ROME, Oct 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Aid agencies, the United Nations and its member countries mark World Food Day on Wednesday in the shadow of a worsening hunger and malnutrition crisis fuelled by climate change, drawn-out conflicts and economic downturns.
Globally more than 2 billion people, or nearly one in four, lack access to “safe, nutritious and sufficient food”, including 8% of Europe and North America’s populace, putting their health at risk according to the latest U.N. figures.
Based on World Food Day’s theme, we asked experts: “What is the one thing we need to change in the food system to make healthy diets available for everybody?”
MAXIMO TORERO CULLEN, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS’ FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO)
“Enough food is being produced globally... But food is not being produced where it is most needed. Countries are failing to provide incentives to farmers to produce more nutritious food.
“Countries keep subsidising products with low nutritional value, favouring staple foods — wheat, rice, maize — over fruits and vegetables. This has a negative effect on nutrition and dietary diversity.
“If we want to envision a world free of hunger and malnutrition, production incentives have to change.
“We need better incentives for the world’s agricultural producers. Better information to prod consumers into choosing healthier diets. Sustainable trade with clear rules. And a big push to think of nutrition as part of food safety.”
JESSICA FANZO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY AND CO-CHAIR, GLOBAL NUTRITION REPORT
“One thing that would be a game-changer for food systems is for countries to develop holistic food system policies with clear, near and long-term, time-bound actions and goals to be achieved for human and planetary health.
“There are agriculture, climate change and nutrition national policies, but very few that bring it all together.”
BABA DIOUM, JOINT WINNER OF 2019 AFRICA FOOD PRIZE AND AGRICULTURAL ENTREPRENEUR, SENEGAL
“To respond to such concerns, it is imperative to move towards a new agricultural policy capable of preserving the productive bases of soil, water and biodiversity in order to establish durability.
“Such a policy, through innovative technologies and incentives, enables farmers to produce and market enough agri-food products with high nutritional value that meet sanitary and phytosanitary standards for the protection of consumers.”
MAHESH BADAL, LIVELIHOOD AND NATURAL RESOURCE COORDINATOR, ACTIONAID NEPAL
“There can be no end to rising world hunger without empowering women farmers and restoring the rights of rural communities.
“Women make up at least half of the smallholders, marginal farmers, pastoralists, fisher folk, forest dwellers, tribal and indigenous peoples who produce 80% of the world’s food. But they are being denied access to land and natural resources.”
AGNES KALIBATA, PRESIDENT, ALLIANCE FOR A GREEN REVOLUTION IN AFRICA (AGRA), FORMER MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND ANIMAL RESOURCES IN RWANDA
“Food systems are often designed with an end in mind; be it food security, better incomes, better livelihoods, or pure profit motive.
“What we need is to refine the end, ensuring healthy, affordable and accessible diets for all. This is critical for building household resilience.
“As food systems are complicated with no silver bullets, creating the right policy environment should be prioritised. This will enable farmers to diversify into more nutritious foods and embrace nature-based solutions.
“It will also create incentives for private-sector involvement in food systems.”
BRUCE CAMPBELL, DIRECTOR, THE CGIAR RESEARCH PROGRAM ON CLIMATE CHANGE, AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SECURITY (CCAFS)
“In low-income countries, the governments need to provide an enabling framework to facilitate orders of magnitude more investment by the private sector in fostering local and national food value chains to both meet needs of rising urban populations and changing diets, as well as to tap into smallholder farming operations.
“The unacceptable alternative is a massive increase in food imports.” (Reporting By Thin Lei Win @thinink, Editing by Chris Michaud. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, and property rights. Visit www.trust.org)