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Angebot auf einem Markt in Äthiopien, 2016.

Food systems: Hungry for change

Our food system must be rebuilt from the ground up

Lisa Maria Klaus Policy and External Relations

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 811 million men, women and children go hungry in a world of abundance. Three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet. 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.

Zentralafrikanische Republik Central African Republic, Ngoulekpa und Boussamoa: Marktplatze, market
A scene from a market in the Central African Republic. There is enough food produced worldwide for the world's entire population. Nevertheless, up to 811 million men, women and children go hungry. © Kai Loeffelbein

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:

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.

Frau bei der Ernte Healthy food is a human right

Global agriculture produces enough food for everyone, but it is extremely unequally distributed.

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.

Welthungerhilfe projects

How is Welthungerhilfe involved in promoting a just food system?

Teaserbild Policy Brief Hungrig nach Wandel Hungry for change

Welthungerhilfe's demands to the German government ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit.

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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