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Damning evidence; the current industrial model has failed to achieve food and nutrition security: A clarion call for a paradigm shift to an agro-ecogical approach

Good people, the month of November is here. It is a time of retrospection and introspection. ..a key question on the minds of concerned food policy makers and policy advisors, across the world  is; “how well have we done in reducing hunger, malnutrition and achieving food and nutrition security?”

  • Some of us have had the privilege of attending and participating in the just concluded 2019 Committee on Food Security(CFS) http://www.fao.org/cfs/home/plenary/cfs46/en/ in FAO, Rome, Italy. The CFS is the apex food and nutrition making policy body, globally,  comes right after Civil Society Mechanism meeting(CSM) meeting, which highlighted the challenges and proposed policy solutions to the current failing industrial model food system. Find a link to one of the critical side events that highlighted the failures of the current food system and proposed alternative food policies which embrace agro-ecological approaches, using a systems approach: http://www.fao.org/cfs/home/plenary/cfs46/cfs46se/se054/vn/
  • Do we have evidence that the current food system has failed and that there is need to shift the policy paradigm to a sustainable food system?

YES, as outlined below and the crux of this article.

  • UNICEF’s latest report;The State of the World’s Children 2019: Children, food and nutrition: Growing well in a changing world<https://unicef.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=868bc193d9fcfe837d3fb7bc3&id=460dbea345&e=a08a75f4c0>, examines the issue of children, food and nutrition and provides a fresh perspective on this rapidly evolving challenge. Read the report here: https://unicef.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=868bc193d9fcfe837d3fb7bc3&id=aa094df503&e=a08a75f4c0>
  • Summary facts from the Unicef report that should worry us(the readers) include the following: 149 million children are stunted, or too short for their age; 50 million children are wasted or too thin for their height;340 million children – or 1 in 2 – suffer from deficiencies in essential vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamin A and iron; 40 million children are overweight or obese: At the centre of this profound triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition, hidden hunger and overweight – is a broken food system that fails to provide children with the diets they need to grow healthily.
  • The above facts are further validated by the 2019, World Food Security and Nutrition Report: http://www.fao.org/3/ca5162en/ca5162en.pdf which provides similar factual statistics indicating increasing hunger(not reducing hunger!) and food insecurity which is an indictment of the failed current food system, propped up by deceptive misinformation rhetoric by Big Agric and Biotechnology claiming that use of more synthetic agrochemicals(including using more toxic pesticides!) and transgenic seeds, coupled with bio-fortification, as the  “solution to food security”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some worrying findings from that report include:
  • Hunger is on the rise in almost all African subregions, making Africa the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, at almost 20 percent. Hunger is also slowly rising in Latin America and the Caribbean, although its prevalence is still below 7 percent. In Asia, Western Asia shows a continuous increase since 2010, with more than 12 percent of its population undernourished today.
  • Considering all people in the world affected by moderate levels of food insecurity together with those who suffer from hunger, it is estimated that over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, including 8 percent of the population in Northern America and Europe
  • Overweight and obesity continue to increase in all regions, particularly among school-age children and adults. In 2018, an estimated 40 million children under five were overweight. In 2016, 131 million children 5–9 years old, 207 million adolescents and 2 billion adults were overweight. About a third of overweight adolescents and adults, and 44 percent of overweight children aged 5–9 were obese. The economic costs of malnutrition are staggering.
  • Let me add that, overweight and obesity are key risk factors for non-commmunicable diseases(NCDs)…NCDs are on the increase!

What is the way forward for food and nutrition policies to ensure sustainable food and nutrition security?

  • In theory, it is simple: A concerted and radical shift from conventional food and nutrition policies to agro-ecological and related food systems policies. This was reiterated and strongly argued, by the CSM, at the just concluded CSM/CFS meeting in FAO, Rome, Italy.
  • For those of us in Africa, we are meeting this week, in Addis Ababa, to deliberate on and articulate a “Road Map on Food and Nutrition Security Policies” for Africa, informed by the latest evidence on the state of food and nutrition situation in Africa and the need for proactive and responsive food and nutrition policies, anchored on agroecological food production systems, while leveraging a systems thinking approach.

 

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