Newly released FAO data notes that 842 million people around the world are hungry, even though the world produces more than enough food to meet their needs. By 2050, we need to double current food production in order to feed nine billion people.
The needs of the hungry and malnourished are far from being met. We face an even greater challenge when we add in future food demands. How are we going to meet global food needs in a way that is sustainable – so that we minimize harm to our planet, and build systems that help communities be food secure forever? We must continue to work with diverse sectors and forge innovative multi-sectoral collaborations to turn the tide on hunger.
The idea of multi-sectoral collaborations is nothing new – they are the hallmark of how we have gotten food from the farm to our fork. Take a moment and think about the journey of a banana. How many players are involved in getting that banana to your table?
- Farmers: Farmers in countries such as Ecuador, Costa Rica, and India grow bananas and export them to markets around the world. Even the United States produces bananas in Hawaii.
- Researchers/scientists: Researchers explore ways to increase banana tree yields, prevent diseases and pests, and find the best ways to store bananas to ensure safety and freshness. They also research the nutrition benefits of the banana and impact on human health.
- Businesses: Companies are involved in all stages of production and distribution, from processing plants to transportation companies to grocery stores.
- Government: Governments in both the exporting and importing countries are responsible for maintaining necessary infrastructure such as roads and electrical grids. They are also responsible for issuing guidelines on factors such as food safety and import regulations.
- Doctors, nutritionists/health communicators: The health care community helps educate consumers about the value of foods such as bananas and how they can enrich our diets by providing needed macro and micronutrients, such as potassium. They also provide consumers with ideas on how to easily incorporate bananas into their diets with serving tips and recipes to promote banana consumption.
- Civil society: Consumer advocate groups, communications experts, labor associations, non-profits and international organizations work on issues ranging from food distribution efforts to labor rights to food safety issues.
As you can see, food systems would not exist without multi-sectoral collaboration. But, we can be doing more. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says that “In a world of plenty, no one – not a single person – should go hungry.” This certainly means that we produce enough food – especially when you account for the 1.3 billion tons of food that is wasted yearly. But, I think, it also means that we live in a world where we have plenty of ideas, expertise, innovations, and committed people who want to do right by those who are hungry.
We must implement interesting discoveries that allow us to irrigate crops with less water, improve crop and animal outputs, and maintain the quality of soil. We need to mobilize artists and writers to raise awareness about our right to food and tell this story so it influences policy and empowers communities to act. We need to learn about creative and effective community efforts of health workers to improve child and maternal nutrition. We must work together even more efficiently and effectively than ever before to scale up solutions that work, and make the challenge of achieving a food secure future for all a thing of the past.
This post was originally featured on Food and Agriculture of the United Nations Perspectives series. Perspectives is a series of essays from thought-leaders on the World Food Day theme that provide the context for informed discussions about the many pathways to ending world hunger.