🔎 Sustainable Development Goals; Food Waste; Zero Hunger
By STEFAN JUNGCURT PH.D.
Only one-quarter of the food wasted globally would be enough to end hunger. Reducing food waste by half, as called for by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 12.3, would not only contribute to more sustainable production and consumption (SDG 12), but also go a long way in achieving zero hunger (SDG 2) and climate action (SDG 13).
To raise awareness of these linkages and boost collaboration to address food waste, participants to the High-Level Event ‘Championing 12.3 as a Pathway to Zero Hunger’ called on the global community to renew its commitment towards zero tolerance for food loss and waste. Organized on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, the event brought together high-level speakers, including the heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to discuss measures and initiatives to advance the global agenda on reducing food waste.
FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva outlined the economic benefits of reducing food waste, noting that food loss also represents a loss of labor, water, energy, land and other inputs. He said that “investing in measures to prevent food loss and food waste also means making investments in pro-poor policies as it promotes sustainable food systems for a zero-hunger world.”
Coinciding with the event, FAO and Unilever, an international consumer goods company, announced a deepening of their strategic partnership to support countries in reducing food loss and waste. The partners have agreed to pursue interventions in five strategic areas, including digital innovation, land governance, resilience building for smallholder farmers, reducing food loss and food waste, and climate change in support of achieving the SDGs. Building on an existing initiative in Argentina, FAO and Unilever will work to scale up interventions globally, including joint awareness raising campaigns and actions to engage governments, civil society and the private sector. Unilever will also continue taking action towards achieving its internal commitment to halve food waste from its operations by 2025.
The High-level event was sponsored by FAO, IFAD, WFP, Rockefeller Foundation, The German G20 Presidency and Champions 12.3. Champions 12.3 is a coalition of executives from governments, businesses, international organizations, research institutions, farmer groups, and civil society dedicated to inspiring ambition, mobilizing action, and accelerating progress toward achieving SDG Target 12.3.
Food loss and food waste was also discussed at a recent ‘Food Tank Summit’ held on 13 September, in New York City, US. Organized by FoodTank, ReFED, Rockefeller Foundation and other partners, the event brought together food system leaders from business, nonprofit organizations, foundations and governments to discuss “how to stop food waste once and for all.” A recorded live stream of the event is available on the Food Tank website.
Published on IISD on September 26, 2017
Setting a target to reach out parched regions with one billion litres of water annually before next environment day (June 5, 2018), startups working on ensuring water-supply to the deprived said they see water ATMs as the next solution.
At 76 million -- about six percent of the population, India has the largest number of people living without access to safe water in the world, according to a 2016 WaterAid report. Meanwhile, experts like Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh, known as India's Water Man, say that over 73 per cent of the country's aquifers are being overdrawn.
The reports state that while aquifers provide 85 per cent of drinking water, their levels are falling in 56 per cent of the country.
At the same time, providing the rural-areas with affordable potable drinking water through water-ATMs is the next step, say people in the business.
"In a world that needs 350 billion litres of water every day, we aspire to deliver one billion litres per annum by 2018," says Parag Agarwal, Delhi-based founder of JanaJal, a company that has currently installed 100 water ATMs along with the IRCTC at railway stations in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat, while pursuing other projects in rural areas where status of clean water is in bad shape.
Among the latest and one of the firsts in the past two years, a Water ATM, providing potable drinking water at Rs 2 per litre was recently installed at Khoda village in Ghaziabad district by JanaJal. The first water ATM of UP was installed in Mathura.
"We are committed to make a difference and make Right to Water a distinct reality in the life of every Indian but for that, we also solicit and seek support from corporate India to further this cause in an affordable and sustainable manner and make this precious resource available to one and all," Agarwal said.
The average cost of one water ATM is about Rs 8-10 lakh. The water is procured from the nearest source, underground, lake, river or wells and sent to a lab before being uploaded on the ATMs.
"On the occasion of World Environment Day, we wish to point out that 2 billion people are suffering due to lack of access to safe drinking water. If current trends continue, two out of every three people on earth will suffer moderate to severe water shortages in just two decades from now," he said.
However with India rapidly moving towards being water-stressed, the primary availability is being threatened.
The current availability of water per person per year in India is placed at roughly 1,745 cubic metres. To qualify for becoming water-stressed, the figure has to drop to 1,700 and at 1,000 it becomes water scarce.
