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The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation in Ensuring Food Security by 2030

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The report provides an introduction to the challenge of ensuring food security, highlighting the geography of food insecurity, specific socioeconomic, environmental and political challenges that exacerbate food insecurity, and the role of the Sustainable Development Goals in ensuring "Zero Hunger" by 2030. It discusses how various scientific and technological applications can address the four dimensions of food security, namely availability, access, use/utilization and stability. The report also explores how countries can reimagine their food systems as innovation systems with attention to the building of local innovative capabilities, enabling infrastructure for agricultural innovation, developing coherent policies and strengthening knowledge flows to facilitate technology dissemination. Finally, it presents policy considerations and strategic recommendations for national Governments, the private sector, agricultural research institutions and other stakeholders.












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ii The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030


The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) serves as the lead entity within the
United Nations Secretariat for matters related to science and technology as part of its work on the integrated
treatment of trade and development, investment and finance. The current UNCTAD work programme is based
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Under the overall direction of Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics of
UNCTAD, this study was prepared by Bob Bell (UNCTAD); and Ulrich Hoffmann, Bernadette Oehen, Adrian
Muller and Lin Bautze (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture).

UNCTAD appreciates valuable inputs provided by the Governments of Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada,
Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru,
Portugal, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland and the United States of America; as well as from the following organizations and agencies: Chinese
Academy of Science Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Global Open Data for Agriculture and
Nutrition (GODAN), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), N2Africa (Wageningen University), United
Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change and United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth. Other contributors include Olivia Yambi
(International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems), David Souter (ICT Development Associates)
and Elenita (Neth) Daño (ETC Group).

Comments and feedback were provided at various stages of preparation by Katalin Bokor, Claudia Contreras,
Angel Gonzalez-Sanz, Marta Perez Cuso and Dong Wu (UNCTAD).

UNCTAD wishes to acknowledge comments and suggestions provided by Sununtar Setboonsarng (Asian
Development Bank) and Nadia Scialabba (FAO). The publication benefited significantly from discussions
and inputs during the Inter-sessional Panel of the CSTD held in January 2017 in Geneva.

Nadège Hadjémian designed the cover. Stephanie Kermoal provided administrative support.

iv The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

CFS Committee on World Food Security

GHG greenhouse gas

HLPE High-level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition

ICT information and communications technology

IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development

IP innovation platform

IPES International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems

NGO Non-governmental organization

STI science, technology and innovation

UNCTAD United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

UNDP United Nations Development Programme

UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

WFP World Food Programme

WRI World Resources Institute



NOTE ...................................................................................................................................................... ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ....................................................................................................................... iii

INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................... viii

Chapter 1. The challenge of food security ........................................................................................ 4

1.1 What is food security? ................................................................................................................ 4

1.2 The geography of food insecurity ............................................................................................... 4

1.3 The importance of smallholder farmers in food security ............................................................ 4

1.4 What are the challenges of food security? ................................................................................. 6

1.4.1 Agriculture, economic development, and international trade ............................................ 6

1.4.2 Environmental change and agriculture .............................................................................. 7

1.5 Millennium Development Goals to halve hunger ........................................................................ 7

1.6 Sustainable Development Goals to achieve zero hunger .......................................................... 8

1.7 Conclusion .................................................................................................................................. 8

Chapter 2. Science and technology for food security ..................................................................... 9

2.1 Food availability: Science and technology to improve agricultural productivity ........................ 11

2.1.1 Conventional cross-breeding for improved plant varieties and increased crop yields ..... 11

2.1.2 Improving agricultural productivity through transgenic crops ........................................... 12

2.1.3 Soil management for increasing agricultural yields ........................................................... 13

2.1.4 Irrigation technologies: Technologies that make water available for food production ....... 14

2.2 Food access: Technologies for food accessibility ...................................................................... 16

2.3 Food use and utilization: Science for nutrition ............................................................................ 18

2.4 Food stability: New ways to combat acute and chronic food insecurity .................................... 18

2.4.1 Adapting food production to climate change .................................................................... 19

2.4.2 Using big data and the Internet of things for precision agriculture ................................... 19

2.4.3 Early warning systems ....................................................................................................... 20

2.5 Convergence of new and emerging technologies ..................................................................... 21

2.6 Conclusion .................................................................................................................................. 25

Chapter 3. Developing innovative food systems ............................................................................... 25

3.1 Promoting a smallholder farmer-focused research agenda ....................................................... 26

3.2 Enabling infrastructure for food systems .................................................................................... 28

3.3 Governing agricultural innovation and policy coherence ........................................................... 29

3.4 Facilitating farmer–scientist knowledge flows: Strengthening agricultural extension and
human capacity .......................................................................................................................... 29


vi The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

3.4.1 Participatory cooperative research among farmers and scientists ................................... 29

3.4.2 Information and communications technologies for extension services ............................. 30

3.4.3 Sharing plant genetic resources ........................................................................................ 30

3.5 Making innovative food systems gender-sensitive ..................................................................... 31

Chapter 4. Policy considerations ........................................................................................................ 31

4.1 Increase investments in agricultural R&D at the global and national levels............................... 31

4.2 Promote sustainable food systems ............................................................................................. 32

4.3 Encourage development of science, technology, and innovation applications on key food
security challenges ..................................................................................................................... 32

4.4 Support policy coherence for food security ............................................................................... 33

4.5 Improve extension services and the farmer–scientist interface ................................................. 33

4.6 Improve access to agricultural technologies and data for smallholder farmers ........................ 34

4.7 Build human capacity for agricultural innovation ....................................................................... 34

4.8 Collaborate with international partners to harness science, technology, and innovation for
food security ............................................................................................................................... 34

4.9 Strengthen the enabling environment for agriculture and food security .................................... 35

Appendix ........................................................................................................................................... 36

References ........................................................................................................................................... 42

Figure 1. Projected number and proportion of undernourished people in developing regions from

1990/1992–2014/2016 ........................................................................................................... 5

Figure 2. Undernourishment trends: Progress made in almost all regions, but at very
different rates ........................................................................................................................ 8

Figure 3. Global water scarcity ............................................................................................................. 15

Figure 4. Agricultural losses in sub-Saharan Africa across the value chain for different types
of crops ................................................................................................................................. 16

Figure 5. Example: Application of the Internet of things, robotics, and artificial intelligence to
farming .................................................................................................................................. 23

Figure 6. Agricultural innovation system .............................................................................................. 25

Box 1. Bulgaria’s Institute of Plant Physiology and Genetics ............................................................. 12

Box 2. Information and communications technologies for improved soil quality in Bangladesh ....... 14

Box 3. Purchase for Progress and scaling up nutrition in Guatemala ................................................ 18

Box 4. Big data for sustainable food production in Colombia ........................................................... 19

Box 5. Crop Watch: Cloud-based global crop monitoring system ..................................................... 20

Box 6. The potential of synthetic biology: CRISPR/Cas9 ................................................................... 21


Box 7. The need for an international technology assessment and foresight mechanism .................. 24

Box 8. Bulgaria’s Agricultural Academy ............................................................................................. 26

Box 9. A new CGIAR strategy and results framework for 2016-2030 ................................................ 27

Box 10. Employing ICTs to build farmer communities in the United Republic of Tanzania .................. 28

Box 11. Improving cotton-farming systems in Western Africa through participatory research............ 29

Box 12. Portuguese information system for plant genetic resources ................................................... 31


Table 1. Examples of science, technology, and innovation for food security ....................................... 9


Box 1 The four dimensions of food security ...................................................................................... 36

Box 2 Sustainable Development Goals and food security ................................................................ 37

Table 1 Relationship between the four dimensions of food security and the Sustainable
Development Goals ................................................................................................................ 39

Table 2 Sustainable Development Goal targets related to Goal 2: End hunger with a relation to
science, technology and innovation ....................................................................................... 40

Glossary ........................................................................................................................................... 41

2 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030


About 795 million people, or every ninth person, is undernourished, with the majority living in developing
countries and rural areas. New, existing, and emerging technologies can address the four dimensions
of food security. For example, genetic modification, methods for improving soil fertility, and irrigation
technologies can increase food availability. Post-harvest and agro-processing technologies can address
food accessibility, biofortification can make food more nutritious, and climate-smart solutions anchored in
science, technology and innovation (STI) – including the use of precision agriculture and early warning
systems – can mitigate food instability. New and emerging technologies, including synthetic biology, artificial
intelligence and tissue engineering may have potential implications for the future of crop and livestock
agriculture. However, harnessing the potential of such technologies for food security requires investments
in research and development, human capital, infrastructure and knowledge flows. Creating an environment
for agricultural innovation also benefits from an enabling environment, gender-sensitive approaches
to technology development and dissemination, regional and international collaboration, and technology
foresight and assessment for agricultural innovations.

The report is divided into four sections. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the challenge of ensuring
food security, highlighting the geography of food insecurity, specific socioeconomic, environmental and
political challenges that exacerbate food insecurity, and the role of the Sustainable Development Goals in
ensuring “Zero Hunger” by 2030. Chapter 2 discusses how various scientific and technological applications
can address the four dimensions of food security, namely availability, access, use/utilization and stability.
Chapter 3 explores how countries can reimagine their food systems as innovation systems with attention to
the building of local innovative capabilities, enabling infrastructure for agricultural innovation, developing
coherent policies and strengthening knowledge flows to facilitate technology dissemination. Chapter 4
presents policy considerations and strategic recommendations for national Governments, the private sector,
agricultural research institutions and other stakeholders.


4 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030


1.1 What is food security?

Providing sufficient, safe and nutritious food to
all people is one of the major global concerns
historically and in the twenty-first century. Food
security is usually framed in four dimensions food
availability, access to food, food use/utilization and
food stability (FAO, 2016a).1 These dimensions build
the overall framework of the definition established
by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (FAO): “Food security exists when
all people, at all times, have physical, social and
economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious
food which meets their dietary needs and food
preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO,
2016b). For each of these dimensions, a series
of indicators has been defined in order to assess
progress in improving food security (Appendix,
Box 1).

In addition to the short-term effects of food insecurity,
there are also long-term developmental impacts of
lack of food security. Beyond the direct obvious
cost in terms of lost human lives and well-being,
there is an indirect economic cost: Malnourished
people are less productive, hungry children get no
or little education, and become less capable adults
even if hunger is overcome. Even short-term food
insecurity has a long-term lasting impact on growth
potential for the economy. This section will explore
the geography of food security, its implications for
economic development and the environment, and
recent efforts by the international community to
achieve “zero hunger”.

1.2 The geography of food insecurity

About 795 million people, or every ninth person,
is undernourished, including 90 million children
under the age of five (FAO, IFAD and WFP 2015).
The vast majority of them (780 million people) live in
the developing regions, notably in Africa and Asia.
Depending on the region considered, the share
of undernourished people differs considerably,
between less than 5 per cent and up to more than

1 Those dimensions have been identified by an expert
meeting at FAO that had the task to develop indicators that
allow to measure food security globally (FAO, 2016a).

35 per cent (Figure 1). In particular, sub-Saharan
Africa shows high values, with almost 25 per cent of
the population undernourished (FAO et al., 2015).
While the hunger rate - the share of undernourished
in the total population - has fallen in the region, the
number of undernourished people has increased
by 44 million since 1990 due to population growth.
In absolute terms, the number of people exposed
to food insecurity is highest in Southern Asia, with
281 million undernourished people (FAO et al.,

1.3 The importance of smallholder
farmers in food security

Across all countries, people living in rural areas
are the most exposed to food insecurity, owing
to limited access to food and financial resources
(FAO et al., 2015). Among them, 50 per cent are
smallholder farmers, producing on marginal lands
that are particularly sensitive to the adverse effects
of weather extremes, such as droughts or floods. An
additional 20 per cent are landless farmers, and 10
per cent are pastoralists, fishers and gatherers. The
remaining 20 per cent live in the periphery of urban
centres in developing countries. The demographics
of hunger are tightly coupled with the demographics
of poverty, where approximately 70 per cent of
global poverty is represented by the rural poverty of
smallholder farmers, many of whom are dependent
on agriculture. The same applies to hunger and
undernourishment that are prevalent in rural areas
(HLPE, 2013).

2 Comparing the numbers of the undernourished population
from 1990–92 with the projected number for 2014–16, the
proportion of undernourished people in the developing
regions decreased significantly from 23.3 per cent to 12.9
per cent. However, this promising development has to be
seen in a different light when accounting for the fact that
the daily calorific value used as definitional criterion for
undernourishment has been significantly reduced in recent
years. If the value had remained unchanged, the figure of
undernourished people would have been well over 1 billion,
thus reflecting a reduction in relative terms but not so in absolute
numbers. FAO revised the methodology for calculating the
number of undernourished in 2011, which led to a decline in
the figures. The new calculation method includes food losses,
the assumption that people are less physically active and
somewhat smaller, and that injustice in food distribution is less
pronounced than in the past. With regard to the calculation
of figures relating to undernourishment, FAO now assumes
a less physically active life style, which is set at 1,840 kcal
per day. If FAO had taken a “normal life style” as a basis for
the calculation – some 2,020 kcal per day – the number of
undernourished people would have been 55 per cent higher
in 2011–2013 (GLS Treuhand, 2013 and FAO food security

5CHAPTER 1: The challenge of food security

Figure 1. Projected number and proportion of undernourished people in developing regions from

Source: United Nations, 2015

The importance of smallholder farms was backed
up by FAO (2015), which states that more than
90 per cent of the 570 million farms worldwide
are managed by an individual or a family, relying
predominately on family labour. In Asia and sub-
Saharan Africa, these farms produce more than
80 per cent of the food; 84 per cent of family
farms are smaller than 2 hectares, and family
farmers manage only 12 per cent of all agricultural
land (FAO, 2015b). Given the structural change
towards large-scale farms in developed countries,
where the labour force in agriculture has dropped
drastically over the past decades, the role of
smallholder farms in developing countries may
have an ambivalent character. On the one hand,
the impact of globalization and market liberalization
is likely to encourage more specialized and
large-scale industrialized production systems.
On the other hand, the environmental, social and
economic challenges, as well as rapid population

growth might require a much more prominent
role of smallholder farming, based on knowledge
and labour-intensive agro-ecological production
methods that rely on eco-functional intensification.
Thus, the role of smallholder farms in food security
remains key, while for a longer-term horizon, their
role may change depending on structural change.3

1.4 What are the challenges of food

FAO et al. (2015) identified differences in progress
not only among individual countries but also across
regions and subregions. This section will cover,
among other factors, the importance of economic

3 Structural change is desirable; it must involve profound
changes in agriculture and the transfer of most of its workforce
to higher productivity sectors with increasing returns to scale,
unlike agriculture. The issue is how to handle the transition
without substantially destroying the existing social fabric and
in an environmentally acceptable way.

6 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

and environmental change in exacerbating the
global challenge of food insecurity.4

1.4.1 Agriculture, economic development, and
international trade

Economic development is a key success factor
in reducing undernourishment, but it has to be
inclusive and provide opportunities for improving
the livelihoods of the poor. FAO et al. (2015) point
out that enhancing the productivity and incomes
of smallholder family farmers, investment and
social protection are key to progress. Smallholder
farmers across the globe are challenged by
the globalization and liberalization of markets,
technological advances, and climate change.
Previously well-established systems of political,
social, economic and environmental resilience
are shifting. Food systems have also undergone a
rapid transformation in recent years with significant
implications for people’s diets, in part because of a
number of factors such as globalization, expanding
food trade, technological innovations, longer food
supply and processing chains, and volatile prices
of food commodities. There is also concern about
increasing deforestation, as well as the prospects
for biofuel production to displace land allocated for
food crops.

