Beyond feeding the world’s hungry

Corn tassel. On World Food Day, two reports highlight how to feed the world's population in an ecological and sustainable manner. Photo by: Logan Abassi / United Nations

Two reports released on World Food Day, Oct. 16, lay out ways to feed the world’s growing population in a nutritious and ecologically sustainable manner.

It’s a question that has been making the rounds in various international events: How to make sure there would be enough food for 9 billion people by 2050. And even more pressing is how to feed the 870 million hungry people in the world.

report from the U.N. Environment Program and partner U.N. agencies adds to the discussions by highlighting the importance of protecting the global food system’s ecological foundation, which covers soil formation, climate conditions, good water quality, biodiversity and similar ecosystem services necessary to produce food.

Arguing that the ecological foundation of the food system is directly and indirectly undermined by competition for resources, climate change, population growth and unsustainable diets, the report  warns that the world’s food supply will diminish unless these and similar threats are addressed.

The report gets the ball rolling with broad recommendations such as promoting sustainable consumption and diets, and taking a second look at food quality standards with an eye on reducing wastage.

A number of concrete suggestions were also mentioned, particularly on correcting destructive farming and fishing techniques to achieve sustainable agriculture. On the farm level, the report recommends better soil management, integrated livestock management and better agroforestry techniques. On a larger scale, it suggests creating policy and financial incentives for farmers that invest in sustainable practices.

The report also highlighted the importance of sustainable and integrated natural resources management and development of economic strategies that are in line with green economy objectives.

Meanwhile, Save the Children zeros in on how rising global prices undermine current and future efforts to address the “hidden killer” of children: malnutrition. Its report outlines recommendations on how to address this link:

  • Developing countries should coordinate and invest in regional food stocks for areas that cannot easily gain access to global markets or unable to put up their own stocks.

  • The Group of 20 countries should invest in social transfer programs designed to combat both hunger and malnutrition.

  • The G-20 should use the Agricultural Market Information System and Rapid Response Forum to ensure food-producing countries develop policies that address, rather than exacerbate, price volatility.

  • The G-20 should help minimize the impact of biofuel demand on food prices.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.