A Central Water Commission report states that over the past five decades, availability of fresh water has dropped from 3,000 cubic metres to 1,123 cubic metres today.
According to S.K. Sarkar, Director of Water Division at The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), by 2050, India will be water-scarce.
At present about 1,123 billion cubic metres of fresh water is available in India of which 84 per cent is used in agriculture.
Published on The News Minute on June 5, 2017.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, today cautioned that many Zambian peasants are at risk of becoming squatters on their own land as Zambia is turned into Southern Africa’s food basket.
“The push to turn commercial large-scale agricultural into a driving engine of the Zambian economy, in a situation where the protection of access to land is weak, can risk pushing small-holder farmers and peasants off their land and out of production with severe impacts on the people’s right to food,” Ms. Elver said at the end of her first official visit to the country.
The expert drew special attention to the fact that in the Zambian dual-model of land tenure tenants on state land enjoy the full protection of their property rights. “However,” she noted, “landholders under customary tenure, affecting around 85% of the land, mostly in hands of peasants, are essentially occupants or users of land and their property and land rights remain unprotected.”
“This situation is particularly alarming since small scale farmers represent 60% of Zambians and at the same time produce 85% of the food for the population,” Ms. Elver pointed out. “These people are generally amongst the poorest of the population, 40% of them live in rural areas and suffer from extreme poverty.”
“Many peasants are forced to work as contract farmers for the larger commercial industrial farms in adverse conditions, or are obliged to sell their products at undervalued prices to monopoly type multinationals who buy farmers’ product for export,” the expert explained.
The Special Rapporteur heard testimonies of comparatively successful small-scale farmers who were still forced to sell their animals in order to pay for their children to go to school. Many small-scale farmers have their children working from as early as the age of six to secure their families’ livelihood.
Ms. Elver noted that the growth in the agriculture sector in Zambia in the last decade has not been inclusive but limited to large scale farmers, leaving the small scale farmers behind. “The agricultural sector has failed to make a dent on poverty levels in the rural areas and as such the model for the strengthening of the agricultural sectors need to be altered,” she said.
“It is imperative that national strategies incorporate human rights principles that include the protection of their access to land and other productive resources in order to protect the county’s traditional food system, small holder farmers and their livelihoods,” the Special Rapporteur urged.
Access to adequate and nutritious food continues to be a challenge across most of the country, with women and children in the rural area faring worst. Many children and their families only eat only one meal of not necessarily nutritious food per day.
A recent study has found that severe acute malnutrition in Zambia comes with a 40% mortality rate, five times the global average due to lack in access to adequate health services as well as to therapeutic foods.
The expert was alarmed to find out that around 40% of children under five are stunted with this figure reaching above 50% in some of the rural provinces, and even higher in refugee camps and the most marginalized rural areas, while the country was enjoying impressive economic growth rates of over 6 per cent per year.
“This is not tolerable since the effects of under-nutrition are irreversible, and lack of access to adequate and nutritious food is having a detrimental effect on future generations and must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” she stressed.
The country’s agricultural development model based on intensive commercial farming has increased rates of deforestation and to bio-diversity loss. It has also increased the use of agro chemicals, including glyphosate, which have a scientifically proven adverse impact on human health, in particular on children.
“It is vital that development plans and policies take into account the true cost of industrial farming methods primarily for its people, but also on soil and water resources, as well as the social and economic impact on people rather than focusing only on short term profitability and economic growth,” Ms. Elver said.
During her ten-day visit, the expert met, among others, senior Government officials, representatives from the UN system, civil society members, traditional leaders and communities in various locations throughout the country.
The Special Rapporteur’s observations and recommendations will be reflected in her final report, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018.
Published on the OHCHR's website on May 12, 2017.
By TANYA FARBER
All South Africans have the right to food - on paper. But University of the Western Cape researchers say alarm bells should be going off about food insecurity, and that civil society should be fighting harder for improvements.Ebenezer Durojaye and Enoch MacDonnell Chilemba, of the Dullah Omar Institute, said that despite constitutional guarantees of the right to food, the government was failing citizens.
"Why are we not seeing litigation challenging the government on its failure to achieve access to food for all, given that the constitution explicitly protects the right to food?" asked Durojaye.
The university's Centre of Excellence in Food Security said: "The researchers reviewed broad swathes of literature, legal documents and international agreements to better understand how the right to food is protected in South Africa, and what the government and civil society organisations are doing to ensure that nutritious food is available to all."
