Nothing unites us more than our universal need for food. But how much do we really understand about the impact of climate change on food crops and traditional recipes, particularly in developing countries? As climate change and biodiversity loss accelerate, many crops are becoming harder to grow, impacting marginal landowners and threatening their food security.

According to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate change is already affecting food security through increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events. The combined food loss and waste can amount to 25–30% of total food produced.

An agro processing and bakery unit in Hawalbagh, Uttarakhand. (UN photo)

Recipes For Change

Amid this crisis, several chefs from around the world, including award-winning Indian chefs Anahita Dhondy and Thomas Zacharias have joined the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to promote Recipes for Change (R4C), a platform that aims to bring a taste of rural people’s lives to consumers through the food they eat.

Chef Anahita Dhondy. (twitter photo)

Recipes for Change highlights the fact that around 500 million smallholder farms are responsible for four-fifths of food supplies in developing countries. These farms are often located on marginal lands where the impacts of climate change are strongly felt, reducing crop yields and incomes.  

Celebrity Chefs

This is where the advocacy and on-the -ground activism by several celebrity chefs is instrumental in helping highlight how the climate crisis affects rural communities. These chefs add extra flavor to these recipes, linking farmers and consumers and creating meals from crops by examining essential ingredients to cook with, while calling attention to the adaptation solutions that IFAD offers: to encourage consumers to buy more sustainably, chefs to cook smarter, and donors to commit to the eradication of rural poverty.

Chef Thomas Zacharias. (Instagram photo)

India is a founding member of IFAD, and IFAD has worked in India for more than 40 years to ensure that smallholder food and agricultural production systems are remunerative, sustainable and resilient to climate change and price shocks. To date, IFAD has supported 32 rural development projects in India worth US$1.2 billion. These interventions have directly benefitted over 6.34 million families.

Devastating Impacts Of Climate Change

“Recipes for Change calls attention to the devastating impact of climate change on rural people’s livelihoods, as those who grow our food – and their families – are most likely to go hungry,” said Ulaç Demirag, IFAD Country Director, India. “Working with innovative, thoughtful chefs like Anahita and Thomas, we hope to tackle barriers to socially and environmentally friendly food systems in a way that helps consumers learn about these issues and how they could lead change though their choices.”

Chefs Dhondy and Zacharias are tackling barriers to equitable and environmentally friendly food systems by thinking globally and acting locally, from advocating for sustainable food and local ingredients in their cooking and on social media platforms, to visiting IFAD project sites and cooking with rural communities.

A beneficiary and her child under a papaya tree. (UN photo)


Dhondy, former chef manager at SodaBottleOpenerWala and author of The Parsi Kitchen, said, “I’ve always aligned my work very closely with the Sustainable Development Goals and I’ve always been questioning how we as chefs can do our part in eradicating hunger. Creating awareness is the most important thing, and that’s why I think joining IFAD’s Recipes for Change can create that important, positive social impact.”

Zacharias, named chef of the year in 2018 by Conde Nast Traveler India while at The Bombay Canteen, said, “The synergy of a collective movement towards making shifts towards understanding what happens in our rural agricultural areas and in the context of people growing our food can fuel positive change, which we so desperately need today. And what better medium than food and recipes, something that is so universal yet so personal?”

Doing Good Through Food

A palm gur cluster. (UN photo)

Zacharias has developed a lunchbox recipe, using foxtail millet upma and an Andhra jackfruit curry. Millet has been left behind by industrial agriculture, but now this nutritious grain is increasingly recognized for its environmental benefits. He also recently launched The Locavore, a platform focused on “doing good through food,” which aims to narrow the divide between the people behind our food and consumers via storytelling, producer spotlights, events and experiences.

As we sit around our tables creating memories, telling stories and connecting to community through the food we cook and consume, let us remember that we are creating long-lasting impact through our recipes. By investing in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience, IFAD-supported projects have reached an estimated 130 million people.

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor,...