4 Other factors are directly implicated in the achievement
of food security, including increasing population and
urbanization, changing consumption patterns, conflicts and
particular topographical features in certain geographies.
First, population growth is of main importance, especially
the increasing concentration in urban regions. By 2050,
two thirds of the population is expected to live in cities and
shift from agricultural-based economic activities to other
economic sectors. Unlike the rural population, such urban
dwellers will be unable to be at least partly self-sufficient
in food production (WFP, 2016). In combination with rising
food prices, unemployment and limited social security, this
could lead to more people living in urban and suburban
areas who will be exposed to food insecurity (Bazerghi et al.,
2016). Second, the human population is expected to become
wealthier and consume more resource-intensive food, such
as animal products (Ranganathan et al., 2016). Third, as
illustrated by the food security hotspots identified by the World
Food Programme (WFP) in September 2016, conflicts are the
main drivers for food insecurity in a number of countries (34.5
million people). Fourth, even at a country level, food insecurity
might differ between regions. For example, a significant
number of the world’s population prone to food insecurity
resides in mountainous regions. From 2000 to 2012, the
number of people vulnerable to food insecurity increased in
the mountain areas of developing countries across the world.
This means that vulnerability had increased to include nearly
329 million people – a number corresponding to 39 per cent
of the 2012 mountain population (FAO, 2015a).

International trade is required to bring the production
and supply of agri-food products at national level
in line with demand. In addition, it is possible to
realize absolute and relative comparative cost
advantages through trade. Those may improve the
livelihoods of farmers. Furthermore, trade evens
out local production instability, which is expected
to increase in times of weather extremes caused
by climate change. However, trade can be a two-
edged sword, which can also result in worsening
certain producers’ situations (e.g. in case products
from other producers reach the markets with lower
costs). Relevant for international trade rules is the
World Trade Organization (WTO), and the related
bilateral, regional and plurilateral liberalization
agreements (outside WTO). Both have an impact
on agricultural production, trade and consumption.

Agriculture in developing countries now accounts
for slightly less than 10 per cent of GDP. However,
if non-market and subsistence production is taken
into consideration, the sector generates half or more
of total gross production and directly or indirectly
employs 50–80 per cent of the population in many
developing countries (UNCTAD, 2015). Together
with mining, agriculture is still the most important
economic sector, with a high socioeconomic
importance for many countries (for employment,
income generation, nutrition, rural development
and the social fabric). Against this background,
primary production, some service sectors, in
particular agriculture, appear to be the only realistic
drivers of economic and social development in
many countries in the nearer future.

1.4.2 Environmental change and agriculture

Growing demand for food is a key driver of
global environment change. FAO statistics show
that maximizing food production by intensifying
production has increased the world’s cereal
supply by a factor of almost 2.2, outpacing the
1.3 fold increase in population growth in the last
50 years (DeFries et al., 2015). However, this 2.2
fold increase in global cereal production occurred
in tandem with a five-fold increase in the global
use of fertilizers (UNCTAD, 2013a). Furthermore,
biomass production (food, feed, fibre and energy)
for developed countries has become a driver
for environmental pressures, competition for
land and nutrients in supply regions, whereas

7CHAPTER 1: The challenge of food security

overconsumption and eutrophication of ecosystems
occur in importing regions.

Food production all over the globe is not only a
source of global environmental change, but is
also strongly affected by it. Agriculture is primarily
challenged by climate change; the related increase
in natural disasters such as floods, tropical storms,
long periods of drought and new pests and
diseases are the most relevant drivers of food
insecurity (IPCC, 2014). Drought is one of the most
common causes of food shortages in the world. In
2011, recurrent drought caused crop failures and
heavy livestock losses in parts of Eastern Africa.
In 2012, there was a similar situation in the Sahel
region of Western Africa. Similar drought events
have also occurred in Australia, Central Europe,
the Russian Federation, and the United States
(California). Furthermore, high dependence on a
few crops (and a few varieties within these crops)
to meet food needs, increasing water scarcity
and salinization of soils in many areas of heavy
irrigation, continued soil loss due to wind and water
erosion, and resistance of pests and diseases
against a growing number of agro-chemicals, and
biodiversity loss create challenges for agricultural
production. Future projections also indicate that
climate change impacts may hinder future yield
increases, thus challenging FAO forecasts to meet
the projected food demand in the future without
much increase of cropland areas (Müller et al.,
2010; Challinor et al., 2014; Porter et al., 2014;
Müller and Robertson, 2014; Lobell et al., 2011;
Asseng et al., 2014).

Rockström et al. (2016) conclude that agriculture has
become the single largest driver of environmental
change and, at the same time, is the most affected
by these changes. The authors call for a global food
revolution based on a new paradigm for agricultural
development based on sustainable intensification
within planetary boundaries. Without this shift, the twin
objectives of feeding humanity and living within the
boundaries of biophysical processes that define the
safe operating space of a stable and resilient earth
system will not be achieved (Steffen et al., 2015).

1.5 Millennium Development Goals to
halve hunger

One of the recent international efforts to address
the challenges of food security is the recently

concluded Millennium Development Goals. Goal
1, to end hunger and poverty, included three
distinct targets: halving global poverty, achieving
full and productive employment and decent work
for all, and cutting by half the proportion of people
who suffer from hunger. The year 2015 marked the
end of the monitoring period for the Millennium
Development Goal targets. Using the three-year
period 1990–92 as the starting point, FAO, IFAD
and WFP concluded in 2015 that 72 of the 129
countries monitored for progress had reached the
target of Goal 1. Most of those countries enjoyed
stable political conditions and economic growth,
accompanied by sound social protection policies
targeting vulnerable population groups (FAO,
2015b). In those countries, the commitment to
fight food insecurity proved successful in spite of
the difficulties posed by rapid population growth,
volatile commodity prices, high food and energy
prices, rising unemployment and the economic
recessions of the late 1990s and again after 2008
(FAO, 2015b). Figure 2 shows that some regions
achieved the Millennium Development Goal
target (e.g. Caucasus and Central Asia, South-
Eastern Asia, Eastern Asia and Latin America),
some regions missed the overall goal (e.g. sub-
Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Southern Asia,
Oceania) and the percentage of undernourished
people in Western Asia even increased during
the period.

1.6 Sustainable Development Goals to
achieve zero hunger

On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development
Goals officially came into force as successors to the
Millennium Development Goals (for more detail, see
Appendix, Box 2). Sustainable Development Goal 2
aims to end hunger and ensure access to sufficient,
safe and nutritious food by all people all year round.
The Goal addresses a large diversity of tasks,
starting from an increase in yield and improved
infrastructure to the functioning of local markets
and international commodity trading. In detail, Goal
2 has a series of eight targets to support the three
interrelated components of the Goal: ending hunger,
achieving food security and improved nutrition, as
well as promoting sustainable agriculture. Target
2.1 focuses on 2030 access to food, and target
2.2 refers to undernutrition. The other six targets
relate directly or indirectly to sustainable production
systems, trade, biodiversity and climate change.

8 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

Source: FAO et al., 2015

Note: Data for 2014–16 are provisional estimates.

However, upon analysis of the other Sustainable
Development Goals, the different food security
dimensions of availability, access, stability and use/
utilization are to some extent represented within the
new post-2015 development agenda (for further
explanations on the four dimensions of food security,
see Appendix, Table 1. Except for Goal 17 (building
partnerships), the targets of each Goal deal with
at least one dimension of food security, if not all
(see Appendix, table 2 for further detail). However,
Goals 3, 4, 10, 11 and15 focus on just one aspect
of the four dimensions of food security, most likely
because such dimensions concern people exposed
to hunger and food-insecure situations, mainly in
rural areas, whereas the Sustainable Development
Goals should have a global reach.

Overall, most of the Sustainable Development
Goal targets are related to the overarching issue of
achieving food security on a global scale. Related
to Goal 1 (no poverty) and Goal 2 (end hunger),

some indirect STI activities can be identified (table
3), mainly where STI is needed to achieve the goals
or STI has to develop indicators to measure the
achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

1.7 Conclusion

Achieving zero hunger by 2030 will require new
and existing applications of science, technology,
and innovation across the food system, addressing
all dimensions of food security. This report not
only highlights tools and techniques for specific
challenges (e.g. improving productivity or
minimizing post-harvest loss) but also draws
attention to the need for countries, particularly
developing countries, to invest in the capability
to innovate. Innovative capabilities are critical not
only for ensuring nutritious food at all times but also
for harnessing agriculture and the broader food
system as a driver of economic and sustainable

Figure 2. Undernourishment trends: Progress made in almost all regions, but at very
different rates



















0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35

Sub-Saharan Africa


Southern Asia


Eastern Asia

South-Eastern Asia

Western Asia

Caucasus and Central Asia

Latin America

Northern Africa



MDG Target


9CHAPTER 2: Science and technology for food security


As highlighted in the previous chapter, achieving
food security by 2030 will be a major challenge
and will remain so throughout the twenty-first
century. The Sustainable Development Goals and
other international efforts to achieve food security
involve new technologies as an indispensable tool
for eradicating hunger. This chapter discusses how
certain scientific and technical applications may
play a role in addressing the various aspects of food

This chapter highlights examples of scientific and
technical applications that can address the four
dimensions of food security, namely availability,
access, use/utilization and stability. Though the list of
technologies in this chapter is not exhaustive, it will

Table 1. Examples of science, technology, and innovation for food security

Food security Challenge Examples of science, technology, and innovation

Food availability Biotic stresses • Disease- or pest-resistant crops
• Pest-resistant eggplant
• Rust-resistant wheat varieties
• Pesticides
• Herbicides
• Tilling machines
• Spatial repellent for on-farm pests
• Improved agronomic practices (for example, push-pull mechanisms)

Abiotic stresses • Salt-tolerant crops (for example, quinoa, potato)
• Climate-resistant crops

Improving crop productivity (in

• Conventional breeding
• Tissue culture and micropropagation
• Marker-assisted breeding
• Advanced genetic engineering
• Low-cost diagnostic toolkit for extension workers

Improving livestock agriculture
(in general)

• High-nutrient, low-cost animal fodder
• Liquid nitrogen and low-cost alternatives for animal semen

• Low-cost diagnostic toolkits for livestock veterinarians
• Tissue engineering for laboratory-grown animal products
• Low-cost veterinary pharmaceuticals (ideally thermostable)

5 Chapters 2 and 3 incorporate case studies and examples of scientific and technical applications of food security from CSTD
Member States that have submitted inputs on the aforementioned priority theme.
6 STI for improving food availability could include existing technical approaches, along with new and emerging technologies.
For example, techniques such as the System of Rice Intensification can lead to higher average productivity (contribution from
the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)).

provide illustrative cases of how every component of
the food system – from farm to market – can potentially
be improved with the application of science and

A number of technologies can play a role in addressing
concerns related to the four dimensions of food
security (Table 1). New and existing technologies to
combat biotic and abiotic stresses, raise crop and
livestock productivity, improve soil fertility and make
water available can potentially increase the amount
of food produced. Storage, refrigeration, transport
and agro-processing innovations can address the
dimension of food accessibility. Science to produce
high-nutrient staple crops can combat malnutrition,
improving food utilization and use. Finally, STI
for change mitigation and adaptation, including
precision agriculture, index-based insurance and
early warning systems, can address food instability.

10 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

Lack of water availability7 • Water storage technologies (subsurface water technologies, aquifers,
ponds, tanks, low-cost plastic water tanks, natural wetlands,

• Canal irrigation
• Micro-irrigation technologies, drip irrigation, bubbler irrigation,

microsprinkler irrigation
• Water lifting (hand-powered mechanical pumps, treadle pumps, solar-

power irrigation pumps, hydrogen-powered pumps, electric and fossil
fuel pumps)

• Fungal seed and plant treatment for water-related stress
• Stabilized silicic acid for drought tolerance
• Irrigation scheduling systems and decision-support systems
• Planting technology for increased water efficiency
• Water pads (water-buffering technology)
• Rainwater harvesting mechanisms
• Water desalination technologies
• Wastewater reuse
• Conservation agriculture
• Portable sensors for groundwater detection

Soil • Synthetic and organic fertilizers
• Biogas digesters
• Slurry separation systems
• Zero or conservation tillage
• Soil microorganisms
• Natural nitrogen fixation
• Point-of-use kits for evaluating soil nutrient content

Need for precise integration,
scheduling of inputs for increased

• Imaging and associated analytics
• Drones
• Internet of things
• Big data
• Farm management software and applications

Farming in urban environments • Indoor farming
• Vertical farming
• Aquaponics
• Low-cost greenhouses

Power and control-intensive

• Tractors
• Robotic technologies
• Animal-drawn implements

Food access Post-harvest loss (storage,
refrigeration, transport)

• Fruit preservation technologies
• Hexanal formulations
• Thermal battery-powered milk chillers
• Nanotechnology
• Improved genetic varieties
• Seed and grain drying, aeration and storage technology
• Innovative packaging
• Biowax coating
• Rice parboiling technology
• Efficient processing technology for pulses
• Rice-drying technology
• Cool stores
• Cleaning, grading, and packing technology
• Off-grid refrigeration
• Low-cost refrigerated vehicles
• Low-cost solar dryers
• Vacuum or hermetic sealing

Table 1. Examples of science, technology, and innovation for food security

7 Many technologies for addressing water availability were provided as a contribution by the Government of the United States
of America.

11CHAPTER 2: Science and technology for food security

Need for harvest and agro-
processing equipment

• Crop threshers (motorized and bicycle-powered)
• Agro-processing technologies (crop, meat, dairy products, fish)

Food use and

Lack of nutritious foods, especially
staple crops

• High-nutrient staple crops
• Vitamin A-enriched cassava, maize, orange-fleshed sweet potato
• Iron and zinc-fortified rice, beans, wheat and pearl millet quality

protein maize

Lack of information on healthy

• Dissemination of nutrition information (for example, health mobile

Food stability Inability to predict when and how
to farm

• Weather-forecasting technologies
• Infrared sensors for detecting crop stress
• Hyperspectral imaging, based on drones and satellites

Lack of financial mechanisms to
ensure income

• Index-based insurance (crop and livestock)

Source: UNCTAD

Table 1. Examples of science, technology, and innovation for food security

2.1 Food availability: Science and
technology to improve agricultural

FAO (2006) identified a food gap of close to 70
per cent between the crop calories available in
2006 and the expected calorie demand in 2050. To
close this gap, it would be necessary to increase
food production by making genetic improvements,
reduce food loss and waste, shift diets and raise
productivity by improving or maintaining soil fertility,
pastureland productivity and restoring degraded
land (Ranganathan et al., 2016). In this context, food
availability will have to make up for this food gap,
while taking into account decreasing arable land,
limited water resources and other environmental,
ecological, and agronomic constraints. It is
estimated that in the past 40 years, almost 33 per
cent of the world’s arable land has been lost to
pollution or erosion.86

Science, technology, and innovation can play a
critical role in producing more food by creating
plant varieties with improved traits, as well as
optimizing the inputs needed to make agriculture
more productive. This section covers genetic
improvements to crops by conventional cross-
breeding and transgenic modification. This section
also reviews a number of inputs critical for increased
agricultural productivity, including innovative
techniques for soil management and irrigation,
especially for and by smallholder farmers.97

8 See http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/am859e/am859e01.
pdf and http://grantham.sheffield.ac.uk/wp-content/
9 This section does not specifically discuss conservation
(or zero) tillage, introduction of legumes to biologically

2.1.1 Conventional cross-breeding for improved
plant varieties and increased crop yields

Genetic modification of plant varieties can be
used for nutrient fortification, tolerance to drought,
herbicides, diseases, or pests, and for higher yields.
Earlier forms of genetic modification in agriculture
have involved conventional cross-breeding
approaches. In the mid-1800s, Gregor Mendel
formalized a technique of breeding a primary
cultivar with a “relative crop” with desirable traits
through successive generations until a resulting
variety matched the characteristics of the target
variety. Although plant improvements are limited to
the best traits available within the same family of
crops (Buluswar et al., 2014), such a technology
continues to be useful, especially for smallholder
farmers across a number of geographies.

