Article | Last updated: 11.05.2012
Hunger impedes development and is a violation of human rights. At present malnutrition is responsible for one-third of all deaths among children under five. It also retards cognitive development and learning, and increases vulnerability to disease. According to UN estimates, over one billion people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.
- Rio+20 is an opportunity to turn the growing global attention on food security and nutrition that we have seen in recent years into concrete action.
- Climate-resilient food production should be encouraged in both agriculture and fisheries. Investing in women’s education, skills and entrepreneurship is crucial. Sub-Saharan Africa will probably be the area worst affected by climate change in terms of food security.
- Reducing losses of food from all parts of the value chain should be one of the main policy outputs from Rio+20. Reducing losses and waste from agriculture and fisheries will increase food security, reduce environmental degradation and contribute to combating poverty.
Hunger impedes development and is a violation of human rights. At present malnutrition is responsible for one-third of all deaths among children under five. It also retards cognitive development and learning, and increases vulnerability to disease. According to UN estimates, over one billion people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. In a world that produces enough food for all, this is unacceptable. Taking into account the projected population growth, the planet will have to feed 9 billion people by 2050. The further challenge of dealing with the impacts of climate change makes the issue of sustainable food production even more pertinent.
Climate change is a growing threat to food security in many regions of the world. Higher mean temperatures and extreme weather events such as drought and flooding, together with the increased prevalence of animal and plant diseases, threaten food production. Areas where food security is already poor and where the population is least equipped to adapt to such changes are particularly hard hit.
The growing scarcity of natural resources means that production methods that make more efficient use of water and land, and protect biodiversity and ecosystems are crucial. Given their great potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions per unit produced, such methods would also contribute to a low-emissions strategy. In many regions of the world, the introduction of more climate-resilient agricultural practices has given good results. This involves using agricultural resources more efficiently through integrated management of the available land, water and biological resources, and better tillage methods, direct sowing and crop rotation. In order to adapt to a changing climate it will also be necessary to breed new strains of today’s food plants that are adapted to drier and hotter climates.
Developing climate-resilient agriculture is vital if the global demand for food is to be met. In the short term this will provide greater predictability and improve earning opportunities for individual households. Strengthening the agricultural sector in developing countries will require a more innovative approach and new forms of partnership. More active cooperation with the private sector will be a key element of this work. Norway is currently establishing an initiative to support adaptation of the agricultural sector in developing countries to climate change.
In order to combat poverty and promote development in the agricultural sector, opportunities for women’s participation must be improved. Women are responsible for 60 % to 80 % of food production in developing countries and make up the majority of smallholders. There are often gender-based differences in access to natural resources such as land and water, and to technology, finance and property rights, factor inputs and trade channels for goods. This can hamper efforts to increase production and access to food, prevent women from being able to obtain secure access to food for themselves and their families, and hinder their participation in important decision-making processes.
Loss and waste of food
Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — is lost or wasted, according to an FAO-commissioned study.
Food losses — occurring at the production, harvest, post-harvest and processing phases — are most important in developing countries, due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology and low investment in the food production systems. Food losses during harvest and in storage translate into lost income for small farmers and into higher prices for poor consumers. Reducing losses could therefore have a significant impact on their livelihoods and on food security and could constitute an important disincentive for increased food production.
Food waste is a more significant problem in developed countries, where retailers and consumers alike often throw away perfectly edible foodstuffs. Per capita waste by consumers is between 95–115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia each throw away only 6–11 kg a year. In Norway alone, 500 000 tonnes of food at an estimated value of NOK 10 billion is thrown away every year. A comprehensive value-chain approach from field to fork is required to address the interrelated challenges of increasing sustainable food production and reducing loss and waste.
Fisheries and food security
Fish contribute a significant amount of animal protein to the diets of people worldwide. Marine resources provide vital nourishment for poor communities in Africa, Asia, many parts of Latin America and islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
The body temperatures of fish and other seafood species vary according to the water temperature. Climate change-induced temperature variations therefore have a strong impact on the growth and reproduction rates of marine species, and consequently on the spatial distribution of fishing and aquaculture activities and on their productivity and yields. Thus, climate change adds a further argument for developing effective and flexible fisheries management systems in an ecosystem context.
The practice of discarding fish is one of the most serious threats to sustainable management of marine resources. Discards are the portion of a catch of fish which is not retained on board during commercial fishing operations but is returned, often dead or dying, to the sea. Every year, an estimated 20 million tonnes of fish, approximately a quarter of the total marine catch, are discarded.