President of International Fund for Agriculture Development emphasizes need for better food management
DUBAI: Food wastage, rather than a shortage of resources, is the key factor behind global hunger, according to the head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Gilbert Houngbo, president of the UN agency, said there is more than enough food being produced to feed the world’s population of over 7 billion people.
Food waste does however represent a tragic loss of resources and should be addressed, Houngbo said in an interview with Arab News.
“The lack of food management and huge food wastage is creating a hungry population,” he said.
Food loss and wastage affects 40 percent or more of the total amount of food produced, he added.
Houngbo was speaking following the release of a UN report “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017,” released on Friday. He stressed the need to create awareness about food waste.
“We need to educate people. We need to find ways not only to produce food that is full of nutrition, but also to stop waste and bring about programs to teach people about how to value the food which is reaching... their tables.”
According to the UN report, global hunger is on the rise again, affecting 815 million people in 2016, or 11 percent of the global population.
That marked an increase of 38 million people compared to 2015, with the rise largely due to a proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, the report said.
Asia has the largest share of hungry people with 520 million of the total, followed by Africa with 243 million and Latin America and the Caribbean with 42 million.
The number of children under five suffering from stunted growth stands at 155 million, while 52 million are underweight. The report also found that 41 million children under 5 are overweight, while 641 million adults are obese.
Houngbo said climate change has a direct impact on food production, which eventually increases the risk of food insecurity as well as malnutrition, particularly among children.
“If we look at what happened in the Americas in the last two weeks due to hurricanes, and the floods in South Asia, we can imagine what can happen to our crops, fisheries and livestock in just a few weeks, which means more hunger,” he said.
Houngbo said investment in rural areas was key given the high level of migration to urban areas.
“For me the major concern is that we should make lots of investment in villages so that people do not have to leave their homes in search of better quality of living. We should provide them quality of life in their villages,” he said.
Farmers need support, better facilities and direct access to the market, Houngbo added.
“They need our support for improved seeds, smart use of irrigation, technology, better infrastructure and facilities that give them better quality of life. Our challenge is that people should start taking agriculture seriously as a profitable business, and consider rural areas as a place to invest,” he said.
Out of 815 million hungry people on the planet, more than half lives in conflict zones, according to the UN report. Houngbo pointed to the dangers of food insecurity in societies. “The right to food is a basic right that every government has to provide its citizens. Hunger causes desperation and threatens social stability,” he said.
Houngbo is however optimistic about the future, saying that many countries have started realizing the importance of a strong agriculture industry.
“I am very optimistic because in recent years countries have started realizing that they can’t put all their eggs in one basket in the name of development and hence they have to diversify,” he said.
“Hence more and more countries are going back to the agriculture sector, which not only improves their exports but also makes sure that they have enough food for their citizens.”
IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo. (Photo courtesy IFAD)