Francesca Allievi - the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) Alumni group Operative President shares with us her thoughts, ideas and perspective on issues related to youth, agriculture and the agri-food sector through an interview conducted by Libuska Valesova - the YPARD Europe Coordinator.
Francesca is an experienced, educated and active agricultural professional who believes in the value of food as a communication means for a cultural and political message, necessary for a sustainable development of today's society. In 2007 she obtained a Master’s of Science in Environmental and Land Planning Engineering from Politecnico di Milano university.
She is currently a Ph.D. student at University of Turku, with a thesis on the impacts and future trends of meat and dairy products consumption. In 2012, she was a finalist in the BCFN Young Earth Solutions competition, with an idea for an application of the Double Pyramid concept to food labels. Since 2014 she cooperates with ArBio, Association for the Resilience of the Forest to the Inter-oceanic highway, which operates in Peru for the sustainable development and protection of the Amazon forest.Read more on her bibliography here.
Enjoy the interview below:
Libuska: As a researcher within the agri-sector, what youth strategies do you consider pivotal to improve the young professional's position in the agri-food sector?
Francesca: My wish would be to have more chances to make our voice heard where it matters. Consider the implications of reserving a place for young researchers in, for example, multi-stakeholder initiatives dealing with food issues: the added value of that point of view, I believe, would be beneficial for everyone and would enhance the relevance and dignity of the youth.
Libuska: Where do you think current research should be directed to ensure the sustainability of the agri-food production?
Francesca: As a researcher, I believe academia itself should start by „practicing what it is preaching“. A lot of different solutions need to be developed to ensure the production of food is not only sufficient, but also both nutritionally adequate and environmentally sustainable all over the world.So it is fundamental to focus the efforts on research that encompasses all these aspects. At the same time, I believe a lot more could be done within academia. Let that be the starting point to develop best practices in the food services offered, to affect the surrounding communities, to create change: food sustainability should be, not only taught but also practiced and implemented right in the academic institutions. Many are already going in this direction and that’s great, but so much more needs to be done. There is still so much untapped potential in this sense worldwide and that is why, for me, it is not only about the topic of the research but also about the coherence of accounting for the knowledge gained thanks to that research in those places where it is carried out.
Libuska: What role should young professionals in agriculture play in these researches?
Francesca: The younger generation has more tools to connect and gather information. So having young professionals in agriculture contributing to research with, for example, real-time data from the field, could be an asset also in the development of research which is in line with current bio-physical conditions.
Libuska: Could you give some insights on actions we can take now to contribute to the sustainability of the agri-food production?
Francesca: On an individual level, being aware of the consequences of our food choices is the first step that anyone can take. On a more collective level, placing resources in projects and practices that aim for the common good should become the norm. Local conditions may vary but globally we share the same resources and the same problems: this should be kept in mind also when it comes to policy making.
Libuska: Can you suggest any specific tool which can help policy makers in this sense?
Francesca: Together with the Economist Intelligence Unit, BCFN has developed the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) (available at the link here), which includes a total of 58 quantitative and qualitative key performance indicators on the issues of food waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. By monitoring the progress towards a more sustainable direction of a wide range of issues, we can also offer insights to policymakers to make sure that they account for all the dimensions of the food system. Moreover, the work of the FSI also serves as a collection of best practices that can be replicated or adapted. If we are to develop a more sustainable food system, efforts need to be placed on the involvement of all stakeholders and on the development of solutions which are beneficial for everyone.