A world without hunger is possible

There are 173 million fewer people suffering from hunger than in 1990. Will we see the end of world hunger?

World hunger seems to be one of the facts of life, destined never to change, and therefore never to be an issue, recalled only when an African child appears on the brochure of a humanitarian organisation.

The figures seem to confirm this: almost one in eight people in the world does not have enough to eat. In all, there are 842 million people in the poorer countries of Africa and southern Asia. Compared to 1990, there are 173 million fewer people, in spite of the fact that the world’s population has increased from 5.5 billion to nearly 7 billion, thanks in particular to the extraordinary economic growth in China and India. But the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, predicts that – without any special effort – there will be just short of 300 million people in 15 countries in 2050 still suffering from starvation.

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This special effort is called the Zero Hunger Challenge, and the United Nations is showcasing it to Expo Milano 2015 and governments and development agencies throughout the world. The announcement was made on 4 April in Rome by the FAO, IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and WFP (World Food Programme). The message is clear: “Hunger can be eliminated over the period of a generation.”

The effort is based on the achievement of five objectives.

1) Zero malnourished children below the age of two

Ensuring universal access to nourishing food in the thousand days between the beginning of pregnancy and the second year of life, a precious window of opportunity for ensuring correct mental and physical development. Access to food must be brought together with medical care, clean water, hygiene, education and specific nutritional interventions, together with initiatives which ensure that women have full control of their life and their children.

2) 100% access to adequate food throughout the year

Enabling access to food for everyone who needs it via agriculture which produces all the necessary nutrients, suitable marketing, working and production conditions, social and dietary support in specific cases, increasing the food produced by local agriculture by means of open, fair and adequate performing markets and commercial policies at the local, regional and international level which avoid excessive price volatility of produce.

3) Sustainability of all food systems

Ensuring that farmers, agricultural businesses, cooperatives, governments, unions and social organisations establish standards for sustainability, verifying its application, encouraging and rewarding the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices capable of adapting to climate change, pursuing coherent policies on energy, use of land, water and climate, and adopting measures for responsibly managing the land, fishing grounds and forests.

4) 100% increase in productivity and yields of small farmers

Reduction of rural poverty and improvement of health via encouraging decent working conditions and increasing yields of small farmers; increasing the responsibility of women, direct farmers, fishermen, animal breeders, young people, agricultural organisations, indigenous populations; support for research and innovation in agriculture; improvement of land management and access to natural resources; development of population health indicators.

4) Zero food wastage

Minimising the loss of food during storage and transport, and wastage by distribution and consumers; increasing the responsibility of choice of the consumer via appropriate labelling; commitment by producers, distributors and consumers in all countries; financial incentives, collective commitments, appropriate technology and change in habits.

These are not simple tasks, especially in third-world countries which also have many other problems. However, there is nothing which is not technically possible or which requires prohibitive investment. And Expo Milano 2015 is an excellent opportunity to decide to try this together.

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