They compared South Africa to India, saying: "Although the right to food is not legally enforceable in India, the courts have been called on to clarify the nature of the government's obligation.
"Indian courts have been very creative by invoking other provisions of the constitution, such as the rights to life and dignity, to hold the government accountable for its failure to prevent hunger."
In South Africa, however, "very little is being done by civil society to hold the government accountable for these failures".
Durojaye and Chilemba cited the work of the Treatment Action Campaign - which agitated for the roll-out of ARVs to people with HIV - as a role model.
"South African civil society groups can learn from the Indian experience by establishing a campaign on the right to food and filing test cases to hold the government accountable."
Unicef said food insecurity is particularly destructive to children. It said: "Just as the damaging effects of malnutrition can pass from one generation to the next, so can the benefits of good nutrition.
"Giving a child a solid nutritional start has an impact for life on physical, mental and social development."
But South African corporates are tackling the issue.
Marcos Romaniero, head of food company Kraft Heinz in Africa, the Middle East and Asia - distributed meals yesterday at two creches in Vrygrond, Cape Town, as part of the company's commitment to "eradicate global hunger by providing 1billion meals globally by 2021".
Stats SA said 13% of pupils go hungry at school.
Published on Times Live's website on April 3, 2017.
Urgent humanitarian action needed to respond to alarming levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen
Climate change is contributing to a growing water crisis, putting the lives of millions of children at risk
By 2040, almost 600 million children will live in areas with extremely limited water resources. That’s around 1 in 4 children worldwide.
A major factor in water stress will be a global increase in demand for water, driven largely by industrialization, population growth, demographic shifts, food production and increased consumption. Taking longer showers, cleaning cars, watering gardens and eating more meat – all take their toll.
In many of the regions projected to be hit hardest, we are already witnessing a water crisis unfolding.
Increasing droughts and floods threaten quality and quantity of water
Over the past 50 years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in history. In the 136 years NASA has been keeping record, all but 1 of the 16 hottest years have occurred since 2000. The hottest year on record? 2016.
When it comes to the world’s water supply, only a tiny amount (2.5 per cent) is actually fresh water, the type needed to sustain human, animal and plant life.
Sea levels are rising faster than before, and as they do, salt water can infiltrate water supplies and make the water undrinkable.
The higher temperatures also cause droughts and floods, and an increase in water-linked diseases.
Without water, children simply cannot survive. During times of drought, children not only risk dying of thirst, but also have less food and must walk longer distances to collect water. This means less time to go to school, study and play.
Often it is the girl in a family who is tasked with fetching water and who is the first to miss out on education. Instead of being in school, girls can spend hours fetching water, sometimes at risk of attack. If they are fortunate enough to finally get to school, they are often too tired to learn.
Globally women and girls already spend about 200 million hours a day gathering water. Thirteen-year-old Aysha, in Afar, Ethiopia, must trudge eight hours, round trip, to collect water for herself and her family.
Droughts can have multiple effects on poor families and communities. Crops fail, livestock dies and income drops, leading to food insecurity for the poor as well as rising food prices. Such loss of livelihood can push families further into poverty and force them to migrate in search of water and food.
In 2016 Malawi faced its worst drought in 30 years, resulting in 6.7 million people needing food aid as of February 2017. One of the people affected was Teresa. After losing her husband, she has been struggling alone to look after her baby, who is suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
When water becomes scarce during droughts, many people resort to drinking unsafe water, putting children at risk of deadly diseases.
Water and sanitation related diseases are one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 years old. Every day, over 800 children under 5 die from diarrhoea linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
In Lesotho, for example, the drought in 2016 caused many safe water sources to dry up, forcing families to search for unsafe alternatives and leading to an increase in diarrhoea cases.
In the event of floods, latrines and toilets can be destroyed or damaged, which can contaminate water supplies and make them unsafe to drink.
The poorest and most disadvantaged children are most at riskFlood and drought zones often overlap with areas of high poverty and limited access to essential services such as water and sanitation.
Many of the children and families who are disadvantaged by poverty are already suffering from the impacts of climate change.
This situation can create a vicious cycle: children living in poverty or deprived of adequate water and sanitation before a crisis will be more affected by a flood, drought or storm. They are less likely to recover quickly and at even greater risk in a subsequent crisis.