Recent efforts that harness conventional cross-
breeding, facilitate capacity-building among
farmers, and involve North–South cooperation
include the Nutritious Maize for Ethiopia project as
well as the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance.10
8The former aims to improve household food security
and nutrition in Ethiopia for an estimated 3.98 million
people by promoting widespread adoption of quality
protein maize (QPM) varieties among growers and
consumers of maize. Farmers (28 per cent women),
researchers, extension agents, local and regional
government officials, and media personnel learned
about the nutritional benefits of quality protein
maize and how to increase its productivity during
1,233 farmer-focused learning events. This project

fix nitrogen, pest management, or increasing agricultural
productivity for livestock or fish farming.
10 Contribution from the Government of Canada.

12 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

introduces new populations to a maize variety with
higher protein content in order to improve nutrition
and productivity of participating farmers.

Other countries use conventional cross-breeding,
along with technology transfer, to make staple
crops more productive in harsh climactic and
environmental conditions. The Government of Peru
has been implementing a programme since 1968
to genetically improve cereals for sustainable crop
production.119 Cereals (barley, wheat and oats) and
native grains (quinoa and amaranth) are mostly
cultivated by peasant communities as basic crops
for food, in small fields mainly located above 3,000
metres, where few food species can develop due
to limiting factors of climate and soil. Farmers
in the Peruvian highlands, along with university,
government, private sector, international and civil
society actors used conventional methods involving
the genetic improvement of plants and biotechnology
support to develop rustic varieties adapted to the
variable and adverse sierra environments. Along
with the development of new seed technologies, the
programme facilitated technology transfer through a
participatory evaluation of improved varieties using
established channels in agricultural communities.1210

2.1.2 Improving agricultural productivity
through transgenic crops

Transgenic modification involves the insertion of
genetic organisms from unrelated organisms that
cannot be crossed by natural means. Transgenic
modification confers a number of benefits, including
tolerance to biotic stresses (insects and disease),
abiotic stresses (drought), improved nutrition, taste
and appearance, herbicide tolerance and reduced
use of synthetic fertilizers. Given the challenges of
increasing water scarcity and land degradation,
such technologies potentially increase productivity
per area unit or plant. A number of countries such
as Bulgaria, through its Institute of Plant Physiology
and Genetics, are developing capabilities in these
modern agricultural biotechnologies to increase the
tolerance of crops to environmental stressors (Box 1).
Well-known examples of modern genetically
modified crops include:

11 The case study was provided as input by the Government
of Peru.
12 The next chapter addresses issues of technology
dissemination in more depth.

• Bt-cotton in India and China and Bt-Maize in

• Disease-resistant and early maturing maize
varieties that drove maize production in
Nigeria in the 1980s

• Nigerian cassava resistant to cassava mosaic
virus that improved production in the 1990s

• New Rice for Africa (NERICA) rice varieties
that are hybrid combinations of African and
Asian rice species

• Banana Xanthomonas wilt (developed by
Ugandan researchers)

• Maruca vitrata (developed by Nigerian

• African Orphan Crops Consortium that
sequences African indigenous plants and

• The NextGen Cassava Project that uses
genomic selection to improve crops (Buluswar
et al., 2014; Grosskurth, 2010; World Bank and
FAO, 2009)

13 Bt is a family of proteins originating from strains of the
bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.

Box 1. Bulgaria’s Institute of Plant Physiology
and Genetics

The mission of the Institute of Plant Physiology
and Genetics (IPPG) of the Bulgarian Academy
of Sciences is to contribute to the resolution of
global issues such as feeding the population
despite adverse climatic changes. It has the
following the main priorities:
• Creation of new plant forms for the arable

sector, food processing and pharmaceuticals
industries, health and environmental

• Research into the physiological and
biochemical bases of regulation of a
plant’s metabolism in plants and safeguard
mechanisms that help to overcome the
negative effects of the environment and
increase their resilience.

• Studies on the organization and functioning
mechanisms of the researched structures
in order to characterize the enrichment
of genetic resources and their use for the
enhancement of economic importance for
the country’s plant species.

To identify environmentally sustainable solutions
for feeding the populace, IPPG is testing plants
at the molecular level, as well testing as their
relationship with environmental air, soil and
water. The resulting scientific data concern
raising the productivity of plant by optimizing

13CHAPTER 2: Science and technology for food security

their water exchange mineral nutrition,
maintaining an optimal environment for active
symbiotic relationships with microorganisms,
minimizing adverse effects on the environment,
increasing resilience photosynthesis through
phytohormones and plant growth regulators.
The project is developing and exploring new
genotype cultivars with improved food and
biological properties — maize (Zea mays
L.), tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.), cultural
sunflower (Helianthus annuus), tomato (Solanum
lycopersicum L.) and pepper (Capsicum
annuum L.). Assessment will be performed of the
genetic diversity of varieties of wheat (Triticum
aestivum L.) with a high tolerance of drought, leaf
pathogens and increased nitrogen efficiency.

New innovative biotechnologies are being
encouraged, such as seaweed biomass
production, protecting and enhancing
biodiversity through a complex survey of
valuable medicinal herbs (oregano, white oil, the
valerian, peppermint, thyme, sage), Bulgarian
endemic and rare species that are critically
endangered or new species (gooseberry
Stevia, echinacea, tayberries) in favour of
agriculture, the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and
food industries. Genes that are key to increasing
the tolerance of crops are being identified to
stress environmental conditions through the use
of protein and chromosomal DNA markers and
examined the regulation of gene expression.

Source: Contribution from the Government of Bulgaria.

Genetically modified crops, which historically have
been developed commercially by transnational
seed and agrochemical companies, may be costly
and externally input-dependent for smallholder
farmers (World Bank, 2008), but recent philanthropic
initiatives are making such technologies available to
them.1412 Given that much biotechnology has been
developed in the private sector, there is also concern
about technology access, the patenting of life forms,
benefit sharing, market dynamics, risk evaluation
and mitigation, and related issues.1513 While such

14 For example, the African Agricultural Technology
Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
negotiate licences to provide some of these technologies to
smallholder farmers.
15 There have been differing perspectives on the role of
intellectual property rights in genetically improved crops. For
more information, see IP Handbook (www.iphandbook.org); E
Marden, R Godfrey and R Manion, eds., 2016, The Intellectual
Property-Regulatory Complex: Overcoming Barriers to
Innovation in Agricultural Genomics (UBC Press, Vancouver);
C Chiarolla, 2011, Intellectual Property, Agriculture and
Global Food Security: The Privatization of Crop Diversity
(Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, United Kingdom); UNCTAD-
ICTSD, 2005, Resource Book on TRIPS and Development
(Cambridge University Press, New York); J Reichman and
C Hasenzahl, 2003, Non-voluntary licensing of patented

issues continue to be debated at the global, regional
and national levels, salient challenges for developing
countries may involve the innovation capacities
to assess, select, diffuse, adapt, and evaluate
such technologies to address local agricultural
challenges, owing to the knowledge intensity of
modern agricultural biotechnology (UNCTAD, 2002).
These innovation capacities involve not only human
capital, research and development institutions, and
enabling infrastructure, but also legal and regulatory
policies that promote trade and innovation, recognize
traditional and indigenous knowledge, and establish
biosafety regulations and institutions that ensure
human, plant, animal, and environmental safety
(UNCTAD, 2004).

2.1.3 Soil management for increasing
agricultural yields

Genetically improved varieties might not increase
yields if constraints such as slow soil fertility are not
overcome. Fertile soils play a pivotal role in sustaining
agricultural productivity and thus food security. The
focus on innovations and technological developments
is more on crops and fighting pests and diseases.
and less on sustainable soil management practices.
However, healthy plants grow on healthy soils that
are less affected by pests and diseases.1614

Synthetic fertilizers have been used to increase
agricultural yields for decades but their capital
intensity, dependence on natural gas – particularly
in the case of nitrogen – and a large ecological
footprint make them unsustainable. Fertilizer and
water overuse can cause environmental damage
and represent an economic waste for smallholder
farmers. Furthermore, the Intergovernmental
Technical Panel on Soils concluded that farmers are
essentially mining the soil, which is why soil should be
considered a non-renewable resource (ITPS, 2015).

A number of new technologies and techniques
are making more sustainable fertilizer use
viable. New methods of nitrogen fixation and
other fertilizer components that avoid the current

inventions: Historical perspective, legal framework under
TRIPS, and an overview of the practice in Canada and the
USA, on IPRs and Sustainable Development, Issue Paper No.
5 (ICTSD, Geneva).
16 As illustrated in a report of the CGIAR Research
Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food
Security (CCAFS, 2012), “some modern agricultural practices
adversely affect soil quality through erosion, compaction,
acidification and salinization, and reduce biological activity
as a result of pesticide and herbicide applications, excessive
fertilization, and loss of organic matter”.

14 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

capital- and energy-intensive methods could make
nutrient supplementation more environmentally
sustainable. A recent study found that nitrogen-
fixing trees within critical water and temperature
thresholds can increase yields by improving
both the water-holding capacity of soil and water
infiltration rates (Folberth, 2014; United Nations,
2015b). For example, “N2Africa” is a large-scale,
science-based development-to-research project
focused on putting nitrogen fixation to work for
smallholder farmers growing legume crops in
Africa (Giller et al., 2013).1715

New technologies to make biological fertilizers
(composting, manure or dung) more viable and
effective could also increasingly replace the
use of synthetic fertilizers. Nigeria’s National
Research Institute for Chemical Technology
(NARICT) has developed neem-based fertilizer
and organic fertilizer from Moringa oleifera, which
is environmentally friendly.1816 However, such
biological fertilizers, in particular those made from
human waste, may require sanitation infrastructure.
Furthermore, precision agriculture can help
facilitate the precise application of inputs to crop
type and soil conditions in ways that increase

17 Contribution by Wageningen University.
18 Contribution from the Government of Nigeria.

Box 2. Information and communications
technologies for improved soil quality
in Bangladesh

The Katalyst programme in Bangladesh aims
to increase income for citizens in a number of
sectors, including agriculture and food security.
The Soil Resource Development Institute of the
Ministry of Agriculture partnered with Katalyst to
develop an ICT-based service providing farmer
recommendations on fertilizer use customized
for different crops and locations.

Through an analysis of soil sample data, the
service developed recommendations to optimize
the cost of inputs and yield. In collaboration with
Bangladink and Grameenphone, a mobile-based
fertilizer information service was launched, and
eGeneration – a local information technology
company – developed the software application
in the local language (Bangla), with attention to
the agricultural users and local context. Since its
launch in July 2009, users have incurred reduced
fertilizer costs – up to 25 per cent – and higher
crop yields – up to 15 per cent. This success
has led Katalyst to initiate a similar project for
irrigation-relation information as well.

Source: UNCTAD, based on information provided by
Katalyst in UNCTAD, 2012.

yields while minimizing potential environmental
impacts (Box 2) (Buluswar et al., 2014).

2.1.4 Irrigation technologies: Technologies that
make water available for food production1917

Like soil fertility, the availability of water is a critical
input for ensuring and improving crop productivity.
Approximately 70 per cent of global freshwater
supply is devoted to agriculture.2018 Many farmers do
not have access to water for agriculture because
of physical water scarcity (not enough water to
meet demands) or economic water scarcity (lack
of investments in water infrastructure or insufficient
human capacity to satisfy water demand),
among other factors (Figure 3). In response
to such challenges, low-cost and affordable
drills, renewable energy-powered pumps and
technologies for desalination and improved
water efficiency can potentially make water more
available for food production.

Lightweight drills for shallow groundwater and
equipment to detect groundwater can potentially
make groundwater more accessible as a form of
irrigation. Solar-powered irrigation pumps could
potentially increase access to irrigation where
manual irrigation pumps that may be strenuous
to use are inadequate or expensive motorized
pumps with recurring fuel costs are financially out
of reach (Buluswar et al., 2014). Affordable rainfall
storage systems are also a potential technology for
addressing irrigation (UNCTAD, 2010).

Where diesel- or solar-powered pumps are not
feasible, hydro-powered pumps (e.g. aQysta
Barsha pump) can be used to irrigate fields
wherever there is flowing water.2119 Greenhouses
can mitigate the unavailability of water caused by
unpredictable rainfall and enable farmers to have
a year-round growing season. For example, World
Hope’s Greenhouses Revolutionizing Output (GRO)
allows farmers to construct low-cost greenhouses

19 Many of the technologies mentioned in this section were
provided as input by the Government of the United States as
part of their Securing Water for Food Initiative.
20 For a more detailed review of agricultural water
management technologies, see UNCTAD, 2011, Water for
Food: Innovative Water Management Technologies for Food
Security and Poverty Alleviation, UNCTAD Current Studies on
Science, Technology and Innovation, No. 4 (United Nations
publication, Geneva).
21 http://securingwaterforfood.org/innovators/the-barsha-

15CHAPTER 2: Science and technology for food security

($500) in as little as two days that last over five
years in Sierra Leone and Mozambique.22 Even
when groundwater is available, brackish water may

not be suitable for human consumption or crop
irrigation. Water desalination technologies such
as off-grid solar-powered electrodialysis reversal

23 http://news.mit.edu/2016/solar-powered-desalination-
clean-water-india-0718; http://securingwaterforfood.org/
2 4 h t t p : / / s e c u r i n g w a t e r f o r f o o d . o r g / w p - c o n t e n t /

(EDR) systems can remove salts and minerals from
such brackish water.23

Other technologies improve water efficiency for
increased demand for agricultural products in fragile
natural environments. For example, the Groasis
Waterboxx is an integrated planting technology that
surrounds the bases of a plant, building up a water
column by collecting dew and rainwater under the
plant, and avoiding evaporation by distributing such
water over long periods of time.2420 New fungal seed
and plant treatments can help crops, such as okra,

22 http://securingwaterforfood.org/innovators/affordable-

maize, millet, and wheat, use 50 per cent less water,
with a 29 per cent crop yield increase.252122

Beyond physical technologies and crop inputs,
data can be used as a resource to improve water
availability and efficiency. In Peru, information
access to weather and climate patterns is expensive
and limited. The Institute for University Cooperation
Onlus provides an irrigation scheduling system that
recommends the best irrigation practices based
on climate, meteorological, and soil data through a
mobile platform.26 In countries such as Mozambique,
farmers may not have reliable information on crop
status and may be afraid of using costly inputs
(high-quality seeds, fertilizer, and irrigation) in the

25 http://securingwaterforfood.org/innovators/adaptive-
2 6 h t t p : / / s e c u r i n g w a t e r f o r f o o d . o r g / w p - c o n t e n t /

Source: Water for Food, Water for Life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, 2007 (Earthscan,

Figure 3. Global water scarcity

16 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

absence of such information. FutureWater’s Flying
Sensors use near-infrared sensors that can detect
crop stress up to two weeks before it is visibly
observable. In its first year of operation, a subset of
households benefitting from the technology reported
a 39 per cent reduction in water usage.2723 Lastly, it
is important to address the gender dimension of
water for food, as women disproportionately serve
as agricultural labour, while having limited access to
water, among other inputs for increasing agricultural
productivity (UNCTAD, 2011).2824

2.2 Food access: Technologies for food

A key aspect of accessing food is minimizing
food losses during production, storage and
transport, and waste of food by retailers and
consumers. Because many African smallholder
farmers lack access to ready markets, they tend
to store their grains in inadequate facilities (e.g.
no protection from moisture, excess heat, rodents,
and pests) and end up with spoiled grains.

