FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 49

Rising food insecurity amidst plenty

World Food Day is observed every year on October 16 to draw attention to the plight of millions of people worldwide who cannot afford a healthy diet and the need for regular access to nutritious food. It commemorates the founding of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. Hundreds of events and outreach activities around the world bring together governments, businesses, the public and the media to promote awareness and action for those suffering from hunger.

The theme for 2022 is “Leave NO ONE behind.” The day is an annual reminder that food insecurity and malnourishment remain widespread and are poised to worsen due to a range of ongoing threats, including inflation, geopolitical issues, etc. Significantly, World Food Day 2022 was marked in a year with multiple global challenges, including the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, rising prices and international tensions. All of this is affecting global food security.

Almost one in ten people globally are undernourished, and more than 3 billion can’t afford a healthy diet. The FAO says governments should re-evaluate their support to agriculture to help improve sustainable production of more nutritious foods. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 report, world hunger rose last year. It estimates that as many as 828 million people globally were affected by hunger in 2021. It says this reflects “exacerbated inequalities across and within countries due to an unequal pattern of economic recovery among countries and unrecovered income losses among those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As per UN projections, 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030. That is 8% of the world’s population – and the same number as when its 2030 Agenda was launched in 2015 – and despite the UN’s own Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ‘zero hunger’ by the end of this decade.

The FAO says access to, and availability of, nutritious food is being increasingly impeded by the current global challenges. The problem is particularly acute for the 80% of people classified as ‘extremely poor’ who live in rural areas. They are the hardest hit by man-made and natural disasters. Some are also marginalized due to gender and ethnic origin.

Food experts are of the view that in the face of global crises, global solutions are needed more than ever before. By aiming for better production, better nutrition and a better environment we can transform agrifood systems and build better by implementing sustainable and holistic solutions that consider development in the long term, inclusive economic growth, and greater resilience.

The day underlines the importance of enhancing food security for millions of people for whom hunger is a daily threat. The UN defines food security as when a person has “the physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The FAO report says 2.3 billion people globally were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021 – while 11.7% of the world’s population faced food insecurity at severe levels, a growing proportion reflecting a deteriorating situation. More than three billion people worldwide were unable to afford a healthy diet in 2020.

According to experts, now is the time for governments to re-evaluate their support to food and agriculture. Globally, this totalled an average of almost $630 billion per year from 2013-2018. The lion’s share of it is targeted to farmers individually, through trade and market policies and fiscal subsidies largely tied to production. Not only much of this support distorts the market, but it is not reaching many farmers and does not promote the production of nutritious foods.

The FAO points out that trade and market interventions can undermine the affordability and availability of nutritious, healthy foods. In many countries, subsidies focus on staple foods thereby discouraging less subsidized commodities such as fruit, vegetables and pulses. The FAO is therefore calling on governments to readjust their support mechanism in order to help people access more affordable nutritious foods.

The World Economic Forum estimates that 60% more food will be needed to feed the world by 2050. However, the global agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand. That’s why the Forum launched its Innovation with a Purpose platform in 2018. It’s a worldwide partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food. The platform is working with more than 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to use emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, equitable, inclusive and efficient.