A turning point in history? World Food Day shines a light on eradicating hunger, boosting nutrition and mitigating climate change
16 Oct 2018 --- As the dust settles after last week’s stark warnings from climate change experts about how future drought, high temperatures and extreme weather events could seriously impact crops and supply chains, attention turns to World Food Day (WFD) which is being marked today with a campaign to eradicate hunger. Once again food security is on the agenda as key players meet in Rome to mark the day and urge a greater awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all.
WFD 2018 is particularly poignant this year as it comes in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report about how business and consumers need to make changes to mitigate the impact of global warming and the fact that this year’s WFD theme is “our actions are our future.”
“There is no time to lose,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told the opening assembly earlier this morning.
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, FAO’s Anna Lartey, Director of Nutrition and Food System Division, says: “Industry is an essential player in the food systems. Most people buy the food they eat. If our food systems are not delivering the healthy diets we need, industry should also take responsibility for this and address this in collaboration with other stakeholders.”
“The industry should work with Government and abide by government regulations to reformulate their products; stop advertising unhealthy foods to children; Source their ingredients locally from small farmers. This way they are supporting local farmers’ links to ready markets,” she notes.
Cindy Holleman, Senior Economist – Food Security & Nutrition, Agricultural Development Economics Department, also comments: “Climate change is not only something that will happen in the future – it is happening now. Rising temperature and increasing variability are already negatively affecting people and their livelihoods now, contributing to both increases in chronic hunger and global food crises.”
“As shown in the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 report, climate variably and exposure to more complex, frequent and intense climate extremes are threatening to erode and reverse gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition. This is a wake-up call – an early warning – because if we already have evidence that increasing climate variability and extremes is leading to greater levels of hunger – it will only get worse if left unaddressed. We must urgently scale-up actions to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity of people and the agricultural and food systems to the rising tide of climate variability and extremes. We need integrated – rather than dissociated – disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaption policies, programs and practices with short-, medium- and long-term vision,” she explains.
Climate change: A key driver for hunger
After a period of decline, world hunger is on the rise again. Some 821 million people, or one of every nine people, suffered from hunger last year, marking the third consecutive annual increase, according to the UN's latest hunger report.
The collective progress made by many countries in eradicating hunger has recently taken a turn for the worse. This is as a result of conflict, extreme weather events linked to climate change and economic slowdown. Meanwhile, rapidly increasing overweight and obesity levels are reversing progress made in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
However, the FAO says it’s clear that “now is the time to get back on track” and claims Zero Hunger can be achieved “if we join forces across nations, continents, sectors, and professions, and act on evidence.”
Last week’s IPCC report showed that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.
With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society, claims the IPCC report, which specifies that a rise of more than 1.5°C is risking the plant’s livability and this could be exceeded by 2030 unless drastic steps are taken now.
Indeed, hunger is one of the most significant problems crippling some societies.
As the effects of climate change threaten farming and increase the risk of drought – which we have already seen seriously deplete various crops yields (wheat, potatoes) across Europe this year – big questions are looming over food security, particularly as the world population is estimated to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050.
The destructive impacts of droughts, floods, and increasingly severe storms are the primary culprits behind decreased farming output and rising global hunger. Notably, climate factors and protracted conflicts both impose their heavy toll on subsistence farmers.
How to feed almost 10 billion in 2050?
The significance of WFD is all the more striking considering the United Nations estimation that the world’s population will reach almost 10 billion in just over 30 years’ time. According to UN forecasts, global population will grow to 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, driven by faster growth in African countries.
#ZeroHunger is the official marketing promotion for WFD, so how does that fit with what we’ve seen recently in terms of the stark warnings of climate changes’ impact on agriculture and the supply chain?
One of the key objectives of observing WFD is to focus on creating a world with food security – enough food to feed the growing population as well as fulfilling the needs of all. The point is to eradicate hunger in all parts of the world. To do this, governments need to prioritize food security to avoid a crisis in the years ahead.
