COP23: ‘transformation’ of food system needed to meet rise in hunger

November 15th, 2017

A “transformation” of agricultural sectors and food systems is required to meet a rise in hunger across the globe, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

Speaking at a high-level event on hunger at the global climate conference in Bonn, Germany, José Graziano da Silva said that world hunger is on the rise for the first time in a decade.

He said that the unpredictability of the changing climate has undermined steps towards zero hunger and caused disruptions in food supply and distribution.

An estimated 815 million people now suffer from habitual hunger according to the FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017.

Mr Graziano da Silva said that a “transformation” of agricultural sectors and food systems needs to take place to tackle the growing crisis.

According to a recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), climate change will have a negative effect on key crops such as wheat, rice, and maize.

Da Silva said that rural populations – home to over 70 percent of the world’s poor – need to be “strengthened in their roles as stewards of biodiversity, natural resources, and vital ecosystem services”.

Rural communities are most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition, natural resource scarcity, conflict, and climate impacts.

Bags of food aid at food distirbution point in Harare, Zimbabwe, April, 2009. Photo: Kate Holt / AusAID

Solutions in the Making

Potential solutions outlined at the meeting were mainly focused on sustainable agriculture, and reducing emissions from agricultural industries.

FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 per cent with the adoption of best practices in the livestock sector.

Soil carbons were also a topic at the meeting as participants agreed that management of lands to increase soil carbon, particularly in grasslands, need to be implemented.

The FAO estimates that rehabilitating agricultural and degraded soils can remove up to 51 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, according to some estimates.

Other solutions ranged from support for communities for climate change adaptation and disaster risk management through the Global Action Programme (GAP) to sustainable forest management in integrated landscape management.

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Alternative Solutions

A new study published in the journal Nature Communications identifies an increase in the use of organic farming methods as a potential way to bring down greenhouse gases emissions.

However, this could only be achieved by cutting down on food waste and using less cropland to feed livestock by shifting to a more vegetarian-based diet, the report states.

“Organic agriculture is one concrete, but controversial, suggestion for improving the sustainability of food systems,” the study authors wrote.

They added: “It refrains from using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, promotes crop rotations and focuses on soil fertility and closed nutrient cycles”.

About the Author

Sorcha McManigan

Sorcha has a Degree Honours in Journalism with French from DIT and is passionate about social issues and radio production

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