High Level Panel 1: FAO

How innovation can help strengthen the sustainability of food systems and prevent future pandemics?

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Time: Tuesday, 19. January 2021, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (CET)
Languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Russian, Spanish

FAO organized a virtual High Level Panel on “How innovation can help strengthen the sustainability of food systems and prevent future pandemics”. The interactive discussion among senior government officials and the private sector focused on the impacts of the pandemic on food and agriculture.

In her opening speech Ms Julia Klöckner, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture of of Germany, highlighted the critical role of agriculture ministers in consistently implementing and complying with the One Health approach, given that most new viral diseases in the last years were of animal origin.

The panel discussed the One Health Approach, preventing future pandemics, innovative policies and the use of digital technologies in response to the pandemic. The panelists shared their experiences and responses to cope with the challenges posed by COVID-19. In this context, the Minister of Agriculture of South Africa outlined its experience monitoring animal movement inside the Kruger National Park, which alerts if wildlife comes into contact with domestic animals. The Minister of Agriculture of Uzbekistan and the Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Switzerland presented their innovative policies to improve food security and respond and later prevent future pandemics.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Syngenta Group provided the private sector perspective on the panel. He shared the examples of Syngenta’s work to improve farming practices and highlighted the examples from China, where it promotes farmers’ adoption of modern practices.

FAO’s Director-General reiterated the important role of innovation as a response to the COVID-19 and further pandemics, the importance of scientific information, political efforts and the need to work together with farmers and the private sector.


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Introductory statement

Panel guests

Qu Dongyu, who took office on 1 August 2019 as Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has spent his life working on how to make sure the world is fed.

Born in 1963 to a rice-growing family in China’s Hunan Province, Qu studied horticultural science at Hunan Agricultural University and then plant breeding and genetics at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. He later added environmental science to his knowledge portfolio while earning a PhD at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands.

He then progressed through a range of national and international activities, engaged simultaneously in science and management, all during a time when China’s reform and opening-up process led the country to dramatically reduce poverty and hunger in a country with 20 percent of the global population, 9 percent of the world’s cultivated land, and where over 90 percent of the rural population is engaged in small holder farm operations working less than 3 hectares.

His vision is founded on the belief that freedom from hunger is a basic human right, and that in the 21st century we have the capability to eradicate chronic food insecurity. While challenges loom, Qu’s cardinal principle is that “problems can also be the source of progress”.

Before coming to FAO, Qu served as China’s Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, where one of his achievements was to promote inclusive and innovative development and make sure information and communication technologies (ICT) were available in rural areas so that more than 400 million farmers could use their smartphones as a new farming tool.

That vision has been consistent across a professional career that includes periods in central and local government, in and leading research institutes, and as a human resources leader at the China Three Gorges Project Development Corporation, a $40 billion investment project.

Among his national initiatives has been to improve reporting of wholesale prices for agricultural products in China and foster the establishment of more than 100 specialty production areas geared to making local comparative advantages work to the benefit of local farmers. As Vice Governor of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, one of China’s landlocked and poorest areas, Qu formulated action plans aimed at poverty reduction, disaster reduction and prevention, women empowerment, agritourism and mutual learning platforms designed to boost trust between ethnic groups.

Qu says he represents the combination of an “Asian soul” and a “global mind”. Recognized for scientific innovation as a young scholar, Qu has for 30 years been involved in international exchanges and orchestrated major events including the World Potato Congress, the International Rice Congress and the International Conference on Plant Protection, and participated in multilateral initiatives such as the World Trade Organization and the G20 as well as numerous bilateral initiatives involving Asia, Africa and Latin America. He has also directly helped design flagship South-South Cooperation projects with FAO and the World Bank.

His motto is “Simple life, but not simple work”.

He is married, and has one daughter.

Angela Thokozile Didiza is currently a Member of Parliament (MP), serving as Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in the sixth administration under the leadership of President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa.

