Food security: best sustainable development practices recognized at the World’s Fair in Milan


A « Best Sustainable Development Practices » award ceremony was held on July 6, organized as part of the World’s Fair in Milan, in partnership with Feeding Knowledge, which supports research and innovation in food security. Coverage of trends embodied by the 18 winning projects.


Ambitious projects because they can be replicated on a wider scale

Only 18 of the 786 projects nominated since the contest opened in November 2013 were selected. What do all these projects have in common? All involve an action plan to support cooperation in research and innovation on food security that emphasizes policies, technology, knowledge, products, and services. Focusing on five key priorities (sustainable management of natural resources, socioeconomic dynamics and global markets, sustainable development of small rural communities, food consumption patterns, and quantitative and qualitative enhancement of agricultural products), the winners represent seven countries from Africa, three from Southeast Asia, three from South America, and two from Europe. From Ecuador to Lebanon, Mongolia, Myanmar, and Niger, all of the winning projects have improved the living and working conditions of farmers in targeted towns and villages. In some cases, these initiatives have led to the formation of associations or cooperatives, as in Niger.

Other projects have expanded internationally, like the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) from Madagascar, which has improved crop production without the use of pesticides, while also using less water.

The model has since been imported into Rwanda, Burundi, and several Asian countries. Since the SRI program was introduced in Madagascar, more than 100,000 local farmers have adopted it. The country’s rice yields have increased from 1,700 tons in 1998 to 23,000 tons in 2007. The number of farmers and plantations has grown, along with family income (+75%).

Leveraging collective intelligence

The 18 projects emphasize solutions that are sustainable from an economic, environmental, and scientific perspective.

Through close collaboration between residents, rural laborers, local and national authorities, international institutions, universities, and research centers, the 18 projects emphasize solutions that are sustainable from an economic, environmental, and scientific perspective. In Argentina, the Agrarian Federation, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has approved the cultivation of a traditional plant, called kiwicha, which is cooked as a grain and has valuable nutritional properties. With support from local authorities and families living in the region, production of this ancient agricultural product has resumed. The project includes a total of 1,800 families, twelve schools, and an agricultural cooperative. Another initiative, this one coming from Tanzania, is a partnership between Granarolo-CEFA (a specialized Italian company) and cattle ranchers in the Njombe District (in the southern part of the country), that led to the founding of a dairy company, called Njombe Milk Factory. Through milk collection, processing, and sales, the company controls the entire supply chain. According to one study, the cattle ranchers’ income has increased by 140% in just three years. By introducing pasteurization in its processes, the company offers quality milk, which is essential in preventing growth delays associated with malnutrition.

From education to training on new agricultural techniques and the rediscovery of traditional products and resources, the winning projects incorporate the specifics of local regions, with the support of national or international partnerships. These solutions calibrated for the needs of developing countries benefit from collective intelligence and and knowledge sharing.

Photo © : Cornfield

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