16 October exactly 40 years ago when FAO— the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency — decided annually to celebrate World Food Day with the aim of spreading progress and raising awareness of challenges malnutrition. A good way to immerse ourselves in this day is to ask ourselves about the progress of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 which, within the framework of the 2030 Agenda, aims to end hunger, improve nutrition and promote environmentally sustainable agriculture.
In fact, the recent review at the United Nations General Assembly on progress in the 2030 Agenda, as well as the previous report of its Secretary-General, are not optimistic about this. António Guterres synthesizes it by saying that the progress of many SDGs has been slow, that the most vulnerable people remain the ones suffering the most from their consequences, and that the global response so far has not been ambitious enough, either in the leadership or in the intensity of the required changes. Its reflection in SDG 2 is that 821 million people are starving, a figure that has increased for the third year in a row, that one fifth of sub-Saharan Africa's population is malnourished, and that public spending on agriculture has fallen by 37%. That means we're getting further and further from the target,
If we really want to provoke a turning point in food, we are committed to simultaneously tackling at least three sets of complex and interdependent problems. First, the democratic deficit of our food system. Today we produce more than three times as much food as we did 60 years ago, but almost a billion people don't have access to it. Poorer countries depend on imports to feed their population spending and live permanently exposed and unprotected from market swings and speculators. And so, as the food system increasingly focuses on a few companies that control the entire process of the food chain, from planting or breeding to distribution and has great power to influence prices and markets the small family farming is excluded from markets and is becoming more difficult to access supplies, credits, or produce its own food.
According to FAO data, there are 500 million small farms in developing countries that support nearly two billion people and produce about 80% of the food consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, according to the Guterres report, its productivity is consistently lower than that of all other food producers.
Food cannot be a privilege of a few, but a right of all people, linked to their human dignity
Secondly, we must urgently address the environmental deficit in food production. According to the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate change and land, agricultural activities related to food production occupy 49% of the total of the earth's surface free of ice. And the human impact on ecosystems is devastating. We produce more at the cost of great pressure on the planet's resources: deforestation, destruction of biodiversity, use of 70% of available fresh water, contamination of rivers and lands by the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, erosion processes and impoverishment of monoculture-related land, greenhouse gas emissions...
According to this report, the use of chemical fertilizers has increased by 800% since 1961 and, at present, the whole of food production and consumption is responsible for the emission of one third of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. In turn, increased global warming makes food production increasingly difficult, especially in countries with high climate and social vulnerability.
Thirdly, we must address the health deficit in our food consumption habits, which in the last 50 years have changed radically. Today we consume a large amount of meat, dairy and industrialized products with excess lipids, sugars or hypersalted. Simultaneously we have reduced our consumption of cereals, legumes, fruits and vegetables. In addition, we consume food from anywhere in the world, at any time of the year, causing a large ecological footprint, related to transport, plastics... These new eating habits increase the health risks associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer. One of its most striking consequences is the simultaneous coexistence of one billion malnourished people, with two billion people obese and malnourished, the latter largely corresponding to people with less purchasing power in the most purchasing countries rich and middle-income,
Manos Unidas is an organization that was born 60 years ago with the aim of fighting hunger and poverty, and all its causes. From our institution, together with many others, we believe that food cannot be a privilege of the few, but a right of all people, linked to their human dignity. And we believe that working for sufficient, healthy and sustainable food is a task for all of us, including states, businesses, society and people. That is why today, together with all the organizations that form the Network, we launch our proposals for action, being aware that every time we decide what to eat, we also choose to take care of people and the planet. In this way we hope to contribute to healthy eating, in a world without hunger, as the motto 2019 of Food Day says.