Industries in Depth

Rethinking the future of agriculture

A woman farmer walks with her cattle against the backdrop of monsoon clouds. Image: REUTERS/Jayanta Dey

Shay Eliaz
Principal, Deloitte
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Agriculture, Food and Beverage

This week leaders are converging at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos to exchange ideas, shape global agendas, and take steps to solving the world’s most challenging and imminent problems. As part of Deloitte’s work with the Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture team, we’ve been focusing on challenges within the world’s food and agriculture systems - and in particular how leaders across sectors can work together to make our global food systems more inclusive, sustainable, efficient, and nutritious.

Our food systems today face many challenges. Some 795 million people in the world go hungry every day, while one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. The world now has even more obese people than hungry people, highlighting fundamental problems with both food quality and its allocation around the globe. Further, over half of the world’s hungry people are smallholder farmers, despite the fact that they produce up to 80% of the food supply in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Agriculture and food production are also major drivers of climate change and resource consumption, with 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of water withdrawal coming from the agrifood sectors. These issues will only become more urgent in the future, as extreme climate events increasingly threaten crop yields and rural populations flee to urban areas – whose expansion increases competition for already-scarce land and water resources.

These challenges are complex and increasingly interconnected, driven by the actions and interactions of many diverse stakeholders. To solve these problems, we must move beyond our silos and take an “ecosystem approach” to our food systems which maximizes for the whole rather than an individual part. Tackling such large scale, complex issues requires transforming the system itself, engaging leaders across industries, geographies and stakeholder groups in coordinated action to reach outcomes that benefit all actors.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals identify multi-stakeholder partnerships as important vehicles for achieving all of the SDGs, which include ending poverty and hunger, taking urgent action to combat climate change, and ensuring clean water and healthy lives for all. By working collectively and sharing knowledge, expertise, resources and innovations, stakeholders can produce an impact that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The NVA Partnership Model, as described in a guide co-authored by Deloitte and launched at Davos this week, provides examples on how multi-stakeholder partnerships can be built to achieve our goals for the world’s food and agriculture systems. These are not conceptual or theoretical examinations, but very clear and actionable approaches designed through thorough experiences and observations. These have yielded insights and lessons - from numerous countries - that form the foundations of an emerging model for collective action.

The need for new approaches is clear, but the innovation and willingness to collaborate that I have seen through these partnerships suggests we can (and should) address these challenges collectively.

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