Urgent efforts needed to make agriculture system worldwide less wasteful

As the world population increases, more efforts should be made so that all who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition have accesses to nutritious food.


(Representational Image: Unsplash)

The world has been witnessing an alarming rise in food insecurity since 2014. The recent State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, published jointly by FAO, WFT, IFAD, UNICEF and the WHO, stated that around 690 million people, which is 8.9 per cent of the World’s populations, were chronically undernourished in 2019; 12 million more than in 2018 and 60 million more than in 2014. While Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment with 18.8 per cent of the population affected in 2019 (39.6 million people), Asia has 378.7 million most undernourished people. Depending on the scenario, the pandemic’s long-term effects could push 83 to 132 million people to hunger in 2020, the report had predicted.

As the world population continue to grow in 2021 and in future, much more effort and innovation will be urgently needed in order to increase agricultural production, improve the global supply chain, decrease food losses and waste and ensure that all who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition have accesses to nutritious food.

Many in the international community believe that it is possible to eradicate hunger within the next generation and are working together to achieve this goal. World leaders at the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) reaffirmed the right of everyone to have accesses to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.

The UN Secretary General’s Zero –Hunger challenge launched at Rio+20 called on the government, Civil Society, faith communities, the private sectors and research institutions to unite to end hunger and eliminate the worst forms of malnutrition.

The zero hunger challenge has since generated widespread support from many member states and other entities. It calls for: zero stunted children under the age of two; 100% accesses to adequate food all year round; all food systems are sustainable; 100% increase in smallholders productivity and income; zero loss or a waste of food.

The Sustainable Development Goal to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” (SDG2), recognizes inter-linkages among supporting sustainable agriculture, empowering small farmers, promoting gender equality, ending rural poverty, ensuring healthy lifestyle, tackling climate change and other issues addressed within the set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the post-2015 development agenda.

Beyond adequate calories intake, proper nutrition has other dimensions that deserve attention, including micronutrient availability and healthy diets. Inadequate micronutrient intake of mothers and infants can have long-term development impacts. Unhealthy diet and lifestyle are closely linked to the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases in both developed and developing countries. Adequate nutrition during the critical 1,000 days from the beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday merits a particular focus. The Scaling-Up-Nutrition(SUN) Movement has made great progress since its creation five years ago in incorporating strategies that link nutrition to agriculture, clean water, sanitation, education, employment, social protection, healthcare and support for resilience.

Extreme poverty and hunger are predominantly rural, with smallholders’ farmers and their families making up a very significant proportion of the poor and hungry. Thus eradicating poverty and hunger are integrally linked to boosting food production, agriculture productivity and rural incomes. Agriculture system worldwide must become more productive and less wasteful.

Sustainable agricultural practices and food systems, including both production and consumption, must be promoted from a holistic and integrated perspective.

Land, healthy soil, water and plant genetic resources are key inputs into food production and their growing scarcity in many parts of the world makes it imperative to use and manage them sustainably.  Boosting yields on existing agricultural lands, including restoration of degraded lands, through sustainable agricultural practices, would also relieve the pressure to clear forest for agricultural production.

Wise management of scarce water through improved irrigation and storage technologies, combined with the development of new draught-resistant crop varieties can contribute to sustaining dry lands productivity. Halting and reversing land degradation will also be critical to meeting future food needs. The Rio+20 outcome documents call for achieving a land-degraded –neutral world in the context of sustainable development.

Given the current extent of land degradation globally; the potential benefits from land restoration for food security and for mitigating climate change are enormous. However, there is also recognition that scientific understanding of the drivers of desertification, land degradation and drought is still evolving.

There are many elements of traditional farming knowledge enriched by the latest scientific knowledge can support productive food system through sound and sustainable soil, land, water, nutrient and pest management and the more extensive use of organic fertilizers.

An increase in the integrated decision-making process at national and regional levels are needed to achieve synergies and adequately address tradeoffs among agriculture, water, energy, land and climate changes in temperature, precipitation and pests associated with climate change, the global community is called upon to increase investment in research, development and demonstration of technologies to improve the sustainability of food systems everywhere. Building resilience local food system will be critical to averting large-scale future shortages and to ensuring food security and good nutrition for all.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own. The writer can be reached to:sjugeshwor7@gmail.com)

First Published:Jan. 4, 2021, 4:30 p.m.

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