The sustainable development goal number two aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
It is forecasted that by 2030 we should end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by doubling agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers (especially women and indigenous peoples), ensuring sustainable food production systems, and by progressively improving land and soil quality.
According to the United Nations Development Programme statistics
- One in nine people in the world today is undernourished; that’s 795 million people.
- If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by 150 million.
- Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of crop diversity has been lost from farmers’ fields.
- Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40% of the global population. It is the largest source of income for poor rural households.
- Women make up about 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and over 50% in parts of Asia and Africa.
Investing in the agricultural sector can address not only hunger and malnutrition but also other challenges including poverty; water and energy use; climate change; and unsustainable production and consumption.
Africa is potentially an agricultural powerhouse. The continent has 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land and could grow enough food to meet its own needs and export surpluses. Yet hundreds of millions go hungry. Despite recent progress, Africa’s farmers, most of whom are smallholders, underperform.
Global population growth and increasing prosperity could increase the demand for food by 50% by 2050. But our planetary boundaries are already reaching their limits. Land and freshwater resources, the very basis of our food production, are under heavy stress, and oceans, forests, and other ecosystems are being degraded at an unprecedented scale. Conflicts over resources and the devastating impacts of climate change risk pushing millions more into abject poverty and hunger. And as always, it is the world’s poorest who suffer most. We see this now in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Northern Nigeria where more than 20 million people are in desperate need of food assistance.
The challenges to feed the world sustainably are huge, but fortunately we are not starting from scratch. With the Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has adopted a compelling vision with ambitious goals. To successfully implement the SDGs, governments of all countries must play a critical role, but it is not their responsibility alone. Fulfilling these ambitions requires an unprecedented effort by all sectors in society, and business must be at the heart of this endeavor. The expectations are high, and so are the opportunities. Across the world, an increasing number of businesses are already looking beyond short-term profit to create value through sustainable solutions for society. Such decisions are not simply motivated by altruism, but rather by a clear understanding that social risks are detrimental to their bottom line.
Far-sighted companies are doing business responsibly and embracing new technologies to deliver on wider goals of development, including improving access to food and clean water, to sanitation, healthcare and education. They are building alliances and partnerships to drive innovation, create jobs, and advance equitable growth. There is an urgent need to reshape agriculture and food systems to better feed the world and deliver sustainable development.
The importance of greater investment cannot be overemphasized, particularly in developing countries where the need and potential for increasing agricultural productivity and production are greatest. This would help feed growing populations sustainably, while creating jobs and incomes across rural areas, particularly for young people. One example of this is in Africa, where over the last decade, countries have started to put greater emphasis on investment in agriculture and supporting policies and regulations. Indeed, history shows that increasing agricultural productivity is a critical driver of economic transformation and social development.
It is imperative that smallholder farmers, who produce nearly 70% of all food consumed worldwide, are at the heart of all our efforts. Government and the private sector can and must form innovative partnerships with farmers’ organizations and smallholders, providing access to better seeds, sustainable farming techniques, and modern technologies. It is soothing to know that major companies, including Syngenta AG (a global company agribusiness that produces agrochemicals and seeds) are already providing tools and training to smallholders in Sub-Saharan African and other regions, thereby filling critical gaps along the value chain. It is crucial that the bigger corporations share market access, financing and knowledge with small farmers and local agribusinesses. The greatest success will come if all stakeholders work in close partnership. Smallholders need to grow into agro-entrepreneurs and subsistence farms into profitable businesses.
We must ensure that agriculture and food systems become nutrition-smart, because it’s not just about the amount of food we grow, it’s also about the type of food that we consume. We are what we eat. Evidence shows that nutrition is crucial for economic growth as better nourished populations are more productive. We need governments to urgently adopt the right policies and mobilize resources to scale-up nutrition. The food industry must support these efforts by providing consumers with access to more nutritious foods. Scientific research and innovation is equally important in this context.
We have to foster food systems that produce more food but with fewer resources as we are reaching a point where our capacity to meet current and future needs is seriously jeopardized. Governments have to adopt, enforce and strengthen policies that promote responsible natural resource management and prevent the loss of natural habitats, forests and biodiversity. It is crucial that businesses source, process and manage resources efficiently to meet growing demand, while preserving our environment and climate. This must include responsible water stewardship, striving for zero waste and using energy resources more sustainably.
These may seem mountainous a task but it is our only shot at eliminating food scarcity and attaining Zero Hunger status come 2030. Reaching the SDG targets simply will not be possible without a strong and sustainable agricultural sector.
Credit to the Kofi Annan Foundation!