Following the WFD ceremony, Heads of State, ministers and high-level representatives from the private sector and civil society will participate in two high-level panels on Zero Hunger challenges and solutions. Panelists will discuss climate change, conflict, migration, poverty and the double burden of hunger and obesity, as well as ways to adapt to or overcome these challenges through nutrition education, improved food systems, social protection, agroecology, the preservation of biodiversity, the empowerment of family farmers and more.
Marking the start of a week-long Committee on World Food Security (CFS) meeting speakers said earlier today that “urgent measures” are needed to reverse the recent increase in the number of hungry people – but stressed that there is still time to deliver on the global pledge to eradicate hunger.
“Our agenda is extremely ambitious,” says CFS Chair Mario Arvelo. “If we are victorious, if every person in every country is sustainably food secure in 2030, that will be the most consequential turning point in history.”
“We can offer solutions for lifting this shadow that is eclipsing the human condition.”
Much has been made of the various sourcing challenges throughout Europe and the rest of the world in recent months as harvests of several crops have been affected by drought. Europe experienced a dry spell and above-average seasonal temperatures, including numerous heat waves, earlier this year.
Some farmers referred to this year as the “worst drought in recent history,” and the Lithuanian government declared a state of emergency for the drought while Latvia acknowledged it as a natural disaster of national scale. Norway, Ireland, and Denmark also imposed water restrictions.
When crops yields come up short, this affects the market and can lead to price pressure and availability issues.
European wheat yields have taken a significant hit this year as crops have been severely affected by drought which has led to lower than usual volumes. According to a market review of the wheat crop from Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients (LCI), quality of wheat is also impacted, while the price is being pushed down by Russian exporters flooding the market with the crop because they fear the Government is on the verge of enforcing an embargo which will stunt Russian supply in Europe.
Last month, potato starch supplier Emsland warned of “dramatic” cost increase to raw materials because the European potato harvest will be at a historically low level this year, presenting a massive challenge for growers, processors and their customers. Due to the crop failures in potato fields, some of which were total failures, the availability of potato products will be significantly reduced. According to the Raw Materials Procurement Department of the Emsland Group, potato fields of the contract farmers of the group are in dire conditions.
Just a couple of weeks ago starch supplier Avebe was also bracing itself for a “historically low potato harvest,” and the company decided to increase the advance payment for potatoes to €67 (US$77.74) a ton to mitigate the impact of extreme drought and high temperatures. The Dutch potato starch manufacturer said it was preparing for a substantially lower than usual harvest this season as drought and high temperatures have battered potato yields all over Europe which will lead to a decline in the availability of potato products. Following intensive talks, Avebe decided to increase the current advance payment for potatoes delivered in the 2018 campaign.
The impact of weather on staple food crops can have indirect knock-on effects too, as today's reports on a potential shortage of beer indicates. A recent study involving the University of East Anglia (UEA) warns that increasingly widespread and severe drought and heat may cause substantial decreases in barley yields worldwide, affecting the supply used to make beer, and ultimately resulting in “dramatic” declines in beer consumption and rises in beer prices.
Multiple forms of malnutrition – Obesity
Other forms of malnutrition are spreading, too, notably obesity, which now affects 13.3 percent of the global adult population and is on course to surpass the number of undernourished people in the world. Eight of the 20 countries with the fastest rising rates of adult obesity are in Africa.
“Overweight and obesity must be a subject of public policies, not a private issue,” Graziano da Silva says, adding that governments must take the responsibility to provide healthy and nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for everyone, using national legislation as well as targeted programs to promote the consumption of local fresh food.
In a world where we produce enough food for everyone, how can more than 820 million people struggle with hunger? The answer, according to Matt Knott, Feeding America President, lies in our ability to get the right foods in the hands of the people who need it most.
In the face of new evidence on rising global hunger from the FAO, Kellogg’s has launched its first digital food drive on Amazon, making it easier to help feed people in need. To mark WFD 2018 and running until November 27, people can “click, ship and donate” non-perishable grocery items to a Feeding America location using a special Kelloggs.com/FightingHunger donation page.
