, academia and civil society interested in food and agriculture attended the numerous public events of the forum.

The political highlight was the Agriculture Ministers’ Conference and the adoption of the Communiqué by 74 Ministers. The Communiqué acknowledges the need to use the potential of digitalization to increase agricultural production and productivity, while improving sustainability, efficient use of resources, employment as well as entrepreneurial opportunities and living conditions, especially in rural areas.

The World Bank organized a GFFA expert panel themed, ‘What’s Cooking: Re-thinking Farm and Food Policy for the Digital Age,’ which was moderated by Juergen Voegele, Senior Director of Food and Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank. This event aimed to increase awareness about the public policies that can guide structural changes of digital agriculture towards achieving national development strategies and the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The panel was composed of representatives from the public sector, development banks, private sector and academia who are championing new digital approaches to transform agriculture for poverty reduction and improved livelihoods.

In his welcoming remarks, Juergen Voegele underlined that digital transformation of agriculture can provide solutions to some of agriculture’s most pressing challenges and bring 570 million farmers closer to 7.6 billion consumers and put smallholder farmers in the center of food systems. Emmanuel Piñol, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, the Philippines, delivered a keynote speech on national digital integration of rural infrastructure and agriculture enterprises, including open data systems to share prices of inputs and outputs.

One of the panelists, Mariana Hill, Vice President, National Institute of Agricultural Research of Uruguay, shared how public policies helped roll out digital systems to improve sustainable land management in her country. Natalya Zhukova, Director, Head of Agribusiness, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), shared her experience, noting that “International financial institutions can help address the challenges of digitalization by working with public and private stakeholders on inclusive policies and facilitating technology and skill transfer mechanisms between countries.”

Esben Lunde Larsen, Fellow, World Resources Institute (WRI), focused his intervention on successful livestock traceability systems established by the Danish food-related public agencies. Freedom Zhang, Senior Specialist, Alibaba Group, shared lessons related to enabling a digital e-commerce ecosystem in China. Clement Matyuhov, OneSoil, stressed that digital transformation could be “one of the greatest opportunities we have” to make the agriculture more attractive to young people.

There was general consensus that digital technology should not be perceived as an end in itself, but rather as a means to reach equity, efficiency and environmental sustainability.

At the closing plenary, the World Bank recommended the development and deployment of a Digital Agriculture Capability Assessment (DACA) tool to evaluate economies’ capabilities, constraints, and enabling environments to best leverage digital technologies in agriculture. The DACA tool will map key conditions required for adoption of digital technologies in the agriculture and food sector. This tool will consequently help development practitioners and policymakers analyze country situations and suggest policy reforms and investments.

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This article was written by: Armine Juergenliemk, Agriculture Specialist, World Bank; Iride Ceccacci, Principal, Agribusiness Advisory, EBRD; Julian Lampietti, Practice Manager, World Bank; Astrid Maria Jakobs de Padua, Senior Agriculture Specialist, World Bank; and Flore Martinant de Preneuf, Senior Communications Specialist, World Bank.

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