She has recently been elected as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Ministerial Specialised Technical Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment.

Educational qualifications

In 2007, she completed a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree from the University of South Africa (UNISA) and in she completed a Masters Degree in Tertiary Education Management from the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Ministerial positions

1994–1999: Served as the first woman Deputy Minister of Agriculture during the late President Nelson Mandela’s tenure.

1999–2004: Appointed as Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs.

2004–2006: Continued in the same portfolio as Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs—it was during this term of office that Didiza convened the National Land Summit in 2005 involving a wide range of stakeholders to reflect on South Africa’s land reform policies.

In 2006–2008: Honourable Didiza was appointed as the Minister of Public Works.

Other career positions and activities:

Honourable Didiza was re-elected as a Member of Parliament in the fifth administration and appointed as the House Chairperson: Internal Arrangements.

In 2016, she was elected as the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Africa Region.

Prior to becoming an MP, Minister Didiza worked in a number of organisations in various capacities such as:

– Legal Secretary at Mafika Mbuli.

– Programme Officer at Diakonia.

– 1989–1992: Youth Co-ordinator of South African Council of Young Women Christian Association (YWCA).

– 1992–1994: Secretary-General of the Women’s National Coalition that produced the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality; which was tabled in the first Parliament of South Africa.

– 2005: Young Global Leader named by the World Economic Foundation.

– 2011–2014: Project Consultant at the University of South Africa responsible for the establishment of the Archie Mafeje Research Institute on Applied Social Policy.

Board membership:

Minister Didiza serves on the board of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and Ohlange Institute.


She has served as a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Working Committee (NWC) of the African National Congress from 1997–2007 and was re-elected in 2012 to date.


In 2000, Jamshid Khodjaev graduated from the Tashkent State Economic University. He speaks English, Russian and Turkish.

By winning Scholarship of Fund “Umid”, created on the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan for gifted students, he received an MBA from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom in 2003, specializing in international economic relations, public administration.

Khodjaev has been constantly maintaining professional growth through taking part in international seminars and training courses at Commerzbank (Germany), the IMF (USA), Standard Bank (South Africa), JPMorgan Chase (USA), the Bank of Russia (Russian Federation), Natixis (France), KB Kookmin (South Korea), DBS (Singapore), Credit Suisse (Switzerland) and other organizations.


Career in the Central Bank of Uzbekistan

In the Central Bank of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Jamshid Khodjaev has went through a professional path from the leading specialist of the Department for Control over Foreign Exchange Operations and External Relations to the Director of the Department for International Reserves Management of the Central Bank of Uzbekistan. During 14 years of work in the structure of the Central Bank of Uzbekistan, he has held a managerial position for 8 years.

With Khodjaev’s direct participation, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan has established strategic partnership with the world’s leading banks in international financial and commodity markets, including banks of the USA, France, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and others, as well as the largest information and analytical companies Reuters and Bloomberg.

Also, Khodjaev has managed the project on organizing effective management of the country’s foreign exchange reserves based on best practices of leading countries of the world (Japan, South Korea and European countries), introduced a mechanism of fundamental and technical analysis of international financial and commodity markets in cooperation with foreign partner banks.


Work in the National Bank of Uzbekistan

In 2017, taking into account Khodjaev’s professional and personal characteristics, he was appointed to the post of the First Deputy Chairman of the National Bank for Foreign Economic Activity of the Republic of Uzbekistan, where he was in charge of the departments of the Treasury, Foreign Economic Activity, Information Technologies, project finance and others. Also, Khodjayev has actively participated in the processes of modernization of the bank’s activities and the work of its other departments and units.


