The Rockefeller Foundation and the Food System Vision Prize Jan. 7, ahead of the first-ever United Nations’ Food Systems Summit, announced its top 10 “Visionaries” who offer solutions to complex food system challenges, including two India-based efforts.

The visionaries – named across six categories: environment, diets, economics, culture, technology and policy – will each be awarded $200,000 in recognition of their bold ideas for tackling some of the world’s most pressing food systems challenges.

Among the winners were India-based Arakunomics and Eat Right.

Focusing on the regions of Araku, Wardha, and New Delhi, India, the Arakunomics vision empowers tribal communities and seeks to ensure environmental sustainability, fair profits for farmers, and food and nutrition security for all, according to the release.

Arakunomics’ vision aims to address India’s broken food system, showing how one model can shift the country’s current state from a near-crisis to one in which good food is affordable, bountiful, provides nutrition, and boosts immunity without damaging the environment, its profile says.

In India, there is an increasing dependence on cheap ultra-processed foods and a lack of biodiversity in food production, resulting in poor nutrition. Farming has also become unprofitable, through a decline in soil fertility; increasing pest attacks; and the adverse impacts of the climate crisis, the profile adds.

Arakunomics is centered around three main principles, focuses on three vastly different regions, and addresses the challenges of three unique demographics. Targeting areas that represent the diverse geographical and topographical challenges of India, the vision focuses on the tribal hilly region of Araku in the Eastern Ghats; the rural drought-prone lands of Wardha; and the metropolitan city of New Delhi, it said.

While the Arakunomics vision focuses on three regions of India, this strategy for a new future of food could be scaled to become a national solution, it said.

The Eat Right vision, from New Delhi, looks to create a national movement toward healthier diets through a systems-based approach of reducing food waste, improving hygiene and sanitation across the value chain, and increasing access to and affordability of healthy foods.

Eat Right’s vision uses a multidisciplinary approach to build a future where safe, healthy, and sustainable diets improve the health and well-being of all Indians.

India’s population, projected to reach around 1.64 billion by 2050, is growing at a rapid pace. The population’s diet is predominantly cereal-based (rice and wheat) and protein-deficient, lacking fruits and vegetables and including an increasing amount of fats and sugars, the vision’s profile page notes.

Malnutrition is a major challenge: more than 50 percent of women of reproductive age and children are anemic. The number of people who are overweight or obese has doubled over the last decade for populations in both rural and urban areas, while 25 percent of children and adolescents in the country are stunted, it says.

Despite issues with malnutrition and stunting, 20 percent of food is wasted nationally, with lack of cold storage as the primary reason for fruit, vegetable, milk and meat waste.

Winners were selected from a pool of more than 1,300 applicants from 119 countries who responded to the prize’s call for researchers, nonprofits, businesses, governments, and other groups focused on food system-related challenges to submit ambitious and attainable plans for regenerative, nourishing food systems by the year 2050.

The top 10 Visionaries were selected based on their potential to inspire real, positive and bold transformation within specific food systems.

Collectively, the Visions include over 100 solutions capable of boosting resilience and future-proofing food systems to tomorrow’s shocks, which the Covid-19 pandemic has proved to be essential, it said.

Sara Farley, managing director of the Food Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation adds, “Each of them shows us that through collaboration, design, and planning, we can be prepared for future shocks and we can thrive in the face of challenges. But more intrinsically, we can all be protagonists in our own future.”

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