Today, it is the World Food Day!
So here are five ways to promote more sustainable food systems from building grain reserves to taxing pollution.
Improve food distributionUnited Nations’ data shows that we produce enough food for everyone to have an adequate diet, but poor distribution means that 805 million people are hungry while some 1.4 billion people are overweight or obese. We need to take the food we have and make sure it is distributed to those who need it most.
We propose helping small-scale producers, for example those in rural Africa, access markets. This will involve partnerships between local and international development agencies that can work with farmers to establish the skills and the infrastructure to market farm products. Reducing poverty in this way is a good way of ensuring food reaches those who need it most.
It’s also vital to build strategic grain reserves in famine-prone regions as a source of emergency food. This would require partnerships between non-governmental organisations, national governments and the World Food Programme.
Sustainably increase productionThe UN now expects the global population to reach 11 billion by 2100. To meet this demand, we need to develop ways of producing more food while using fewer resources.
We propose supporting publicly funded research that empowers small-scale farmers in the global south to boost their productivity using low-cost technologies. This requires scientists and engineers to step outside their labs and engage meaningfully with small-scale farmers across South America, Asia, and Africa.
Public-private partnerships can also help to research precision-agriculture technologies that will allow farmers to boost production while minimising environmental impact. Everything from soil probes that can test for nutrient deficiency to satellite navigation systems linked to tractors and GPS enabled smartphones can help produce a maximum amount of food with minimal environmental disruption.
Support local foodAlthough most experts agree local food systems cannot feed all of us all the time, local food is still extremely important. Local food empowers farmers, links producers and consumers, and provides a line of defence between consumers and international commodity markets.
Therefore, we should invest in mid-sized and regional food processing and distribution facilities such as vegetable processing factories, canneries, and abattoirs. This will provide smaller farmers access to markets as well as helping them add value to the products they produce.
We should also enhance and establish programmes that reduce the barriers for young people wanting to become farmers. Everything from the high cost of farmland to the fact that many people have no idea how to garden means that our farm population is aging. We need to correct this and make farming a viable and exciting career for young people.