27 http://securingwaterforfood.org/wp-content/uploads/
28 Section 3.5 covers the gender dimension of harnessing
science, technology, and innovation for food security

Refrigeration needed for meats, fruits, and
vegetables is typically lacking. And a lack of local
processing facilities to produce consumable foods
from raw products means that much high value
produce is produced outside of the region. The
need to import processed goods limits agribusiness
employment prospects and drives up the costs
of agricultural products farmers have to import.
Lack of affordable refrigeration and of electricity
limits the production, preservation, and sale of
high value perishables such as vegetables, fruits,
dairy, and meat. There is also a need for affordable
refrigerated transport to move food from the farm
to the market, while preserving freshness and
navigating unpaved, rough terrain (Buluswar et
al., 2014; African Cashew Alliance, 2010). The
result is that all crops, particularly perishables,
are susceptible to agricultural losses (Figure 4).

A number of post-harvest-loss technologies
are useful for storage, handling, refrigeration,
transport and processing29. Despite challenges in

Figure 4. Agricultural losses in sub-Saharan Africa across the value chain for different types of

Source: FAO, 2011.


29 However, a meta-analysis in six African countries found
that most innovations for smallholder farmers focused on
storage pests to the exclusion of other issues, including
processing, transport, and handling (Affogon, 2015; United
Nations, 2015b).

17CHAPTER 2: Science and technology for food security

widening the applicability of innovative solutions
to post-harvest loss, a number of recent example
demonstrate various approaches to minimize the
losses that smallholder farmers often experience.
For example, Uganda is one of eight African
countries participating in a project to improve
rice post-harvest handling, and marketing and
development of new rice-based products.3025 The
six-year project, which started in 2011, provides
improved rice-threshing technologies (ASI and
NARO Lightweight Rice threshers) to smallholder
rice farmers, particularly women and youth; farmer
cooperatives; rice millers; traders and local agro-
machinery manufacturers. Technology transfer and
dissemination are facilitated by the adoption of a
business model, training of the beneficiaries on the
use of the technologies and business skills, training
of local private agro-machinery fabricators, and field
days and radio announcements in the local languages
for creating awareness. The threshers are expected
to reduce post-harvest grain loss from 4.87 per cent
to 0.01 per cent, translating to a savings of $12
million. The threshers should also improve the grain
quality, labour productivity (saving up to 59 per cent
threshing labour) and employment opportunities.
Other projects include meat, dairy and fishery agro-
processing in Cuba3126 and recent efforts to create
mobile processing units for cassava in Nigeria.3227
Furthermore, genetically improved varieties can also
limit (post-)harvest losses and preserve foods for
transport to local, national, and international markets.

Nanotechnology is being used in a number of
projects to improve the preservation of crops.3328
The Canadian International Food Security Research
Fund and the International Development Research
Centre support a programme to enhance the
preservation of fruits in collaboration with five other
countries: India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and
Tobago, and the United Republic of Tanzania. It
aims to increase environmentally sustainable food
security for poor people, especially small-scale

30 The case study is provided as input by the Government
of Uganda.
31 The case study is provided as input by the Government
of Cuba.
32 http://www.dadtco.nl/
33 Contribution from the Governments of Canada and
Sri Lanka. More information is available at http://www.
showcased-at-un/; http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-17/
and http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/

farmers and women, through applied, collaborative,
results-oriented research that informs development
practice. A key part of the project involves hexanal,
an affordable and naturally occurring compound
produced by all plants to slow the ripening of soft
fruits and extend their storage life. The use of
hexanal spray has increased fruit retention time by
up to two weeks in mango and five to seven days
in peaches and nectarines. A nanotechnology
smart packaging system was also developed with
hexanal-impregnated packaging and coatings
made from banana stems and other agriculture
waste to keep fruit fresh. The technologies are
transferred using different mechanisms, including
through technology transfer workshops, field days,
seminars and public–private model centres.

A significant number of smallholder farmers in
tropical areas do not have access to affordable
harvest equipment. The cost, size, energy needs
and maintenance requirements of imported
threshers can create a burden for such smallholder
farmers. In such cases, investing in the creation of
local talent to fabricate and repair small to medium-
sized threshers can address the affordability and
availability of such technologies. Initiatives such as
Soybean Innovation Lab supported by the United
States Agency for International Development offer
training workshops and have been recently piloted
in Ghana.3429

There is a need to better link smallholder farmers to
local, regional, and international markets. Because
many developing countries face regulatory costs
related to international trade, investments should
be made in sanitary and phytosanitary standards
that can not only ensure compliance with trade
regulations but also address national food and
animal safety (IAASTD, 2009). Improving the
capabilities of smallholder farmers to produce for
regional and international markets could potentially
create the economic and financial stimulus to
escape smallholder farming status. In particular,
low levels of intraregional trade among African
LDCs (compared with other regions) may be an
unexploited opportunity for increasing regional
agricultural exports, harmonizing product standards
within regional trading blocs and promoting
regional agricultural innovation (UNCTAD, 2015d;

34 Contribution from the Government of the United States.
More information is available at http://soybeaninnovationlab.
Thresher%20Training%20Brochure_0.pdf .

18 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

Juma, 2015). Knowledge aid, where international
donors promote the intensification of knowledge for
development, could potentially support standards
compliance in addition to the development of
specific agricultural technologies (UNCTAD, 2007).

2.3 Food use and utilization: Science for

One billion people worldwide suffer from insufficient
calories and nutrients, 2 billion people have
sufficient calories but insufficient nutrients and 2.5
billion consume excess calories, but many with
insufficient nutrients. Thus, only about 3 billion have
sufficient but not excessive calories and sufficient
nutrients (Ingram, 2016). Malnutrition is both a
driver and an outcome of poverty and inequality.
Undernutrition can also lead to hidden hunger,
wasting and stunting, which causes irreversible
damage to people and society.

Biofortification – or the breeding of critical
micronutrients and vitamins into staple crops – has
emerged as an effective approach for combating
malnutrition, especially in developing countries.3530
To date, the most successful example of vitamin and
micronutrient biofortification is the orange-fleshed
sweet potato, developed at the International Potato
Centre. HarvestPlus, based at the International
Food Policy Research Institute, has pioneered
biofortification as a global plant-breeding strategy
for a variety of crops such as vitamin A-enriched
cassava, maize and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes,
and iron and zinc-fortified rice, beans, wheat and
pearl millet in over 40 countries. These combined
efforts have already had a positive effect on 10 million
people, and several hundred million more stand to
benefit in the coming decades.3631 Complementary
to such efforts, countries such as Guatemala are
pursuing comprehensive efforts to improve nutrition
while ensuring livelihoods and resilience through
the Purchase for Progress programme of the World
Food Programme (Box 3).

35 The four recipients of the 2016 World Food Prize were
recognized for their exemplary contributions to biofortification.
36 https://www.worldfoodprize.org/en/laureates/2016__

Box 3. Purchase for Progress and scaling up
nutrition in Guatemala

The World Food Programme (WFP) Purchase for
Progress project in Guatemala aims to improve
the nutrition and health of thousands of women
and children and help small-scale farmers
increase their profits.

This project (2013–2018) promotes an integrated
strategy comprising three components: Purchase
for Progress, which improves the incomes of
smallholder farmers through the increased
quantity and quality of production and sales of
surpluses to markets; scaling-up nutrition, which
helps prevent and reduce chronic malnutrition
through the distribution of fortified food and
nutrition education; and resilience, which improves
community conditions in disaster-prone areas and
enhances food availability throughout the year.

Project activities include the following:

• Providing technical assistance to and
sharing best practices with small-scale
farmers on crop management and
technologies to increase the quality and
quantity of their yields

• Promoting better post-harvest management
to reduce crop losses

• Assisting farmer organizations to increase
sales and receive fair market prices from

• Purchasing food from participating farmer
organizations’ crop surpluses to feed
up to 17,500 infants and children aged
6–23 months per year and up to 10,000
pregnant and lactating women per year
to complement breastfeeding and prevent
stunting or chronic undernutrition

• Strengthening the business management
skills of small-scale farmer organizations
and increasing women farmers’
participation, representation and skills

Source: Contribution from the Government of Canada.

2.4 Food stability: New ways to combat
acute and chronic food insecurity

Sustainable food systems deliver food security and
nutrition for all in such a way that the economic,
social and environmental bases to generate food
security and nutrition for future generations are
not compromised. The effects of climate change
will require sustainable and climate-compatible

19CHAPTER 2: Science and technology for food security

agriculture practices, including diversifying

2.4.1 Adapting food production to climate

STI should focus on re-integrating crop and livestock
production and related closed nutrient cycles. In
related to this, the mitigation potential of carbon
sequestration in optimally managed agricultural crop-
and grasslands should be exploited more deeply.
This potential is of the same order of magnitude as
total agricultural emissions at the beginning (Smith
et al., 2007a; Bellarby et al., 2008), but declines over
time while approaching a new, higher soil carbon
equilibrium level in soils, generally reaching zero
sequestration rates after few decades. Soil carbon
losses can be reduced by protecting existing
permanent grassland, and soil carbon sequestration
can be increased in arable land by the application
of organic fertilizers, minimal soil disturbance,
agroforestry, mixed cropping and the planting of

When addressing climate change mitigation and
adaptation in agriculture, it becomes evident that this
is less about developing new practices than about
making the available knowledge and skills widely
available and supporting sustained implementation
in the field. In particular, STI for climate change
mitigation and adaptation should focus on information
provision and knowledge transfer and should
include social, as well as technical, innovations.
Many practices, however, deliver both, and many
of the effective adaptation, resilience and mitigation
approaches to a changing climate offer important
ecological, agronomic, economic and social
co-benefits. In addition, locally adapted breeding for
drought or heat-tolerant crop varieties, with a focus
on underutilized crops, has great potential to support
climate change adaptation in agriculture.3732

2.4.2 Using big data and the Internet of things
for precision agriculture

Big data and the Internet of things can be harnessed
for a number of agricultural applications, including
farmer decision support, precision farming, and
insurance. Nubesol offers crop health-related data
to farmers and corporations based on a vegetation
index it developed using satellite imagery that
ultimately provides decision support to farmers about
do’s and don’ts for ensuring crop health. The Smart
Pesticide project utilizes ultrasonic sensors to identify

37 The annual Subsidiary Body for Scientific and
Technological Advice (SBSTA) research dialogue is a
forum for sharing experiences on the application of STI for
addressing climate change, including food production and
security. (Contribution from the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change)

crop pests and sprinkle pesticides in a limited target
area using a drone.3833 A programme coordinated
by the Government of Indonesia, United Nations
Global Pulse, and the World Food Programme used
public tweets mentioning food prices to develop a
real-time food index (United Nations Global Pulse).3934
In addition, the International Centre for Tropical
Agriculture uses big data on weather and crops to
better adapt to climate change (Box 4).

38 Pratap Vikram Singh, “The Startup Revolution: Smart
Solutions for Social Good,” Governance Now, August 1, 2015.
39 United Nations Global Pulse (http://www.unglobalpulse.

Box 4. Big data for sustainable food
production in Colombia

The International Centre for Tropical Agriculture
is an organization that promotes agricultural
technologies, innovations and new knowledge
to help smallholder farmers improve their crop
yields, incomes and usage of natural resources.
Scientists collaborated with the Colombian
Ministry of Agriculture and the National Federation
of Rice Growers to collect a big volume of weather
and crops data in last decade in Colombia. The
initiative predicted upcoming climate changes in
Córdoba, a major rice-growing area in Colombia.
The results are highly localized. In the town of
Saldaña, for example, the analysis showed that
rice yields were limited mainly to solar radiation
during the grain-ripening stage. In the town of
Espinal, rice yields suffered from sensitivity to
warm nights. Solutions do not have to be costly –
farmers can avoid losses simply by sowing crops
at the right time. Climate change projections
helped 170 farmers in Córdoba avoid direct
economic losses of an estimated $3.6 million
and potentially improve productivity of rice by
one to three tonnes per hectare. To achieve
this, different data sources were analysed in
a complementary fashion to provide a more
complete profile of climate change. So-called
data fusion is a typical big data technique.
Additionally, analytical algorithms were adopted
and modified from other disciplines, such as
biology and neuroscience, and were used
to run statistical models and compare with
weather records. With support from national and
international organizations such as the World
Bank and the Fund for Irrigated Rice in Latin
America, the initiative has started to approach
rice growers associations in other countries,
for example, Argentina, Nicaragua, Peru, and

Sources: UNCTAD compilation, based on Cariboni,
2014; CCAFS, 2015

20 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
created a programme known as Index-Based
Livestock Insurance to provide financial protection
based on a rainfall index to trigger payments for
pastoralists in the Horn of Africa.4035 Results of a
household survey on impact evaluation in that
region demonstrate that households insured by the
programme were less likely to reduce meals or sell
livestock and more likely to have veterinary services,
higher milk productivity and better nourished

Because data relating to meteorology and the Internet
of things are increasingly valuable as agricultural
inputs, a number of new initiatives focus on sharing
data to support agricultural productivity.4237 For
example, the Global Open Data for Agriculture and
Nutrition initiative, a network of over 430 partners,
focuses specifically on the universal benefits of open
data ownership and governance, with particular
attention to capacity-building for grassroots initiatives
in developing countries.4338

Despite the potential of big data and the Internet of
things, stakeholders have expressed concern about
the privacy and security concerns of agricultural
data, the politics of data ownership and transparency,
data breaches and access of smallholder farmers to
such data. In this respect, regional and international
organizations can potentially work with stakeholders
to define appropriate data standards to minimize the
potentially negative consequences of data sharing.

2.4.3 Early warning systems

Eighty per cent of the estimated 1.4 billion hectares
of global cropland is rain fed, accounting for
approximately 60 per cent of worldwide agricultural
output.4439 Accurate and reliable weather forecasts
enable farmers, especially near the equator, to

40 https://www.worldfoodprize.org/en/nominations/norman_
41 https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/66652/
ResearchBrief52.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (accessed
21 February 2017).
42 Other initiatives include the World Meteorological
Organization’s Resolution 40 on sharing meteorological and
other data, Planet Lab’s Open Regions programme that
make satellite imagery accessible online (some for free), and
CIARD (Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research
for Development) which advocates for open data among
agricultural data holders.
43 http://www.godan.info
4 4 h t t p : / / s e c u r i n g w a t e r f o r f o o d . o r g / w p - c o n t e n t /

capitalize on rainfall for crop production in regions of
extreme weather variability.

Global systems have played critical roles in
disseminating country and region-specific information
to help farmers maximize productivity. These include
the Global Information and Early Warning System
on Food and Agriculture, and Rice Market Monitor
(FAO); the Famine Early Warning System Network
(United States Agency for International Development)
the Early Warning Crop Monitor (Group on Earth
Observations) and the cloud-based global crop-
monitoring system called Crop Watch (Chinese
Academy of Sciences, ). Regional initiatives such as
the Regional Cooperative Mechanism for Drought
Monitoring and Early Warning in Asia and the Pacific
(Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
Pacific) and the Trans-African Hydro-meteorological
Observatory also make high-quality data available to
their respective regions to improve crop productivity
and food security.

