Address food shortage, FAO boss tells world leaders

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New Vision, Bonn, Germany

I visited a village in Kacereere, Bufundi in the new Rubanda district, Western Uganda recently. Tales of poverty and hunger were not being told by word of mouth. I could smell the poverty and feel the hunger these poor people were in.

When I talked to a senior citizen, one John Kabatangare, he wondered what was happening to their land. ‘My son, we no longer harvest produce from our fields like we used to do 20 years ago. Today, things are terrible, maize and beans cannot grow anymore in these fields, we need your players’.  He said.

But Kabatangare is not a lone and this village is a representative of the bigger picture.

Delegates attending the Climate Change conference in Bonn this week heard that over 70 percent of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. They are also the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition, natural resource scarcity, conflict, and climate impacts.

During the meeting, leaders emphasized that global food security can only be achieved through a coordinated triple action policy approach to hunger, poverty and climate change.

“Climate change is a fundamental threat to the Sustainable Development Goal 2 that aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition,” José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said at a high-level event about hunger Tuesday.

Climate change undermines progress made towards zero hunger and climate variability raises the risk of disruptions to food supply and distribution. “To achieve SDG2 and effectively respond to climate change, we require a transformation of our agriculture sectors and food systems,” he said.

According to emergency food security assessment in Uganda that was done between December 2016 to January 2017. an estimated 10.9 million people in Uganda are experiencing an Acute Food Insecurity situation, of which 1.6 million are in a crisis situation.

Projections based on meteorological forecasts for the next several months, along with observed trends in market prices of key staples, indicate that the number of people at risk of becoming food insecure may have reached 11.4 million by March 2017; of which 1.4 million may fall into Phase 3 (crisis situation).

In addition, the analysis estimated that 26 percent of the total population in the country is facing stressed food insecurity. This population, the report notes, has minimum adequate food consumption, employing insurance strategies and is unable to afford some essential nonfood expenditures.

It adds that all regions in the country have a stressed population with East Central having the highest population (at 1.88 million) followed by South Western (1.24 million), Teso (1.1 million) and West Nile (1.04 million).

And things may not be going to improve soon because the latest report from the World Food Programme indicates that the risk of hunger could increase by up to 20% due to climate change by 2050 unless increased efforts are made to enable the world’s most vulnerable communities to better adopt to extreme weather events such as drought and flooding.

This year’s 23rd conference of the parties is focused on how to implement the commitments made under the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 Celsius.

The agreement recognizes the fundamental priority of achieving food security, and the vulnerability of food production systems to climate impacts. 

According to FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report, hunger has grown for the first time in over a decade, mainly due to conflicts and climate change. An estimated 815 million people are now hungry.

Yet climate change brings more extreme weather events, land degradation and desertification, water scarcity, rising sea levels, and shifting climates – hampering efforts to feed the planet.

Solutions in the Making

Sustainable Development Goal 2 under the 2030 Agenda aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Organized by FAO and its partners, the event brought together key people from governments, the private sector and civil society. They looked at ways to tackle climate change (SDG13), hunger (SDG2) and poverty (SDG1) in a coordinated manner, including through sustainable agriculture, and practices that provide multiple benefits.