ARATI JOSHI.The Himalayan Times: March 28, 2018. Nepal


United Nations says food production must double by 2050 to meet the demand of the world’s growing population and innovative strategies are needed to help combat hunger

Illustration: RatnaSagarShrestha/THT

We are living in technologically advanced era today when people are aiming to settle in the moon. But there are some harsh realities when it comes to feeding millions of people on the earth. Food security has emerged as a major global challenge today with nearly 800 million people in the world facing hunger.

While the urban population is changing their diet from traditional to “healthier low-fat food”, in some parts, many people are deprived of basic nutrition.

It is estimated that about 1.3 billion ton of food is wasted across the world every year. Every five seconds a child under five dies because of hunger, or of directly related causes.

Those who survive face severe malnutrition, which is a major cause of death. A report has revealed that nearly half of all deaths in children under five are attributable to under-nutrition, which results in the loss of about three million young lives a year.

If we go through the statistics, the number of people suffering from hunger went up by 75 million in 2007 and by 40 million in 2008. In 2016, the number of people affected by hunger reached 815 million or 11 per cent the global population. Similarly, the number of undernourished people in the world went up 1.04 times in 2016 than that was in 2015.

The increased hunger and malnutrition is attributed to poverty, increase in food prices, climate change, natural disasters and conflicts.

Hunger is the world’s no.1 health risk. It kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

One in seven people in the world go to bed hungry.

Asia and the Pacific region is home to over half the world’s population and nearly two thirds of the world’s hungry people.

Around 65 percent of the world’s hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

There is the problem of food insecurity not because the world does not produce enough to feed the population. But it emanates from the fact that food produced in one region is not made available in the other areas. Most of the people in the world are facing hunger because they have a very low purchasing ability.

Conflict is yet another challenge that has emerged as a grave problem, contributing to food insecurity.

The conflict in Asia makes it the continent with the most hungry people – two thirds of the total. However, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. And climate change is hugely contributing to food insecurity due to increase in temperatures, erratic weather pattern, infestation of disease and pest, invasion of weeds, pest and diseases and by many other ways.

The surplus food production of one region should be made available in food deficit regions in such way that they it is accessed even by the most disadvantaged group. To ensure proper access, there is a need of developing effective distribution systems and market channels and increasing investment to output market. Food security-friendly import-export policy should be introduced.

To solve the problem of food insecurity, we not only should focus on food system but also on other factors that are related to food security. The attributing factors are women’s education, women’s active participation in agricultural activities, lifestyle, culture, access to health services and basic sanitation among others. These factors are positively correlated with food security.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, women could boost yield by 20-30 per cent, increasing the overall agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4 per cent.

This gain in production could lessen the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 per cent besides increasing women’s income.

The countries that are empowering women tend to see lower rates of stunting (low height for age), the primary measure of chronic under-nutrition. Enhancing women’s control over decision-making in the household translates gender equality into better prospects and greater well-being of children, reducing malnutrition and poverty of future generations.

Post-harvest loss of food is also a major factor causing food wastage. Global organisations have been lobbying with regional and local organisations to reduce the hunger and food insecurity problem to a significant level.

The United Nations has been developing several strategies to promote activities against food insecurity. MDG and SDG have been the major strategic tools through which the UN has planned to reach its goal.

Similarly, the World Food Programme and others have been actively working to achieve the goal of zero hunger. The UN says food production must double by 2050 to meet the demand of the world’s growing population and innovative strategies are needed to help combat hunger.

We must think and act even more boldly and innovatively to accelerate viable solutions for achieving food security more quickly on a global scale.