5 take-aways from the conference Zero Hunger: Partnerships for Impact

Published on
September 5, 2018

By Linda Veldhuizen

On 30-31 August, Wageningen took centre stage for SDG 2, with its conference Zero Hunger: Partnerships for Impact. Missed it? Here are 5 take-aways to bring you up to speed.

1.     We need food system approaches

Lawrence Haddad: “From feeding the world to nourishing the world sustainably requires transforming our food systems”

Food system is the new buzzword. Does it also add substance – or are we just overcomplicating things? Well, I haven’t seen any evidence supporting the superiority of a food systems approach over for example a value chain approach. But I have learned that food systems thinking helps you identify opportunities and challenges beyond your normal scope. To make life easier, you can start by mapping a food system and then zoom in on a specific part – as long as you keep an eye on the connections to the wider food system.

2.     Learn from the best

“What Africa is doing for agriculture today will determine the future of food tomorrow” – Akinwuni Adesina

“By outsourcing your value chain you cannot outsource your responsibility” – Paul Polman

“We saved lives, but we didn’t change lives” – Ertharin Cousin

“Policies, institutions and technologies are key” – Shenggen Fan

“Tackling youth unemployment and food security is not about ‘making agriculture more sexy’, it is about making agriculture profitable” – Ken Giller

“You have offered us food for thought and thought for food” – Carola Schouten

3.     Youth

An innovative part of this conference was that student teams in Wageningen and other parts of the world worked on SDG 2 challenges in the 36-hour Foodathon. These teams worked day and night, and inspired many participants to contribute. A great way to connect youth and experts!

4.     No one can do it alone

David Nabarro: “It is our collective responsibility to nurture a sustainable future where everyone can live well. This requires major transformations in all spheres of life everywhere, which can only be achieved through connections and bridges between disciplines, people and territories”

Partnerships were central to the SDG conference. Let me highlight three new partnerships here:

  • The Agrifood 5 Alliance (A5) between China Agricultural University, Cornell University, UC Davis, the University of São Paulo and Wageningen University & Research was announced.
  • Wageningen recently joined the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, where Ken Giller co-chairs the thematic network on Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems.
  • The SDG conference ended by announcing the first winners of the Borlaug Youth Institute award, the result of a partnership between the World Food Prize Foundation and Wageningen.

5.     Commitments

The SDG conference was all about making commitments, so what is my commitment? The session ‘Trade-offs and synergies at different levels’ showed that models like MAGNET and IMAGE can offer useful insights in trade-offs and synergies at global and national level. However, they cannot give insights in social processes or subnational levels. This is something I want to work on over the next few months. If you have any thoughts on this, please contact me at