Box 5. Crop Watch: Cloud-based global crop
monitoring system

Crop Watch, which is being developed and
operated by the Institute of Remote Sensing and
Digital Earth of the Chinese Academy of Sciences,
supports emergency responses through the
periodic release of agricultural information
across the world. Taking advantage of multiple
new remote-sensing data sources, Crop Watch
adopts a hierarchical system covering four
spatial levels of detail: global, regional, national
(31 key countries, including China) and
“subcountries”. The 31 countries encompass
more than 80 per cent of the production and
export of maize, rice, soybean and wheat. The
methodology uses climatic and remote-sensing
indicators on different scales. The global patterns
of crop environmental growing conditions are first
analysed with indicators for rainfall, temperature,
photosynthetically active radiation and potential
biomass. On the regional scale, the indicators
pay more attention to crops and include factors
such as the vegetation health index, vegetation
condition index, cropped arable land fraction and
cropping intensity. Together, they characterize
crop situation, farming intensity and stress.

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Remote
Sensing and Digital Earth, Digital Agriculture Unit.

21CHAPTER 2: Science and technology for food security

In particular, the Famine Early Warning Systems
Network (FEWS NET) offers objective, evidence-
based analysis to Governments and relief agencies
across the world.4540 Created by USAID in 1985 after
famines ravaged Western and Eastern Africa, FEWS
NET provides timely alerts on expected or emerging
crises, monthly reports and maps of current or project
food insecurity, and specialized reports on various
topics (e.g. nutrition, markets, trade, agricultural
production and livelihoods).4641

Similarly to FEWS NET, the United Nations Institute for
Training and Research (UNITAR) and its Operational
Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) has
been deployed for the past 15 years to provide
satellite imagery for development, humanitarian
and human rights communities. In the context of
food security, applications include rapid mapping
for natural disasters and groundwater mapping for
sustainable development. Not only are data provided,
but knowledge transfer ensures that beneficiaries
have the capabilities to harness satellite technologies
for flood and drought management, deforestation,
and climate change adaptation. UNOSAT serves as
a go-to place for satellite imagery within the United
Nations system.4742

A number of new technologies are enabling novel
early warning systems conferring unique predictive
advantages. For example, Sweden-based Ignitia
accurately predicts weather forecasts in tropical
areas with a combination of algorithmic techniques
based on convective processes, complex modelling
of physics, and small (spatial and temporal)
forecasting windows. The result is a reported 84 per
cent accuracy rate over two rainy seasons in Western
Africa (2013 and 2014), compared with other weather
service providers with a 39 per cent rate. Low-cost
daily messages help farmers anticipate rainfall for
the next 48 hours.43

2.5 Convergence of new and emerging

The convergence of a number of emerging
technologies, such as synthetic biology, artificial
intelligence, tissue engineering, three-dimensional
printing, drones and robotics, may have profound
impacts on the future of food production and food

45 Contribution from the Government of the United States.
46 http://www.fews.net/about-us.
47 http://www.unitar.org/unosat/
48 http://www.ignitia.se

security. Many of these applications are currently
in the research and development or demonstration
phase in developed countries. However, such
technologies have the potential to reshape the future
of food production, either individually or as part of
converged applications.

Recent advances in biotechnology have created
a new approach to genome editing, based on
CRISPR/Cas9 (Box 6). Based on this method, the
transformation of nucleotide sequences (genome
editing) can involve inserting disease-resistant genes
from related wild plant species in modern plants.
Newly formed companies are using synthetic biology
to develop biological nitrogen fixation to sustainably
increase yields for smallholder African farmers. Such
methods could reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers
allowing the crops to fix nitrogen from soil bacteria.4944
Other companies are leveraging synthetic biology
to make food flavourings (e.g. vanilla) that minimize
oil inputs while mimicking the flavour of the natural

49 https://www.ensa.ac.uk/
50 See http://www.evolva.com/ and https://techcrunch.

Box 6. The potential of synthetic biology:

CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced
short palindromic repeats. It was originally a
bacterial immune system conferring resistance
to foreign genetic elements such as those from
viral infections. Recently, CRISPR technology has
emerged as a powerful tool for targeted genome
modification in virtually any species. It allows
scientists to make changes in the DNA in cells
that have the potential to cure genetic diseases
in animals or develop new traits in plants. The
technology works through a protein called Cas9
that is bound to an RNA molecule and thus forms
a complex. RNA is a chemical cousin of DNA
and it enables interaction with DNA molecules
that have a matching sequence. The complex
functions like a sentinel in the cell and searches
through the entire DNA in the cell that matches
the sequences in the bound RNA. When the sites
are found, it allows the protein complex to cut and
break DNA at that site. Its success is due in large
part to its ability to be easily programmable to
target different sites.

CRISPR differs from classic genetic engineering
techniques because it opens up an opportunity for
target modification, or the modification of specific

22 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

regions and sequences in genomes. Because
it can modify a specific gene of interest, the
technology is also called gene editing. CRISPR
has the potential to operate as a stand-alone
technology. However, until now, its application in
plants has relied on other genetic engineering
tools (e.g. recombinant DNA, biolistics,
electroporation). Trait improvement through
classic breeding in crops can be accelerated by
CRISPR-based genome engineering. CRISPR has
been tested in commercial crops to increase yield,
improve drought tolerance and increase growth
in limited nutrient conditions to breed crops with
improved nutritional properties and to combat
plant pathogens.

The opportunity to do this genome editing also
raises various safety and ethical issues that should
be considered. One of the safety concerns relates
to the possibility to generate permanent DNA
breaks at other, unintended sites in a genome. The
rules governing the off-target activity of CRISPR
are just beginning to be understood in more
detail. In addition, the ability of CRISPR to edit
small bits of DNA sequences generates minimal
modifications, and also makes it more difficult
for regulators and farmers to identify a modified
organism once it has been released. Lack of
detection of CRISPR modified crops would raise
concerns over labelling and consumer rights, as
well as risk-monitoring issues.

CRISPR gene editing is likely to have commercial
and socioeconomic implications similar to those of
conventional genetically modified organisms. The
results of gene editing are bound to be protected
by intellectual property rights and therefore have
market power and purchasing power implications
for seed and biotechnology companies as
suppliers, on the one hand, and farmers, on the

Source: Sarah Agapito-Tenfen, GenØk Centre for Biosafety,
Tromsø, Norway

Some innovations have the potential to transform or
make obsolete current forms of livestock agriculture.
Researchers at the University of Delaware are
mapping the genetic code of African naked-neck

chickens to see if their ability to withstand heat can be
bred into other chickens that are resilient to climate
change. Similar work is being conducted at Michigan
State University on turkeys resilient to heat waves.5246

As biology becomes an information technology, it
may be possible to grow certain foods outside of the
conventional factory farm model to produce animal
products in the laboratory. Start-up companies are
developing animal-free egg whites that use less
water and land inputs while preserving the taste and
nutritional value of hen-borne egg whites.5347 Other
companies are making meat and cheese products
directly from plants,5448 while some academics and
researchers are leveraging advances in tissue
engineering technologies to three-dimensional print
meat. It has been claimed that laboratory-grown
meat5549 could potentially use less land and water and
produce lower greenhouse gas emissions. On the
other hand, if such developments reach an industrial
scale, it could potentially have implications for
livestock agricultural production based in developing

Big data, the Internet of things, drones, and artificial
intelligence may catalyse precision farming, requiring
fewer agrochemical inputs for existing agricultural
processes (see Figure 5). Some companies are
using novel genetic sequencing, along with machine
learning, to detect soil quality and help increase
crop quality.5650 Machine learning is being applied to
drone and satellite imagery to build detailed weather
models that help farmers make more informed
decisions to maximize their yield.5751 It is also being
used with plant genomic and phenotypic data to
predict the performance of new plant hybrids.5852
Robots are increasingly automating farming
through the ecological and economical weeding of
row crops.5953 Beyond rural areas, Big data and the
Internet of things are enabling urban, indoor and
vertical farming, which in some cases can improve
agricultural productivity and water efficiency with

52 http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-climate-chickens-
53 http://www.clarafoods.com/aboutus/#theclarastory.
54 http://impossiblefoods.com.
55 https://culturedbeef.org and www.modernmeadow.com/.
56 https://www.tracegenomics.com.
57 A number of companies provide satellite imagery solutions
based on machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Examples include https://www.nervanasys.com/solutions/
agriculture/, http://www.descarteslabs.com/;https://pix4d.
com/, http://gamaya.com/, http://www.bluerivert.com/, http://
prospera.ag/, https://www.tuletechnologies.com/ and http://
58 A number of companies provide satellite imagery solutions
based on machine learning and artificial intelligence. See
59 See http://www.ecorobotix.com/ and https://www.

51 The intellectual property implications of synthetic biology
are not clear. Initiatives such as iGem have created a registry
of standard biological parts, making 20,000 documented
genetic parts available for building synthetic biology devices
and systems (see igem.org/Registry). At the same time, given
that no foreign genes are inserted into genetically edited
crops, it may have implications for regulatory processes
involving biotech crops.

23CHAPTER 2: Science and technology for food security

minimal or negligible need for pesticides, herbicides,
and fertilizers.60 A number of these technologies
(sensors, artificial intelligence, imaging, and
robotics) can be combined for automated precision
farming. The potential impacts of these converging
technologies are unclear, leading to the need for
robust mechanisms to evaluate such technologies.

In order to harness STI for the achievement of food
security in 2030, it is essential to manage the risks and

Figure 5. Example: Application of the Internet of things, robotics, and artificial intelligence to

60 See https://urbanfarmers.com/, http://cool-farm.com/,
http://light4food.com/en/ and http://www.newsweek.

public perceptions relating to STI. New technologies
have been credited with creating new opportunities
but also destroying the status quo, and technological
risks are not necessarily confined to the sectors or
countries in which are they applied.

Source: Blue River Technology

Potential benefits and positive impacts are often
difficult to predict, while risk perceptions can include
scientific, technical, economic, cultural and ethical
concerns. Managing such technological uncertainty
requires scientific and institutional capacities to
respond swiftly with available knowledge to both
emerging challenges and technological failure
(Juma and Yee-Cheong, 2005). In this respect,

United Nations entities – such as the Commission on
Science and Technology for Development – could
potentially play a more prominent role in working
with Member States to assess the potential benefits
and risks of new and converging technologies, with
a view towards immediate and longer-term impacts
(Box 7).

24 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

Box 7. The need for an international technology
assessment and foresight mechanism
The notion of technology assessment was extensively
developed in the 1960s and coincided with the rise of
the environmental movement during the same period.
The notion that policymakers needed informed,
objective information on the potential benefits and
risks of new technologies became more prominent in
international institutions and national governments.
The United States Congressional Office of Technology
Assessment (OTA) was established on the premise
that the federal branch needed expertise on science,
technology and innovation. With over 700 published
reports during its tenure, a number of studies were
conducted that leveraged the expertise of scientists
and academics, as well as a range of stakeholders
potentially affected by the technologies. OTA
conducted major studies, briefed congressional
committees, and assisted in the analysis of technical
and scientific issues that affected the legislative
process. With a staff of 90 professionals, OTA worked
with nearly 2000 experts on a large and constantly
shifting set of subjects. Though the work did not
make specific policy recommendations, it played a
role in influencing policy. Other countries – such as
the United Kingdom and several members of the
European Union – built their offices of Technology
Assessment on the OTA model.a

The former Centre for Science and Technology for
Development had a similar role at the international
level within the United Nations system. An example
of technology assessment and foresight carried out
within the United Nations system is the Advanced
Technology Assessment System bulletin, which
analyses the implications of new developments in
areas ranging from biotechnology, new materials,
energy and information technology to new approaches
to science and technology cooperation.b

Technology foresight, though related to technology
assessment, has more of a future orientation with the
aim of not only anticipating potential future outcomes
but using policy to shape desired futures. A number
of organizations help conduct foresight specifically
for agricultural technologies. These include the
Global Forum on Agricultural Research, the Asian
Farmers Association, Plateforme régionale des
organisations paysannes d’Afrique centrale, Forum
for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Central
Asia and the Caucasus Association of Agricultural
Research Institutions (CACAARI), Young Professional
for Agricultural Development (YPARD), Centre for
International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and World

There is a need for a global initiative that can
systematically convene experts from across
disciplines to address agricultural technologies and
their potential impacts on society, the economy and

the environment. Such a global initiative should ideally
conduct both technology assessment and foresight
exercises to evaluate the immediate and long-
term impacts of new technologies on food security,
agriculture, and sustainable development more
A global network of experts across disciplines and
domains coordinated at the international level could
help the international community better understand
the implications of technology – both individually and
converged – in ways that would help policymakers
make more informed decisions. Such an international
body could also assist countries with capacity-building
to develop their own technology assessment and
foresight capacities. Many countries may not have the
domestic expertise across a vast range of scientific
disciplines and technology areas for the purposes
of national technology assessment and foresight.
International capacity-building activities could
increase scientific and technological cooperation
among countries.
In its resolution 2014/28, the Economic and Social
Council encourages the Commission on Science and
Technology for Development to do the following:
to help to articulate the important role of information
and communications technologies and science,
technology, innovation and engineering in the post-
2015 development agenda by acting as a forum for
horizon scanning and strategic planning, providing
foresight about critical trends in science, technology
and innovation in areas such as food security, the
management of water and other natural resources,
urbanization, advanced manufacturing and related
education and vocational needs, and drawing
attention to emerging and disruptive technologies that
can potentially affect the achievement of that agenda.d

The Commission has also conducted multi-year panels
on biotechnologye and ICTf and their implications for
development, based on high-level meetings and
expert-based reviews. In this context, the Commission
is well placed to continue its work as a forum for
assessing and anticipating the social, economic
and environmental impacts of new and emerging
technologies in food security and agriculture.
Source: UNCTAD
a More information and historical documentation on the United

States OTA can found at http://www.princeton.edu/~ota/.
b See, for example, http://unctad.org/en/docs/psiteiipd9.en.pdf

(accessed 20 February 2017).
c http://www.gfar.net/our-work/foresight-better-futures-0
d Resolution 2015/27 of the Economic and Social Council makes

a similar statement.
e Findings of biotechnology expert group meetings can be found

at http://unctad.org/en/docs/iteipc20042_en.pdf and http://
unctad.org/en/Docs/poditctedd12.en.pdf (both accessed 20
February 2017).

f Findings from panel meetings on ICT were published in R Mansell
and U Wehn, eds., 1998, Knowledge Societies: Information
Technology for Sustainable Development (Oxford University
Press, Oxford).

25CHAPTER 3: Developing innovative food systems

2.6 Conclusion

As demonstrated in this chapter, science and
technology can be applied across all dimensions of
food security. The examples provided were illustrative
– not comprehensive – and provide a window into
some of the new and emerging technologies that
can be used throughout agriculture, with a focus on
smallholder farmers. However, using these scientific
and technical applications, tools, and techniques
require the know-how, skills, and ability to adapt,
diffuse, and apply such technologies to local food
security-related challenges. The next chapter
discusses how countries can develop the innovative
capabilities to apply knowledge in agricultural


To harness science and technology for the various
dimensions of food security, it is necessary to make
the food system itself more innovative. This includes,
among other things, defining a research agenda
that focuses on smallholder farmers, investing in
human capacity, enabling infrastructure for food
systems, putting appropriate governance structures
in place for agricultural innovation and strengthening
knowledge flows between farmers and scientists.
The agricultural innovation system is a useful tool to
analyse the ecosystem and supporting mechanisms
and infrastructure that facilitate agricultural
innovation (Figure 6). Key stakeholders include
farmers, research and education systems, firms (e.g.
input suppliers, agricultural producers, processing,
distribution, wholesale and retail), agricultural
extension, government ministries, and international
and non-governmental actors (Larsen et al., 2009;
UNCTAD, 2015c).

