Farmers Will (Again) Feed the World

By Danielle Nierenberg

Source: Inter Press Service News Agency

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is super-farmer.jpg
FAO/Petterik Wiggers / FAO

Wealthier countries struggling to contain the widening COVID-19 pandemic amid protests over lockdowns and restrictions risk ignoring an even greater danger out there – a looming global food emergency.

Even before the virus surfaced nearly a year ago, an estimated 690 million people around the world were undernourished, 144 million or 21 per cent of children under five-years-old were stunted, and about 57 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia could not afford a healthy diet.

The ranks of the chronically food insecure are rising dramatically in 2020 as the pandemic adds to the miseries of communities already labouring under conflict, the climate crisis, economic slowdowns and, in east Africa, desert locusts. Every percentage drop in global GDP means 700,000 more stunted children, according to UN estimates.

All this means the world is dangerously off track in its efforts to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, with food systems underpinning all 17 of those targets.

Yet we do produce enough food for the world’s 7.8 billion people. It’s our food systems that are broken. Hunger is rising even as the world wastes and loses more than one billion tonnes of food every year.

About one third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with consumers in rich countries wasting almost as much food as the entire net production of sub-Saharan Africa.

With agriculture and the current food system responsible for around 21 to 37 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, our food choices matter not just for health and social justice, but also for their impact on the climate and bio-diversity. The true impact of food production and consumption needs a far better understanding and cost accounting.

Resetting the Food System from Farm to Fork, a virtual event hosted on December 1 by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition in partnership with Food Tank, will help set the stage for the UN 2021 Food Systems Summit.

Experts will present concrete, practical solutions to re-align food systems with human needs and planetary boundaries to become more resilient, inclusive and sustainable in the aftermath of the pandemic and beyond.

The conference will highlight the important role of smallholders and women who make up a sizeable proportion of the agricultural workforce – 43 percent on average in developing countries, according to FAO, the UN food agency.

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