Welcome to the second part of our Brave New World series, where we explore the impacts of Covid-19 on each of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. SDG2 looks at global hunger and how we can work together to eradicate it.
What has happened recently?
As borders closed and people started their government-enforced lockdowns, suddenly international supply chains were hit with one of the biggest logistical minefields of the modern era. However, not everyone had to lockdown, as was exposed by wealthier nations managing to import cheap foreign labourers to tend their fields and work on their agriculture projects. People still needed to eat, right? So, what happened to those in poorer or developing nations who were forced to lockdown, potentially cut off from their own land and food supply? It’s hard to say, but the prospects weren’t good.
The privilege of the first world was well exposed when relating Covid-19 to SDG2, as people sat at home, ordering groceries to their home, buying takeaways and taking advantage of offers from Deliveroo and Just Eat. That convenience is something fundamentally not shared in the developing world, especially not during a pandemic. To add the cherry on top, the first world food producers have had to waste and throw away so much food from the production chain due to the shutting of restaurants and cafés.
How was SDG2 affected by Covid-19?
So, while the first world goes on more or less unaffected, the third world weeps. Reports from the World Food Programme raised concerns about countries that were receiving food aid, such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanisation, Venezuela, and Ethiopia, who collectively account for 60 million people in food poverty and at risk of famine.
On top of these nations, the rest of the 50 poorest countries in the world account for another 75 million people in food poverty or at risk of famine, which is the extreme end of the hunger spectrum. The total figure of 135m in 2020 is up from 124m in 2019. 2021 is set to grow even higher as a result of Covid-19, with the most shocking estimates suggesting that it could double to around 265m, with Africa and the Middle East suffering the most.
Covid-19 has worsened existing food crises around the world and no least in the UK, where a wealthy and developed nation continues to rely on food banks. By the third week of the lockdown in March, food bank usage immediately doubled. Read more here about how coronavirus exposed further wealth inequalities in the UK.
West Africa and sub-Saharan Africa
In West Africa, it is predicted that 20 million people will lose their food security in 2020 because of the socioeconomic domino effect of the coronavirus. On top of those 20 million people, there are another 21 million people who are already experiencing food insecurity in the West African region, including 12 million children. In sub-Saharan Africa, where more than half of the world’s 820 million hungry and starving live, people are starving to death as they queue for food aid. The World Food Programme, UN, and NGOs cannot keep up, especially as crop prices inflate.
What is being done to help tackle hunger?
The World Food Programme, which is the largest organisation supporting the world’s most food-vulnerable, works by increasing food-security monitoring, assisting governments in building social protection systems, developing apps to collect information on hunger during Covid-19, identifying where cash transfers can be distributed, positioning food banks in key areas, and working on the ground with humanitarian response. They, more than any other organisation, understand how time-critical this is, with David Beasley (who himself caught and recovered from Covid-19), Head of the WFP saying “We could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months. The truth is we do not have time on our side.” Adding to that statement, he shared that “I do believe that with our expertise and our partnerships, we can bring together the teams and the programmes necessary to make certain the Covid-19 pandemic does not become a human and food crisis catastrophe.”
The UN, which is also a huge component in tackling global hunger, have a movement called Zero Hunger, which you can better understand below:
‘The Zero Hunger vision is comprised of five elements which taken together, can end hunger, eliminate all forms of malnutrition and build inclusive and sustainable food systems. These five elements are:
All food systems are sustainable: from production to consumption
- An end to rural poverty: double small-scale producer incomes & productivity
- Adapt all food systems to eliminate loss or waste of food
- Access to adequate food and healthy diets, for all people, all year round
- An end to malnutrition in all its forms
Businesses are invited to become part of a growing community working to end hunger, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. If your company has taken steps to create more sustainable food systems, you can share the transformative change you are making and demonstrate leadership by joining the Zero Hunger Challenge.’
The EU and European Commission is also working on tackling hunger, especially because of the secondary effects on children – stunting and wasting. Read their mission below:
‘The EU is firmly committed to achieving SDG2 and has been working with partners to collectively step up support to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. This is reaffirmed in the European Consensus on Development. Agricultural and rural development are key to reducing poverty, boosting food and nutrition security, stimulating economic growth, and protecting the environment, all within the context of climate change. They can also play a major role in promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls.
Our approach to reach SDG2 focuses on 4 priorities:
- We act to enhance the resilience of the most vulnerable to food crises.
- We fight malnutrition and help secure nutritional health and well-being for present and future generations.
- We support increasing responsible investments in agriculture and food systems.
- We promote innovation for sustainable agriculture and food systems.’
How can SDG2 be improved for the brave new world?
In order to solve the food crisis, we have to work smarter, not harder. The focus here is on developing skills and improving local education in a way that allows for better methods of self-sustenance. Around the world, different geographies, societies, weather conditions and more all affect food production, so we must learn several things in order to be more consideration:
- Don’t waste food
- Eat seasonally
- Source Locally
- Embrace permaculture and self-sufficiency
- Agricultural development
- Develop on subsistence farming
Recently I even started a communal vegetable patch with my neighbours, and now we’ve reduced what we need to buy from the supermarket. We can simply go outside and pick what we need. I was inspired to rethink my behaviour based on all of the expert information provided by scientists and agricultural experts. I’ll leave you with this great resource.