Our Perspectives


A recipe to end hunger: Food policies that adapt to climate change

by

A man farming planting tea trees. Green leaves, trees in background.Without more climate-resilient food systems, we risk even greater calamites and the unravelling of progress we’ve made in reducing hunger, protecting our planet and supporting developing economies to reach their full potential. Photo: UNDP Kenya

New online course by UNDP, FAO and UNITAR provides tools to help countries make food systems climate resilient

In our age of conspicuous consumption and excess, it frightens us to know that one out of nine people ­– or 815 million children, women and men – remain chronically undernourished.

And according to recent reports, the issue has been getting worse, with the number of undernourished people worldwide increasing from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016. 

So how do we build a recipe to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030, making sure all people have access to sufficient and nutritious food year-round?

It’s not going to be easy. Climate change is altering age-old farming traditions, affecting livelihoods in local communities, and small producers who bring healthy food to our tables. It is also triggering massive droughts and floods that put our global goal of zero hunger at risk.

Even a 2°C global temperate increase will be devastating for farmers and the 2 billion extra mouths we will need to feed by 2050. The cost of corn – the backbone of much of the world’s diet – could jump by 50 percent, and crop production could decline by as much as 22 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. Droughts, floods and other large-scale climate disasters would put more lives at risk of malnutrition, starvation and uncertain futures.

As chefs who are also working with the SDG Fund as UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors, we know that food is the essential ingredient of life. It nourishes young minds, builds strong bones and fuels our economies. On small farms across the globe, food and agriculture are the primary drivers of development and poverty reduction. Without more climate-resilient food systems, we risk even greater calamites and the unravelling of progress we’ve made in reducing hunger, protecting our planet and supporting developing economies to reach their full potential.

Major climate disrupters, such as the recent floods across Asia, landslides in Sierra Leone, and hurricanes across the Caribbean and the United States, take away lives, destroy productive assets and shatter entire communities. This cycle of destruction will only get worse as temperatures and sea levels rise. It also puts farming at risk, especially for poor, small-scale farmers who largely depend on rain-fed agriculture.

Like all good chefs, when we design a recipe, we think about the ingredients we can locally source. The same goes for climate change adaptation planning and our pathway to zero hunger.

While world leaders will convene this November in Bonn to discuss the Pathway from Paris and remind the international community of the Climate Change Agreement, the work will mostly take place locally.  

It will happen on the millions of small farms that feed our countries. It will happen in boardrooms of businesses as they transform their models to adapt to a changing climate. It will happen in the halls of politics, as leaders gather the funds and support they need to protect their people and economies from the growing uncertainties posed by our changing climate.

It all starts with training. Local policy makers and farmers alike need new skills, tools and technologies to better respond to climate change. These ingredients go beyond solar-powered irrigation pumps and drought-resistant seeds; they include eco-friendly farming practices, better linkages to markets, and policies and plans to support farmers in building productive food systems to feed our growing population.

Many hands holdings seedsLike all good chefs, when we design a recipe, we think about the ingredients we can locally source. The same goes for climate change adaptation planning and our pathway to zero hunger. Photo: UNDP

Decision makers will need to look beyond farming and consider the drivers that impact food production, such as soil degradation, coastal erosion, urban migration and changing markets. In order to protect our food, we must take these nuanced and interlocking factors into account.

The right plans will influence national policies and budgets – think of it as a menu of options. When properly executed, they will also support environmental protections and national goals to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. They will help ensure children have enough to eat and drink, parents can send their kids to school and save for the future, and communities can thrive and prosper.

This far-reaching menu combines different recipes and ingredients locally sourced the world over.

Leaders around the world are planning for more climate-resilient food systems and supporting farmers by implementing National Adaptation Plans. Anyone interested in learning about the links between climate change, agriculture, food security and the role of these plans can check out an upcoming online course by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Through this type of learning, we have the opportunity to connect the drivers that impact food production with the policies, plans and procedures we will need to adapt the way we grow food.

Ending world hunger remains an ambitious goal, but we can help reach it, farm by farm. Let's start by giving our farmers the seeds, policies and support they need to adapt to climate change. Our children and our planet deserve it.

This article was originally published on Huffington Post.

Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca Blog post Sustainable development Food security Poverty reduction and inequality Climate change and disaster risk reduction Climate change Roca brothers

UNDP Around the world