21 December 2020

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and Zubair Small Enterprises Centre (Zubair SEC) conducted two special dialogue sessions on strengthening the role of small enterprises in the food systems in the Sultanate of Oman.

The sessions which focussed on “strengthening the role of small and medium enterprises in the food systems in the Sultanate of Oman” was organised on December 8 and 15. It was attended by multi-stakeholder technical working groups including private and public sector representatives, food related SMEs, experts in the field of nutrition and other relevant parties

The dialogue sessions come within the framework of cooperation that exists between FAO and the Zubair SEC. The two sessions reviewed themes covering issues related to the sustainability of food systems, how to make them more resilient, how to strengthen relationship and establish communication channels between the various sectors in the field of agriculture, health, and food.

A sustainable food system (SFS) is a food system that delivers food security and nutrition for all in such a way that the economic, social, and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised. It means that it is profitable throughout (economic sustainability); it has broad-based benefits for society (social sustainability); and has a positive or neutral impact on the natural environment (environmental sustainability). The SDGs call for major transformations in agriculture and food systems in order to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition by 2030.

The two sessions focused on the concepts and dimensions of the three sustainable systems (supply chains, the nutritional environment and consumer behaviours) and the importance of a multi-sectoral dialogue on these dimensions. The significant results of the nutrition-sensitive food value chain evaluation study that was carried out by the FAO with the participation of the Zubair SEC earlier this year was presented.

During the session, various stakeholders discussed different priorities and interests among relevant sectors and how they affect each other.  The dialogue focussed on the ways in which various stakeholders can contribute to creating an enabling and inclusive environment for food system transformation towards healthy diets at national level.

During the dialogue, Her Excellency Nora Ourabah Haddad, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in the Sultanate said, “Current food systems are increasingly challenged to provide adequate, safe, diversified, and nutritious foods that are affordable, accessible and available and contribute to healthy diets for all. This requires transforming current food systems, which necessitates strong engagement and collaboration from all stakeholders.

Her Excellency added, “This dialogue is an opportunity for all parties, especially representatives of small farmers and small and medium enterprises, to make their voices heard and contribute to setting sound investment policies and programmes.”

The Ministry of Agricultural, Fisheries and Water Resources and the Ministry of Health stressed the importance of developing appropriate policies that consider nutrition and health, with the participation of all parties.

Dr Fatima Hachem, Senior Nutrition Officer, FAO, reviewed some solutions to transform food systems, and stated: “There are three main paths to supply chains through which food systems and nutrition can be improved, and work can also be made to improve the nutritional environment. This can be done by increasing consumption nutritious foods; reducing consumption of less nutritious foods; and increasing income that enables consumers to purchase more nutritious foods.”

All participants stressed the importance of the role of academic and research institutions in generating knowledge and making evidence-based policies in food systems, in addition to the role of the private sector in enhancing the nutritional value of products and moving towards local products of nutritional and healthy value.

The attendees agreed on the urgent need to enhance the capacities of small farmers and small enterprises and enable them to provide various foods of high nutritional value and cover local demand.

Ali Shaker, Advisor, Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, Zubair SEC said: “Organising this dialogue in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to empower small and medium enterprises and small farmers, create opportunities and identify challenges at all stages of the supply chain and production, is a qualitative leap for this vital and important sector. This is in line with the Sultanate’s national orientation in terms of raising the level of food security and its sustainability. We hope to work with all stakeholders involved in this dialogue, to follow up and implement the recommendations made in this study and dialogue, to empower and activate the role of these small and medium enterprises in these healthy food chains. We hope to continue our successful plans and partnership with FAO in the upcoming programmes.”

In conclusion, this dialogue highlighted the promising opportunities and the sessions contributed to defining goals and visions for creating sustainable food systems. It was agreed with government agencies, small and medium-sized companies, farmers and academics to create a comprehensive programme that takes into account all aspects of a sustainable food system.

With an intention to design a project that aims at strengthening the role of Omani SMEs in achieving food security in Oman, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations had signed a letter of agreement (LOA) with Zubair SEC in 2019 March.

Zubair SEC and FAO had earlier collaborated in raising awareness of Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) by hosting FAO representative in Oman as the key speaker at a special ‘Tajribati’, a monthly dialogue session designed for SMEs. The session was a great success and attracted a large number of audiences who showed keen interest in knowing about SDGs and the role of SMEs in the area.

Since its establishment Zubair SEC has always been keen on raising awareness and sharing knowledge on sustainability and social impact and has held frequent seminars, workshops, or participated as speakers at leading and relevant conferences.


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