FAO celebrates World Food Day each year on 16 October to commemorate the founding of the Organization in 1945. Events are organized in over 130 countries across the world. These events promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all. World Food Day is a chance to show FAO’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 – to achieve #ZeroHunger by 2030.
The meeting of the high-level political forum on sustainable development in 2018 convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council will be held from Monday, 9 July, to Wednesday, 18 July 2018; including the three-day ministerial meeting of the forum from Monday, 16 July, to Wednesday, 18 July 2018.
Goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 & 17 will all undergo a review process.
The theme will be “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”.
UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak will convene an event titled ‘Financing for SDGs–Breaking the Bottlenecks of Investment, from Policy to Impact’.
This event is one of three main events related to the implementation of the SDGs that the UNGA President is organising in 2018. The other two focus on launching the International Decade for Action: Water for sustainable development 2018-2028 (22 March 2018) and youth (mid-May).
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Decent agricultural work can be a vehicle for economic growth. Kristin Williams, Communications Manager at Root Capital, tells Farming First how investments can empower smallholder farmers.
Farming is hard work. This is especially true on the world’s 500 million smallholder farms, which rely almost entirely on informal family labor. There, farmers rise before the sun, and toil in plots of land just large enough to grow food for the table and perhaps one or two crops for sale. Sudden shocks—like drought, flood, or disease—can wipe out the fruits of their labor in an instant. If they’re lucky, they can get their crops to a nearby market; once there, they have little recourse if buyers refuse to give a fair price.
Billions of people make their living in this difficult way. And it’s no coincidence that they comprise much of the world’s extreme poor, surviving on less than $2 per day. But the connection between farming and poverty is not a foregone conclusion. Yes, farming is hard work; but with targeted investments it can also be “decent work.”
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This week, the #SDG2countdown moves on to explore SDG2.2: ending malnutrition. When smallholder farmers need a helping hand to break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition, partnerships with the private sector can offer crucial support, writes Ann Steensland, Deputy Director, Global Harvest Initiative.
It is a cruel irony that many of the malnourished people in the world are also small-scale farmers, struggling to grow enough food to feed their families and to earn an income.
Compounding this is the fact that malnutrition makes farmers less productive, causing stunted physical growth, cognitive impairments and chronic disease. And this makes it harder for farmers to achieve higher productivity to increase their incomes and move out of poverty.
To help break this vicious cycle of malnutrition, low-productivity and poverty, small-scale farmers need access to tools to enhance their output such as improved seeds, fertilizer and crop protection products, mechanization and irrigation technologies, and education about soil health and animal welfare.
Accessing productive inputs is particularly important for women, who are often the primary source of labour for planting, cultivating and harvesting.
Without access to productive inputs, a woman will spend more time planting, weeding and harvesting to increase her output. (Ann Steensland/GHI)
We believe that to successfully meet the targets outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2), the challenges of malnutrition, agricultural productivity and poverty need to be addressed jointly. To this end, private sector actors of all sizes are starting to work with the public sector, NGOs and farmers to tackle the challenge.
DuPont Pioneer is partnering with research institutions to develop biofortified sorghum and millet varieties that are biofortified with iron and zinc, as well as drought tolerant. Sorghum and millet thrive in the drylands of India and Africa and are the primary source of calories for millions of small-scale farmers. Biofortified varieties of these staple crops will allow farmers who are at the greatest risk of malnutrition to grow nutrient fortified crops for themselves. Researchers have found that consuming 100 grams of biofortified sorghum per day will provide 50 to 100 percent of daily Vitamin A requirement.
The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) partnership is developing hybrid maize seed varieties that uses water more efficiently and resists insects and pests. As a leading WEMA partner, Monsanto shared 600 elite parental lines of maize seed, royalty-free, along with technical plant breeding know-how. Since the inception of the project in 2013, more than 90 conventional hybrids have been approved for commercial release in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. Farmers have been able to harvest 20 to 35 percent more grain under moderate drought conditions as compared to the seeds farmers had historically planted. By strengthening the local seed systems, WEMA is giving small-scale farmers an opportunity to improve their productivity and livelihoods.
In Zambia, John Deere is working in collaboration with local banks and the Conservation Farmers Union to help emerging farmers purchase tractors, rippers and seeders. The farmers pay for the equipment by contracting out their plowing and planting services to neighbouring farmers. The contractors receive business, farm management and agronomy training to enable them to run successful businesses, ultimately increasing their production and household incomes. There are 80 contractor farmers participating in the program, providing mechanization services to as many as 65 farmers each. Repayment rates on the tractor loans are close to 90 percent.
Elanco Animal Health is partnering with Heifer International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others to support the East African Dairy Development Project (EADD). Small dairy producers in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda receive training and resources to increase milk productivity on their farms as well as technology for collecting, preserving and transporting milk to the marketplace. The approach boosts smallholders’ productivity and builds a market for farmers’ products, while increasing the availability of an important source of nutritious animal protein. In its first five years, EADD trained 180,000 farmers in dairy husbandry, business practices and operation, and marketing of dairy products. Heifer and its partners also developed 27 milk collection hubs, strengthened 10 existing hubs, and formed 68 farmer business associations.
