UNIDO Director-General Gerd Mueller (left) and FAO Director-General QU Dongyu meet in Doha. Photo Credit: FAO
Programme aims to improve food security and nutrition in Least Developed Countries
By Murimi Gitari, March 7, 2023, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have jointly launched the Agrifood Systems Transformation Accelerator (ASTA), a global programme designed to help Least Developed Countries make their agrifood systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable by fostering partnerships and generating public-private investments.
The launch took place on March 6 during a bilateral meeting between FAO Director-General QU Dongyu and his UNIDO counterpart, Gerd Mueller, on the sidelines of the Fifth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Doha, Qatar.
ASTA is the first centrepiece of a new collaboration between FAO and UNIDO and helps generate investment in the agrifood system of some of the world’s poorest countries, including through development of value chains, market systems, business models and inclusive finance, in order to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Addressing the future of agrifood systems requires a holistic view covering many topics, such as the climate crisis, agricultural production, value chain efficiency, inclusion, nutrition, land use and biodiversity, among others. ASTA offers a concrete tool to help countries realize the objective of agrifood systems transformation,” Qu said.
“ASTA identifies investment opportunities and helps channel those investments into food value chains. With such efforts, FAO and UNIDO are natural partners. Our expertise and efforts complement each other. I am very proud of our cooperation with FAO,” Mueller said.
ASTA’s launch comes at a time when our agrifood systems are threatened under the pressure of the climate crisis, ongoing conflicts and war, as well as the protracted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This requires a fresh approach and novel solutions.
ASTA does this in four ways: By breaking down silos through broad-based public-private collaborations; by doing away with the traditional top-down support and placing the beneficiaries in the driving seat; by embodying the ONE UN approach, whereby different UN organizations combine forces to assist countries in more synergistic ways; as well as a shift away from targeting individual SDG indicators.
Such a shift is especially relevant for LDCs, where multiple bottlenecks often hinder urgent change and where integrated solutions based on inter-ministerial and public-private sector collaborations are essential.
Crucially, the programme helps countries move from broad recommendations and strategies to concrete implementation with measurable impacts.
The ASTA approach has been field-tested since 2018 in 15 countries across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific and South America.
One example where the ASTA model has been successfully tested is in Suriname, where public funding worth $2 million was secured to promote $8 million in private investments to transform its pineapple value chain.
Looking ahead, the aim is for ASTA to generate at least $300 million in private investments during the next five years.