Figure 6. Agricultural innovation system

Links to other
economic sectors

Links to science and
technology policy

Links to international

Links to political system

Agricultural value chain actors
and organizations

Agricultural research and
education systems

Informal institutions, practices, behaviors, and attitudes
Examples: Organizational culture; learning orientation; communication practices

Bridging institutions

Input suppliers

Agricultural producers
(of various types)

Processing, distribution,
wholesale, retail


Agricultural research

public sector
private sector
civil society

Agricultural education


vocational/technical Agricultural
extension system

public sector
private sector
civil society

contracts, and other



Political channels

Agricultural innovation policies and investments
General agricultural policies and


Source: Larsen et al., 2009.

Designing and strengthening an agricultural
innovation system involves promoting research and
development, investing in infrastructure, building
human capacity, creating an enabling environment
and strengthening knowledge flows, particularly
among scientists and farmers. Because women

account for a significant share of agricultural
labour, a gender-sensitive lens should be applied
to agricultural innovation. Regional and international
collaboration can address research priorities, while
international technology assessment and foresight
can help countries evaluate the immediate and long-
term implications of innovations for food security.

26 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

The design of innovative food systems should ideally
support pro-poor and frugal agricultural innovations,
promote the participatory engagement of smallholder
farmers, recognize local and traditional knowledge
systems, facilitate gender equity and be clearly
linked to economic empowerment and livelihoods.6154
This analytical framework can help policymakers and
other stakeholders consider the different ways that
the broader food system can be strengthened to
support the application of science and technology in
addressing food security challenges.

3.1 Promoting a smallholder farmer-
focused research agenda

There is an urgent need to increase investment in
high-quality research that is coherent with production
models adapted to the needs of smallholder farmers.
The constantly changing ecological, environmental
and biodiversity contexts require continuous
research and development to produce inputs and
disseminate knowledge that maximizes agricultural
yields while safeguarding the environment. Research
– at the national and international levels – must
address a more complex set of objectives: on the
one hand, the new challenges (climate change,
renewable energy and energy efficiency, biodiversity
and resource management), and on the other
hand, the old challenges (productivity growth and
production quality), as well as the promotion of
diversification. At the national level, for example,
the Agricultural Academy of Bulgaria supports
high-quality agricultural research and development
(Box 8)62,55 and the Thailand Research Fund has
granted more than 800 research projects on
foods since 1994 with a focus on local community

In this regard, it has been recommended that
orientation of science, technology, and innovation
research for food security include the following

• Partnership with rural producers’ organizations
and NGOs

• Use of non-proprietary genetic material and
research to develop locally adapted genetic
material that can be produced in difficult

61 Adapted from a contribution from E Daño, Asia Director,
Erosion, Technology and Concentration Group, the
62 Contribution from the Government of Bulgaria.
63 Contribution from the Government of Thailand.

Box 8. Bulgaria’s Agricultural Academy
The Agricultural Academy is an institution that
engages in scientific, applied, support and ancillary
activities in the field of agriculture, helping to achieve
the strategic objective of ensuring food security,
preserve natural resources and improve the quality of
life in Bulgaria.
The Academy’s 562 scientists conduct research
projects related to food security in the following areas:
sustainable use of natural plant resources, animals,
soil and water; reduction of the adverse impacts
associated with climate change; maintenance of
genetic resources and creation of new, high-yielding
varieties and animal breeds that are well adapted
to changing climatic and economic conditions;
development of healthy foods to improve the length
and quality of life; and provision of certified and
quality seeds, seedlings and breeding material.
The Academy offers strong advantages for work in
sustainable development: integration of all functional
units of the innovation process in agriculture from idea
to research product and a regional network of institutes
and experimental stations engaged in scientific,
applied and consultancy located geographically in all
regions of the country.
Project proposals are evaluated and approved by
expert councils, composed of prominent academics
serving a four-year term. Projects in the selection
and maintenance of genetic resources have a long-
term duration and their continuity is ensured. Many of
the projects result in the creation of a new research
product – new varieties, new technological solutions
or integrated technologies for growing different crops
or breeding animals that can be directly embedded in
agricultural production. Some 345 scientific products
are owned by the institutes and experimental stations
of the Academy that have certificates issued by the
Bulgarian Patent Office. In 2016, eight new varieties
of crops and two breeds received new certificates.
In 2016, the structural units of the Academy
participated in 130 projects in the following areas:
plant breeding (38), animal husbandry (31), soil
science, agricultural technology and the protection
of plants (46), food safety and quality (10) and
management of agricultural production (5). These
projects were funded through a budgetary subsidy
provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and
through their own income provided by the sale of
scientific products.
Source: Contribution from the Government of Bulgaria.

• Development of low-cost innovative proposals for

• Promotion of diversification of production systems

• Support to the development of activities that
increase the value added at smallholder level6457

64 These specific recommendations are from the High-level
Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE).

27CHAPTER 3: Developing innovative food systems

International research institutions, such as the
Consortium of International Agricultural Research
Centres (CGIAR), are important for the international
research agenda on food security. However, CGIAR
may not necessarily be responsive to the research
needs of the least developed countries (UNCTAD,
2007). Recent international discussions on the
development of a new strategy and results framework
for the Consortium of International Agricultural
Research Centres (formerly the Consultative Group
of International Agricultural Research) for the
period 2016–2030 emphasize a more cross-cutting
approach to research topics, due consideration of the
socioeconomic dimension and overcoming the lack
of integrated agricultural research for development.
In this regard, collaborative research remains a
challenge: In addition to leading and coordinating
international agricultural research, CGIAR could
potentially play a greater role as a facilitator and
networker, promoting innovation platforms at strategic
and international levels, particularly fostering
dialogue and clarity of complex phenomena of the
sector and its context (Box 9).

Box 9. A new CGIAR strategy and results
framework for 2016-2030

CGIAR is a global partnership that unites
organizations engaged in research for a food secure
future. Research is carried out through a network of
15 research centres, known as the Consortium of
International Agricultural Research Centres. These
centres are spread around the globe, with most
centres located in the global South. The centres are
generally run in partnership with other organizations,
including national and regional agricultural research
institutes, civil society organizations, academia and
the private sector.

In 1970, the Rockefeller Foundation proposed a
worldwide network of agricultural research centres
under a permanent secretariat. This was further
supported and developed by the World Bank, FAO
and UNDP; CGIAR was established in May 1971
to coordinate international agricultural research
efforts aimed at reducing poverty and achieving
food security in developing countries. CGIAR is not
a formal international political or intergovernmental
institution, but an ad hoc network, which receives
funds from its public and private members. CGIAR
played a key role in the “green revolution”, placing
emphasis on the development of high-yielding crop
varieties that required an externally input-intensive
form of production. The initial focus of research
centred on the genetic improvement of staple

cereals (rice, wheat and maize), later widened to
include cassava, chickpea, sorghum, potatoes, millet
and some other food crops, as well as livestock.
Heightened international concern regarding resource
scarcities and environmental challenges in the 1990s
also prompted research work on the conservation
of genetic resources65, plant nutrition, water
management and policy research.

International consultations are under way to develop
a new CGIAR strategy and results framework for
the period 2016–2030 to identify new and creative
solutions to the key challenges of agriculture, rural
development and nutrition:

• Agri-food systems today are not sustainable,
nor do they provide healthy food for all

• Poor diets are the leading cause of ill health in
the world

• There is a serious and escalating global
environmental crisis affecting the agricultural

• Massive un(der)employment of young people
in rural areas is a key challenge

• Radical and fast transformation is urgently
needed to meet these daunting challenges

The consultations on the new framework propose
three strategic goals as system level outcomes:
reduced poverty, improved food and nutrition and
security for health and improved natural resource
systems and eco-system services.

Four cross-cutting themes are considered critical
to attaining the new CGIAR goals: mitigating and
adapting to climate change risks and shocks,
ensuring gender and youth equity and inclusion,
strengthening the policy and institution enabling
environment and developing the capacity of national
partners and beneficiaries.

Against this background, eight priority research
topics are proposed for the first six years of the new
• Genetic improvement of crops, livestock, fish

and trees to increase productivity, resilience
to stress, nutritional value and efficiency of
resource use

• Use of system-based approaches to
optimize economic, social and environmental
co-benefits in agricultural systems in areas
with a high concentration of poor people

65 CGIAR gene banks form the world’s largest germplasm
collections for staple food crops, providing over 90 per cent of
all recorded transfers under the International Treaty on Plant
Genetic Resources.

28 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

• Create opportunities for women, young people
and marginalized groups to increase access
to and control over resources

• Enabling policies and institutions to improve
the performance of markets, enhance delivery
of critical public goods and services and
increase the agency and resilience of poor

• Natural resources and eco-system services,
focusing on productive eco-systems and
landscapes that offer significant opportunities
to reverse environmental degradation and
enhance productivity

• Nutrition and health, emphasizing dietary
diversity, nutritional content and safety of food,
and development of value chains of particular
importance for the nutrition of poor consumers

• Climate-smart agriculture, focusing on urgently
needed adaptation and mitigation options for
farmers and other resource users

• Nurturing diversity, ensuring that CGIAR
in-trust plant genetic resources collections
are safely maintained and genetically and
phenotypically characterized to maximize the
exploitation of these critical resources for food
security, productivity, nutrient rich crops and
resilient farming systems

Sources: www.cgiar.org, www.cgiarfund.org, www.
consortium.cgiar.org, Renkow and Byerlee, 2010, and
Thönnissen, 2016.

3.2 Enabling infrastructure for food

Infrastructure enables many of the scientific and
technical applications that address aspects of
the food system. More people having access to
improved water sources and sanitation facilities, and
affordable access to water may provide a means to
increase the percentage of arable land equipped
for irrigation. Ensuring access to affordable, reliable,
sustainable and modern energy for all is also
important for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
while maintaining agricultural productivity. Inclusive,
resilient and sustainable development within cities
may help build up local markets, provide a means for
people to travel to nearby markets to buy agricultural
goods and open up new export and import markets.
Moreover, ICTs have a critical role to play in food
security in general, and with respect to the provision
of extension services, insurance, finance and risk
prevention in particular (Box 10).

3.3. Governing agricultural innovation and
policy coherence

Sustainable agricultural development is possible
if effective governance mechanisms are in
place and policy coherence is fostered between
sustainable agricultural development, food systems,
environmental concerns, social protection, education,
nutrition and health policies and programmes, as well
as between their respective institutions, agencies
and ministries at the national and international levels

Box 10. Employing ICTs to build farmer
communities in the United Republic of Tanzania

An example of a community-building support ICT tool
can be found in the Sauti ya wakulima project. The
project implements a transdisciplinary methodology
called ERV (enabling reciprocal voice) methodology,
developed within a transdisciplinary PhD research
project at the Applied University of the Arts Zurich
(ZHdK) IBZ/ETHZ. The methodology is based on
the usage and exchange of shared smartphones
to create an audiovisual documentation of farmers’
agricultural and social environments published on
a collaborative web platform (Tisselli, 2016). The
audiovisual documentation consists of a photo, an
explanatory voice recording and a key word used
to categorize the contents. These elements are
enriched by geographical reference information on
an interactive web-based map.

Since 2011, groups of farmers in the United Republic
of Tanzania (Bagamoyo District) have participated in
a proof-of-concept project. The farmers documented
their coping strategies in relation to erratic weather
events, pests and diseases and other aspects
farmers find relevant for describing their agricultural
realities. After five years, Sauti ya wakulima has
been fully embraced by farmer communities and
runs in an autonomous fashion, with support from
the Bagamoyo Agricultural Office and the farmers
themselves. A rich knowledge base of over 3,000
images and audio recordings has been created by
the farmers. This knowledge base also includes a
fine-grained map of local knowledge, through the
interviews farmers held with people from inside and
outside their communities. The local government has
provided grants to the group of participating farmers,
encouraging them to document farmers’ shows and
agricultural fairs in other towns, including the largest
agricultural fair in Morogoro. The ERV methodology
was upgraded in 2016 and is currently being
upscaled by the Swiss development organization
Swissaid to reach thousands of smallholder farmers
in the food insecure Masasi region in the southern
United Republic of Tanzania.

29CHAPTER 3: Developing innovative food systems

Box 11. Improving cotton-farming systems in
Western Africa through participatory research

Approximately 2 per cent of the 2 million cotton
farms in Western Africa produce for the global
organic markets. The Europe Aid-financed project
Syprobio (2011–2015) aimed at improving farmer-
adapted, low-cost technologies with science and
action research in order to cope with declining
soil fertility, low yields and inappropriate seeds for
small-scale organic farmers and other technical and
institutional constraints. Currently, supply cannot
meet the high demand for organic and fair trade,
and the complexity of this commodity requires
new ways of conducting agricultural research. The
Syprobio project was based on the existing organic
cotton value chain developed by Helvetas (a non-
governmental development network located in
Switzerland) since 1999 and reinforced by national
(IER, INERA,66 INRAB67) and international (FiBL)
research organizations. With the assistance of these
researchers, extensionists and market brokers, and
small-scale farmers were identified to test their own
innovations and technologies towards improved
cereal-cotton farming.

Sources: Angelika Hilbeck, Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology, Institute of Integrative Biology, Zurich,
Switzerland, and Eugenio Tisselli, information
technology expert and freelance consultant,
Barcelona, Spain.

(CFS and HLPE, 2014, 2015, 2016). Governance
processes can include frameworks for agricultural
intellectual property, biosafety and technology and/or
risk assessment mechanisms, and multi-stakeholder
forums for priority setting within the agricultural
research and development system.

Policy coherence and participation require a
system approach, where achieving food security
is considered an encompassing task among
different sectors and stakeholders, rather than as a
single sectoral task. Furthermore, the governance
processes related to food security and sustainable
agriculture have to take into account the needs and
interests of marginalized and poor disadvantaged
users of common lands and pastures, water and
fisheries. In particular, these are indigenous people
and those whose rights are enshrined in customary
arrangements. It is essential to ensure their full
and effective participation in relevant decision and
planning processes.

3.4 Facilitating farmer–scientist
knowledge flows: Strengthening
agricultural extension and human capacity

Extension services can help farmers with a range
of issues, including agronomic practices, natural
resource management, livestock health and
management, accessing financial support and
accessing markets and/or market intermediaries.
A prominent example of the impact of extension
services on agronomic practice is the case of
Ethiopian teff farmers (teff is the national grain).
Farmers traditionally broadcast their seeds (i.e. seeds
manually scattered all over the field) in the belief that
more seed would result in more harvest. Researchers
in Ethiopia demonstrated that planting the seeds in
rows (rather than broadcasting them) could improve
yields 50–80 per cent, reduce the amount of seeds
needed for sowing by 90 per cent, and produce teff
with bigger leaves and stronger stalks (Ethiopia ATA,
2012; IFPRI, 2013; Swanson, 2006; Swanson, 2008;
Buluswar et al., 2014). In another example in Western
Africa, a regional programme for integrated pest
management serving 30,000 farmers resulted in 75

per cent median reduction in pesticides, 23 per cent
yield increases, and 41 per cent net margins (FAO,
2009; United Nations, 2015b).

3.4.1 Participatory cooperative research among
farmers and scientists

Innovative forms of knowledge production and
transfer are needed. Examples are community-based
innovation, innovation platforms and participatory,
cooperative research (box 11). Research involving
smallholder farmers in the definition of research
priorities and the design and execution of research
according to participatory and empowering
methodologies is one of the best ways to ensure
that research results respond to the complex social,
economic, and ecological contexts of smallholders.
In order to achieve this, research systems must
be more accountable to smallholders in terms of
their institutional priorities, impact of their work,
and funding. High-quality research and extension
services can develop cooperative, context-specific
research approaches for food security and nutrition
(Box 11).

