Food Systems: Hungry for Change
Our food system must be rebuilt from the ground up
Our global food system is neither fair, sustainable nor crisis-proof. This is illustrated, among other things, by the number of people going hungry because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. The paradox is that there is actually enough food produced worldwide for the world's entire population. But only those who have money or produce enough food themselves can afford to eat healthily. The rest starve or eat poor quality food. Up to 828 million people go hungry in a world of abundance. 149 million children under five suffer from stunting, an indicator of chronic malnutrition. A quarter of the world's population is overweight – and this problem is growing, with severe consequences for health systems.
The path food takes from the field to the plate is massively damaging to the environment. It causes a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, accelerates the loss of biodiversity and thus drives the climate crisis. To eliminate flaws in our food system and thus world hunger, our food systems must change fundamentally. This is less about technical solutions and more about structural changes. The private sector also has an obligation to actively contribute to the fight against poverty and malnutrition and to the protection of the environment.
What is a food system?
Food systems are complex: they encompass the journey of food production from the field to the meals we eat every day. This covers four areas:
- the agricultural production of food,
- packaging, transport and distribution, as well as
- trade and consumption to the point of preparation and eating of food.
Welthungerhilfe's demands to the German government ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit.
How these different areas function in practice depends in each case on political, economic, social, cultural and environmental conditions. They also determine whether risks are fairly distributed throughout the supply chain. A fair, sustainable and crisis-resistant food system takes the entire process into account and ensures that the human right to food is realized for all people worldwide.
Food is a human right
Everyone has the right to adequate, sufficient and healthy food – as stated in Article 11 of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 162 countries have committed under international law to respect, protect and guarantee the human right to food; this includes countries in the Global South as well as industrialized countries. Implementing the United Nations' Zero Hunger by 2030 sustainability goal is therefore primarily a question of political will.
Healthy and sustainable with a system
In the home of the potato, avocado and many other nutrient-rich foods, food security is deteriorating dramatically. While large agricultural corporations produce avocados, green asparagus and grapes for export on the coast, fewer and fewer Peruvian families are able to feed themselves sufficiently and healthily. The Peruvian Pacific coast is far too dry for the cultivation of export goods, so natural water resources from the Andes are diverted to the coast via reservoirs and canals. This project supports small farming families in bringing in good harvests again.
Bhoomi Ka: organic, fair and delicious food
All people should have access to local, nutritious, and clean food. This is the "Bhoomi Ka" initiative’s vision. It connects smallholder farmers, retailers and consumers in India to ensure that food is grown, distributed and consumed responsibly – and that smallholder farmers receive fair prices. The innovative Bhoomi Ka initiative is committed to responsibly produced food. To realize this, it not only focuses on fair trade and organic food, but also delicious recipes that can be prepared from this food.
Burkina Faso: joining forces against hunger
Outdated farming techniques and increasing weather extremes are leading to poor harvests and malnutrition in many parts of Burkina Faso. Especially in the last three months before the next harvest, people suffer greatly from the lack of food. For this reason, Welthungerhilfe strengthens smallholder farmers with sustainable cultivation methods and opportunities to market their yields profitably. To this end, it promotes the formation of farmers' associations: The division of labor and tasks increases yields and thus also food security.
Permaculture protects against hunger in Malawi
Extreme climate events destroyed maize harvests in western Malawi. In response to this, instead of monoculture, people are now relying on natural diversity – with permaculture. The concept aims to create sustainable and natural cycles that function over the long term. The basic principle of permaculture is ecologically, economically and socially sustainable management of all resources.
Haiti: 1,000,000 seedlings to combat climate change
The frequency and intensity of tropical storms in Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic has increased in recent years, and natural disasters such as droughts, floods and forest fires are not only a consequence of the climate crisis but are accelerating it. Through erosion control, soil conservation measures and adapted plant species, a Welthungerhilfe project is helping to preserve livelihoods and mitigate the effects of climate change on the region.
How is Welthungerhilfe involved in promoting a just food system?
The world is producing more food than ever. But our global food system is failing to provide healthy, sustainable, and affordable choices for everyone.
Welthungerhilfe is calling for fundamental systemic change at all levels of the global food system. This is the only way to overcome unjust and unsustainable structures and thus achieve the goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. In its own programs and projects, it strengthens smallholder, site-specific agriculture. The organization believes that regional administrations and governments should be held accountable for implementing the right to food. Therefore, together with its partners, Welthungerhilfe supports civil society organizations so that they can demand the human right to food in their countries. And there have been initial successes: In Peru and Bolivia, legal frameworks are now in place to promote the sustainable production of healthy food. These include, for example, certification procedures for official organic labels.
Sources and further information (in German)
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- Lisa Maria Klaus, 02/2021: „Unser Ernährungssystem läuft nicht rund“. In: Welternährung: www.welthungerhilfe.de/ welternaehrung.
- Marion Aberle, Erwin Northoff, 02/2021: „Dieser Gipfel darf sich nicht in ideologischen Grabenkämpfen verlieren”, Interview mit Prof. Dr. Joachim Braun. In: Welternährung: www.welthungerhilfe.de/welternaehrung.
- Prof. Dr. Insa Theesfeld, Elia Carceller, 04/2021: „Lebensmittel gehen alle an: Ernährungssysteme als Gemeingut begreifen?“. In: Welternährung: www.welthungerhilfe.de/welternaehrung.
- Welthungerhilfe/terre des hommes, 05/2021: „Kompass 2021 - Zur Wirklichkeit der deutschen Entwicklungspolitik“.
- WBGU – Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen (2020): „Landwende im Anthropozän: Von der Konkurrenz zur Integration“, Berlin: WBGU.
- World Food Programme, 2021: „Food Systems“. In: www.wfp.org/food-systems.