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WWF: Investing $15.2 Billion Annually in Food-Based Innovations Can Drive Sustainable Transformation

To address the urgent need for transforming the global food system and achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) emphasizes the crucial role of innovative solutions and investment. According to a recent study released by WWF, an additional $15.2 billion of food-based innovation funds is required annually to drive the necessary changes, benefiting local communities and the environment.

The report, titled "Right Innovation, Right Impact, Right Place," challenges the notion that only a few innovations have the potential to revolutionize the entire global food system. It also refutes the idea that many innovations are yet to be developed or rely solely on high-tech inputs that need further refinement. Instead, WWF argues that a diverse range of technological, social, legislative, business, and financial innovations exist, and their impact depends on the specific context and location in which they are applied. Ensuring that funding is not solely directed towards a narrow interpretation of food systems innovation is vital.

The report provides a framework that guides decision-makers in funding and implementing the most impactful food-based innovations, considering the specific requirements and transformational needs of each country. It equips decision-makers with the necessary tools to allocate finance to innovations that are most appropriate for various regions worldwide.

The study showcases several examples of locally tailored food system innovations, which have proven successful in specific contexts. For instance, in Kenya, a business innovation has resulted in the establishment of a new marketplace in the Lake Naivasha Basin, reducing food loss and promoting nature-positive production for smallholder farmers. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a technological innovation has enhanced traceability and transparency in supply chains, ensuring fair payment for coffee bean farmers and the implementation of nature-positive practices. Additionally, in Paraguay, social innovations supporting community-led agroforestry and Indigenous food production have facilitated landscape restoration and improved livelihoods.

In 2021, UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres convened the UN Food Systems Summit to drive ambitious actions towards achieving progress on all SDGs. The Summit generated significant commitments to increase innovation funding. However, as the first biennial Stocktaking Moment approaches (24-26 July), significant gaps persist in terms of ambition, finance, and implementation in many national-level plans for food systems transformation.

Brent Loken, Global Food Lead Scientist at WWF, emphasizes the critical role of innovations in transforming food systems to eliminate hunger, food insecurity, and environmental crises. He stresses the importance of finding the right innovation, with the right impact, in the right place. In some regions, highly novel innovations may be necessary, while in others, creative utilization of existing solutions may suffice. Loken urges the world to fulfill the increased funding commitments made at the UN Food Systems Summit, as failure to do so would result in a decade of inaction rather than a decade of action.

Elisa Vacherand, Global Finance Practice Leader at WWF, highlights the underfunding of food systems innovation, similar to conservation and climate finance. To bridge this gap, she calls for the public sector to provide technical assistance, concessional finance, and support blended finance mechanisms that mitigate risk and attract private investment for innovation. Vacherand also stresses the importance of innovators identifying potential funding sources early on and developing bankable projects to attract investors who can support the most impactful innovations in the shortest possible time.

The report from WWF serves as a clarion call to mobilize investment in food-based innovations and channel them effectively to drive sustainable transformation across the globe. By allocating the necessary resources, governments, organizations, and stakeholders can contribute to the vital task of revolutionizing the food system and achieving a more sustainable future.


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