66 Institut de l’Environnement et des Recherches Agricoles.
67 Institut National de Recherche Agronomique du Bénin.

30 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

Centred around these locally organized researcher-
farmers, within a reach of a two-hour bicycle ride,
innovation platforms (IPs) were established to promote
appropriate technologies favouring the livelihood
and increasing the family or household farming
resilience among all other farmers. The farmers
taking part in these IPs met several times per year
to exchange experiences and coordinate actions.
In total, 10 groups of farmers (each comprising 10
individual farmers) acted as on-farm researchers
and were guided by 20 extensionists, technicians
and market brokers from farmer organizations.
Together with FiBL, the lead research organization,
10–20 researchers from national research institutes
accompanied the on-farm tests and conducted
parallel on-station trials to confirm findings.

The project office of FiBL coordinated the activities
and communication. The main actors remained the
100 elected farmer-researchers, of which 40 per
cent were women who reported directly to their over
2,500 colleagues across multiple villages. All IPs are
connected at national level to promote the democratic
model of generating sustainable innovations through
participatory research. The platforms adopted
innovation as a systemic and dynamic institutional
or social learning process after the researchers
could confirm the viability of each technology. It
was recognized that innovation could emerge from
various sources (science or indigenous knowledge or
else), complex interactions and knowledge flows. The
creativity, determination and curiosity of the farmer
groups, embedded in a supportive research network
and existing value chains, allowed fast identification
of innovations to be tested and applied, and local
resources to be used and experimented at field level.

The main challenges lay in communication, cost
reduction for field visits by researchers, and
institutional stability and durability (research, farmer
organizations and markets). The participatory
approach at the centre of the research method
materialized through IP social learning among
the involved stakeholders. Farmers’ capacities to
analyse and make decisions were improved. The
best performing technologies that were identified and
developed in this setting were new biopesticides,
maize and sorghum seeds adapted to organic
farming, and improved ways of producing and
applying compost and better associations of crops
within the rotation. Each technology alone has the
potential to increase the yields by over 10 per cent,
while applying combinations of various technologies
could increase yields by more than 30 per cent.

Source: Gian L. Nicolay, FiBL

3.4.2 Information and communications
technologies for extension services

ICTs can improve the quality, reach and efficiency of
extension services. For example, a pilot trial of the
Avaaj Otal mobile agricultural advisory services for
Gujarat-based cotton farmers reduced distribution
costs from $8.5 to $1.13 per farmer per month
(UNCTAD, 2015). The potential benefits of ICTs
do not necessarily depend on the sophistication
of the ICT device, with deployments involving
mobile phones, locally produced how-to videos
for farmers and participatory radio campaigns.
For example, Access Agriculture is an online
platform that showcases high-quality agricultural
training videos translated into 74 local languages
for farmer-to-farmer capacity-building.6858 The non-
governmental organization Digital Green trains
farmers in remote locations – such as Narma Dih in
Bihar, India – with locally produced how-to videos
(World Bank, 2016). Similarly, participatory radio
campaigns allow farmers to exchange knowledge
and experiences about their agricultural practices.
Randomized control trials of 25 radio stations in
five countries demonstrated that farmers listened
to such radio programmes, that agricultural
knowledge was acquired and that such knowledge
translated into improved agricultural practices
(Farm Radio International, 2011).6959

3.4.3 Sharing plant genetic resources

Public investment in breeding programmes and
support for local seed systems that allow the
diffusion of locally adapted genetic material,
which farmers would have the right to freely
save, exchange and market, is a good example
of the need for public investment in research and
technology diffusion (CFS and HLPE, 2013).7060
Examples of seed bank programmes include the
Portuguese national gene bank (Box 12) and the
Navdanya network of seed keepers and organic
producers spread across 18 states in India.7161

68 Contribution from the Swiss Agency for Development and
69 The Government of Canada also provided information on
their support of Farm Radio International for farmer value-
chain development.
70 Finding proposed by the Governments of Chile and Peru.
71 Contribution from the United Nations Major Group for
Children and Youth.

31CHAPTER 4: Policy considerations

Box 12. Portuguese information system for
plant genetic resources72

On 13 February 2015, the Banco Português de
Germoplasma Vegetal – the Portuguese national
gene bank – officially launched a new information
system to manage their precious collection of plant
genetic resources. The collection has a strategic
importance for food security at the national and
global levels. Located in Braga, Portugal, it
includes 45,000 samples from 150 species and 90
genus of cereals, aromatic and medicinal plants,
fibres, forages and pasture, horticultural crops
and other species.

The new system is based on GRIN-Global, a free
platform developed in a joint effort by the Global
Crop Diversity Trust, the Agricultural Research
Service of the United States Department of
Agriculture and Bioversity International. The full
collection of plant genetic resources and the
associated knowledge conserved at the Banco
Português de Germoplasma Vegetal is now
managed by a powerful and efficient system and,
for the first time, the information will be available
online for public consultation.

Since 2011, Bioversity International has been
working with the Portuguese gene bank to
implement and evaluate the system, strengthening
the capacity of staff to use the system along
the way. The lessons learned from this process
are crucial for the deployment, adoption and
implementation of GRIN-Global in other countries
and regions. The goal of GRIN-Global is to provide
the world’s crop gene banks with a powerful,
flexible, easy-to-use global plant genetic resource
information management system that will allow
gene banks around the world to permanently
safeguard plant genetic resources vital to global
food security, and to encourage the use of these
resources by researchers, breeders and farmers.

3.5 Making innovative food systems

Women account for a significant and growing share
of the workforce in agriculture worldwide (Agarwal,
2012). They comprise about 43 per cent of the
agricultural labour force in developing countries and
50 per cent of the agricultural labour force in the least
developed countries (FAO, 2011a; UNCTAD, 2015d).
Despite their prominent role in food production and
processing, women typically have limited access
to resources (for example, technology, training,

72 Contribution from the Government of Portugal.

education, information, credit, and land) to increase
their output and are often excluded from decision-
making processes in managing water and other
natural resources (UNCTAD, 2011; FAO, 2010; UIS,
2010; Huyer et al., 2005; Meinzen-Dick et al., 2010;
Carr and Hartl, 2010). Promoting community-driven
approaches to the development of new farming
technologies and crop diversification can benefit
women and smallholder farmers more generally.
Extension services can consciously account for
gender roles in agricultural and rural development,
including through the recruitment of female extension
workers (Wakhungu, 2010; Carr and Hartl, 2010;
Christoplos, 2010). Furthermore, more emphasis
should be placed on encouraging women to become
involved in agricultural science and extension
(UNESCO, 2007; AAUW, 2010).


While science can play a key role in developing
adapted technologies, STI in support of context
specific needs of smallholder farmers and beyond
the production remains essential. The Sustainable
Development Goals lay the groundwork and pave
the way for further development. The process can
be accelerated not only through scientific and
social approaches but also by appropriate laws
and policies. A number of policy considerations
could potentially assist countries in their efforts to
harness science and technology for food security
and build agricultural innovation systems as part of
broader agriculture-led strategies for sustainable

4.1 Increase investments in agricultural
R&D at the global and national levels

National and global R&D for agricultural
development can tangibly impact productivity
and the quality of inputs. The constantly changing
ecological, environmental, and biodiversity contexts
requires continuous research and development to
produce inputs and disseminate knowledge that
maximizes agricultural yields while safeguarding
the environment. China’s government-sponsored
R&D, which increased 5.5 per cent annually between
1995 and 2000 and 15 per cent annually after 2000,
was considered key to the adoption of advanced
technologies by poor farmers (UNCTAD, 2015b).
Globally, it has been estimated by FAO, IFAD and
WFP that eradicating hunger by 2030 will require
an additional $267 billion annually (United Nations,
2015b; FAO et al., 2015). Based on estimates of

32 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

the United Nations Environment Programme green
economy models, 0.16 per cent of global GDP
devoted to sustainable agriculture per year ($198
billion between 2011 and 2050) could provide
significant returns (United Nations, 2015b).

4.2 Promote sustainable food systems

STI for achieving food security in the context
of the 2030 agenda should be put into a three-
pronged context of a sustainable food system: the
socioeconomic dimension, mainly understood as
a reduction of poverty and (socioeconomic and
gender) inequality, particularly in rural areas; the
environmental dimension, focusing primarily on
environmental integrity and the reproductive capacity
of the agro-ecological system; and the resilience
dimension, emphasizing social and ecological
resilience. Governments should ensure a balanced
and system-focused approach to the production of
food, feed and fibre, so that food security, poverty
eradication and sustainable resource use can be
achieved, while strengthening the resilience of the
agro-food system. This means in particular that
food security does not only relate to improvements
in production and supply, but also to changes in
consumption and demand.

Agriculture should be reoriented around ecological
practices, whether the starting point is highly
industrialized agriculture or subsistence farming
in the world’s poorest countries. Environmental
change, mainly climate change, and economic
change have an impact on all dimensions of food
security, not only agricultural production. In order
to achieve Goal 2, locally adapted, context-specific
pathways to sustainable agricultural development
for food security, including adaptation strategies and
coping mechanisms, are needed. For example, the
Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture is co-leader of
the Sustainable Food Systems Programme of the
10-year Framework for Programmes on Sustainable
Consumption and Production Patterns,7363 a multi-
stakeholder initiative to accelerate the shift towards
more sustainable food systems that deliver food
security and nutrition for present and future

4.3 Encourage development of science,
technology, and innovation applications on
key food security challenges
73 Commonly known as the 10YFP Sustainable Food
Systems Programme.
74 Contribution from the Government of Switzerland.

There are broader topics that should play a role
when planning and implementing STI related to food
security. They should be addressed by developed
and developing countries and at all levels, from
international cooperation down to communities. Not
every topic will be of similar relevance in all cases,
but their importance and interaction is decisive in
achieving the goal of completely eradicating hunger
and malnutrition by 2030 in a truly sustainable way.

• Role of fertile soils and soil protection. It should
always be ensured that loss of soils is halted and
soil fertility is conserved or increased. This may
be achieved by amending any monitoring plan
for STI project performance by a small number
of key soil fertility and soil protection indicators
that are easy to measure and most adequate for a
given context, as well as by a number of concrete
management changes to be implemented in case
soil protection indicators point to deteriorating

• Adaptation to climate change. Planning and
performance assessments of STI should always
refer to a number of climate change adaptation
indicators, covering overall projections on
expected change in climatic and weather patterns
in the coming years, in particular water availability
and temperatures, but also extreme events. When
production conditions become adverse, some
assessment of potential alternative livelihood
sources should be undertaken at an early stage.

• Support agro-ecological, low external input and
extensive production systems. STI for agro-
ecological, low external input and extensive
production systems play a crucial role for achieving
food security. Such systems tend to increase
diversity and resilience of agricultural production
systems, thus contributing to a reliable standard
of living, particularly for smallholder farmers and
agricultural labourers. Such systems in particular
support biodiversity, whose loss is a major
challenge for the future productivity, sustainability
and resilience of the food system. In particular,
functional biodiversity plays an extraordinary role
in the wider use of agro-ecological production
and eco-functional intensification approaches,
which should be reflected in STI approaches.

• Breeding programmes on orphan crops. Breeding
programmes on orphan crops need to be
developed, adequately differentiated for country-
and region-specific preferences and needs.

33CHAPTER 4: Policy considerations

Participatory approaches and ensuring farmer’s
rights for further breeding and seed production,
for example, are necessary for the success of
such programmes. These programmes need
considerable funding and coordination, which
should be taken over by most suited institutions
for this.

4.4 Support policy coherence for food

Policies from the local to the global level should
support the transition towards sustainable food and
farming systems in a coherent and targeted way.
Policymakers should promote an adaptive system
thinking and management approach due to the
fact, that a variety of environmental factors, farming
systems, market actors and consumption patterns
are systemically interrelated and connected to food
security. For instance, waste is generated at all stages
of the life cycle, from production to consumption.
Policies related to food waste and loss reduction are
tantamount to an increased production volume being
made available for consumption with the added
advantage of zero additional ecological impact.
Another example are food policies to support healthy
and sustainable diets, urban–rural linkages and local
food processing and value generation. Furthermore,
as mentioned in the first chapter, the links between
agricultural and environmental change are extensive
and may require an integrated policy approach
(World Bank, 2008). If food security is considered
to be a critical component of a broader innovation-
driven development agenda and supported by the
highest levels of Government, sufficient political will
can exist to facilitate interministerial and intersectoral
coordination and collaboration.7565 The e-agriculture
strategy guide and toolkit, jointly prepared by FAO
and the International Telecommunication Union,
demonstrates potential synergies among ICT and
agriculture ministries.7666

4.5 Improve extension services and the
farmer–scientist interface

It is important to better align farmer needs (e.g. women
and young farmers), research methods of national
agricultural research stations and universities,
and policies at the national level in order to create

75 An example of food security policy is the SAN CELAC
Plan of Costa Rica for Food Security, Nutrition, and Hunger
Eradication, an input from the Government of Costa Rica.
76 Contribution from the International Telecommunication
Union; see http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5564e.pdf (accessed 21
February 2017).

functioning institutions dealing with technology
development in a sustainable and reliable way with
a long-term perspective. In addition, the governance
processes related to food security and sustainable
agriculture should take into account the needs and
interests of marginalized and poor disadvantaged
users of common lands and pastures, water, and
fisheries (see section 3.4.1). In particular, these
are indigenous people and those whose rights are
enshrined in customary arrangements. It is essential
to ensure their full and effective participation in
relevant decision and planning processes. There is
a strong need for stepping up the current agricultural
extension services, but also education and access to
information and knowledge related to food production
and nutrition in general to break the vicious circle of
“poor research and extension for poor farmers”.

The potential of stakeholder participation and
cooperation for the development of locally adapted
research and development strategies could improve
agricultural production and sustainable consumption.
There is an urgent need to increase investment in
research and advisory extension services that are
coherent with models of productions adapted to
smallholder farmers’ needs. Research must address
a more complex set of objectives: on the one hand,
the new challenges (i.e. climate change, renewable
energy and energy efficiency, biodiversity and
resource management), and, on the other hand, the
old challenges (productivity growth and production
quality) as well as promotion of diversification. The
key message is to break the vicious circle of “poor
research and extension for poor farmers” (CFS
and HLPE, 2013). A key policy consideration is to
promote the proper funding of extension services
from government funds.

Participatory development could also be enhanced
with the utilization of ICTs, big data and related
new developments (for example, drones, three-
dimensional printers and remote sensing). One
example would be to utilize remote sensing and
big data to support site-specific precision farming
(i.e. more efficient use of resources and inputs)
and crop planning for eco-functional intensification
approaches. Extension services with the use of
mobile phones are already being explored in a
range of projects, but there needs to be a somewhat
coordinated approach towards these issues. It is
important to make available options such as specific
applications that are widely known; for this, a number
of key websites as entry-points to these services
should be set up by institutions with a long-term

34 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

commitment to host those sites, to keep them up
to date and operational with a changing context of
further soft- and hardware developments. FAO and
CGIAR centres may play a coordinating role in this
regard. However, attention must be paid to issues of
privacy, security, and data ownership and access.

