Climate change has made farming harder in Malawi, but for the past three years, Madalena and her family have increased their maize production by almost double from 300 Kgs to 550 Kgs through agroecological farming practices.
“The maize in the mulched field is not wilting and has good growth compared to other neighbouring fields with a conventional farming system. By diversifying our maize farming with cow peas, sweet potatoes and pigeon peas this year we are again expecting to be food secure and have income from the sale of surplus pigeon peas despite the dry spell that has hit our area badly.”
“Just imagine the past 15 years I have been farming without the knowledge of agroecology, I have really missed a lot,” she said.
One-in-three in the world facing food insecurity
Alarming new figures from the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation Food Security and Nutrition report 2021 reveal that one-in-three people in the world, that’s 2.37 billion men, women and children, did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of 320 million people in just one year due to the compounding effects of Covid-19, conflict and climate change.
The report also shows enduring and troubling regional inequalities. About one-in-five people (21 percent of the population) was facing hunger in Africa in 2020 – more than double the proportion of any other region.
The world now faces the unprecedented challenge of ensuring the right to adequate food for all on a planet where the population is estimated to increase to over 9 billion people by 2050, in ways that don’t breach essential ecological and planetary boundaries, while tackling poverty and extreme inequality.
United Nations Food Systems Summit
In recognition of these challenges, the UN Secretary-General is convening a Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) on September 23, as part of the UN Decade of Action to Deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The UNFSS aims to serve as a turning point to achieve zero hunger and all the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 by ensuring we all work together to transform the way the world produces, processes, consumes and thinks about food.
Ahead of the summit, Trócaire has called on the Irish Government to play its part in tackling the spiralling world hunger crisis by become a global leader in sustainable food systems.
However, Trócaire is concerned that the UNFSS ambition to be a ‘People’s Summit’ will not be realised.
The reality is that hunger and malnutrition are the result of policy failures, rather than food scarcity. Climate change and the relentless assault on biodiversity are drivers of hunger, along with increased conflict over scarce resources, including water and land that are essential for food production.
To make any real progress towards delivering zero hunger the global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and rising inequality need to be tackled. And food systems have a central role to play in addressing these interconnected challenges.
A food system is the entire set of political, environmental, social, technical and economic factors that influence how people get access to and consume adequate, nutritious food. Reforming food systems is complex, but crucial for human and planetary survival and wellbeing.
It is beyond time for a radical transformation of our industrial agriculture and food systems. World leaders must insist on change. If there isn’t agreement for decisive action the Summit will fail, and the world will be set up for a continuation of the status quo in food systems, and an increase in the millions of people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
Instead of promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture and food systems, the proposed solutions on the agenda for the crucial Summit are concentrated on further privileging corporate/industrial farming interests.
For example the solution proposed for Africa, including by its own leaders at the African Union, is large scale industrialisation based on Green Revolution ideas that are no longer appropriate or sustainable. The vast majority of African food producers are peasant and small-scale farmers – and the majority of these farmers are women. They include indigenous peoples, fishers, pastoralists, and forest dwellers, all of whom play a key role in the continent’s food security.
Their experience and knowledge of regenerative farming that supports biodiversity, social equity and nutritious food production are not on the table at the Summit. The resulting corporate flavoured menu exposes failures in the Summit’s claim to be “a Peoples Summit” or a “Solutions Summit”.
Pursuing a sustainable transformation of agriculture and food that is grounded in a human rights framework entitles people to meaningful participation in the decisions that affect them.
This sustainable transformation also requires the empowerment of people, particularly those who are being left behind, and giving them a voice in shaping policies.
Trócaire works in partnership with communities around the world who have been, and continue to be, marginalised by policies that hinder rather than enable a transition to more sustainable food systems.
An example of one such system being adopted by Trócaire with partners is agroecology, which applies ecological processes to agricultural production. This has the capacity to restore degraded natural resources, promote biodiversity and strengthen poor people’s resilience to climate and other shocks.
With member states’ support, the Summit can take a critical first step to developing a genuinely inclusive menu of transformative food systems options. And thus make some real progress towards achieving zero hunger by 2030.
Survival in drought-stricken Somalia
With the support of the Irish people, Trócaire is helping to generate change and hope for the people most affected by climate change and food insecurity. In 2020/21, Trócaire’s Climate and Environmental Justice Programme supported people in 13 countries and had a positive impact on the lives of 301,000 people.