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Food security is a 2021 global priority

This year is going to see a major global push to improve food security for millions of people around the wold.

Covid-19 has increased the challenges, with more than 800 million people facing hunger in 2020, according to the latest authoritative report on the state of food security in the world.

The United Nations, which admits it is unlikely to meet the goal of zero hunger by 2030, has scheduled a UN Food Systems Summit in September. A pre-summit meeting in Rome last week aimed at setting the stage for the review of global food systems.

The food security report estimates that the number of hungry people in the world increased by more than 100 million in 2020, and said food insecurity is rising fastest in Africa.

“About one in five people (21% of the population) was facing hunger in Africa in 2020 – more than double the proportion of any other region,” it said. This is an increase of three percentage points in one year.

In a message to the pre-summit, Pope Francis said one of the world’s greatest challenges today is to “overcome hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in the era of Covid-19”.

Every country is going to have to do its utmost to ensure that more food is available to more people and that fewer go hungry.

SA calls for more agricultural research

One of the speakers at the pre-summit was South Africa’s agriculture minister, Thoko Didiza. She made a plea for increased investment in research and innovation to cope with climate change and help combat hunger.

This would be critical in supporting smallholder and commercial farmers, she said. While South Africa has increased its agricultural productivity, sub-Saharan Africa had low levels of investment in research and development and low agricultural productivity levels.

Governments and the private sector should increase investments in research, she told assembled agriculture ministers from across the globe.

It’s a long-term approach to a problem that is becoming increasingly acute.

Image (top): FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu at the Closing Plenary of the Pre-Summit of the UN Food System Summit 2021. © FAO / Giuseppe Carotenuto. Photos (above): © FAO / Giuseppe Carotenuto.