On the Verge of Change — Global Issues

Combine harvesters harvesting durum wheat in Enchant, Alberta, Canada. Programmed by GPS, they are already driverless except in the bends, August 2021. Credit: Trevor Page
  • Opinion by Marwa Awad (Ottawa, Canada)
  • Inter Press Service

The World Bank estimates that the global food system is worth about $ 8 trillion, or about a tenth of the entire global economy, but this expensive system fails to provide adequate nutrition and enough food. According to the World Food Program, the problem lies in the poor distribution of nutritious food. Although there is enough food in the world to feed every person, nearly a billion people go to bed hungry every night, while 2 billion people are overweight.

“What we have today is a food system that is not providing everyone with the nutrition they need. Yet it is wreaking havoc on the environment and therefore contributes enormously to the current climate crisis, ”said WFP Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla.

According to the FAO, in 2017, agriculture alone accounted for 68% of rural incomes in Africa and about half of rural incomes in South Asia. With the climate crisis already present and the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting all human activities in all sectors, the transformation of global food systems is essential to withstand these shocks.


Food culture and the weight loss industry are booming in many parts of the world. As much as this reflects the concentration of the world’s food supply in the hands of wealthy economies, so much so it underscores the lack of nutritional quality and diversity in what people choose to eat.

According to the World Nutrition Report 2020, one in nine people in the world is hungry or undernourished, while one in three people in the world are overweight or obese. In fact, overweight and obesity are increasing rapidly in almost every country in the world, with no signs of slowing down, the report says.

Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of all children under 5 are stunted. The disparities between the haves and have-nots are striking. While richer countries suffer from obesity and overweight rates five times higher than in poorer countries, being underweight can be ten times higher than in poorer countries than in richer countries. .

Global food and health systems reform is urgently needed to address distribution inequalities by making safe and nutritious food the most affordable option for all.

The economic argument for this reform is convincing. The World Nutrition Report 2020 states: “Malnutrition costs the world billions of dollars a year in lost opportunities for economic growth. Ensuring equitable access will allow more than 800 million people to enter the labor market and support the economic development of their country and the world.

“We have to be able to maintain production levels, probably change what we produce, where we produce it and how we produce it, and then find a set of systems that allow for equitable distribution so that people have access to food. nutritious. food they need, ”Abdulla said.

The World Food Program, the world’s largest humanitarian organization, understands fragile, broken or distorted food systems because it is at the heart of the organization’s work. With six decades of unprecedented experience in repairing, maintaining and improving food systems for the world’s most vulnerable and isolated communities, WFP is the best-placed food aid agency, with the knowledge and the expertise to work with stakeholders to make a difference.

For food systems to function and respond to the challenges of the 21st century, they must be designed from the ground up to enable equitable food distribution, which is no easy task, says Abdulla: “It has potential social connotations. that would worry some people, but you have to have a series of mechanisms that allow for fair distribution.

Food aid and feed our world

If we are already producing more than we need but not necessarily producing the right food in the right place, then how can we achieve food security in the meantime while working on the vital paradigm shift. Raising incomes so that everyone at the household level can buy enough food to stay fit and healthy is the key to food security.

At the national level, countries must either be able to produce all the food their citizens need or buy it from countries that produce a surplus. Until that happens, food aid programs in food insecure areas will remain a necessity.

Meanwhile, our ability to feed ourselves has made tremendous progress over the past 50 years, but taken together, our food systems are inequitable, undermine public health, and have a huge impact on our natural environment.

WFP estimates that the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity has increased by 80% – from 149 million before COVID to more than 270 million today. The pandemic is putting tremendous strain on food systems, especially in low- and middle-income countries, and fragile states where food systems are already faulty or disrupted.

In 2020, WFP reached 115.5 million vulnerable and food insecure people in 84 countries, providing food and other assistance through a fleet of 30 ships, 100 aircraft and over 5,000 trucks. In addition to providing immediate aid, WFP has paved the way for more equitable food systems by protecting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers around the world by helping them increase their agricultural productivity and reduce postharvest losses, increase their access to agricultural inputs, assets, services, and markets while simultaneously improving their resilience to climate and other shocks.

With regard to supply chains and food markets, WFP uses its expertise in the supply chain and supply chain to help governments and private sector stakeholders strengthen markets, facilitate movement food and its availability. In the second half of 2020, WFP purchased more than 550,000 tonnes of food from local food systems, or more than $ 268 million injected into these food systems. The volume of food purchased represents an increase of 33% compared to the same period of 2019.

The world will not meet the Zero Hunger goal by 2030, as the leaders of nation states and multilateral organizations have reluctantly agreed. Zero Hunger, as well as the other SDGs that will not be met by 2030 are all interconnected. If the SDGs are to remain our goals, we must find better ways to achieve them. Food is the most basic of our needs. Hopefully we are on the verge of changing existing food systems so that gradually fewer of us around the world go to bed hungry.

Marwa Awad, a resident of Ottawa, Canada, works for the World Food Program. She is co-host of the WFP PEOPLE Show.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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