Millions of lives lost. Trillions of dollars in economic damage. Over 120 million more people pushed into extreme poverty. The human and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic is almost unimaginable – a once-in-a-century catastrophe.
With the two extremes of global hunger and obesity on the increase, a new report suggests a radical reset for food and nutrition to ensure the long-term sustainability of livelihoods and the environment.
Following an extensive scientific review, the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) is preparing to launch a new food systems model which incorporates nutrition and climate.
From small towns to big cities, sub-Saharan Africa has the fastest urban growth rate in the world. The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050 with the youth representing 60% of the overall population.
The UN Department of Global Communication, for example, projects that for the next 15 years urban growth is set to double for several African cities: Dar es Salaam will reach over 13 million inhabitants and Kampala will exceed seven million.
The battle for the future of food has grown contentious, and José Graziano da Silva has become a lightning rod for criticism. In 2014, as Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), he presided over the institution’s first International Agroecology Symposium, opening what he called “a new window in the Cathedral of the Green Revolution.” The FAO has since then formalized support for “Scaling Up Agroecology” while continuing to promote the kinds of chemical-intensive agriculture associated with the Green Revolution.
Last year, Jaxine Scott was off work as a caregiver at a primary school as a result of the pandemic. One day, she noticed a green shoot emerging from some garlic in her fridge. She decided to plant it, and to her surprise, it thrived. “I thought ‘It looks like I have a green thumb, let me plant something else,’” Scott says. She now has a backyard garden, including cucumber, pumpkin, melon, callaloo, cantaloupe, pak choy and tomatoes. “It makes me feel good,” she says. “I can help my family members and neighbours. It has saved me money. I’m not going to stop, I’m going to continue,” she says.
Small agricultural loans, disbursed through mobile phones and targeting specific farming activities at different phases of production, have more than doubled food productivity among thousands of smallholder farmers in southern and central parts of Tanzania over the past three years, improving their livelihoods.
Saheed Babajide, a young animal production graduate and a manager at a national milk production company in Iseyin, Nigeria, is a beneficiary of the government's youth agriculture intervention programme. But he feels he received almost no training during the three years he participated.
Global food systems have been failing most people for a long time, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made a critical situation even worse. 265 million people are threatened by famine, up 50% on last year; 700 million suffer from chronic hunger; and 2 billion more from malnutrition, with obesity and associated diet-related diseases increasing in all world regions.
It is not everyday that a young farmer registers success in his enterprise and vows this is what he will do for the rest of his life. Yet this is the story of Lihle Moyo, a 27-year-old farmer from Gwanda, about 160km south of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city.
In 1941, the people of Greece were facing a horrific winter. The Axis powers had plundered local supplies and introduced an extortionate tax on Greek citizens. Allied forces imposed a cruel blockade, cutting off imports. Prices skyrocketed. Hundreds of thousands of civilians perished.
After getting tired of searching for employment for seven years, Feston Zale from Chileka area in Malawi’s Southern Region decided to venture into agribusiness.
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador quietly rocked the agribusiness world with his New Year’s Eve decree to phase out use of the herbicide glyphosate and the cultivation of genetically modified corn. His administration sent an even stronger aftershock two weeks later, clarifying that the government would also phase out GM corn imports in three years and the ban would include not just corn for human consumption but yellow corn destined primarily for livestock. Under NAFTA, the United States has seen a 400% increase in corn exports to Mexico, the vast majority genetically modified yellow dent corn.
Every harvest season, Susan Zinoro, a mango farmer from Mutoko, Zimbabwe, buries half the mangoes she’s grown that season. They have already started rotting either on the tree or have fallen to the ground before harvest. It’s a difficult task for Zinoro because she knows she is throwing away food and income meant for her family.
Anas Shaikh is a Pakistani farmer on a mission to bring solutions to the many difficulties small and medium-scale farmer’s face in making a sustainable living.
When his friends prodded him to use an agricultural app in July, rice farmer Mustafa reluctantly downloaded RiTx Bertani into his smart phone. Four months later, he feels happy to have given the technology a try.
After ten years without a strong La Niña weather phenomenon in Colombia, the climate pattern, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, could create a vacuum in food production and supply. Multilateral organizations, along with the Colombian government, are trying to implement measures to reduce malnutrition risk. Still, the population is already overwhelmed by a year of struggles that have deepened socio-economic differences.
As the world accelerates towards achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, it is time to replace the current broken food system. With only a decade left to reach the deadline, evidence shows that the way food is produced, processed and transported is not only destructive to the environment but it is also leaving millions behind.
COVID-19 has magnified global food insecurity and is driving unhealthy eating and worsening malnutrition, food experts say. They have called for deliberate global investment in food as medicine on the back of growing diet-related illnesses.
Placing an online order for farming inputs saves Velebantfu Dlamini about USD12 in transport fees for a round trip of about 320 kilometres. The 26-year-old vegetable farmer from Nkhungwini in the Shiselweni Region, south of Eswatini, uses a portal to order from the National Agriculture Marketing Board (NAMBoard) Farm Store. NAMBoard then delivers his order leaving Dlamini with time to stay in the field and look after his crops.