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FLR349 and partners wins Climate Action Awards at FeedUp@UN forum

09 March 2021

In 2021, FeedUp@UN* and the Agricultural and Food Marketing Association for Asia and the Pacific (AFMA) hosted the ‘Sustainable Wellness Destination Forum’ titled “Social-Environmental-Economical Wellness from New Normal to Better Normal.”

 © WWF Thailand

The COVID-19 pandemic has globally disrupted the wellness system, sustainable tourism, and food value chains.
The economic and environmental impacts affect the poor and less fortunate disproportionately  

The Sustainable Wellness Destination forum was created with a mission to showcase the holistic wellness modality and to form multi-stakeholder partnerships to bring an end to global hunger, a problem that has been exacerbated due to the pandemic.
To achieve this, the Food Visibility Platform was introduced to connect sustainable food producers to global consumers and to strengthen the food value chain.
The forum discussed sustainability in the age of COVID-19 and the role everyone – from everyday consumers to the wellness sector and large corporations – has if we are to build a stronger food system to return more resilient and sustainable from the pandemic.

The ‘Climate Action Awards’ were given out in recognition of organisations and projects that have made positive environmental impacts.
The forum was attended by businesses and individuals from varying sectors as well as his Excellency the Ambassador of The Republic of Maldives to The Kingdom of Thailand.  
Evidently, COVID-19 has impacted us all, especially the wellness and hospitality industry.
Importantly however,  while the economic and social impacts have been the key discussion points and major efforts have been implemented to mitigate them, the environmental impacts are often overlooked.  Our sustainability efforts have been disrupted.
“COVID 19 has disrupted many businesses, affected all lives, and delayed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Society and citizens are stumbling from widespread disruptions, biodiversity is also disappearing. The disruption is a stress test on wellness and sustainability that will not be the last test” said Dr. Tanasak Wahawisan, Chairperson of AFMA in the events opening remarks.
However, amidst the challenges, there are opportunities for change. “The COVID-19 pandemic the greatest challenge faced by us now brings lessons learned together new opportunities,” Dr. Wahawisan continued.
Despite the challenges bought about by the pandemic, the speakers highlighted how sustainability should be a focus more than ever, rather than using the crisis as an excuse to push sustainability efforts aside.  
“Our appetite for transformation and change is growing. Our aim is to show that transformation is possible and that we must take action now” said Dr. Thirach Rungruang executive director of Feedup@UN
We must learn from the challenges we are facing, and realise the way we are currently living is not sustainable. we have been taking many things for granted, and we must take the opportunity to change. 
The pandemic has been a wake-up call for many of us “that has forced us to re-think our way of life on this planet,” said his Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Maldives to the Kingdom of Thailand.
As the world begins to recover with vaccines beginning to be rolled out around the world, sustainability must be at the centre of our restoration efforts, says the ambassador. “In a new normal while we work to revive businesses and restore livelihoods we must focus on making the road as green as possible, as resilient as possible, and as sustainable as possible,” his Excellency continued.

 his Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Maldives to the Kingdom of Thailand. © WWF Thailand
“Respect for nature its resources and living within our means must be an integral part of our lifestyle, and protection of our environment will then follow naturally.”
This sentiment was shared by FeedUp@UN's  Dr. Rungruang.
“We are talking about the new normal, but how can we move forwards from the new normal to a better normal? How could we use this challenge as a stress test so we can move on our weakness? (sic)”  Feedup@UN’s Executive Director questioned.
One of the biggest issues in sustainability we are facing that has come to the forefront during the pandemic is the agriculture industry. 90% of the agriculture in Thailand comes from just 6 major crops. These crops prices are volatile and farmers have low income, therefore few people want to enter into the business, which is problematic for a country like Thailand which is rooted in agriculture. This has led to an aging agriculture workforce. These issues are paired with deteriorating natural resources leading to a failing food system.
This problem was clearly highlighted during the pandemic where many farmers struggled to feed themselves and their families despite having the skill and land required to be self-sustaining. Moreover, due to the agriculture industry being dominated by just 6 crops, the current food system in Thailand is not sustainable, and food shortages and food insecurities became prevalent during the pandemic when supply chains and income sources were heavily disrupted. Despite having arable lands and skilled farmers, hunger became widespread in Thailand especially for those in the lower socio-economic classes. 
For Dr. Nakorn Premsri, Director of the National Vaccine Institute, the solution, and way forward is the ‘BCG model,’ or Bio-economy, Circular economy, and Green economy, an economic model which aims at sustainable growth.

