Current food systems are no longer fit for the 21st century. Inequitable distribution, poor nutritional habits, and climate change are three issues breaking down our global food systems today, forcing us to look for solutions to transform them. Food aid – very much part of our global food systems – needs to be responsive to the challenges that lie ahead.
September 23, 2021 is the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit, convened to mobilize the highest-priority transformations needed to end hunger through the sustainable production and distribution of food. Transforming food systems to ensure food security for all has never been so urgent.
Food security experts have raised an alarm that with as many as 811 million people the world over or 10 percent of the global population going hungry, the world is off-track to ending hunger and malnutrition.
Why is the UN holding a Food Systems Summit? Two issues that need discussion at the international leadership level are: Long before the Covid crisis was upon us, the number of hungry people in the world was increasing. Why ? What is the cause of this disturbing trend? And, can a country really claim to be food secure, unless it produces or can buy enough food to feed its population and its people can access sufficient quantities to keep themselves fit and healthy? Disquietening questions as extreme weather begins to show the destructive power that climate change will have on the planet and its people.
Dubbed ‘the People’s Summit, the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) hopes to put the world back on a path to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, through food systems overhauling. From the tempered to the extremely optimistic, experts in various food system sectors share their expectations of transformation.
Women, key contributors to agriculture production, are missing at the decision table, with alarming consequences, says Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg in an exclusive interview with IPS.
In the backdrop of rising hunger, half of the world’s population living on unhealthy diets, a third of agricultural produce lost to postharvest events, and waste, poverty in farming communities, a pandemic that laid bare the vulnerability of food systems to external shocks and unsustainable food production, the Barilla Foundation for Food and Nutrition has published a report which introduces guidelines for the private sector to fulfil its role in transforming global food systems.
Timely interventions by civil society, including concerned scientists, have prevented many likely abuses of next week’s UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS). The Secretary General (UNSG) must now prevent UN endorsement of what remains of its prime movers
’ corporate agenda.
A population of more than 9 billion people, hotter temperatures, decaying ecosystems and increasingly severe natural disasters. That is what our world is facing by 2050
because of climate change.
I am in the Swedish countryside, lush and beautiful in its late summer attire, having a conversation with the son of a friend of mine. Oskar Olin runs a sheep farm, Stabbehyltan Lamm AB
, where he practises holistic management
. His three-hundred sheep graze within an area of 30 ha where Oskar every day moves his flock from one pasture to another. It takes between 45 to 90 days before the sheep are back on the same pasture where the rotation began. The animals are thus not overgrazing the area, while they at the same time trample down a protective layer of vegetation, which fertilizes the soil. Carbon is bound in the earth, soil organic matter increases, retaining humidity and accordingly deepen the root systems of wholesome plants.
When 33-year-old Kimani Mwaniki, an Irish potato farmer in Elburgon, Nakuru County in Kenya’s Rift Valley, heard about a farmer’s virtual school, he didn’t hesitate to enrol. He was keen to learn how the programme will enable him to get higher crop yields for his market in the capital city Nairobi and elsewhere.
The world has been put on notice that there is no time to waste in achieving the goal of food systems transformation.
Gilbert Bor manages a small farm in the western highlands of Kenya. Landscapes are hilly, village roads lined with pine trees, his cows mostly of the Friesian breed. He is up at 6:00am daily to lead his animals through the woods into the valley below.
Back-to-back droughts followed by plagues of locusts have pushed over a million people in southern Madagascar to the brink of starvation in recent months. In the worst famine in half a century, villagers have sold their possessions and are eating the locusts, raw cactus fruits, and wild leaves to survive.
Undoubtedly, the world needs to reform existing food systems to better serve humanity and sustainable development. But the United Nations World Food Systems Summit (UNFSS
) must be consistent with UN-led multilateralism.
For the first time ever, the World Economic Forum (WEF), a partnership of some of the world’s most powerful corporations, is partnering the UN in launching the Summit, now scheduled for September, with its ‘Pre-Summit’ beginning today.
Rwanda is trying to reduce post-harvest loss by relying on new technologies to increase the amount of food available for consumption and help smallholder farmers confront some challenges caused by the overproduction of staple crops.
With its political and economic clout, the G20 should lead in delivering sustainable food systems as the world grapples with rising hunger, malnutrition and inequality.
In three weeks, the United Nations will bring together farmers, scientists, policymakers and civil society for the last major event ahead of the September UN Food Systems Summit.
In July, the United Nations will convene “Science Days
”, a high-profile event in preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit later this year. Over the course of two days, the world will be treated to a parade of Zoom sessions aimed at “highlighting the centrality of science, technology and innovation for food systems transformation.”
In 2020, Southeast Asian countries were already facing varied challenges that affected the region’s food supplies and prices. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic later in the year exacerbated the region’s food insecurity and poverty. Southeast Asian countries need to take a hard look at food security, even as the double challenges — climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic — continue to fester.
Acute hunger is expected to soar in over 20 countries in the next few months, warns a recent report
on global “hunger hotspots” from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). An estimated 34 million people are “one step away from starvation”, pushed to the brink by climate shocks, conflict, and the Covid-19 pandemic.