4.6 Improve access to agricultural
technologies and data for smallholder

New and existing United Nations mechanisms for
technology transfer, facilitation, and dissemination,
such as the United Nations Technology Facilitation
Mechanism and the United Nations Technology
Bank should continue to promote the sharing of key
agricultural technologies, especially for smallholder
farmers. Such initiatives should consider how its
work contributes to developing countries and the
least developed countries to access emerging
technologies that increase yields, mitigate on-farm
and off-farm losses, and broadly promote sustainable
agriculture. Foundations, non-profit organizations and
civil society organizations that help facilitate access
to proprietary agricultural technologies (e.g. African
Agricultural Technology Foundation) should continue
to strengthen their efforts, especially in light of the
imperative for sustainable food production. Countries
should also consider that technology transfer can
happen in a number of directions, including North–
North, North–South and South–South. Irrigation
technologies such as the treadle pump developed
in Bangladesh in the 1980s are widely used in Africa

Beyond the transfer of technologies, institutions and
mechanisms within and outside the United Nations
system should consider how to make available data
relating to agriculture meteorology, the Internet of
things, satellites and other data that could help
optimize yields and support rural livelihoods.
Civil society and non-profit organizations such as
GODAN7767 and others are encouraged to continue
and strengthen their work even as more forms of data
collected both passively and actively can potentially
inform agricultural practices.

4.7 Build human capacity for agricultural

The establishment of new education and research
programmes and institutions can help create a
knowledge base and pool of experts to develop the

77 Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition: www.

capacity to innovate within agriculture. For example,
the Cuban Institute for Fundamental Research in
Tropical Agriculture not only conducts scientific
research but also trains talent from Cuba and from
other countries, including developing countries.7868
Talent-building efforts may include targeted master’s
programmes at existing applied and research
universities, as well as at new university institutes,
departments and curricula.7969 This requires significant
funds and a long-term commitment. FAO and
CGIAR centres, in close collaboration with national
agricultural research institutions, could potentially
support and coordinate such efforts.

4.8 Collaborate with international
partners to harness science, technology,
and innovation for food security

Knowledge aid can be a tool for providing STI
support as part of official development assistance.
This can occur in the agricultural sector where donors
can contribute to agricultural research, especially
in the least developed countries. With respect to
stimulating industry and infrastructure, knowledge
aid as part of official development assistance
can focus on value-chain development schemes,
foreign direct investment complementation and
linkage development, project funding for industrial
and physical infrastructure, the promotion of global
engineering associations and non-governmental
organizations, and the facilitation of South-South
collaboration.8070 Regional cooperation can achieve
economies of scale to address research priorities for
a specific region, as demonstrated by the work of the
Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, the Latin
American Fund for Irrigated Rice, and FONTAGRO,
the Regional Fund for Agricultural Technology for
Latin America and the Caribbean (World Bank, 2008).

Funding from international cooperation activities can
also be a potential source of funding for developing
countries. For example, the United States National
Institutes of Health, the European Union Framework
Programme, and the Canada Grand Challenges
programme earmark funding for collaboration

78 Contribution from the Government of Cuba.
79 The international Master curriculum “Safety in the Food
Chain” (www.safetyinthefoodchain.com) is a potential
model for agricultural education, provided as input by the
Government of Austria.
80 UNCTAD, The Least Developed Countries Report
2007: Knowledge, Technological Learning and Innovation
for Development, Sales No. E.07.II.D.8 (Geneva: United
Nations publication, 2007), pp. 161-180 http://unctad.org/en/

35CHAPTER 4: Policy considerations

with scientists from Africa. In this context, they
recommend that research institutes and universities
increase their applications to international research
tenders, possibly in partnership with the private
sector. Funding from Governments, foundations and
other international entities (e.g. CGIAR) could fund
local researchers and innovators.81

4.9 Strengthen the enabling environment
for agriculture and food security

Roads, electricity, cold storage and agro-processing
facilities, information and communications
technologies, sanitation and other forms of
infrastructure enable the innovations that improve
the quantity and quality of agricultural production.
Strengthening innovative food systems should
include increasing public investment in high-quality
research and advisory extension services that are
coherent with agro-ecological production systems
adapted to smallholder farmers’ needs.

Countries may consider encouraging entrepre-
neurship based on agricultural innovations. For
example, the Government of Pakistan supported

the creation of an indigenous tractor industry that
currently meets 95 per cent of local demand. Public
and private efforts helped build local manufacturing
capabilities.82 Similarly, the recently launched Food
Innovation Network of the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland aims to tackle the issues
that are currently impeding innovation, productivity
and growth in agri-food and drink businesses in that

Other measures include strengthening knowledge
and extension links among the scientific community,
rural producers’ organizations and NGOs; facilitating
technology transfer, especially with the use of non-
proprietary genetic material and research to develop
locally adapted genetic material that can produce in
difficult conditions; diversifying production systems;
supporting the development of activities that increase
the value added at smallholder level; and promoting
activities that result in keeping downstream value
chain activities in the production countries, thus
working towards exporting processed commodities
rather than primary products.

81 UNCTAD, “Science, Technology and Innovation Policy
Review - Ghana,” (New York and Geneva: United Nations,
2011), 7, 9-10.

82 Contribution from the Government of Pakistan.
83 Contribution from the Government of the United Kingdom.

36 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030


Box 1 The four dimensions of food security

Dimension 1. Food availability

− Average dietary energy supply adequacy
− Average value of food production
− Share of dietary energy supply derived from cereals, roots and tubers
− Average protein supply
− Average supply of protein of animal origin

Dimension 2. Food access

− Percentage of paved roads over total roads
− Road density
− Rail lines density
− Gross domestic product per capital (in PPE)
− Domestic food price index
− Prevalence of undernourishment
− Share of food expenditure of the poor
− Depth of food deficit
− Prevalence of food inadequacy

Dimension 3. Food stability

− Cereal import dependency ration
− Percentage of arable land equipped for irrigation
− Value of food imports over total merchandise exports
− Political stability and absence of violence/terrorism
− Domestic food price volatility
− Per capita production variability
− Per capita food supply variability

Dimension 4. Food use/utilization

− Access to improved water source
− Access to improved sanitation facilities
− Percentage of children under 5 years of age affected by wasting
− Percentage of children under 5 years of age who are stunted
− Percentage of children under 5 years of age who are underweight
− Prevalence of adults who are underweight
− Percentage of anaemia among pregnant women
− Prevalence of anaemia among children under 5 years of age
− Prevalence of vitamin A deficiency in the population
− Prevalence of school-age children (6–12 years) with insufficient iodine intake

Source: FAO, 2016.


Box 2 Sustainable Development Goals and food security

Goal 1 addresses poverty. It calls for an end to poverty in all its manifestations by 2030. It also aims to
ensure social protection for the poor and vulnerable, increase access to basic services and support
people harmed by climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks
and disasters.

Goal 2 is aimed at ending hunger and ensuring access by all people, in particular the poor and people
in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round. The first
step is double the agricultural productivity with resilient agricultural practices. Goals 1 and 2 cover
most of the relevant aspects of food security. Correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in
world agricultural markets, including through the parallel elimination of all forms of agricultural export
subsidies and all export measures with equivalent effect, in accordance with the mandate of the Doha
Development Round. The target of Goal 2 is to “adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food
commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on
food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility”.

The target of Goal 3 is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. It focuses on how
to reduce mortality ratios and the incidence of diseases prevented. Target 3.3 directly acknowledges the
relationship between waterborne diseases and deaths and aims to reduce them. This may help to foster
the investments into improved water sources and is thus in line with the food security dimension of use/
utilization to provide access to improved water sources.

Goal 4, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities
for all, is not explicitly related to the four dimensions of food security. However, one of the potential
influences of achieving the targets from this goal may be that youth and adults receive technical training
(target 4.4) and the knowledge and skills to promote a sustainable development (target 4.7).

Similarly, Goal 5, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, may help
to increase food availability, stability and use/utilization by ensuring that discrimination against women
and girls is ended (target 5.1), that violence against them is eliminated (target 5.2) and that they receive
access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights (target 5.6).

By acknowledging these targets, women and girls may receive the chance to be become more actively
integrated into the food production chain and their economic profitability may increase. Concerning
technology and innovation, it has to be taken into account that mostly women are involved in fruit,
vegetable, protein crops and cereal production and need appropriate tools and access to information.

Goal 6, which aims to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for
all, may help to achieve food stability and food use/utilization indicators of the food security dimensions.
Targets 6.1/6.2 and 6.a deal with the access to, improvement of and investments in safe and affordable
water and sanitation structures. Achieving these targets is likely to facilitate access of more people to
improved water sources and sanitation facilities (food security use/utilization dimension); furthermore,
affordable access to water (target 6.a) may provide a means to increase the percentage of arable land
equipped for irrigation (food security stability dimension).

Goal 7 aims at to ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. The
agricultural sector is one the fossil fuel intensive production systems, which currently emits 13% of global
GHG emissions (IPCCC). In order to ensure long-term sustainability, it is unavoidable that GHG emissions
from this sector be reduced, while productivity is maintained.

Goal 8, which is about promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and
productive employment and decent work for all ,may help to increase these investments. Target 8.2, to
achieve higher economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation,
may directly help to increase the average value of food production (food availability indicator).

Goal 9, to build resilient infrastructures, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster
innovation, mainly covers the aspects of food availability and access. It highlights the necessity to
promote investments into infrastructures/research/technology and innovation, which will help ensure that
more people will have sufficient availability of food. Additionally, target 9.3, to increase the access to
affordable credits, may provide a means to invest in rural and agricultural structures and/or to build new
agricultural cooperation. Targets 9.1/9.2/9.4 and 9.a aim to increase the share of resilient infrastructures,

38 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

particularly in developing countries, where food security continues to be limited to some extent by sole
access to food and its markets.

Goal 10. As mentioned previously, one dimension of food security deals with political stability and the
absence of violence/terrorism. This may be influenced by target 10.2, to empower and promote the social,
economic and political inclusion of all.

While Goal 11 mainly concentrates on the inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable development within
cities, one of the targets may help to promote the food security dimension of food access. Target 11.2
aims to promote transportation systems, which comes with the development of roads and railways. If
those become implemented and extended, in particular within developing countries, food access may
increase, as transportation of agricultural goods become easier in some remote areas as currently.

This may help to build up local markets or provide a means for people to travel more comfortably to the
nearby markets to buy agricultural goods. Further, the investments in infrastructures may open up new
export/import markets and thus help to increase the amount of available food.

Goal 12. One of the developed food security concepts within the Goals, in comparison with the four
dimensions, is the integration of the global food waste challenge. Target 12.3 obliges the global society to
halve per capita global food waste. This may help to increase the amount of available food, in particular
for the poor. However, the consideration of food waste and thus the question of how the produced food is
used within the Goals may help to achieve food security in the long run.

Goal 13 aims to reduce climate change, while adapting the different sectors to the impacts. The integration
of climate change into the context of food security is essential to ensure long-term sustainability.

Goal 14 aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources and therefore has
an influence on the food security dimensions of food availability, access, stability and use/utilization.

Goal 15 aims to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. It may also have
an impact on the food security indicator of the access to improved water sources. Through the protection,
restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services (target
15.1), the quality and quantity of water sources may improve; therefore, more people, particularly in rural
areas, may use natural bodies of water more safely as water sources (food use/utilization).

Goal 16 aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access
to justice for all and build effective, accountable institutions at all levels.

Additionally, Goal 16, to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, may influence the food security
dimensions of food access (by the reduction of violent conflicts road infrastructures are less harmed) and
food stability.

Goal 17 aims to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for
Sustainable Development; it may have an impact on the four dimensions of food security through
investments in agriculture and access to science, technology, and innovation appropriate for addressing
food security.


Table 1 Relationship between the four dimensions of food security and the Sustainable
Development Goals

Availability Access Stability Use/ utilization

Goal 1: no poverty X X

Goal 2: zero hunger X X X X

Goal 3: good health and well-being X

Goal 4: quality education X

Goal 5: gender equality X X X X

Goal 6: clean water and sanitation X X

Goal 7: affordable and clean energy X X X X

Goal 8: decent work and economic growth X X

Goal 9: industry, innovation and infrastructure X X

Goal 10: reduced inequalities X X

Goal 11: sustainable cities and communities X

Goal 12: sustainable production
and consumption X X

Goal 13: climate action X X

Goal 14: life below water X X X X

Goal 15: life on land X

Goal 16: peace, justice and strong institutions X X X

Goal 17: partnerships for the Goals

Note: X indicates coverage of the respective dimension of food security by the relevant Sustainable Development Goal.

40 The role of science, technology and innovation in ensuring food security by 2030

Table 2. Sustainable Development Goal targets related to Goal 2: End hunger with a relation to
science, technology and innovation


I t








I n










I r





















I r










I r














I r












Task Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved
nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Task 2.1 End hunger and ensure access to nutritious
and sufficient food all year round X X ! ! ! !

Task 2.2 End all forms of malnutrition X X ! ! ! !
Task 2.3 Double agricultural productivity

and incomes of small-scale food producers X X X ! ! !

Task 2.4 Ensure sustainable food production systems
and implement resilient agricultural practices X X ! ! ! !

Task 2.5 Maintain diversity of seeds and animals X X X ! ! !

Task 2.a Increase investment in agricultural research,
extension services and technology development X X X !

Task 2.b Correct and prevent trade restrictions X X ! ! ! !
Task 2.c Ensure functioning of food commodity markets

and limit extreme food price volatility X X ! ! !

Task Goal 6

Task 6.1 Universal and equitable access to safe
and affordable drinking water X X ! ! !

Task 6.4 Increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and X X ! ! !

Task 6.b Support and strengthen the participation
of local communities in improving water and sanitation management X X ! !

Task Goal 9

Task 9.b Support domestic STI for e.g.
industrial diversification and value addition to commodities X X X

Task Goal 12

Task 12.2 By 2030, achieve the sustainable
management and efficient use of natural resources X X ! ! ! !

Task 12.3 Halve per capita global food waste at the retail and
consumer levels and reduce food losses including post-harvest losses X X ! ! ! !

Task Goal 13

Task Goal 13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to
climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries X X ! ! ! !

Tasks Goal 17
Task 17.6 Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular

regional and international cooperation on and access to science,
technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually

agreed terms, including through improved coordination among
existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level,

and through a global technology facilitation mechanism

X X !

Note: X means addressed STI directly or indirectly through quantitative targets in the relevant Sustainable Development Goal.
!: STI not addressed in the SDG.



Food insecurity A situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and
nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life. It may be
caused by the unavailability of food, insufficient purchasing power, inappropriate distribution
or inadequate use of food at the household level. Food insecurity may be chronic, seasonal
or transitory (SOFI, 2015)

Food security A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access
to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for
an active and healthy life. Based on this definition, four food security dimensions can be
identified: food availability, economic and physical access to food, food use/utilization and
stability over time (SOFI, 2015)

Hunger “The term hunger is used as being synonymous with chronic undernourishment.”
(http://www.fao.org/hunger/glossary/en/ )

Malnutrition An abnormal physiological condition caused by inadequate, unbalanced or excessive
consumption of macronutrients and/or micronutrients. Malnutrition includes undernutrition and
overnutrition, as well as micronutrient deficiencies. (http://www.fao.org/hunger/glossary/en/ )

Macronutrients In this document, this means the proteins, carbohydrates and fats that are available to be
used for energy. They are measured in grams (FAO et al., 2015).

Micronutrients Vitamins, minerals and certain other substances that are required by the body in small
amounts. They are measured in milligrams or micrograms (FAO et al., 2015).

Undernourishment “Undernourishment means that a person is not able to acquire enough food to meet the
daily minimum dietary energy requirements, over a period of one year. FAO defines hunger
as being synonymous with chronic (lasting for at least one year) undernourishment.” (FAO,

Undernutrition “The outcome of undernourishment, and/or poor absorption and/or poor biological use of
nutrients consumed as a result of repeated infectious disease. It includes being underweight
for one’s age, too short for one’s age (stunted), dangerously thin for one’s height (wasted)
and deficient in vitamins and minerals (micronutrient malnutrition).” (http://www.fao.org/

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