Ensuring sustainable food security is a vital element of Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector and the country’s economy at large. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of a robust and resilient food system that can function in all circumstances and can ensure access to a sufficient supply of affordable food for all. The current pandemic is just one example. The increasing recurrence of droughts, floods or new pests are a constant reminder that our food systems must become more sustainable and resilient.
The European Union (EU) has developed its ‘Farm to Fork’ (FtF) Strategy to support sustainable food systems in Europe and its partner countries. This initiative maps a new sustainable, inclusive growth trajectory for the development of fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly food systems. The Farm to Fork Strategy is part of the EU’s ambitious Green Deal that lays out a vision for a sustainable climate-neutral and resource-efficient future by 2050.
As Sri Lanka gears up for its participation to the United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit scheduled to be held in September 2021, the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy provides useful guidance for improved food systems considering all sustainability dimensions.
The ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy as well as the agricultural challenges and opportunities faced by Sri Lanka, were the subjects of the webinar ‘Farm to Fork: How EU and Sri Lanka are moving towards a more sustainable food system?’ organised by the EU Delegation in Sri Lanka and the EU-funded “Technical Assistance to the Modernisation of Agriculture” programme (TAMAP). The event brought together a panel of experts that discussed the new strategic approach towards food system sustainability, the EU’s role in contributing to more resilient and sustainable food systems, and challenges and opportunities faced by Sri Lanka in moving towards sustainable farming.
Launching the webinar, the Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Frank Hess stated that “agriculture and rural development are among key priorities of the EU’s partnership with Sri Lanka. For nearly a decade, the EU has been supporting the national authorities, local communities and farmers to move towards a more inclusive, modernized and sustainable agriculture.” Dr Olaf Heidelbach, lead speaker on behalf of the European Commission, explained the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy by highlighting that “when it comes to integrating environmental, social and economic sustainability in agriculture policy developments, there are many similarities between the EU’s and the Sri Lankan food systems”. For these reasons, the EU would like to collaborate with the Sri Lankan government to further enhance the global impact of the EU’s ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy.
Ms Champa Magamage (Horticultural Crop Research and Development Institute, HORDI), Dr Sumith (Registrar of Pesticides), Ms Disna Rathnasinghe (Department of Agriculture), and Ms Ranmalee Gamage (GIZ Sri Lanka) addressed the current issues faced by Sri Lanka’s agriculture and food industry, including practical concerns and regulatory efforts related to the use of chemicals in food, food labeling and certifications, and promotion of organic agriculture practices.
The presentations and the subsequent discussion highlighted that, while many efforts have been already made, Sri Lanka is still facing several challenges in guaranteeing sustainable food security to its people. Better access to and affordability of safe, nutritious and high-quality food, capacity in implementing solutions identified, or better consumer awareness are just few areas in which Sri Lanka could strengthen its strategy framework for sustainable food system development.
The World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in coordination with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Agriculture, will soon be launching a series of national consultations to prepare for Sri Lanka’s participation to the UN Food Systems Summit to be held in September 2021. In a recent policy brief on ‘Sustainable Food Systems’, WFP Sri Lanka provides policy recommendations to deliver sustainable food systems, noting that the agricultural sector needs to transform and adapt its existing policies and practices in order to move towards a sustainable food system which delivers economic, environmental and social benefits. The ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy serves as a powerful example for such a transition towards a more sustainable agriculture sector.