Written by: Kimberly White

Five countries have committed to transforming their food and land use systems for the sake of people, nature, and climate. 

Brazil, Cambodia, Norway, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda have launched the Alliance of Champions for Food Systems Transformation, a new high-ambition coalition aimed at driving transformational change in food systems to enhance food security, support and empower farmers, and increase climate resilience through improved access of mitigation and adaption strategies.

Formally launched on COP28’s Food, Agriculture, and Water Day, the Alliance of Champions follows a recently released report from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) detailing the hidden costs of the world’s agrifood systems. Covering a broad spectrum of environmental and social costs, the FAO estimates that the total hidden costs of food systems amount to roughly $12.7 trillion, equivalent to nearly 10 percent of global GDP in 2020. 

As the world’s population has more than doubled in the last 60 years, the rapid intensification and expansion of agricultural production to try to meet the challenge of feeding an ever-growing population have resulted in severe environmental damage that has caused nature loss, dramatically altered landscapes, and has been linked to abhorrent human rights abuses.

“While climate breakdown, international conflict, and economic shocks have made our food systems more vulnerable than ever, their potential to become part of the solution to our global challenges has never been greater,” stated Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, ACF Co-Chair and Norwegian Minister of International Development. 

Through the Alliance, the countries have committed to taking a whole-of-government approach to transform the global food system in an effort to shift away from the harmful business-as-usual to a more sustainable, ethical, and just food system. 

“The Alliance of Champions gives countries a clear and ambitious framework for doing just that – whilst emphasising the importance of working together to accelerate progress,” added Tvinnereim.

“Peasant family farmers, Indigenous and local communities, forest collectors, pastoralists, fisherfolk, and agricultural workers are among the populations most harshly affected by climate change worldwide. Yet they are also the central actors who can sustainably transform food systems,” said Paulo Teixeira, ACF Co-Chair and Brazillian Minister of Agrarian Development and Family Farming. “Supporting their livelihoods through specifically tailored public policies is essential to achieve an agroecological transition towards healthy, resilient, and sustainable food systems.”

Alliance of Champions members pledge to strengthen their national visions and food system transformation pathways, targeting ten priority intervention areas:

  • Increasing food affordability
  • Improving the livelihoods of farmers and fisherfolk
  • Enhancing climate resilience and bolstering access to adaptation and mitigation strategies
  • Scaling up sustainable management practices
  • Advancing gender parity, with an emphasis on empowering women and marginalized groups in food production
  • Protecting and restoring nature 
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agrifood systems
  • Combatting food loss and waste
  • Accelerating innovation
  • Realigning public financial and policy incentives

Alliance members also pledge to update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and other national strategies to align with these updated National Food System Transformation Pathways or Implementation Plans within two years and are required to report annually on their targets and priority intervention areas. 

The Alliance of Champions aims to be a lodestar for other nations looking to deliver on food and climate commitments and spur progress on increased access to affordable, nutritious, and sustainable diets this decade. 

“These bold countries are willing to walk the talk on food systems transformation, and we applaud that,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. “If we are to rebalance our food system, we need to tackle tough choices, and these countries are showing that they have the conviction and leadership to do that.”