- By Maung Maung (FAO, Retired)
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) celebrates World Food Day each year on October 16, the day on which the Organization was founded in 1945. World Food Day 2018 will mark the 73rd anniversary of FAO’s founding. Events are organized in over 150 countries across the world, including Myanmar, making it one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. These events promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all. Thus, FAO has set out various themes for the World Food Day event since 1980, and now the theme for the World Food Day 2018 is “Our Actions are our Future. A #Zero Hunger World by 2030 is possible.” It is a call for increased action to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.
Today, over 820 million people are suffering chronic undernourishment, and 70 per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas where people’s lives depend on agriculture, fisheries or forestry, according to the latest FAO 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report. That’s why Zero hunger calls for a transformation of rural economy. A profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish the 815 million people who are hungry today and the additional 2 billion people expected to be undernourished by 2050.
Right now, our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly degraded. Climate change is putting even more pressure on the resources we depend on, increasing risks associated with disasters, such as droughts and floods. Many rural women and men can no longer make ends meet on their land, forcing them to migrate to cities in search of opportunities. Poor food security is also causing millions of children to be stunted or too short for their age, due to severe malnutrition. It is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food. If done right, agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centered rural development and protecting the environment.
“Zero hunger” is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG Goal 2 – Zero Hunger). SDGs are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly. The SDGs are part of Resolution 70/1 of the United Nations General Assembly: “Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” That has been shortened to “2030 Agenda.” In other words, Zero Hunger means working together to ensure everyone, everywhere, has access to safe, healthy and nutritious food they need.
The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it ís important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030. To achieve it, we must adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, work with others, share our knowledge and be willing to help change the world – for the better. The official World Food Day (WFD) ceremony on 16 October at FAO headquarters will be an opportunity for leaders and key global players in the drive to achieve Zero Hunger, to remind the world that Zero Hunger is still possible if we can come together and take account of lessons learned, best practices and all evidences available.
Our Actions are our Future
Investments in agriculture are crucial to increasing the capacity for agricultural productivity, and sustainable food production systems are necessary to help alleviate the perils of hunger. Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of today’s global population. It is the largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households. Governments must create more opportunities for greater private sector investments in agriculture, while boosting social protection programmes for the vulnerable and linking food producers with urban areas.
Smallholder farmers need to adopt new, sustainable agricultural methods to increase productivity and income. Ensuring the resilience of rural communities requires an approach that is mindful of the environment that leverages the power of technological innovation and creates stable and rewarding employment opportunities. But employment and economic growth aren’t enough, especially for those who endure conflict and suffering.
Everyone has a role to play in achieving Zero Hunger, but countries, institutions and people need to work together to reach this goal. Establish Zero Hunger partnerships, share knowledge and resources, develop innovative strategies and discover new opportunities to contribute to the fight against hunger. By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality. Now is the time to get back on track.
The world can achieve Zero Hunger if we join forces across nations, continents, sectors and professions, and act on evidence. Ultimately, we all need to make our concerted efforts to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.