Making data, information, knowledge, investment and innovation available for all, especially for Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), will be a game changer in transforming global agrifood systems to make them more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

This was a key takeaway from a special event focused on enabling research, science, and innovation in LMICs and SIDS organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) as part of the Science and Innovation Forum.

Climate-related disasters have become more frequent and intense taking a heavy toll on the most vulnerable countries: from deadly floodings in Libya, India and Pakistan; intense storms in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe; to intensifying heatwaves across the world.

Between 2008 and 2018 the impact of these types of disasters cost the agricultural sector in developing economies over US$108 billion.

The impacts of the climate crisis are increasingly affecting global agrifood systems – not only food production, but also people’s lives and livelihoods, particularly in LMICs and SIDS. These countries contribute the least to global climate change and yet pay the biggest price.

“We need bold, ambitious climate action now, to scale up action to strengthen resilience, adaptation and reduction of risks across agrifood systems and rural areas,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said at the event noting that for climate action to be effective, it must be based on sound research, science and innovation, and cannot adopt a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Qu outlined several priority climate actions. They include enhancing inclusion, scaling up innovation and investment – particularly in resilience to strengthen impact on the ground – improving infrastructure and capacity building.

The session also saw the participation of among others Luxiang Liu, Professor and Executive Director General at the Institute of Crop Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS); Viliami T. Manu, CEO at the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Forests of Tonga; Paulo Alberto Nussenzveig, Provost of Research and Innovation of the University of Sao Paulo (USP); Patrick Okori, the Executive Secretary of RUFORUM – a network of 163 Universities in 40 countries of Africa; Esther Esteban Rodrigo, Director of the Spanish National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (CN, INIA, CSIC) and Bente E. Torstensen, CEO and Managing Director of Nofima – a leading food research institute from Norway.

The participants shared experiences and insights on facilitating access to science, research, and innovation in LMICs and SIDS to strengthen capabilities in climate change adaptation, mitigation, resilience and response. They also discussed context-specific and evidence-based solutions for populations that are not sufficiently represented in global research agendas while facing disproportionate impacts.

The speakers highlighted the need for tailoring solutions to the local contexts in partnership with academia and civil society. This will help to foster research and innovations in agriculture, putting women and youth at the centre of solutions. Other priorities include enhancing collaborations between countries to combine complimentary skills, boosting public-private partnerships, and developing capacities for country- and local-level agrifood systems.

Through programmes like the FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme and the Brazil-FAO International Cooperation Programme, FAO provides access to critical investments, catalysing solutions, knowledge and innovations in developing countries.