“The world is on the verge of a global food crisis, with a rising number of people experiencing hunger and food insecurity…” according to the latest United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Report.
Citing recent global challenges, including climate change, growing conflicts and widening inequalities, the report warns that global food supply chain systems are under severe threat. “In 2021, over 828 million people suffered from Hunger. This figure is expected to rise if a conscious effort is not made to reverse the trend” The report warned.
According to the report, “the outbreak of war in Ukraine poses an additional threat to food insecurity, with the potential to provoke a surge in levels of hunger and malnutrition, especially among the poorest and most vulnerable.” This looming food emergency jeopardises the realisation of the second UNSDG—Zero Hunger.
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger—End Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
Goal 2 is focused on creating a world where no one is hungry by 2030. The intent is to target various sustainable agriculture initiatives, including developing rural infrastructure, ensuring market accessibility, and increasing small farms’ productivity and equity regarding access to resources. The United Nations and its allies regularly assess how close they are to achieving the targets of Goal 2 to guarantee that their aims are achieved in an appropriate and timely fashion.
Since 2014, the number of people struggling with food insecurity has increased. The recent COVID-19 crisis and other global issues have worsened it and resulted in a sharp surge in all types of malnutrition, especially among children.
At the launch of the UNSDGs agenda, specific targets related to food security and zero Hunger were set. These targets included:
- By 2030, end Hunger and ensure access by all people, particularly the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.
- By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons.
- By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.
- By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, help maintain ecosystems, strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and progressively improve land and soil quality.
- By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed.
- Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, particularly the least developed countries.
- Correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, including through the parallel elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies and all export measures with equivalent effect, in accordance with the mandate of the Doha Development Round.
- Adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility.
Despite these targets, statistics from the UNSDG report (2022) suggest that the prevalence of Hunger skyrocketed significantly in 2020, with between 720 million to 811 million people around the globe facing malnutrition – an increase of 161 million from 2019.
Another alarming statistic in 2020 was that 2.4 billion people (approximately 30percent) of the world population were facing moderate or severe food insecurity because of a lack of nutritious meals. A remarkable 320 million people were added to this population in just one year!
By 2020, a reduction of 2.4percent was observed in the global prevalence of stunting (low height for age) among children under 5, from 24.4percent in 2015 to 22percent. This translates to 149.2 million children around the world living with this condition. Meeting the target of a 5percent reduction in stunted children by 2025 requires a doubled rate of decline from the current 2.1percent to 3.9percent.
According to the report, “COVID-19, together with soaring food prices, are exacerbating all forms of malnutrition because of a loss of household income, the lack of available and affordable nutritious food, reduced physical activity and disruptions in essential nutrition services.”
Supply chain disruptions due to the Ukraine war have led to rising grain costs, sunflower seeds and fertilisers. This has placed countries that rely on imports of these items at an even greater risk of inadequate access to food supplies.
The UN 2022 report revealed that countries facing high food prices have surged from 16percent to 47percent between 2019 and 2020. This significant increase is a cause for concern, as it shows some major global food supply chain issues that require urgent attention.
Today, many countries worldwide face shortages of essential resources, while others are contending with sky-high prices for basic staples. Food costs globally have, on average, increased significantly in the last year to “approximately 30percent”. The report warns that rising food inflation could put global food security at risk, which could mean Hunger and malnutrition for countless people. According to the UN Secretary-General, this price increase is an “issue that needs to be addressed urgently as it could cause an increase in poverty levels and further exacerbate existing inequality between countries.”
Ghana comparatively has done relatively well. However, in a study into food security in Ghana titled ‘COVID-19 and Urban Food Security in Ghana during the Third Wave,’ Onyango et al. (2023) noted that “before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 1.2 million people in Ghana were classified as food insecure, and an additional 2 million were vulnerable to food insecurity.” Although the World Food Programme reports that “Hunger and malnutrition persist primarily in northern Ghana, as well as many rural and peri-urban communities across the country,” Onyango et al. found that post-COVID, there was “a sharp increase in food insecurity throughout the country…especially in large cities such as Accra and Kumasi, (2023).
To sum up, the growing global and national food insecurity crises are worsening at a worrying rate, putting millions of people at risk of Hunger and malnutrition. Urgent action, as rightly emphasised by Mr Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, “must be taken to prevent a wide-scale food emergency that could devastate both communities and countries alike”. Thus, governments must create concrete plans to ensure everyone has access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food sources. Additionally, initiatives to increase agricultural production and promote sustainable farming practices should be implemented to ensure the longevity of our global food supply.
In conclusion, the social, economic and political implications of a potential global food crisis will be devastating and crippling, especially for the most vulnerable populations not equipped to cope with such a crisis. Food scarcity and insecurity could have broader implications for the global economy and exacerbate political tensions in various countries. Therefore, like most developing economies, Ghana must heed the United Nations’ call for “joint, coordinated activities and policy solutions” to prevent food shortages and reduce the impact of current global crises on the nation’s food supply chains.
>>>The writer is an international chartered director and Africa’s first-ever appointed Professor Extraordinaire for Industrialisation and Supply Chain Governance. He is the CEO of PanAvest International and the founding non-executive chairman of MY-future YOUR-Future and OUR-Future (“MYO”) and the “thought-provoking” daily Nyansa Kasa(words of wisdom) series. Professor Boateng is currently the non-executive chairman of the Minerals Income and Investment Fund (MIIF). He was previously the non-executive chairman of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA). For more information on Nyansakasa, visit www.myoglobal.org and www.panavest.com