2015 8th GCHERA Global Conference

Universities’ Global Challenge: Nutritional Security and Environmental Sustainability for Human Health

This 8th GCHERA Global Conference was held  25-26 June 2015 at Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon.

The conference focused on four themes:

Theme A: Sustainable Agriculture: Feeding 9 billion with a smaller environmental footprint

Feeding 9 billion people by 2050 demands an increase in food production by fifty percent to satisfying the food security needs of the future population but we are also challenged to achieve that with a smaller environmental footprint.   To increase productivity and yield, advanced research and technologies are needed. Thus, universities/faculties of Agriculture and Life Sciences face the educational challenge of proposing and promoting environmentally smart food systems.

Theme B: Innovation through Agricultural food system entrepreneurship

Many developing countries, suffer from inadequate access to food and lack of employment. Ending hunger and reaching nutritional security is an essential part of sustainable development. According to many studies, reaching nutritional security is a goal that can be achieved. To do so, researchers, investors and policy makers should prioritize their actions.

Theme C: The role of Education and research: from food security to nutritional security

The role of Universities in Agriculture and Life Sciences must focus on research to determine prevalence of food and nutritional insecurity among impoverished areas to implement proper interventions. Academic institutions must as well teach basic nutritional needs. This will develop the skills of assessment of food or nutritional insecurity across all age groups as well as developing proper programs targeting the latter issues.

Theme D: The role of nutrition in transforming health care from a disease to a health based system

The role of Universities in Agriculture and Life Sciences must focus on research to determine associations between nutrition and chronic diseases. Academic institutions must as well teach nutrition through the lifecycle courses and update basic micro and macronutrients need for prevention of chronic diseases.

See the detailed conference themes, programme and the presentations

The main recommendations of the conference are summarised here:

  1. Provide not only knowledge and vision for students in Higher Education, but most importantly ethics and values. Ethics and values should run across the curriculum – not only in courses but with behavioural examples. We need a more constructive approach where graduates develop sensible social responsibility, and awareness of justice. They will learn how to work with dignity, and will undoubtedly contribute to building an ethical word;
  2. Improve the quality of teaching and learning in Higher Education: move to a student-centred learning environment which encourages students to become independent learners and ultimately to be in charge of their own education, and deliver graduates who are equipped to be solution providers in dealing with the global great challenges that 21st century has placed before us:challenges of achieving nutritional security and environmental sustainability for human health;
  3. Reinforce the leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship capacities of our students: rather than making them follow, we should be making them lead instruction, constantly make them take responsible decisions, and show them that learning is a lifelong engagement;
  4. Develop a progressive assessment framework that identifies the knowledge, skills and competences that will be assessed for each level of education by bridging the gap between academia, the private and public sectors;
  5. Undertake a detailed situation analysis of the education sector in Lebanon by reviewing various commission reports, other relevant policy and legal documents, benchmarking with good practices from countries with national and county governments and also submissions by various NGOs and stakeholders;
  6. Initiate social, environmental and educational changes in our institutions and make them responsive to the national and regional needs. This could be achieved by combining efforts from all Lebanese Agricultural Universities along with governmental bodies: Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture, Lebanese Ministry of Industry and all other concerned ministries;
  7. Present USEK as a role model in university educational reform in the MENA region. Financial resources are needed as well as the support of other institutions, government, NGOs and the private sector.

These outcomes contributed to the development of the GCHERA Action Plan 2016-20