In India, two-thirds of agriculture is rainfed, but the seasonal monsoons alternate with long, dry periods. The Mosaic Villages Project, a partnership between The Mosaic Company and the Sehgal Foundation, funded the construction of check dams in four communities to capture and store rainwater. The water trapped by the dams is funnelled into underground aquifers and can be used for consumption or irrigation. The check dams have a total reservoir capacity of 14 million gallons. As a result, farmers no longer rely solely on rain to grow nutritious foods, such as fruits and vegetables. More than 30,000 people are benefiting directly or indirectly from the project.
These partnerships demonstrate how the private sector is contributing to SDG2 by helping farmers move beyond subsistence farming to a more prosperous, nutritious future.
GHI Member Companies are DuPont, Elanco Animal Health, Farmland Partners Inc., John Deere, Monsanto Company and The Mosaic Company. GHI also draws on the experience of its consultative partner organisations, including universities, NGOs, conservation groups and experts in small-scale agriculture and nutrition.
Visit www.farmingfirst.org/SDGs for quizzes, videos, infographics & more on SDG 2.3. Share your stories on doubling productivity & incomes using #Ag4SDGs and join the campaign!
When the UN announced its Decade of Action on Nutrition in 2016, hot on the heels of the Sustainable Development Goals, many media outlets used a picture of a child eating a bowl of white rice, to illustrate the promise of better nutrition for all.
There’s just one problem. Rice alone is not enough. Yes, it will prevent the most basic form of hunger but rice lacks many of the vitamins and minerals essential for good health.
Credit: Wagner T. Cassimiro
Without these vitamins and minerals, this child’s growth will be stunted, his immune system weakened, and his intelligence lower than it ought to be, costing him a lifetime of lost income and productivity. That is why the Sustainable Development Goal’s Target 2.1 of “access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round” is so important, because it adds “nutritious” to “sufficient”.
I don’t want to downplay the importance of “sufficient”; we face a great challenge in ensuring enough food for everyone in the face of both climate change and population growth – a challenge that Bioversity International and agricultural biodiversity are helping to meet. For now, though, let’s concentrate on “nutritious” food.
The most important factor in a nutritious diet is diversity. That concept is enshrined in national dietary guidelines around the world, with their advice to eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses and so on. Research conducted by Bioversity International in collaboration with the Earth Institute shows that increasing food supply diversity is associated with lower levels of acute and chronic child malnutrition (stunting, wasting and underweight) at a national level. Agricultural policies and funding for research, however, generally focus on the four or five commodity staples that supply the bulk of calories. From the 5,538 known plant species, just three – rice, wheat and maize – provide more than 50% of the world’s plant-derived calories.
And although people may be aware that they should make healthier choices, the food system that surrounds them – which is the product of both food industry and government policy – often makes it difficult to choose a more diverse and more nutritious diet.
One successful approach is to diversify staples – mainstay foods – in the diet to include more nutritious alternatives.
For example, bananas are the fourth most important food crop in Africa, which is also home to high levels of vitamin A deficiency, a major public health problem in many developing countries. Every year, a half a million children go blind from the lack of vitamin A, and half of those die from infections.
Orange-fleshed Fe’i bananas from the Pacific. Credit: Bioversity International
‘Mining’ banana diversity to find varieties with a higher content of vitamin A could be part of the solution. It is estimated that there are over 1,000 varieties of bananas in the world, which range from green to pale yellow to orange to dark red. The genetic diversity in these varieties determines not just these differences you can see and taste, they also determine micronutrient levels. For example, the orange-fleshed. Karat banana contains 1,000 times more of the pigment which the human body can convert into vitamin A (carotenoids) than the Cavendish banana, which is the variety of bananas most Western consumers see in their supermarkets.
In India, we are also working to bring different kinds of nutritious and resilient millets, which were once part of traditional diets, back to plates and markets. While widespread famine in India is a thing of the past, malnutrition is not. India has high levels of stunting in young children and, by contrast, equally high levels of overweight, obesity and illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
Children in Kolli Hills enjoy eating millets. Credit: Bioversity International/ G. Meldrum
Results such as these, and many more from Bioversity International’s work on neglected and underutilized species, helped prompt the national and state authorities in India to amend their food legislation. Millets are now included in some state school feeding programmes and have been incorporated in the national public distribution system. This is obviously a good thing for the poorer and nutritionally vulnerable people who receive subsidised food, and it also benefits the farmers who grow millet, which is much less ecologically demanding than other staples. Nutrition, local economies, the environment and food security: all thus gain from expanding the diversity of diet.
We can do it
There is no single solution to combat malnutrition, but using more diverse crops and varieties in our fields and on our plates must be part of the solution.
To make this a reality, we need to take action at multiple levels. Consumers can influence production by choosing nutritious, fresh, local and diverse foods. Agricultural research should increase knowledge on the use of agrobiodiversity to make farming systems more nutritious, resilient and sustainable. Governments can make the difference by creating food and agricultural policies that promote and integrate agrobiodiversity as an essential tool to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals.
Use #SDG2countdown to search for more content and share your own biodiversity stories on Twitter, or visit farmingfirst.org/sdgs for more!
Featured photo credit: Bioversity International/A. Drucker