The Food Security Program hosted the visit of Dr. Patrick Caron to FAFS on April 18-20, when he delivered two lectures and participated in two roundtable discussions with faculty, staff, and students. A veterinary doctor and specialist of farming systems and territorial dynamics, Dr. Caron’s work analyzes the role of agriculture and livestock in rural transformations, particularly in Brazil, Southern Africa and the Near East. Dr. Caron joined France’s Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD) in 1988, where he served as a Director-General for research and strategy from 2010 to 2016. Since 2015, he has served as the chair of the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE)’s Steering Committee.
Lecture on “Guiding Food Security and Nutrition Policy: The Role of HLPE Steering Committee”:
Dr. Caron discussed the role of the HLPE Steering Committee in food security and nutrition. The HLPE was created in 2010 to help reform the international governance of food security and to advise the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the foremost intergovernmental and international platform dealing with food security and nutrition. The HLPE works to ensure more informed policy debates and to improve the quality, effectiveness and coherence of food security and nutrition policies from local to international levels.
Lecture on “Nutrition and Food Systems”:
In this lecture, Dr. Caron presented and discussed the latest HLPE report on “Nutrition and Food Systems.” He began by briefly describing the role and structure of the HLPE’s reports, which serve as a common, comprehensive, evidence-based starting point for policy convergence. Based on existing research and knowledge, these reports clarify contradictory information and knowledge, elicit backgrounds and rationales of controversies, and identify emerging issues. The 12 reports published to date cover a range of themes related to food security and nutrition, including price volatility, climate change, food losses and waste, and sustainable agricultural development. All HLPE reports can be found online at http://fao.org/cfs/cfs-hlpe/reports/en/.
Dr. Caron then communicated the three key messages of the report on “Nutrition and Food Systems”. First, the report emphasizes the role of diet as a link between the food system and nutrition. Second, the report highlights the essential role of the food environment – including food stores and outlets, advertising and marketing, and policy interventions including taxes and subsidies – in the food system, and in determining nutritional outcomes. Third, the report stresses the importance of all dimensions of sustainable development – economic, environmental, and social – for the analysis of agricultural and food systems. Speaking particularly to researchers and students in attendance, Dr. Caron highlighted the need for radical transformation, even revolution, within current food systems to deliver more sustainable outcomes, better nutrition, and the right to adequate food for all.
Roundtable Discussion on "Youth, Food Security and the HLPE":
Dr. Caron and Dr. Mahmoud El Solh, also a member of the HLPE Steering Committee, led a roundtable discussion with faculty members and current FAFS students on the role and contribution of youth to food security generally and the work of the HLPE in particular. Dr. Caron briefly noted the many reasons for youth engagement, notably their fresh perspective and the need to engage those future leaders and thinkers in addressing problems from today. He then presented a proposal for the concrete involvement of young people in the work of the HLPE, which was set for discussion at the next HLPE Steering Committee meeting to be held in May 2018. The discussion was wide-ranging, moving from questions about the form and structure of an HLPE youth network, to the inclusion of youth perspectives within HLPE reports, to the wider issue of youth engagement in agricultural and food systems.
Roundtable Discussion on “Research Collaboration and Exchange with CIRAD / Montpellier”:
Dr. Caron discussed opportunities for research collaboration and exchange between faculty, staff and students in Montpellier, France and in Beirut. AUB researchers were encouraged to discuss their own research programs in order to identify such opportunities. Montpellier is a hub for academic research in agriculture and food systems and is a home to institutions including the Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD), the Ecole Nationale Superieure Agronomique de Montpellier (Montpellier SupAgro), and the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Montpellier (CIHEAM-IAM). The roundtable discussion set the groundwork for a formal collaboration agreement between the research hubs.