Activity in the Accounts Chamber of Uzbekistan

In accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in August 2017 Khodjaev was appointed First Deputy Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Republic of Uzbekistan –  Head of Inspectorate for Control over completeness of revenue to the State Budget of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Within the operations of the Accounts Chamber of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Jamshid Khodjaev was in charge of fiscal policy, ensuring fullness of the profitable part of the budget, fiscal regulation, development and implementation of programs for socio-economic development, investigating the implementation of investment projects, as well as other areas within the competence of the supreme control body of the Republic of Uzbekistan.


On the post of the Minister of Foreign Trade

At the end of 2017, Khodjaev was appointed as the Minister for the Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

As one of the main tasks at the Ministry, Khodjaev sees the implementation of consistent liberalization of the country’s economy and bringing it to international standards. Under the leadership of the Minister Khodjaev, the following tasks are being implemented:

work on the development and realization of state policy in the foreign trade activities;

implementation of integrated research in global markets, promoting the realization of the export potential of Uzbekistan as well as programs supporting the export of goods, works and services;

promoting the expansion and strengthening of trade cooperation of the Republic of Uzbekistan with foreign countries;

ensuring favorable access to foreign markets for goods, works and services produced in the Republic of Uzbekistan, developing and implementing measures aimed at diversifying markets;

participation in the formation of parameters of the main indicators of foreign trade and in the improvement of the customs and tariff policy of the Republic of Uzbekistan;

development of proposals for the liberalization of foreign trade;

coordination of activities related to the implementation of the state policy in the sphere of foreign trade in goods (works and services), including specific goods and industrial products, as well as the application of measures of tariff and non-tariff regulation in foreign trade;

time processing and implementation of measures for infrastructure development of foreign trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in particular on the development of transit potential, logistics and transport corridors.

The Ministry also implements the government’s policy on creation of a system of strengthening the export potential of the republic. Special attention is paid to such issues as the expansion of financial and economic assistance to exporters, improving the efficiency of information and consulting services, improving the conditions for access and activities of local producers in foreign markets, and eliminating existing restrictions and barriers to export activities.

In January 2019 was appointed as the Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Christian Hofer has been the Director of the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) since 1 December 2019. He was previously Head of the Bern Cantonal Office for Agriculture and Nature (LANAT) for almost two years. From 2009 to 2017, he served as an Assistant Director of the FOAG, responsible for the Direct Payments and Rural Development Directorate. Christian Hofer grew up on a farm in Bannwil, in the Bernese Oberaargau region. He studied Agronomic Engineering (specialising in crop production) at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, graduating in1998. He also qualified as a teacher and worked as an agricultural consultant at Inforama Rütti (Bern). From 2000 to 2003, he managed the Profi Lait office and also worked as a scientist for the Swiss Grassland Society (AGFF). In 2003, he became Head of Sales (Switzerland) at DeLaval – the Swedish manufacturer of dairy farming equipment – in Sursee (Lucerne). He also obtained an MBA in Integrated Management from Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH).

Erik Fyrwald joined the Syngenta Group, one of the world’s leading agriculture companies, in June 2016 as Chief Executive Officer.

Erik Fyrwald served as chief executive officer of Univar, a leading distributor of chemistry and related services, from May 2012 until May 2016. In 2008, following a 27-year career at DuPont, he joined the Nalco Company, a leading water treatment products and services company, serving as chairman and chief executive officer until December 2011, when Nalco merged with Ecolab Inc. Following the merger, Erik Fyrwald served as president of Ecolab, a global provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies.

From 2003 to 2008, Erik Fyrwald served as group vice president of the agriculture and nutrition division at the DuPont Company. From 2000 until 2003, he was vice president and general manager of DuPont’s nutrition and health business.

Erik Fyrwald attended the University of Delaware, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1981. He also completed the advanced management program at Harvard Business School.

Erik Fyrwald serves on the boards of directors of Syngenta Group, Bunge, CropLife International, Eli Lilly, the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce and the UN World Food Program Farm to Market Initiative. He is also Chairman of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.

Erik Fyrwald was born in the United States in 1959 and is an American citizen.

Background information


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