Thursday, May 19 2022

Act now against the root causes of food insecurity

The future of food looks increasingly uncertain in the Near East and North Africa region, which faces growing food insecurity and malnutrition. We can and must act now to tackle the root causes of this situation and transform the structures governing how what we eat is produced, distributed and consumed.

As things stand, protracted crises caused by conflict and other humanitarian crises, together with a rapidly growing population, are leading to increasing dependence on food imports. These often overlapping risks also combine with economic shocks to undermine livelihoods and plunge millions of people into acute food insecurity. Poverty, widespread inequality and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are compounding the situation.

Most importantly, the region faces increasing pressure from the impacts of the climate crisis, extreme water scarcity and natural resource degradation, which further exacerbate the severity and impact of shocks and erode resilience. .

The region still has a long way to go to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 – zero hunger by 2030. In 2020, 59.3 million people were undernourished in the region alone, or 14 .2% of its population.

About 165 million people in the region live in rural areas, where most of the poor have to endure inadequate basic services, low opportunities for innovation, limited access to productive infrastructure, services and value chains, and a lack of available jobs.

Increasing migration to cities is fueling the ever-increasing number of urban poor. Many are young people, who often do not find the opportunities they are looking for.

The regional conference is an important pathway towards the implementation of the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-2031 to ensure better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life for all, leaving no one behind.

Qu Dongyu

The region faces structural challenges that make it particularly difficult to feed a growing population. The result is that our agri-food systems fail to support healthy diets. Food provides calories, but insufficient nutrition, leading to the triple burden of malnutrition: stunting, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies.

We urgently need to transform our agri-food systems to make them more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable. The warning from science is unequivocal: simple scaling up will not suffice. We need structural change and we need to make sure it happens quickly.

The first priority is to get everyone to the table. Policy makers need to find solutions that can reshape the future of the agrifood sector in the Near East and North Africa. This requires broad partnerships with all stakeholders, including the private sector, academia and civil society, to implement them.

We are only eight planting seasons away from the 2030 deadline for achieving the Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has called for a comprehensive and coherent strategy to achieve these 17 goals, with agrifood systems at the centre. Problems and solutions are inseparable. Our natural resources will only be preserved for future generations if we succeed in reducing poverty and hunger by promoting sustainable agrifood systems and building the resilience of rural communities. We need to rethink our agri-food systems to reshape our future.

There is a range of short, medium and long-term actions we can take now to build sustainable, inclusive and healthy agrifood systems. We need to harness the potential of technologies and innovation in agrifood value chains to support rural transformation. There must be incentives, norms and standards to drive changes in consumption patterns, reduce food loss and waste, scale up land restoration and reforestation. It is important to set limits for agricultural water withdrawals, while increasing water productivity.

We will not achieve our common goal of zero hunger if vulnerable people are left behind. In countries facing complex emergencies, which are often among the largest food crises in the world, scaling up investments in agriculture as a frontline humanitarian response not only saves lives and protect short-term livelihoods, but can also lay the foundation for future recovery and improvement. building resilience. Development efforts must combine with these efforts, engaging with peace and climate actors to ensure sustainable transformation of agrifood systems.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has decades of experience in humanitarian and development programs. By focusing on responses that build resilience, it simultaneously addresses the many risks and vulnerabilities people face, addresses immediate humanitarian needs, and enables them to be better prepared and able to face the next. shock or stress.

Increased solidarity and cooperation between countries and regions are also key drivers for eradicating hunger, ending food insecurity and ensuring sustainability. We need to work together efficiently, effectively and cohesively. Peace is an overriding requirement for many of these win-win solutions.

The organization will continue to support countries’ efforts to work closely with international organizations, academia, the private sector, civil society, international financial institutions and all relevant stakeholders through a number of initiatives, such as the Hand in Hand initiative. FAO is committed to continuing to support members in the region to design and implement the policies they need for inclusive productivity growth and food security for all.

This week’s 36th session of the FAO Regional Conference for the Near East will be an opportunity for agriculture ministers from the region to meet in Baghdad on February 7-8 to discuss challenges and priorities, and commit to owning and taking action to transform agrifood systems for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The regional conference is an important pathway towards the implementation of the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-2031 to ensure better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life for all, leaving no one behind.

• Qu Dongyu is Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News


Thinking about investing in crypto this year? Follow these 4 steps first


PBIL organizes Meet the Press

Check Also