Facing growing food insecurity in the world, it is vital to transform the food system. The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA) and the Swedish FAO Committee hosted a seminar to discuss the challenges and opportunities to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security. The seminar included perspectives from the UN, academia, the private sector and civil society.
Challenges to food security
Máximo Torero, Chief Economist of the FAO of the United Nations in Rome, spoke on the challenges for food security. He highlighted the need for change in how we work within the agri-food system. The drivers of food insecurity include war, the COVID-19 pandemic and a changing climate. Climate change acts as a risk multiplier that further endangers major crop yields and extreme weather changes affect the most vulnerable. The global agri-food system is built on insecurity, which ultimately impacts food affordability, explained Torero. It is not an issue of missing calories to feed the world, it is an issue of distribution and accessibility.
Dr Caroline Delgado, Senior Researcher and Programme Director at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, recognised the connections between conflict and food insecurity. She pointed out that it rarely gets the attention it deserves. The causes behind the exposure to violence are multifaceted. Some examples are the lack of government spending on social welfare, competition over natural resources and confinement. The accessibility to nutritious food is also inhibited by rising violence around the world – the overall food insecurity experienced by many triggers violent conflict. For example, the struggle to survive has resulted in increased recruitment to Boko Haram in Nigeria, explains Dr Delgado. As much as violence affects security and survival worldwide it can also have implications on trade. For instance, one way the war in Ukraine has impacted the food system is by interrupting the supply of fertilizers – driving up the price.
Opportunities for a transformation
Rising food prices and fertilizers have been a challenge, Rishanthy Renganathan, the Programme Coordinator at We Effect, Sri Lanka, spoke of ways smallholder farmers in the country handled the country’s economic crisis through the development of home gardens. By growing their food in their backyards, smallholder farmers could ensure food on their tables. In addition, any surplus could be sold at local markets, providing an income to the household.
Another opportunity for smallholder farmers is through cooperation. Alarik Sandrup, Director of public and regulatory affairs at Lantmännen, described the crucial role cooperation between farmers has played in Sweden. Their success could work as an inspiration for other farmers around the world. He mentioned the potential for global collaboration between farmers, despite differences among countries and stakeholders. Sandrup still sees similarities and patterns that enable an exchange of knowledge and experience.