After decades of steady decline, the number of hungry people, as measured by the prevalence of undernutrition, began to rise slowly again in 2015. Today, more than 820 million people go to bed hungry regularly, of whom approximately 135 million suffer from acute hunger largely due to man-made conflicts, climate change, and economic recessions. The COVID-19 pandemic could now double that number, putting an additional 130 million people at risk of acute hunger by the end of 2020, according to the World Food Programme.
At the same time, a profound change in the global food and agriculture system is needed to feed the more than 820 million hungry people and the additional 2 billion people the world will have by 2050. Increasing agricultural productivity and sustainable food production is crucial to help alleviate the dangers of hunger.
In light of the impact of the pandemic on the food and agriculture sector, swift action is needed to ensure that food supply chains are kept alive to mitigate the risk of major shocks that have a significant impact on everyone, especially the poor and the most vulnerable
The UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan sets out steps to combat the virus in the world’s poorest countries and to address the needs of the most vulnerable people, including those facing food insecurity.
Every day, many men and women around the world struggle to feed their children with a nutritious meal. In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, The consequences of insufficient, or incorrect, nutrition not only cause suffering and ill health but also slow down progress in many other areas of development, such as education and employment.
In 2015, the world community adopted the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development to improve people’s lives by 2030. Goal 2 – Zero Hunger: committed to ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture, is the priority of the World Food Programme.
- Improve harvest and storage performance. Up to 40% of production can be lost before food reaches the market, estimates the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
- Improve the existing distribution network. According to World Bank estimates, in South and Southeast Asia, almost 90% of the calories wasted from food are lost during storage and transport.
- Take advantage of the cold chain infrastructure (temperature-controlled supply chain required for refrigerated products), with tracking and tracing capabilities.
- Improve food buying habits in rich countries to minimize waste.
- Extend the product shelf life. It can allow stores to sell food that is still good for a longer period through improved sensor detection.
- Allow surplus food to be shared. You can train shops, hotels, restaurants and other typical food waste access points to deliver food to local charities and other distribution programs rather than throw it away.
At the end of 2019 and with 2020, almost two years have been discounted in the countdown to one of the biggest challenges set by the United Nations: only ten remain for 2030, the date set in the calendar to achieve ‘Zero Hunger’ in the world. The latest State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report confirms this upward trend. Nearly 821 million people on the planet (one in nine) Asia is the continent with the most hungry people in total, with 515 million (11.4%), and Africa as a percentage, with 21% (256 million) and 23.2% in the sub-Saharan area.
According to the World Bank, one third to one-quarter of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. That’s a billion metric tons of food every year. This has implications far beyond world hunger. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China.
We must also talk about malnutrition, obesity and the importance of healthy and sustainable food, in other words, we must not only ensure that the goal of zero hunger by 2030 is met, but also that this food has all the necessary nutrients and is sustainable over time.
FAO warns that global food markets continue to face uncertainty in 2020/21 due to COVID-19. FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo believes that rising global hunger levels are largely due to the impact of climate change, conflict, and the economic crisis. “Our work to end hunger will be even more difficult if global warming reaches two degrees Celsius,” she warned at the recent UN conference in Katowice, Poland. However, Semedo believes that “achieving Zero Hunger is still possible,” although it is essential to “define transformative actions that will transform our food systems, sustainably and equitably for all.
But right now, our soils, oceans, forests and our drinking water and biodiversity are undergoing rapid degradation due to over-exploitation processes. This impacts on the resources we depend on and increases the risks associated with natural disasters such as droughts and floods. We need a profound reform of the world’s agricultural and food system if we are to feed the 815 million hungry people on the planet today and the additional two billion people who will live in 2050. Investments in agriculture are crucial to increase agricultural productive capacity and sustainable food production systems are needed to help alleviate the difficulties of hunger.
On the other hand, it is also worth noting the concept of Veganism, which has been spreading remarkably at the same time as ignorance and disinformation about this “new” way of understanding life. Today, Veganism is understood as a principle and not as a practice. This is one of the keys to this social phenomenon. A political and social movement that is based on ethical principles that advocate anti-speciesism, environmental care, and, ultimately, respect for life in all its forms.
Another option for thinking about what we eat is to look at the state of the air and water, and how this affects the way we produce food and our nutrition. Although it has been the subject of debate, there is evidence that “black carbon”, which is a type of gas, can alter the properties and distribution of clouds, as well as their behavior, which has a clear and direct impact on rainfall.
The latter produces natural imbalances of great importance for crops, creating a low agricultural yield. This is also the origin of the so-called acid rain, a product of the accumulation of toxic vapors and gases. The clouds collect the pollution emitted by humans and, occasionally, by natural causes, and return it in the form of contaminated water during the rains.
Water that reaches the rivers and seas and contributes to the pollution of their surface. But it also has a great effect on soils, given the erosion of acids, damaging land and crops, altering harvests and acting, in turn, on crops: these acids can be introduced into the food.
For more information, visit the THRIVE Project for those who want to make a positive contribution towards a prosperous future.
Written in collaboration with THRIVE Tribe member Martha Fernandez.