Before the pandemic, food insecurity and the number of people going hungry was increasing gradually; however, because of COVID-19, the effects have worsened. In 2020 alone, over 700 million people globally were suffering from hunger, and over 30% of the world’s population was considered food insecure. The war in Ukraine due to Russia has also massively aggravated the food insecurity crisis and regressed any progress made to combat zero hunger and is considered the “biggest global food crisis since the Second World War”. The cycle of food insecurity is an epidemic that is hard to escape and has continued to worsen.
Lack of nutritional food
Children especially suffer during times like this as nutrition is critical in their mental and physical development. In 2020, over 140 million children suffered from stunting, meaning they have a lower height than expected for their age due to food insecurity.
Hunger and malnutrition also affect people’s ability to fight diseases, maintain their sleep cycle, sustain energy levels, etc. These all affect an individual’s ability to learn and work, impacting their livelihoods and the possibility for improvement. Currently, “2 billion people in the world do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food”. If this continues, it is estimated that by 2030 over 800 million people will experience chronic food insecurity.
Inflation of food prices
Inflation of food prices is influenced by several factors; some previously mentioned include the Ukraine crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other factors such as the effects of climate change, labor shortages, and more.
The pandemic and its aftereffects have disrupted all stages of the supply chain, from harvesting; to processing; to transportation. Effects include temporary closures of facilities resulting in a waterfall effect down the supply chain, impacting consumer prices. Due to these closures, future supply can also be impacted, further disrupting the supply chain. Also due to the pandemic, there were many labour shortages, resulting in facilities being forced to close down.
Another important factor in food production is the weather, as this determines production success. When major weather events and unstable weather changes become more frequent, the supply and production of produce can be made unstable. When there is less supply, especially during high demand, this results in higher prices for consumer products.
For example, the United States has experienced a major drought; the worst drought they’ve experienced in over 1,000 years. Other major weather events have also occurred, such as flooding, heatwaves, and snap freezing. All of this has resulted in unstable crop production and therefore higher prices. In October 2022 the prices of fresh vegetables increased by 11% (the largest increase since the 1980’s), and fresh fruit increased by over 8%.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not the sole reason for global food export issues and shortages but it is a major factor. Both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat, and other cereal products, and Russia exports a lot of fertilizer. Without these products in the market, there is now pressure on others to produce more, but also high prices on available products.
Overall, investing in the agricultural sector is essential to improving food security, creating more jobs, and building reliance to combat unstable weather events.
Conventional farming practices, which affect water and soil quality, as well as put a strain on biodiversity, are unsustainable. Instead we need to consider more sustainable agriculture and farming practices. These include Regenerative Agriculture, Integrated Pest Management, Vertical Farming, Underground Farming and many more methods.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2: Zero Hunger
The United Nations developed SDG 2 and its targets to be achieved by 2030. The overall aim of the goal is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. The SDG 2 targets include:
2.1 Universal Access to Safe and Nutritious Food – By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.
2.2 End all Forms of Malnutrition – By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons.
2.3 Double the Productivity and Incomes of Small-Scale Food Producers – By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.
2.4 Sustainable Food Production and Resilient Agricultural Practices – By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.
2.5 Maintain the Genetic Diversity in Food Production – By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed.
2.6 Invest in Rural Infrastructure, Agricultural Research, Technology and Gene Banks – Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries.
2.7 Prevent Agricultural Trade Restrictions, Market Distortions and Export Subsidies – Correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, including through the parallel elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies and all export measures with equivalent effect, in accordance with the mandate of the Doha Development Round.
2.8 Ensure Stable Food Commodity Markets and Timely Access to Information – Adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility.
EnvironFocus is hosting a webinar event on SDG 2, on Thursday, January 19th, 2023. The event will go from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM EDT and is titled “Feeding the World: Ensuring Global Food Security”. We will be joined by expert guest panelists, Matt Bunch and Danielle Paydli from The Hunger Project, as well as Cynthia Jean Batin. Panel presentations will be followed by a live Q&A session, and is completely FREE. Register now HERE.
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United Nations. (2022). Goal 2: Zero Hunger. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/hunger/
United Nations. (2022). Zero Hunger: Why it Matters [PDF]. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/2_Why-It-Matters-2020.pdf