The Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) Advocacy Hub recently launched two anti-hunger campaigns at COP27: Beans is How (BiH) and Hungry for Action (H4A). Both campaigns are working to raise awareness about the global hunger and climate crises, while promoting solutions that can help address these pressing challenges.
“The current food system is not designed to deliver affordable and nutritious diets to the vast majority of the world’s population – urgent reform is needed now as well as support for the millions already suffering from malnutrition as a result of this broken system,” says Simon Bishop, CEO at The Power of Nutrition.
The H4A campaign asks global governmental leaders to urgently increase funding to reach the US$33 billion they say is needed to address chronic and acute hunger. H4A also calls on governments and individuals to double funding for climate adaptation, investing in small-scale food producers, improving nutrition, and canceling the debts of poor countries.
Elizabeth Nsimdala, President of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation and Michael Sheldrick, Co-Founder and Chief Policy, Impact, and Government Affairs Officer at Global Citizen argue that the current hunger crisis is a result of poor governance and decades of poor choices that has left farmers ill-equipped. They also say that the climate and food crises are intertwined and that global governmental leaders must proactively intervene.
The goal of the BiH campaign is to show how increasing bean consumption around the world can contribute to a healthier, fairer, more resilient food system and help achieve SDG2, which aims to end hunger in all its forms by 2030. BiH hopes to double global bean consumption by 2028.
According to the UN State of Food Security and Nutrition Report, as many as 828 million people around the world experienced hunger in 2021, an increase in 150 million from 2019. And 2.3 billion people – 29.3 percent of the global population – were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021.
“This is both an acute and a chronic crisis,” says David McNair, Executive Director, Global Policy at the ONE campaign. “Right now, East Africa is facing yet another famine, children are dying for want of simple sustenance, as crops fail due to prolonged drought. But this is a cycle we’ve seen before that can and must be broken.”
As the global population continues to grow and demand for protein increases, beans can provide a sustainable and nutritious alternative to animal-based proteins, according to John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
“Beans, legumes, pulses, and peas come in thousands of varieties,” says Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, former Special Envoy to the UN Food Systems Summit and a Bean Champion. “Beans are an excellent crop for farmers to grow, and they are rich in proteins and iron.”
For centuries, beans have been a staple food source for communities around the world. According to The Bean Institute, legumes–including beans, peas, and lentils–are one of the oldest foods consumed by people, dating back 12,000 years to the hunter-gatherer period. U.S. farmers plant between 1.5 and 1.7 million acres of dry edible beans, yet Civil Eats reports that this isn’t enough to address the climate crisis and curb hunger.
Beans contain key proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, and can help address the climate crisis and global malnutrition, says Paul Newnham, Executive Director of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub. Additionally, cultivating legumes helps fix nitrogen to the soil, which improves soil health and reduces the need for nitrogen fertilizer. Beans also produce significantly fewer greenhouse gasses (GHG) emissions than animal products.
In recent years, bean breeders at the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) have developed 536 new varieties of beans to meet the demand of both farmers and consumers. These varieties have been made available to over 30 million households. PABRA is also working to increase the nutritional quality of beans through biofortification. According to CGIAR, almost one-fifth of Rwanda’s population is now eating iron-enriched beans. This provides 80 percent of the iron needs of young children and non-pregnant women, according to the Advocacy Hub.
As the BiH and H4A campaigns get underway, McNair emphasizes: “We will not solve this crisis with solutions of the past. We have to act and overhaul the food system completely to build resilience and redistribute power rather than bouncing from crisis to crisis and doing too little in between.
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Photo Courtesy of The Global FoodBanking Network, Brian Otieno