Goal 2 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture by the year 2030.
Hunger and malnutrition arises from a complex interplay of factors that are further complicated by political, social, economic and environmental influences, which deprive people of the most valuable resource they own — the health, energy and skill to work productively.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) sets ambitious targets for eliminating hunger by 2030, including ensuring access for all people to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round. It calls for developing sustainable food productions systems, resilient agriculture practices and access to timely information, so as to increase production and productivity, especially of small-scale food producers.
Besides aiming to increase investment and enhance international cooperation in agriculture research and in plant and livestock gene banks, the targets also look to correct and prevent imbalances in world agriculture trade and ensure proper functioning of food commodity markets.
The precursor of SDG, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) had the target of halving the proportion of undernourished people in developing countries by 2015. While this target is likely to be met by most countries in the developing world, the more ambitious target of halving the number of undernourished people by end of 2015 still remains elusive.
The latest assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that from the over one billion people around the world who were undernourished in 1990-92, the number fell to 805 million by 2012-14. Much of this progress came from reduction in the number of undernourished people in China and countries in south-Eastern Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. The significant economic growth in this region during the past thirty years played a role in reducing poverty and malnutrition in this area.
While the drop in numbers is welcome, it still means that one in nine people on the planet go to bed hungry every night, the vast majority in developing countries. An estimated 791 million, or roughly 14 percent of the population of the developing world, still remains chronically hungry with insufficient food to lead an active and healthy life.
Even within the developing world, there are vast disparities between regions in terms of hunger reduction. While Northern Africa has consistently had a low incidence of hunger at 5 percent, sub-Saharan Africa at 23.8 percent had nearly one in four people living under chronic hunger. Similarly, in Asia, which has the largest number of people suffering undernourishment, the Caucasus and Central Asia region had less than 7 percent of its population living in hunger, while in Southern Asia the prevalence was almost double with around 276 million people suffering lingering undernourishment.
In order to meet the targets set to reach the ambitious Goal 2 of eliminating hunger by 2030, the world will need to find food to feed not only the 805 million who are currently undernourished but also find food for the millions more who will be added to the world population in 15 years’ time. In addition, the continued impact of climate change on our limited food resources means that the world will have to do a complete re-think of its agriculture practices. This would entail revamping the way we grow, distribute and consume food, as well as putting an end to the rampant pollution and destruction of soil, water, air and biodiversity on which our planet depends.
Successes achieved in reducing hunger, during the 15-year MDG period, have made it clear that the sound policies and programs needed to ensure food security and nutrition will require political support and commitment at the highest level. Besides placing it on top of the political agenda, government level efforts at increasing food production and enhancing social protection need to be supported by a wider commitment from local communities and societies to ensure the world remains free from hunger by 2030.