The next 15 years will be decisive for our planet’s future. During this period we will face some of the 21st Century’s greatest challenges, amidst an ongoing and profound transition in the global economy.
Overcoming hunger and extreme poverty are foremost among those challenges. Today nearly 800 million people do not have enough food to eat yet enough food is being produced in the world to feed everyone. Clearly we need urgent solutions to overcome the structural bottlenecks that prevent the hungry from accessing food.
In other words, social inclusion must become the backbone of development. Yet we will achieve neither social inclusion nor development, unless our choices are guided by sustainability.
We are the first generation that can end hunger and make food and nutrition security truly universal. And perhaps we are also the last generation in a position to avoid irreversible damage brought about by climate change.
The political framework needed to move us in the right direction requires an unprecedented degree of political commitment.
One critical step in that direction will be taken in late September, when the international community endorses the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with an ambitious agenda to change the world for the better in the next 15 years.
This new global pact for the future crucially includes ending poverty and hunger by 2030, mitigating and adapting to climate change and finding more sustainable ways to make supply meet demand.
The choices we make as consumers have now become just as important for the future as the ones we make as producers.
In addition to the around 800 million people who are chronically undernourished, malnutrition is also a major problem with some two billion people suffering from micronutrient deficiencies and 500 million who suffer obesity, the latter a malady that is increasing in many medium- and high-income countries.
Paradoxically this is all happening in a world where nearly a third of all food produced is lost or wasted, generating even more pressure on production.
The world being envisaged through the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals is not an unattainable pipe dream. It is not utopia; we can make it real.
The solution lies in the problem. As wealth continues to gain distance from justice, survival depends more and more on the imperative of cooperation.
Either we build a future for all, or there will be no acceptable future for anyone. Any doubt in this regard pales before the exodus we are witnessing where desperate refugees attempt often deadly land and sea crossings in a desperate attempt to find a better life elsewhere.
More than 70% of the world’s food insecurity is concentrated in the rural areas of poor and developing countries.
One of the solutions is to acknowledge and support the role that small-scale family farming can play to achieve zero hunger in a sustainable way. To achieve this we need public policies that build people’s capacities, support production, facilitate access to financial credit, technology and other services and promote international cooperation.
To eradicate hunger and poverty we must begin by moving beyond dealing with emergencies when they occur and instead direct our efforts at addressing the conditions that cause them.
The cost of failure is clear. If a business-as-usual approach prevails, by 2030 we will still have 650 million hungry people.
We have estimated that to end hunger by 2030 a combination of investments in social protection and agriculture/rural development of some US$ 267 billion is required. This means some US$ 160/year for each person suffering hunger
This is more or less the price of a cell phone. It is a relatively small amount to pay to finally rid the world of the scourge of hunger and to do it in our lifetimes.
José Graziano da Silva is the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)