The Coronavirus pandemic has focused world attention on one of the basic needs of living beings that is Food. As the Coronavirus crisis unfolded, it brought in its wake huge disruptions in food supply chains. As food providers stayed indoors, food production suffered. As people’s incomes fell they couldn’t buy food to feed families. As supplies were affected food prices increased in many countries. Recognising this, the Nobel peace prize this year was awarded to the World Food Program that feeds people millions worldwide.
- Over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. The global population is expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050.
- Nearly 690 million people are hungry, up 10 million since 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic could add between 83-132 million people to this number, depending on the economic growth scenario.
- The impact of malnutrition in all its forms – undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, as well as overweight and obesity – on the global economy is estimated at USD 3.5 trillion per year.
- A steady increase in hunger since 2014 together with rising obesity, clearly indicates the need to accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen food systems and protect people’s livelihoods.
- Today only nine plant species account for 66% of total crop production, despite the fact that there are at least 30 000 edible plants. We need to grow a variety of food to nourish people and sustain the planet.
- Our future food systems need to provide affordable and healthy diets for all and decent livelihoods for food system workers, while preserving natural resources and biodiversity and tackling challenges such as climate change.
- Approximately 14% of food produced for human consumption is lost each year between the stages where it is grown or raised up to when it reaches the wholesale market. More food is wasted at the retail food and consumer stages.
- Over 3 billion people in the world lack access to internet and most of them live in rural and remote areas. Smallholder farmers need greater access to finance, training, innovation and technology to improve their livelihoods.
- The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.
- Born in 1961, the WFP strives to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, with the ultimate goal in mind of eliminating the need for food aid itself.
- It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and part of its Executive Committee.
- WFP food aid is also directed to fight micronutrient deficiencies, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat disease, including HIV and AIDS.
- It has won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger around the world and improve conditions for peace in areas affected by conflict.
- Contributions and achievements of UN WFP:
- It helps nearly 97 million people in about 88 countries each year.
- WFP is a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.
- WFP runs a logistics service that has dispatched medical cargoes to over 120 countries throughout the pandemic to help governments and health partners fighting COVID-19.
- It also has provided passenger services to ferry humanitarian and health workers where commercial flights were unavailable.
World Food Day 2020:
- This year marks the 75th anniversary of FAO. It is celebrated by several organisations that are concerned with food security like International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Program, etc.
- This day generates awareness globally for those who suffer from hunger and to ensure the need for food security and nutritious diets for all. The main focus of this day is that food is a basic and fundamental human right.
- World Food Day 2020 is devoted to highlighting food and agriculture as an important part of COVID-19 response. PM Narendra Modi will also be launching a commemorative coin to mark the special day.
- The theme of World Food Day 2020 is “Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future.”
- The member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organisation established World Food Day in November 1979 at the organisations 20th General Conference and called for the observance of World Food Day on 16 October, 1981.
- This decision was ratified by the UN General Assembly on 5 December, 1980 and urged governments and international, national and local organisations to contribute to celebrating World Food Day. Since 1981, World Food Day has been held every year.
- India is a country with diverse cultures and traditions. Festivals are celebrated across the country in different styles and manners from one state to another. On this day, some families preserve food and distribute it to the needy and poor.
- A healthy diet meets the nutritional needs of people by providing sufficient, safe, nutritious, and diverse foods to lead a good life and reduce the risk of disease.
- Unhealthy diet is the main risk factor for several deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancers.
- Nearly one in three people is affected by obesity and some other forms of malnutrition.
- The combination of good nutrition and healthy weight reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Physical activity with a healthy diet also plays an important role.
India’s food supply chain:
- India has gone from being a net importer to a net exporter of food grains. This strength has been evident through the pandemic.
- Central and State governments were able to distribute around 23 million tonnes from India’s large domestic food grain reserves in three months (April to June) through the Public Distribution System, providing much-needed emergency assistance to families around the country.
- The government also successfully mobilised food rations for 820 million people from April to November 2020, including finding alternate solutions to provide food rations to 90 million schoolchildren.
- Throughout the national lockdown imposed in March, there were efforts to remove bottlenecks in the food supply chain due to restrictions on movements, and to ensure that agricultural activities weren’t disrupted.
- Thanks to these measures, agriculture grew at 3.4% during the first quarter this financial year and the area cultivated this kharif exceeded 110 million hectares. This is a major achievement.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana:
- Considered as world’s largest food security scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana aims at ensuring sufficient food for the poor and needy during the coronavirus crisis.
- It was announced as part of the first relief package during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Part of the scheme, the food needs to be provided to all the beneficiaries under public distribution system (TPDS) for Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority household (PHH) ration cardholders.
- As per updates, the eligible beneficiaries will receive 5kg of foodgrains and 1 kg Gram per month.
How do achieve goal 2 of SDG?
- Achieving zero hunger requires agriculture and food systems to become more efficient, sustainable, climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive.
- Need for synchronisation among malnutrition, dietary diversity and production diversity.
- It is important to look at the future of food production to achieve the zero hunger goal.
- Technologies like mobile phones can be used for knowledge transfer to rural farmers on the food production cycle and market linkages.
- Formulate policies that support better agricultural investments.
- Providing agriculture subsidies and incentives and prioritising nutrition programmes.
- Boosting the production and consumption of climate resilient native nutritional crops.
- Agro-ecological practices such as zero budget natural farming, organic farming and permaculture play an important role in their impact on food and nutrition security.
- Policies must pay special attention to groups who are the most vulnerable to the harmful consequences of poor food access: infants, children aged under five, school-aged children, adolescent girls, and women.
- A sustainable shift must be made towards nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems that can provide safe and high-quality food for all.
- The UN report also calls for greater efforts to build climate resilience through policies that promote climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk reduction.