“We don't always receive enough of the critical food items people need to put well-balanced meals on the table for themselves and their families,” says Knott. “Protein, grains and produce are among the items most needed, but not always what is donated. Feeding America and our network of member food banks work tirelessly to help people access the nutritious food they need to thrive and through our partnership with Kellogg – and their new campaign on Amazon – we can provide more nutrient-rich food to children and families in need.”
This program addresses the important challenges food banks face – getting food to people in need and making sure pantries receive the right foods to make the most significant impact. Some of the food that can be clicked and shipped includes rice, canned vegetables, shelf stable milk, dry pasta and much more.
The Kellogg’s initiative comes at the same time as a new report from The Global FoodBanking Network which says that advancing the food banking model globally will play a critical role in achieving the Zero Hunger goals.
Food banks – which provide meals to those facing hunger through recovering surplus food – operate at the community level in dozens of countries and are estimated to reach more than 15 million people outside of the US. The report suggests that with more significant support from global partners, this model could be replicated and scaled to help solve the challenge of hunger.
Released on the heels of the FAO’s new evidence that hunger is on the rise, the State of Global Food Banking 2018: Nourishing the World is the first publication to profile food banks on a global scale and includes profiles of these food recovery organizations in more than 50 countries. The study provides insights and demonstrates the effectiveness of the food banking model as a grassroots, community-led hunger intervention.
Food banks are an environmental asset as they procure wholesome, surplus food that might otherwise end up as waste throughout the supply chain and redirect it away from landfills to social service organizations that feed the hungry.
And because the success of food banks relies on the management of local community leaders rather than temporary foreign aid, the concept is positioned for long-term, sustainable success.
While known widely in the US and Europe, in the last decade food banks have become critical community supports in many emerging market economies by providing food assistance to vulnerable populations that are too often left behind.
Calls to action
The FAO is calling on governments, consumers and farmers across society to pull together to eradicate hunger. The calls to action are as follows:
- Governments need to invest in Zero Hunger and put the right policies in place to target rural populations, promote pro-poor investment and growth and address rising overweight and obesity levels through better nutrition. They must create opportunities for greater private sector investments in agriculture and enhance governance and coordination mechanisms, to get stakeholders to work together, share knowledge and support country policies and strategies.
- Citizens need to adopt a new mindset by supporting local producers, using the Earth’s resources more wisely, following nutritious and varied diets, and changing day-to-day actions with the aim of reducing waste and taking on a more sustainable lifestyle. People have become desensitized and disconnected to the fact that millions of people are hungry. Having respect for our food means having respect for the people that give us food, the resources that produce it, and the people that go without.
- Smallholder farmers need to adopt new, sustainable agricultural methods to increase productivity and income. This will enable them to mitigate risks and be more resilient to shocks. They should diversify their crops and reduce post-harvest losses. Vulnerable rural populations need to empower themselves by uniting and forming local cooperatives to realize their right to adequate food and decent employment and share knowledge about sustainable agriculture.
The race is on
World Food Day events are organized in more than 130 countries, promoting global awareness and action as well as targeting zero hunger and nutritious diets for the world’s population by 2030. Industry, consumers and all stakeholders are moving in the right direction with an abundance of programs dedicated to the cause. The target of eradicating hunger is a little more than three decades away – indeed the race is on to achieve what could be one of the greatest feats of the modern age, eradicating hunger for all.
As another example of a food industry move within this environment, Kerry Group today announced it is extending its partnership with the charity group Concern Worldwide through a four-year project to improve food security and nutrition in Niger, West Africa. The Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) program will make lasting improvements to food security, nutrition and the overall livelihoods in the Tahoua Region of Niger. This second phase of the RAIN program will be implemented over a 4-year period and builds on the success of the previous Kerry funded RAIN project in Zambia.
The RAIN program uses a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling hunger and malnutrition in some of the world’s poorest regions, with a core objective of increasing food production and encouraging a more diverse, nutrient-rich diet. The program also works to promote key health practices for improved maternal and child nutrition, improve access to reliable and safe water sources and reduce inequalities experienced by the extremely poor and vulnerable, particularly women and girls.
Much more of these types of moves around food security and nutrition will be required in these highly challenging times.
By Gaynor Selby
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