Hunger is the leading cause of death in the world. It’s up to all of us to do our part to end it
The Global Nutrition Report 2020 reveals that malnutrition in its various forms has become the leading cause of death and illnesses worldwide. Current estimates are that nearly one in nine people are the world are hungry or undernourished, with 132 million people living in acute hunger that approaches starvation.
These staggering statistics are continuing to grow as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates food insecurity. ‘COVID-19 exposes the vulnerability and weakness of our already fragile food systems,’ write Renata Micha and Venkatesh Mannar, co-chairs of The Global Nutrition Report’s Independent Expert Group.
Our planet has countless resources but unequal access to them, and inefficient handling of these resources has left millions undernourished. Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) ‘Zero Hunger’ deals with malnutrition and the stability of food supply to all. The primary objective of SDG 2 is to ensure that every person is well nourished and has an adequate supply of good quality food by 2030. This is a fundamental building block for economic prosperity. As Dr Norman Ernest Borlaug (an agronomist who led initiatives worldwide that contributed to the extensive increases in agricultural production termed the ‘Green Revolution’) put it: ‘You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.’
Global hunger rates were cut by roughly 50% in the period 1990−2015, but today, 821 million people still do not have access to adequate food. This is deeply concerning when you consider that the world currently produces enough food to feed every human mouth, but due to inefficient supply chains, there is an enormous amount wasted food. According to the Global Nutrition Report, supply chain inefficiencies stem largely from a global food system that centres on industrial agriculture. It is thought that unless governments step in to make food systems more resilient and continue to provide immediate food aid to families experiencing hardship, global hunger numbers are likely to rise.
In addition to this, in order to achieve SDG 2, the agricultural sector − which depends heavily on local and international private and public sector investment − must receive more support from government. The lack of government investment has heavily impacted the growth of the sector, which is evident in the rapid decrease in the agricultural orientation index (the agricultural share of government expenditures divided by the agricultural share of GDP). If we are to move forward on this SDG, we must recognise that food security requires a multi-dimensional approach. We can transform our food systems by promoting sustainable agriculture with modern technologies and fair distribution systems.
To end world hunger, we all have to take action – here’s some inspiration:
Make sustainable food choices
Make sustainable food choices by supporting local farmers or markets. Fruits and vegetables are seasonal, so they have to be imported when they cannot be produced here. By buying locally produced, seasonal food, it means you minimise the energy required to transport and store the food, as well as help the local economy.
Another way to help is by supporting organisations like Heifer International to help transform agriculture. This organisation funds projects so impoverished regions can provide food for themselves in a sustainable way without being reliant on foreign aid. Make a difference by visiting their website to donate, sign petitions and more. This is very powerful, because ultimately we would like to see many impoverished areas not reliant on aid from foreign countries able to create their own, steady, supply of food.
Use your power as a consumer and voter
Demand that businesses and governments make the choices and changes that will make Zero Hunger a reality. This can be as simple as choosing fairtrade certified products over others.
-Education is especially powerful in underdeveloped countries. Education means better opportunity and more access to income and food. Additionally, some countries have food-for-education programmes where students are given free food for going to school.
Reduce food waste
Currently one third of all food produced (over 1,3 billion tons) is wasted. So store your food wisely, put your food waste to good use by composting it, and understand food labelling.
AECI on its ‘better food systems’
In its Sustainability Report 2020’ AECI has prioritised better food systems by enhancing access to good food through improved farming productivity and nutrition. In the report, the company gives practical examples of their immense efforts by discussing making farming more inclusive, making food healthier and more affordable, redistributing unsold food, etc. AECI has made great progress in aligning with certain SDG 2 targets.
For instance, Target 2.1 entails ending hunger by 2030 and ensuring that everyone has access to safe, nutritious food. AECI has implemented ‘Plant Health NuWay’ in response to addressing the challenges facing conventional agricultural practices. It enhances the agricultural output, opens new revenue streams into the carbon market and improves the quality of the soil.
AECI have been able to make their food healthier and more affordable by providing low-cost non-alcoholic ferments (Mageu and Amasi) as well as processed low-cost meat rich in protein to low-income earners. It also supplies a range of functional ingredients used in the production of low-cost processed meat products that are an affordable, readily available, tasty source of protein. A healthier dairy fruit juice blend is coming soon. Furthermore AECI has a partnership with a non-governmental organisation in Cape Town which allows for AECI Food and Beverage to redistribute unsold food from retail outlets to people in need.
AECI also aligned their initiatives with Target 2.2, which aims to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. Their utilisation of hemp, peas, rice, whey, collagen and keratin by AECI Food and Beverage allows for a larger market of low-income earners to be reached ensuring a healthier populace. Moreover, AECI has put plans in place to make farming more inclusive. AECI Plant Health supports emerging and smallholder farmers. For example, in South Africa, the Khula App digital trading platform, which AEIC partners on, is another offering that facilitates upstream and downstream commercial activity. Its wide range of plant and soil health products and services are available on Khula. Currently, 4 200 emerging farmers are registered, and the medium-term goal is 50 000.
AECI showcases how much they prioritise food security by implementing FreshQ, a bio-preservative that naturally reduces the development of mould in dairy and therefore reducing their food waste. Even during COVID-19, through iPledge, an internal crowdfunding initiative, AECI raised R3,5 million in six months to address food security challenges and saw that 12 315 families in need received food parcels by the end of 2020.
Grace Kathan and Belinda Carreira: Co-chairs, The Global Nutrition Report’s Independent Expert Group