An increase in food price volatility has accompanied the rapid escalation in food prices since 2007, affecting poor and marginalized people in developing countries who have already to cope with the lack of natural resources, land tenure conflicts and water stress. At the same time as many countries have to deal with populations suffering from under nutrition there are many areas dealing with the problems of over nutrition and obesity.
First to present was Richard China (head of the FAO Liaison Office with the European Union and Belgium). He began his talk focusing on the decrease of undernourished people in the world from 23.2% of the total world population in 1990/92, to 12.5% in 2010/12. However, even though the MDGs were important catalysts for bringing about global change, they did not specify means or strategies for how the goals were to be achieved. Further they did not take into account the threats of climate change. The new SDGs need to address the root causes of hunger. Due to the vast number of people depending on agriculture directly and indirectly, sustainable agricultural growth is of key importance, where equitable food systems and nutrition sensitive policies can contribute to this growth.
Maria Elena Rebagay (Senior Policy Advocacy Officer with the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development, AFA) spoke about the importance of an increased representation of small-scale farmers in the food security discourse. During her presentation Maria Elena stressed the crucial role of women in agricultural development and gender inequalities related to land access. Among other challenges, Maria Elena mentioned declining number of young people who wish to work in agriculture as well as absence of effective livestock security and warning system in situation of high vulnerability to natural disasters.
In his speech Lennart Båge (former president of the IFAD between 2001 and 2009) concentrated on linkages between food security and hunger alleviation in connection with sustainable development. He reminded the audience that hunger is not an agricultural problem, but rather one of resource distribution and accessibility, as well as policy implementation. He stressed that realizing increased food security is dependent upon the existence of systems in place to monitor and measure progress in these areas. He concluded his talk with the statement that food security is key to social security.
Central elements discussed throughout the seminar included the need of political will and commitment by national governments as well as international bodies dealing with food security issues. Food security is indeed on the agenda; however it is necessary to frame it differently, in order to include all stakeholders in the discussion and putting farmers’ interests first.
Considerable amount of time was devoted to relations between food production, waste and consumer behavior. The speakers pointed out that as much as 1/3 of the globally produced food is wasted and that the majority is wasted by final consumers. The speakers highlighted the need for an increase in consumer awareness and behavioral change as well as the need for education of farmers in terms of implementation of closed loop agricultural systems, where waste is used for energy. In this respect, Richard China mentioned the FAO Save and Grow initiative.
During the discussion of the role of trade in food security Maria Elena Rebagay mentioned that it is the middle men who benefit from food volatility prices rather than farmers, so, in her opinion, trade is not a sustainable solution for food security. Answering the question about the most important actions in order to reach the zero hunger goal, Richard China stressed the importance of facilitation of local self-organization. He also brought a positive perspective to the discussion, stating that great work has been done alleviating hunger. All three speakers stressed the importance of research for the promotion of food security for all.