Businesses are established with a profit motive to minimize costs and maximize profits. Such a behaviour has a special characteristic that is important in fostering resilience and sustainability in agro-food systems. As long as there is profit, businesses will continue to invest in any sub-component for the food system. It is important to leverage on the different capacities of businesses in the transformation of agro-food systems,” said Patrice Talla, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa (SRC) and FAO Representative to Zimbabwe.

More than 40 diplomats and business executives in Zimbabwe gathered to discuss the role of businesses in transformation of agro-food systems. FAO gave a remarkable speech on the role of business in transforming food systems at the national Diplomat Business Networking Club (DBNC). This is a platform to present a unique opportunity to network with global leaders, cement collaborations and share knowledge and experiences as the country strengthens its effort to achieve the 2030 national agenda.

“Considering the importance of sustainable food systems to the attainment of SDGs, we decided to host an event that increases business understanding of food systems transformation. We were encouraged by Dr. Talla’s call for businesses to take an active role in transforming food systems and commit to the achievement of SDGs,” said Reginald Chapfunga, DBNC Founder.

FAO and private sector engagement

FAO presented its strategies and initiatives that are meant to provide practical means to foster partnerships work around private sector engagement. These initiatives are centred around FAO’s strategic framework 2022 – 2031 seeks to support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.

FAO has one of its flagship programme the Hand-in-Hand Initiative (HiHi). It is designed to scale up and promote SDG aligned investments in many countries including Zimbabwe. The HiHi has facilitated the establishment of a practical institution or platform to allow such collaboration and partnership to take place. In addition, FAO also presented its private sector anchored initiatives on smallholder irrigation systems; smallholder farmer aggregation and marketing infrastructure; mechanization and the rural industrialisation and agro-processing.

“FAO seriously appreciates the role of private sector in agro-food systems transformation. We recently launched FAO’s Private Sector Engagement Strategy, which will run until the year 2025. The strategy lays down a clear plan on how we facilitate dialogue between governments and the private sector, developing and encouraging the use of voluntary standards, facilitating private investment in good value chains that will include smallholders and others that have been largely excluded,” said Patrice Talla.

The forum facilitated a question and answer session following up to FAO’s presentation. The discourse had a consensus that investment and collaboration with the government and private sector is key in agro-food systems transformation in order foster resilience and sustainability. Private sector players presented the challenges and a shared common vision of their commitment to support development partners and smallholder farmers following up to FAO’s strategy on inclusion of private sector in agro-food systems transformation.

At the end of the forum, FAO acknowledged the importance of an enabling ecosystem to allow private investments growth in agriculture. FAO committed to continue working with the Government of Zimbabwe in providing dedicated policy support on stimulating private sector investments in agriculture. Going forward, FAO will continue support and promoting the use of smart policy instruments to unlock private sector potential in the agriculture sector in Zimbabwe.