Hunger is a paradoxical phenomenon that is plaguing the world today. Around 800 million people are unable to satisfy their basic needs for food and nutrition. The most important cause for hunger in the world is poverty and inequality in the distribution of resources. The world has been able to produce plenty, but has failed in distributing them effectively. This has actually resulted in hunger on the one side and wastage of food on the other. It is only adequate intervention and redistribution which can resolve this problem.
Under the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, the goal of ‘zero hunger’ is one of them. The targets under this goal are intrinsically tied towards improving the situation of farmers and vulnerable communities. On the one hand, it aims to secure distribution and to improve agriculture, while on the other to make it capable of feeding a global population. This goal is also tied to the environmental concerns that the planet is facing at present. By this means, it aims to address the complex interaction of several causes that contribute to global hunger.
The first aspect of improving farming communities is linked to the importance of agriculture in today’s world. Globally, it is the largest employer, providing incomes to over 40% of the population. Ironically, there is a greater incidence of hunger among these communities and they are more likely to be under poverty. The reason behind this accounts for the wide disparity even within the farming communities. On the one side, there are large farms that employ massive amounts of artificial inputs and machinery to produce huge output, and on the other, there is rain fed cultivation which is unable to produce sufficient incomes for the farmers. Strengthening the incomes of the farming community especially women farmers is important. It is estimated that 50% of global hunger can be averted, if resources are evenly distributed between male and female farmers.
Strengthening environmental friendly agricultural practices is also the need of the hour. In today’s world, land and water resources are being depleted and degraded at exponential rates. The effects of global warming on the environment have not been fully captured by the human population. Many of the natural disasters that people are facing are predicted to be climate change induced problems. In this context, sustainable agricultural practices that replenish the quality of land and nature, as well as protect the genetic and biological diversity around us become important. This idea is central to the goal of zero hunger sustainable development. Genetic diversity in agriculture ensures that food production is not massively affected by any disaster, drought or even pest attack.
The targets of the goal of zero hunger are to eradicate global hunger by 2030. They include ensuring secure access to food by 2030, and eradicating all forms of malnourishment at the global level. It also aims to reduce stunting in children due to malnourishment by 2030. Other aspects of this goal aim towards increasing agricultural productivity and incomes, improving genetic diversity in agriculture, etc. The goal advocates an increased investment in agricultural technology and research, improved efficiency of food markets and removal of all kinds of barriers that distort food prices. They recommended removing all barriers in international trade that might skew the prices and affect the ability of individuals to secure nutritious meals.
However, even though these goals have been in place, the world has not been able to make sufficient progress especially when one realizes that the target year is just a decade away. World Food Programme has estimated that we require $3.2 billion a year to feed all those people who are globally affected by hunger. This indicates that the solution can be easily attained. However, ensuring steady access is a big concern. Some of the most effective ways are to address the root cause of poverty by ensuring stable employment and a steady flow of income. Combining the provision of food with education through mid-day meal schemes have a double benefit of addressing hunger and contributing to human capital formation. This can ensure upliftment of people from poverty, and prevent falling into poverty again.
The solution is within our reach and yet a complete lack of initiatives is costing us lives. High level of international cooperation and restructuring of the distribution channels of food and incomes is actually required. Food security depends on access and affordability. Therefore, working on these aspects at the grassroots levels can ensure sustainable and long-lasting changes which can fight against Mankind’s gravest problems.
Picture Credits : rockefellerfoundation