ILRI/livestock science leader named to EAT-Lancet 2.0 Commission

Namukolo Covic, a Zambian agricultural nutritionist and the director general’s representative to Ethiopia at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), has been appointed one of 23 EAT-Lancet 2.0 Commissioners. These distinguished scientific experts come from 19 countries and represent various fields including human health, agriculture and livestock production, political science, behaviour change, food justice and environmental sustainability.

With a dual background in agriculture and nutrition and a special focus on Africa, Covic is interested in how research informs‚ or fails to inform—nutrition and health outcomes in low-to-middle-income countries. Her research work has focused on enhancing links between agriculture and better nutrition and health outcomes, including promoting sustainable livestock solutions for smallholder farmers and livestock keepers. She has worked to incorporate research evidence in national and African continental processes promoting the use of evidence to inform policy decisions.

From 2015 to 2021, Covic served as senior research coordinator for the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health led by the CGIAR’s International Food Policy Research Institute. She has worked extensively with the government of Ethiopia and other stakeholders on different aspects of the food system, including development of food-based dietary guidelines and Ethiopia’s food systems transformation pathway. Covic also leads the governance working group of an independent expert group that emerged from the United Nations Food Systems Summit to develop a monitoring framework on food systems transformation that is guiding progress on the Sustainable Development Goals countdown to 2030.

About the EAT-Lancet Commission

Funded by the UK’s Wellcome Foundation, the EAT-Lancet Commission to which Covic has been appointed produced a high-profile report in January 2019 (Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems) that offered a diverse but mainly plant-based ‘planetary diet’. Since its publication three years ago, many scientists have stressed that the diet proposed is not a one-size-fits-all recommendation. While arguably a sound meal plan for many people in wealthy nations, where the average person eats 2.6 times more meat than their counterpart in low-income countries and whose eating habits are unsustainable, the diet is insufficiently nutritious or even economically feasible for many people in poor countries.

Since the EAT-Lancet report was published, public-health scientists around the world have been studying how to make the diet realistic for people the world over, whether an overweight adult or an under-nourished child.

Today’s EAT-Lancet 2.0 Commission is co-chaired by three eminent scientists:

Walter Willett (USA), professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Johan Rockstrom (Sweden), director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chair of the advisory board for the Eat Foundation who led development of the Planetary Boundaries framework for human development.

Shakuntala Thilsted (native of Trinidad and Tobago, Danish citizen), a specialist in nutrition-sensitive approaches to aquatic food systems who is the global leader for nutrition and public health at CGIAR’s WorldFish centre in Malaysia and a 2021 World Food Prize laureate.

Among the 23 EAT-Lancet 2.0 Commissioners, in addition to ILRI’s Namukola Covic, are several others with a strong background in CGIAR-ILRI-livestock research for development work, including the following.

Ermias Kebreab (Eritrea), associate dean for global engagement in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and director of the World Food Center at the University of California at Davis; Kebreab has conducted extensive research in developing strategies for using feed additives to reduce methane emissions from livestock.

Jessica Fanzo (USA), a nutritionist and professor of global food policy and ethics at Johns Hopkins University, Fanzo formerly held positions at Columbia University, the Earth Institute, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Food Programme, CGIAR’s Bioversity International, and the Millennium Development Goal Centre at the CGIAR's World Agroforestry Center in Kenya; Fanzo focuses on the impact of transitioning food systems on healthy, environmentally sustainable and equitable diets and more broadly on the livelihoods of people living in resource-constrained places.

Lawrence Haddad (born in South Africa, UK citizen), executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition; Haddad formerly served as director of the Institute of Development Studies and director of the Food Consumption and Nutrition Division at the CGIAR’s International Food Policy Research Institute, where he led groundbreaking food and nutrition policy studies; Haddad is an expert advisor to many global committees for food and nutritional security and a World Food Prize laureate.

Marco Springmann (UK), a food scientist specializing in issues of environmental sustainability and public health at the University of Oxford and developer of an integrated systems model of environmental sustainability, health and economic development; Springmann is now working on extending the health and environmental aspects of his model as part of Wellcome-funded ‘Livestock, Environment and People’ (LEAP) project.

Mario Herrero (Costa Rica), professor of sustainable food systems and global change at Cornell University and former ILRI scientist; Herrero is a regular contributor to high-profile global food-related initiatives such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and serves on the editorial boards of several of the most prestigious agricultural and food systems journals.

Ramanan Laxminarayan (Uganda), an economist and epidemiologist, is founder and director of the One Health Trust (formerly the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy), director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Antimicrobial Resistance, board chair of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership working to develop and deliver new treatments for bacterial infections, founder and board chair of HealthCubed, which works to improve access to healthcare and diagnostics worldwide, and a leading global expert on understanding antibiotic resistance as a problem of managing a shared global resource.

Sonja Vermeulen (Denmark), director of programs at the CGIAR System Organization, coordinates delivery of the shared CGIAR research portfolio and future strategies for effective agricultural research for development; Vermeulen previously served as the global food lead scientist at the World Wildlife Fund International and head of research at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.