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)

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