Food and Water

Tackling hunger: What we need to do today to improve food security

Failing to take action on food security will have a myriad of impacts, including mass migrations and the destabilization of nations.

Failing to take action on food security will have a myriad of impacts, including mass migrations and the destabilization of nations. Image: Unsplash/Tshedza Muvhango

Adam Amoussou
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Food Security

This article is part of: Global Shapers Annual Summit

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  • Food security is one of the world's most pressing challenges and we only have a short window of time in which to act on it.
  • Our broken food system is also responsible for over a third of global carbon emissions and 80% of deforestation.
  • We must act now by making agricultural practices more sustainable and ensuring that everyone can access the food they need.

Food security is in a state of emergency as the result of catastrophic risks across the globe and we only have a short window of time in which we have to act.

Food is the one of the few things that all humans have in common and it affects many aspects of our lives. Hunger is an key issue in many parts of the world due to conflicts, climate change and the recent COVID-19 pandemic – reasons we should all be concerned and involved in tackling the growing food security crisis.

Our world is facing a broken food system, which is responsible for more than a third of all global greenhouse gas emissions, 80% of deforestation and the leading cause of habitat destruction.

'We are eating at the expense of the planet'

It’s more evident than ever that we are eating at the expense of the planet we all call home and that we are burning it down with the fire of hunger. It’s imperative we quench this fire of hunger and we must act now – our own survival and the survival of next generations depends on it and there’ll be no short cut.

Have you read?

Many conflicts have happened due to absence of food: the Flour War of 1775 which was a prelude to the French Revolution, the 1918 rice riots in Japan and the 1977 Egyptian bread riots to name a few.

Looking at the size of the current crisis, it is clear that achieving durable solutions will require both short- and long-term approaches, with climate at the centre of all decision-making and, most importantly, a commitment from us all.

The first element when building successful solution strategies is awareness, with a wide-ranging campaign that targets everyone. The food security crisis must not be only discussed among the rich and the elite; every citizen in every country must be involved.

Food and the environment must become elections issues and be included in education as early as the first year of school. Children are the most vulnerable to the crisis and we need to educate and feed each and every child.

In 2020, 149 million children under the age of five were reported to have stunted growth and 45% of deaths among the same age group being attributed to undernutrition, according to the World Health Organization.

Approaches to solutions that address food insecurity without prioritizing regenerative agriculture – a way of farming that focuses on soil health – tend not to be sustainable. Much of our food no longer has enough nutrients because the soil has been degraded.

The cost of a healthy diet is four times higher than the cost of the minimum calorie-sufficient diet and unaffordable to many families. It is vital that we prevent the food affordability crisis becoming a food availability crisis. We can still buy food today but if we don’t act, tomorrow even if we have money it won’t be enough to buy food.

Food production must be most sustainable

We have to secure upcoming agriculture seasons and make sure the minimum organic content rate of the soil is respected; be mindful of the water resources use; diversify and find alternative sources of proteins, including considering insects as a source of proteins; and use cassava or millet in bread and other food products that we use wheat for.

Regenerating the soil is necessary for our survival and that of future generations. Soil is biological and healable; it’s a living organism and we can heal it by doing the right thing.

Failing to do so will only lead us to destroying more natural reserves and rainforests in the quest of acquiring more lands to produce food. The Brazilian part of the Amazon rainforest – which has been one of the most important carbon sink on Earth for thousands of years – is now releasing more carbon than it absorbs.

Oceans cover more than 70% of the surface of our planet and provide more than 10% of the food on our table, so it’s of paramount importance to protect and control ocean exploitation with strict regulations.

Everyone needs to act to improve food security

In order to achieve durable solutions, commitments from every stakeholder are required. Governments must adopt incentive-based policy approaches to move us towards sustainable and equitable food production as the capability of countries to feed their people and invest in food innovation must be strengthened.

It is also important to have transparency in food production and prevent greenwashing from large corporations to avert them from taking advantage of the market by driving prices higher. Food must be affordable and reach those who need it the most.

We are at a critical moment; a moment of responsibility and there’s never been a better time in our history for every human being to participate in food systems.

The consumer is the most powerful actor in food systems. We can go to the grocery store and decide to buy food that was produced by destroying the environment such as through excessive use of chemical fertilizer and pesticide in agriculture, environmental pollution and overfishing. Alternatively, we can decide to buy food that help restores the Earth’s ecosystem biodiversity and heal our planet.

The golden action to eradicate hunger is to urge world leaders to stop the wars. Conflict is the biggest driver of hunger with 70% of the world’s hungry people living in areas afflicted by violence.

There’s still hope and we must all act now as our survival and the survival of future generations is our responsibility. Failing to take action on food security will have a myriad of impacts, including mass migrations and the destabilization of nations.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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