|Achieving the international community’s goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030 is indeed possible, but this requires a scaling up of action, including greater investments in agriculture and sustainable rural development.|
This was stated by José Graziano da Silva, director general, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), at a side event on Zero Hunger at the United Nations’ agency’s Conference, where he pointed to some stark facts and figures.
“Today, more than 800 million people are still chronically undernourished, and unfortunately, the number has started to grow again,” he added.
“Around 155 million children under five - close to a quarter of the total - are stunted, while 1.9 billion people are overweight. Of this, at least 500 million are obese and two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency,” Graziano da Silva said.
“While progress in combating the related scourges of poverty and hunger has been made in recent decades, these achievements are at risk of being reversed as conflict, population growth, climate change and changing dietary patterns, all pose new challenges,” he added.
Graziano da Silva noted that the world was facing one of the largest humanitarian crises ever, with more than 20 million people at risk of famine in four countries - North-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
An enabling policy and institutional environment
The FAO chief noted that the 2030 Agenda called for strong commitment to national decision-making and greater self-reliance by member states, underscoring how “we are seeing this happen with regional initiatives and organisations playing a substantial role.”
He cited the Malabo Declaration adopted by African Union leaders to end hunger in Africa by 2025, and also referred to the strong commitment to food security made by countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Turning political will into action requires a stronger focus on national strategies, including to those relating to nutrition, health and education policies. Graziano da Silva called for enhancing governance and coordination mechanisms to facilitate dialogue and create incentives for different sectors and stakeholders to work together and to sharpen the focus of Zero Hunger initiatives. “For that, decision-makers need solid and relevant evidence, including statistics and monitoring data,” he added.
“And last but not least, we have to significantly increase investments,” Graziano da Silva said.
“Hunger is often due to poverty and inequality. It is the result of the exclusion of small-scale producers from large-scale food systems,” said Gilbert Houngbo, president, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), at the event.
He warned that at the current pace, quite frankly, the international community is not on track to meet its commitment to Zero Hunger by 2030, but noted that the goal can be achieved “if we act now to establish inclusive and sustainable food systems and to build the resilience of poor rural people and the ecosystems that they depend on.”
Achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 “has zero chances of succeeding in the environment we are living in today,” said David Beasley, executive director, World Food Programme (WFP). He added, “Governments have to take actions to reduce conflicts, which are man-made dead-ends on the road to Zero Hunger.”
Beasley noted that FAO, IFAD and WFP were “working together in a perhaps unprecedented way, both because the stakeholders want them to and because the situation calls for it.”
Investments are critical
Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, who delivered the keynote address at the Zero Hunger side event, noted that to fuel the growth of Africa’s economy, investments are needed.
“Neither Official Development Aid nor remittances can provide sufficient resources. Private investment is required - indeed it is already the biggest source of development funding,” he added.
“A further key to growth is generating increased value addition for African products, coupled with better access to higher-value markets. Young African agri-entrepreneurs need quality products to sell, better production methods to grow them and access to good markets upon which to sell them,” Hogan said.
Today’s side event also included a panel discussion, titled Zero Hunger - Global, regional and national synergies to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2.
The panellists included Hugo Roger Martinez Bonilla, minister of foreign affairs, El Salvador, and Chair of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC); Eyasu Abraha, minister for agriculture and natural resources, Ethiopia, Liane Thykeo, minister for agriculture and forestry, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and Amira Gornass, ambassador of the Republic of Sudan, and Chair of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).