Global food prices are soaring. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ food price index – which covers a basket of basic foodstuffs (cereals, meat, dairy products, vegetable oils and sugar) – hit a record high 159.7 in March, compared to 141.1 the previous month. . While it fell slightly in April to 158.5, ongoing developments – notably Russia’s war in Ukraine – are likely to continue pushing prices to new highs, with devastating implications for global hunger.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility and dysfunction of global food systems, with movement restrictions and supply chain disruptions driving up prices, hurting rural livelihoods and exacerbating food insecurity. , especially for the poor. Today, the war in Ukraine compounds these challenges, as both sides are major exporters of food, fuel and fertilizer.
In addition, climate change poses an even greater threat to global food safety. Already, extreme weather conditions such as heat waves, floods and prolonged droughts have caused shocks to agricultural production and food availability. As temperatures rise, these shocks will become more frequent and powerful. Yes global If the warming crosses the threshold of 1.5° Celsius (compared to the pre-industrial temperature of the Earth), they risk becoming catastrophic.
As the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows, avoiding the threshold will require immediate and drastic action. But mitigation is only part of the challenge. Large-scale investments in adaptation will also be needed to protect vulnerable communities from the warming already underway.
Even in the most optimistic mitigation scenario, global warming is expected to reach the threshold of 1.5°C within a decade, before receding. This will lead to changes in climate zones, sea level rise and disruptions to the water cycle that will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Beyond increased economic and health risks, the resulting disruptions in food and water supplies are likely to cause social and political upheaval, fueling a vicious cycle of poverty, hungerinstability, even conflicts, accompanied by a sharp increase in migration.
A more resilient, sustainable and equitable food system must be a pillar of any climate change mitigation or adaptation program. But the obstacles to building such a system should not be underestimated, especially for countries and regions where soils are poor, land has little agricultural value, other natural resources, such as water, are limited or degraded and socio-economic conditions are difficult.
Given the low productivity of their agricultural lands, these marginal environments are unable to support the sustainable production of sufficient food to meet the nutritional needs of local populations. Indeed, while marginal environments harbor less than 25% of the global population – estimated at 1.7 billion people – they represent 70% of the world’s poor and most of the malnourished.
poverty and hunger can lead farmers to overexploit fragile environmental resources in order to ensure their short-term survival, even at the cost of long-term depletion of their land and impoverishment of their households and communities. Those who live in remote areas with minimal infrastructure, few alternative economic opportunities and limited market access are particularly likely to make such choices.
Given this, countries with significant marginal land depend on food imports – in some cases for more than 80% of their needs. But pandemic and war-related disruptions, and the price hikes they have fueled, have shown just how vulnerable these countries are. According to the FAO State of Food and Agriculture 2021 report, an additional 161 million people were affected by hunger in 2020, compared to 2019. And the World Food Program is now warning that the combination of conflict, Covid, climate crisisand rising costs have pushed 44 million people in 38 countries to the brink of starvation.
As countries struggle to get enough food to meet the nutritional needs of their populations, many are now reassessing their food dependencies and looking to expand local production. But unless sustainability is taken into account, efforts to increase short-term resilience by shortening supply chains could undermine medium- and long-term resilience by further depleting agricultural resources such as soil and grass. ‘water.
Durability doesn’t come cheap. Efficient production in a context of biophysical and climatic constraints requires investments in expensive technologies. But poor governance structures, limited growth prospects and high debts pose major problems for many countries. The pandemic has put a strain on public budgets and debt crises threaten many governments, as loans taken out to deal with the pandemic come due.
Poor and vulnerable countries cannot be expected to address the myriad of interconnected challenges they face, from pollution and biodiversity loss to hunger and poverty, without help. To strengthen long-term food and nutrition security, we must look beyond national-level solutions to regional and international solutions that take into account the needs of communities living in marginal environments. Otherwise, there will be no escape from the destabilizing cycles of hungermigration and violence.
global Food is never a waste initiative.Seta Tutundjian, Founder and CEO of Thriving Solutions, is a member of the High Level Expert Panel assessing the need for the international platform for food systems science and co-lead of the
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2022.www.project-syndicate.org