Dr. Nakorn Premsri. © WWF Thailand

According to Dr. Premsri, the BCG model is the way Thailand for and taking opportunities from the crisis to further move our country towards sustainable development and it seeks to solve many problems Thailand is facing due to the pandemic. This includes taking advantage of the strength Thailand has in agriculture. Although currently, the agriculture industry in Thailand is the main cause for many problems, there are opportunities to turn it into a solution.  Investments have to be made we are self-reliant, even if the costs at the start end up being higher than alternatives.
Linking to the need for self-reliance, one factor that can help improve sustainability is the increase in consumption of local foods, which can be made possible through a stronger local food system. 

‘While Thai ingredients are highly valued around the world, the same ingredients are undervalued by local Thai people’ said two Michelin Chef Chumpon Jangprai of R Haan in Bangkok

Chef Chumpon Jangprai. ©WWF Thailand 

Chef Chumpon only uses local ingredients, even if the ingredients may be better in other countries or more expensive to produce locally. To chef Chumpon, sustainability in terms of food is not up to him or any individual, but it is up to everyone to work together. “Sustainability starts with us, starts within the community”
This sentiment was shared by 2 Michelin starred chef Martin Blunos who curated the lunch for the event.
“Individually we all have our own agenda, which means we don’t have a voice as much because it looks like we are doing it for our own interests.  But collectively we become one voice, and we can push the agenda to the right places to make a change,” said chef Blunos.
Chef Blunos says the movement for sustainability is nothing new, however, it has taken a pandemic for it to really come to the forefront because we all have been pushed out of our comfort zones with the lockdown making it difficult for us to buy food, import, or travel. A lot of these issues to Chef Blunos have forced the issues so now we are aware of it
Chefs Blunos’ mantra is that “we should all be advocating for the true cost of food.” There should be nothing cheap in food, and if it is it means there is a compromise, such as the use of agrochemicals. The cheapness affects consumers, we are the one who eats it.
Organic agriculture can at times be most costly than chemical-intensive produce. Sharing the same sentiment as Dr. Premsi, Chef Blunos feels this tradeoff is worth it even if it’s more expensive we should be growing our own safe to eat local foods as if people pay the true cost of food there would be less food waste.
The problems with the agriculture industry and food system in Thailand that have been exacerbated by COVID-19 discussed in the forum is what the FL349 project** is trying to solve. The project protects forests while creating more sustainable food systems through investing in and building social and economic incentives for farmers to shift away from environmentally harmful monoculture agriculture towards a mixed agriculture system helps diversify the local food system, making access to safe and healthy foods easier. Through the right selective partnerships, sustainable supply chains and market places are also created ensuring the farmers are being paid fairly and consistently for their produce, and consumers are able to choose to be more sustainable.
The Climate Action Awards were given out in recognition of the organisations or projects making environmental impacts creating a greener planet. The FLR349 project received an award in recognition of the environmental impacts created, especially impacts on carbon sequestration. Project partners The Central Group and Agoda also received awards.

Rattapat Sichanklad, the FLR349 fund secretary, receiving the Climate Action Award from his Excellency the Ambassador of The Republic of the Maldives to The Kingdom of Thailand. © WWF Thailand

The Central Group's Climate Action Award

The chicken and egg dish curated by Chef Blunos is made entirely out of local ingredients. While the portion may seem small, but as the chicken used is raised naturally it is more nutritious and filling, further demonstrating how the investment in local organic choices can become the solution for an array of problems.

The 'Chicken and Egg' dish curated by chef Martin Blunos for the event. © WWF Thailand
COVID-19 showed us the real importance of food system sustainability and diversity, while also highlighting the need for local food produce and traceability. While many go hungry, especially so during a crisis, large amounts of arable lands are used to grow food humans cannot consume. To come back stronger and more sustainable, there needs to be a change in the local food system.
FeedUP@UN is an innovative digital solution designed by UNECE for recording food lost or otherwise wasted. It is based on blockchain technology and brings all different parties together in one virtual space while contributing to a more circular production and responsible consumption.
** FLR349
FLR349 Fund is a fund that has been developed based on the King’s Philosophy of “Three Forests, Four Benefits” and the development of a value chain which could become a model for farmers living in watershed areas. The FLR349 Fund helps farmers turn their agricultural operation from forest-encroaching mono-agriculture with intensive use of chemicals into the “Three Forests, Four Benefits” agricultural system which helps to restore the environment by stopping the destruction of top soil. Farmers learn to grow perennial trees, fruit trees, vegetables and herbs in a mixed system that is sustainable, and which replenishes the soil. Such plantations function like carbon sinks and water reservoirs which make possible the production of diverse and safe foods for consumption. It helps to empower farmers and their community, helps to reduce their living expenses, and helps to keep them healthy. As a result, they can break free from the endless cycle of debt that has trapped many farmers in our current food system. This system is consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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Abhinand Aryapratheep