Former Negros Occ scholar UN food systems champion

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BY MARCHEL P. ESPINA

A former scholar of the provincial government of Negros Occidental is the only Filipina among the 60 people named as United Nations Food Systems champions, or advocates for transforming global food systems.

Cherrie Atilano, UN nutrition ambassador and founding farmer and president of AGREA Agricultural System International Inc., was a scholar of the Capitol’s Progressive Agricultural Knowledge Advancement and Opportunities in Negros program from 2003 to 2007.

The UN said on its website that the advocates will work closely with the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Agnes Kalibata, to kick start activities in the build up to the Food Systems Summit in 2021, including discussions on how to galvanize and build their networks to unleash ambitious new actions, innovative solutions, and plans to transform food systems in alignment with diverse local contexts.

The food systems champions, representing the diversity of society, will help identify and rally communities around the most powerful ways to make our food systems stronger in all regions of the world.

Atilano said it is always good to bring honor to the country, more so bringing the flag of the Philippines to the global front.

“It will bring a greater voice for the Filipinos to take part in the global scene of Food Systems. As a Negrense, it is a pride for the province and hopefully will be a source of inspiration for more people in Negros to support sustainable agriculture, and more importantly for every young person on the sugarcane farm that there is hope,” she said.

Atilano said she is a strong advocate for sustainable agriculture, the voice of the farmers, and women empowerment in the agriculture sector and youth in agri-business.

“I also advocate for healthy eating and well-nourished human capital of every country in the world. I believe that health is wealth, and the true wealth of every nation is its healthy population,” she said.

She added she grew up on a farm, “but I dream big to be where I am today. There is always a way out from poverty as long as you know what you want, you stand on what you believe is right, and be kinder to both people and planet.”

She said there is a huge opportunity in agriculture and agribusiness. “Our farmers are aging and our population is exponentially growing, young people are becoming more important to take part in the agriculture sector as I always say, the youth are the now, the current, the present, and will own the future,” she added.

In 2018, Atilano was a recipient of the Pasidungog Award, which is the highest accolade given by the provincial government to Negrenses, for sustainable agri-tourism.*

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