Ending world hunger is number 2 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) announced in 2015. Food poverty is a global problem that persists and, although overall global hunger levels have decreased in the past couple of decades, there are still many parts of the world experiencing food shortages. Climate change, conflict and natural disasters all impact on people’s ability to grow, distribute and consume food. Here, we look at the UN’s plans to achieve zero hunger by 2030, detailing how it is being tackled, what progress has been made and how brands can get involved.
WHAT IS THE GOAL AND WHAT DOES IT INCLUDE?
SDG#2 is about access to food and the goal is detailed on the UN website as “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. Access to food supply and decent nutrition is without a doubt one of the most crucial SDGs. Without proper nourishment, achieving many of the other goals is not possible. SDG#2 is linked to all other SDGs, particularly SDG#1 (poverty), SDG#3 (health & well-being) and SDG#11 (sustainable cities & communities).
Each SDG has a number of targets (there are 169 in total, spread across the 17 SDGs) along with indicators to measure progress. SDG#2 has 8 targets and 14 indicators, which are:
- End global hunger and ensure access to sufficient nutritious food, measured by the prevalence of undernourishment and food insecurity.
- End all forms of malnutrition among all groups including reaching targets on stunting and wasting in under-5s by 2025, measured by the prevalence of stunting and malnutrition among under-5s.
- Double the productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers and ensuring equal access to land and other resources, measured by volume of production and average incomes (by sex and indigenous status).
- Ensure sustainable food production systems that increase productivity and are resilient to climate change and disasters, measured by the proportion of agricultural area being used productively and sustainably.
- By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of crops and animals, measured by the number of resources conserved and proportion of local breeds classified as being at risk.
- Increased investment in the rural infrastructure of the least developed countries, measured by agricultural expenditure.
- Correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, measured by the Producer Support Estimate and agricultural export subsidies.
- Adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets, measured by the prevalence of food price anomalies.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE SO FAR?
Efforts on this goal have been hampered by external factors which have affected progress. Although the overall level of global hunger has reduced from around 15% in 2000, progress has slowed and has even been reversed in some areas. According to the 2018 UN progress report, conflicts, drought and disasters have had a negative impact in many regions. Statistics include:
- 11% of the global population (815 million people) were undernourished in 2016, up from 10.6% in 2015. The region with the highest levels of undernourishment is sub-Saharan Africa, at 18.55% (although this has reduced from over 30% in the 1990s).
- According to the 2017 Global Hunger Index, 52 out of 119 countries are still experiencing extreme hunger.
- The number of people experiencing food insecurity increased by 11 million worldwide between 2016-17. A number of countries still have over 50% of the population in food insecurity, with South Sudan measured at 93.9% food insecurity.
- The number of children under-5 suffering from malnutrition dropped slightly between 2016-17, with children suffering from stunting dropping from 155 million to 151 million and those suffering from wasting falling from 52 million to 51 million.
- There has been a shrinking of biodiversity which poses a great risk to future global food and agriculture.
- There has been progress in reducing market-distorting agricultural subsidies, which were more than halved between 2010 and 2015.
- Although hunger levels have decreased across the world in the last 25 years, they have risen in North Africa and the Middle East from 7.5% in 1991 to 8.16% in 2017. This highlights the role that conflict and climate change has on food production and hunger levels.
The SDG fund is being used for projects in developing countries to tackle these problems. These include:
- Ecuador – building income opportunities for small farmer-owned production units to improve local food production and ensure better access to safe, affordable and nutritious food for all.
- Sri Lanka – implementing an investment program on food security and nutrition, supported by the National Nutrition Council, that aims to improve nutritional outcomes for women and children in the poorest districts.
- El Salvador – the government has developed a program to improve local food production and grow women-owned micro-businesses to improve nutrition levels.
- Ethiopia – has developed a Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment program to increase the capacity of rural women to build sustainable agricultural livelihoods.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES AND AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Some of the biggest challenges to achieving SDG#8 come from external factors. Two of these are climate change and conflict. Global warming has led to an increase in extreme weather occurrences such as droughts, floods and hurricanes which have destroyed crops and pushed up food prices in some of the poorest countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Food insecurity is made worse by conflicts which weaken the capacity of governments and institutions to deal with problems. According to the 2018 Global Report on Food Crises, conflict is the main current driver of food insecurity, with Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, South Sudan and Syria among the countries worst affected.
This highlights how SDGs cannot be tackled in isolation. Achieving success with SDG#2 is to an extent reliant on the success of SDG#13 (climate action) and SDG#16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).
A second challenge, and area for improvement, is moving towards more sustainable forms of food production worldwide. The current global agricultural system is widely viewed as unsustainable, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to get developing countries to simply fit into it. Around one-third of the world’s grain is used for animal feed and over 70% of the world’s (rapidly depleting) freshwater use is on agriculture. Furthermore, it’s predicted that over half the world’s population will be reliant on food imported from another country by 2050.
A proper commitment to sustainable agriculture needs to focus on both developed and developing nations, with an emphasis on local food production, reduced meat consumption and a smaller water footprint. This would make it much easier to ensure there was enough food for all. At the moment, however, the UN is quite vague on exactly what constitutes a sustainable food production system.
Finally, there is the issue of food waste. Approximately one-third of food produced globally is wasted or lost. The UN acknowledges the problem of food waste, and reducing food waste/loss is a target of SDG#12 (responsible production and consumption). But there needs to be a better understanding of the impact of global food waste its relationship with global hunger levels.
HOW CAN BRANDS GET INVOLVED WITH SDG#2?
Brands can contribute to SDG#2 in a number of ways, including:
- Aligning their own Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy or mission statement to incorporate SDG#2.
- Donating profits, raising funds or giving volunteer time to projects aiming to reduce hunger, increase food security or improve nutrition.
- Donating unused/unsold food and drink or making food to give to hunger relief charities or food banks.
- Working with schools or children’s groups in poor areas to promote healthy eating and nutrition.
- Supporting small-scale or local farmers and growers if you sell food or beverages.
- Developing innovative risk reduction solutions for farmers in regions prone to natural disasters.
Examples of brands that have been getting involved include:
- Kellogg – their Breakfasts for Better Days initiative includes staff volunteering at food banks, donating food to hunger relief program and supporting rural businesses in developing countries overseas.
- Yum! – have partnered with the World Food Program (WFP) and others to launch World Hunger Relief, which raises around $2 million annually to support WFP projects.
- General Mills – donate millions of dollars food annually to Feeding America food banks across the US, as well as supporting food security and sustainability initiatives worldwide.
- Unleash – innovation non-profit who have worked on solutions to reduce crop losses, cut down food waste and improve small rural businesses access to financial services in countries such as Nigeria and Ghana.
https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs – information on the UN Sustainable Development Goals
https://www.globalgoals.org/ – information and news on SDG campaigns, how to get involved and links to social media pages.