Achieving zero hunger

  • There is an urgent need to make large scale changes in the global food and agricultural system to nourish the global population
Over 90 million children under the age of five are dangerously underweight, and one person in every four still goes hungry in Africa

Nov 17, 2017-Franklin D Roosevelt said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” This saying is particularly applicable in the case of those who starve for food. Hunger and malnutrition are major risks to health worldwide. 795 million people were estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2014, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought and loss of biodiversity. Over 90 million children under the age of five are dangerously underweight. And one person in every four still goes hungry in Africa. The report of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) shows that Nepal’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score of 43.1 in 1990 has been reduced to 21.9 in 2016. This implies that hunger levels in Nepal have diminished significantly, but are still problematic. With 7.8 percent of the population undernourished, Nepal has been ranked 72nd out of 118 countries on the 2016 GHI.

Scaling up

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations (UN) aimed at halving the proportion of hungry people in the world by 2015. The MDGs were successful due to the rapid economic growth and increased agricultural productivity that were documented over the past two decades. This progress hugely helped in eradicating extreme hunger in Central and East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Following the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were launched by the UN in the same year. The SDGs aim to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 so that all people—especially children—have access to sufficient and nutritious food all year round. This involves promoting sustainable agricultural practices through the provision of support to small scale farmers, and by allowing equal access to land, technology and market. There is an urgent need to make large scale changes in the global food and agricultural system so it is able to nourish today’s global population of 7.6 billion, as well as the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050.

Indeed, despite the noble efforts of the World Food Programme (WFP) and tens of thousands of organisations, world hunger remains a grave problem. Each year, about 40 million to 60 million people around the world die from hunger and related diseases. The key causes behind these ugly problems are poverty, economic crises, war, natural disasters, traditional agricultural practices, lack of technical knowledge and skill, lack of suitable farming practices etc.

The most efficient and direct way to reduce hunger is food aid or nutrition assistance. By providing emergency food aid, governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations can save millions of lives. And by giving non-emergency food aid, such as school lunches, they can improve health and encourage children to go to school, which has proven essential to a country’s long-term development.


Wider reach

Another possible way to resolve the hunger crisis is to stimulate the agriculture system by increasing access to inputs, expanding access to knowledge, increasing access to financial services, and improving natural resource management. However, improvements in productivity will not translate into higher farm incomes and reduced hunger unless surplus harvests and products can be sold in local, regional and international markets. For expanding market and trade, we must expand market information for producers and enterprises, improve post-harvest market infrastructure, and create an enabling policy environment for agribusiness growth.

Empowering women is critical for ending hunger, poverty, and malnutrition around the world. When women have equal access to education and participate fully in decision making, they become the key driving force against hunger and poverty. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, women could boost yield by 20-30 percent, raising the overall agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4 percent. This gain in production could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 percent, besides increasing women’s income. The countries with higher rates of women empowerment have lower rates of stunting, which is the primary measure of chronic under-nutrition. Enhancing women’s control over decision-making in the household is directly related to gender equality and results in better prospects and greater well-being of children through reduction of malnutrition and poverty of future generations.

To minimise hunger, working with existing local democratic institutions is essential to strengthen capacity and make the most of the resources easily available. Also, working in partnership with local government bodies ensures the effectiveness of the local organisation by directly accounting for the problems of local people. Similarly, the creative use of available land is essential. Urban gardens can be used in an efficient way to supply city dwellers with food as well as income. We citizens can all help in eradicating hunger through such practices. Efforts that are small yet collaborative may bring some positive change in society. We must all lend our assistance to achieve the goal of zero hunger. 

- Joshi is an agricultural professional and is the Exchange Coordinator of International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences (IAAS),  Agriculture & Forestry University Local Committee

Published: 17-11-2017 08:19

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