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From words to action: Solution to hunger lies in agroforestry

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By JOY KIVATA

Almost a quarter of children under age five are stunted, and many more are at risk of malnutrition and hidden hunger because of the poor quality of their diets. More than nine out of ten of all children with stunting live in Africa and Asia. At the centre of this challenge is a broken food system that fails to provide children with the diets they need to grow healthy.

Climate change, increasing population pressure, loss of biodiversity, increase in energy prices, and land use changes, especially conversion of arable land for commercial and infrastructure development are some of the factors that limit poor and vulnerable communities from achieving their right to food in the developing world. As we celebrated World Food Day last week, it is important to re-affirm that every person living today has the right to food.

In 1966, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights established that adequate food is a human right. This effectively made access to, and affordability of adequate food a universal human right and protected in the rights instruments. The Covenant clarifies that the responsibility for ensuring the right to food lies with the national authorities of each country. And international cooperation plays a key role in guaranteeing a fair distribution of food.

The right to food is the focus of Goal 2 of the UN’s 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Achieving Zero Hunger is still elusive! World hunger has increased since 2014.

With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the world is now potentially facing the worst hunger crisis in 50 years. Target 2.1 of SDG 2 states that by 2030, we should have eradicated hunger and be able to guarantee all people access to sufficient, nutritious food, all year round. We are now at the beginning of the last decade to the SDGs timeline.

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Despite this, the UN projects that hunger will not be eradicated by 2030 unless bold actions are taken to address inequity in access to food. In September 2020, the UN announced that the world is “far from the target” and is rather trending towards a “deterioration”.

This prediction was followed up a few months back with a UN report — The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 — estimating that nearly a third of the global population (2.37 billion people) did not have access to adequate food in 2020. This alarming number means a sharp increase of almost 320 million people in just one year.

The drivers of this rise can be found in the economic consequences of lockdowns and limited freedom of movement imposed to contain coronavirus pandemic, as well as rising prices of food products on the global market.

These drivers have had serious impacts on most of the African countries, East Africa included.

The UN World Food Programme has reported that by August 2021, there were 30.4 million people in East Africa who were facing severe food insecurity.

In East Africa, several factors are causing food insecurity and the inability to attain the right to food. Key among them are vulnerability to climate shocks such as droughts, floods and extreme temperatures, desert locusts, ongoing conflicts, economic instability, and high levels of poverty.

This means that we need to refocus and change our agricultural production to a more sustainable and diverse system in terms of quality, variety of species and types while considering the complex landscape in terms of environmental sustainability, gender inclusion, socioeconomic aspects and changing consumption patterns.

What solutions should the world focus on? The world should shift now from words to actions — with the main aim of eradicating hunger everywhere.

Joy Kivata is the regional communications officer at Vi Agroforestry



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