842 million people worldwide find themselves without enough to eat, despite the fact that “since the 1970s, world agricultural production has been increasing at an average of 2.3 percent a year.” The goal to eliminate world hunger has been at the forefront of some of the world’s largest charitable organizations, international aid, and NGOs. The objective to “halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger” has been named a Millennium Development Goal.
Despite widespread awareness and generous levels of funding, why are so many people still going hungry, and what methods can be used to ensure food security and eliminate worldwide hunger?
The first question – why are there so many hungry – has several answers. The growth of the world’s population, especially in developing countries, means that there are simply more mouths to feed. Additionally, diets are changing to include more meat and dairy, which uses far more resources than plant-based diets. Global diets are also becoming homogenized, as more of what people eat becomes based off “a short list of major food crops, like wheat, maize and soybeans,” explains Colin Khoury with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. As the intake of these foods increases, the consumption of nutritionally dense grains and vegetables decreases.
Now for the second question: what can be done about it? The Global Forum for Agriculture Research (GFAR) advocates for a “shift from a traditional focus on productivity and production to address nutrition and health challenges.” GFAR’s research and policy work also calls for “a more coordinated way to address health and nutrition within new inter-organizations and interdisciplinary programs.”
In a similar vein, Jose Graziano da Silvia, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) explains that it will take the support of political leaders that establish a legal “right to food,” public backing, and cooperation between various public and private sectors.
An opportunity to do just this comes with the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), a joint effort between the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO). International stakeholders and global leaders will meet “with the overall goal of improving diets and raising nutrition levels through policies that more effectively address today’s major nutrition challenges.”
During the opening of the FAO Council, da Silvia spoke of the upcoming conference, saying, “ICN2 will provide us the opportunity to chart a better future in which all people are well nourished from food that is produced and consumed through sustainable systems.”
ICN2 will be held November 19-21, 2014.