Sustainability is key to fight hunger, poverty
By Deepanwita Niyogi
The celebration of the 35th World Food Day (WFD) on Friday at the Milan Expo witnessed the presence of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, President of Italy Sergio Mattarella and several other dignitaries.
Welcoming the delegates, the Italian President said, “Feeding the planet is the challenge of our era. Feeding all of the people on our earth is a great political project in this era of globalisation where times the rules of finance prevail over those of the real economy…The right to food and water can be affirmed in all continents.”
This year, the WFD was a unique opportunity to send out a strong message to the Zero Hunger challenge. The main priority now is to engage all in a bid to sustainably eradicate hunger and poverty globally by 2030.
The ceremony commemorated FAO’s 70th anniversary and addressed the theme of WFD 2015—Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty. This was linked to the UN expo theme—The Zero Hunger Challenge: United for a sustainable world.
Representatives from FAO member countries, representatives of the Italian government and other participants attended the event.
A big thanks to farmers
The FAO Director General thanked farmers, fishers, forest workers and other food and agriculture workers for their contribution to the "amazing achievement" of increasing sustenance for all even as the world population tripled since 1945.
Referring to this year's WFD theme, he noted that "production and economic growth alone do not solve the problem, if the hungry remain excluded. India, Brazil and Ethiopia and other countries show us that increasing the power of the very poor to buy food offers an affordable key to hunger eradication."
Pope Francis said in a message that hunger is due to both "iniquitous distribution of the fruits of the earth" and inadequate agricultural development.
On the occasion of this historic day, the UN Secretary General said, “In a world of plenty, no one not a single person should go hungry.”
Some of the objectives of WFD this year include zero stunted children less than two years, complete access to adequate food throughout the year, sustainability of all food systems, increase in small-holder productivity and income, zero loss and wastage of food.
Emphasis on sustainability
This year the emphasis is on sustainability and how sustainable agriculture practices should be encouraged to ensure food for all. “Policy makers should make youth development and employment one of their top priorities. If not, many parts of the world will have a lost generation, rather than a generation that secured zero hunger,” Rob Vos told Down To Earth in an email interview from Rome.
Access to food for the poor can go hand in hand with improving productivity where we support small-holder family farming, many of which are now among the rural poor, he said.
This can be promoted through social protection, which helps people sail through bad times and put enough food on the table. “By reducing income insecurity, poor families can better protect their assets, invest in their farms, as well as in their future, such as through better nutrition and education for their children,” Vos added.
According to him, more diversified agricultural practices, such poly-crop farming across seasons, are part of sustainable agriculture and can help secure year-round food security, provide multiple livelihoods to small-holder family farmers and provide for more diversified and nutritious food availability.
However, such practices can prove to be viable if farmers are well connected to markets, if they have adequate storage space and access to irrigation and when there is adequate food processing capacity.