OFID Quarterly July 2016 - Zero hunger by 2030: The not-so-impossible dream
Hunger: More than a moral outrage
The statistics are shocking, so utterly appalling as to be beyond comprehension: 780 million people deprived of sufficient nourishment; three million under-fives dead from hunger in just one year; and, 66 million primary school children sent to class every day on empty stomachs.
Tragically, this is not the trailer for some postapocalyptic sci-fi blockbuster, but hard truths about the world we live in.
And the sting in the tail? The unpalatable fact that 1.3bn tonnes, or 30 percent, of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally every year— enough to feed the 780 million hungry four times over.
Factor in the precious resources that are squandered in the process—water, land, energy, labor and capital— and an even grimmer picture emerges.
Little wonder then that the goal of “zero hunger” sits alongside that of “no poverty” at the top of the 2030 Agenda for Development.
The challenges, however, are immense and deeply complex. It’s not just a question of producing enough food. It’s about efficient distribution networks and value chains; the smart management of limited natural resources; and the effective mobilization of all stakeholders, from governments to civil society and the private sector.
And that’s just scraping the surface.
The fact remains, the problem of hunger is so entrenched that it has taken over twenty years to reduce the number of undernourished in developing regions from 991 million to 780 million.
Granted, the figures look better as a percentage of the total population—23.3 percent in 1990–1992 compared with 12.9 percent in 2014–2016. But there is no ignoring the bottom line: far too many people’s lives are blighted by the physiological and emotional impact of ill nourishment.
Which begs the question: is the total elimination of hunger possible by 2030 … or just pie in the sky?
To OFID’s mind, the answer is clear. No stone must be left unturned to ensure proper nutrition for each and every inhabitant of our shared planet. It’s a challenge— one that will require innovation, financial resources and political will—but it can and must be done.
For OFID, the issue of food security has been a key focus of our operations for four decades. Over the years, we’ve channeled billions of dollars into rural infrastructure—from irrigation systems and electricity networks to storage facilities and roads—to support the production, processing and distribution of produce.
With the bulk of food being grown by family farming, we’ve provided technical assistance, capacity building and credit to small producers to help them develop sustainable cultivation methods and improve the quality and quantity of their yields.
And we’ve worked to integrate the might of the private sector into value chains to give small farmers better access to markets—both domestic and export—and a higher, fairer price for their produce.
When needs must, we’ve also stepped in to support the work of organizations like the World Food Program, providing funding for school feeding programs or for the distribution of emergency rations to famine-struck regions.
Through hard-won experience, we’ve come to recognize the importance of an integrated approach to food security, fully embracing the notion that success will depend on all elements being assessed and tackled as an organic whole.
This is why our strategic plan for 2016–2025 has as its pillar the so-called energy–water–food nexus, supported by transportation as an enabling component.
Already in 2015, we channeled US$726m, or more than 60 percent of our total commitments for the year, to those four areas. These efforts will continue and intensify, as we work with our partners toward the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, as well as practical action where it’s needed, the international community also has to work at changing mentalities in the industrialized world, where food waste every year equals almost as much as the entire net production of sub-Saharan Africa (222 million vs. 230 million tonnes).
We must banish the idea that aesthetics is a valid reason for throwing away “imperfect” produce. And we must educate consumers as to the hidden value of food: the precious and often dwindling resources used to grow it, process it, package it, and deliver it—sometimes from one side of the world to the other.
For, at the end of the day, hunger in a world of plenty is not just a moral outrage; for millions it is a veritable death sentence. And who would wish that on another innocent human being?