The number of floods and storms worldwide is increasing and evidence suggests that climate change is behind this upward trend. Out of the 15 countries in the world most at risk of disaster, 9 are in Asia and the Pacific – with Vanuatu as the most threatened.
Nine-year-old John lives in Vanuatu where Cyclone Pam hit in 2015. It affected more than 60 per cent of the islanders, many of whom had not fully recovered from Cyclone Lusi the previous year. John is afraid there is not enough food and water for him and his family. “When I grow up, I want to be rich,” he says. “I want to be so rich that I can buy food and I will still have some money left.”
Published (extract) on UNICEF website.
Two United Nations experts are calling for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming, and move towards sustainable agricultural practices. They say: “excessive use of pesticides are very dangerous to human health, to the environment and it is misleading to claim they are vital to ensuring food security.”
The Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that widely divergent standards of production, use and protection from hazardous pesticides in different countries are creating double standards, which are having a serious impact on human rights.
The Special Rapporteurs pointed to research showing that pesticides were responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year. The overwhelming number of fatalities, some 99%, occurred in developing countries where health, safety and environmental regulations were weaker.
Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility. Farmers and agricultural workers, communities living near plantations, indigenous communities and pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticide exposure and require special protections.
The experts particularly emphasized the obligation of States to protect the rights of children from hazardous pesticides. They noted the high number of children killed or injured by food contaminated with pesticides, particularly through accidental poisonings, the prevalence of diseases and disabilities linked to chronic exposure at a young age, and reports on the exposure to hazardous pesticides of children working in global food supply chains, which is one of the worst forms of child labour.
The experts warn that certain pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a threat to the entire ecological system on which food production depends. The excessive use of pesticides contaminates soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, destroying the natural enemies of pests, and reducing the nutritional value of food. The impact of such overuse also imposes staggering costs on national economies around the world.
The experts say the use of neonicotinoid pesticides is particularly worrying because they are accused of being responsible for a systematic collapse in the number of bees around the world. Such a collapse, they say, threatens the very basis of agriculture as 71% of crop species are bee-pollinated.
While acknowledging that certain international treaties currently offer protection from the use of a few pesticides, they stressed that a global treaty to regulate the vast majority of them throughout their life cycle does not yet exist, leaving a critical gap in the human rights protection framework.
“Without harmonized, stringent regulations on the production, sale and acceptable levels of pesticide use, the burden of the negative effects of pesticides is felt by poor and vulnerable communities in countries that have less stringent enforcement mechanisms,” they emphasized.
The Special Rapporteurs point to denials by the agroindustry of the hazards of certain pesticides, the scale of the impacts, as well as the inappropriate shifting of blame to farmers for misusing its products. They express concern about aggressive, unethical marketing tactics that remain unchallenged, and huge sums spent by the powerful chemical industry to influence policymakers and contest scientific evidence.
The Special Rapporteur on Food highlights developments in agroecology, which replaces chemicals with biology, saying its approaches are capable of delivering sufficient yields to feed and nourish the entire world population, without undermining the rights of future generations to adequate food and health. And the Special Rapporteur on Toxics points to examples of where safer alternatives to hazardous pesticides and other toxic chemicals were developed and adopted only after strong regulatory pressures by States on industry.
Urging a new approach to farming, they say: “It is time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”
This press release was published on the UN OHCHR's website on March 7, 2017.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has accused South Sudan's government of ignoring the plight of 100,000 people suffering from famine, 7.5 million in need of humanitarian aid and thousands more fleeing fighting.
Guterres' rebuke was delivered to the country's president, Salva Kiir, on Thursday, mentioning "a refusal by the leadership to even acknowledge the crisis or to fulfil its responsibilities to end it".
"There is a strong consensus that South Sudanese leaders need to do more to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of the country's people, who are among the poorest in the world," he said.
The UN chief was also skeptical of Kiir's intention to hold a national dialogue, in light of the country's "systematic curtailment of basic political freedoms, and restrictions on humanitarian access".
In response, South Sudan's deputy ambassador, Joseph Moum Malok, said the government "takes issue with the accusation" that it is responsible for the famine in two counties, adding that other parts of the country are affected by drought.
He said the government "will spare no efforts to help address the situation and calls upon the international community to help address this urgent matter."
Guterres said greater pressure is needed if there is any hope of the leaders changing their approach, which means "first and foremost that the region and the Security Council must speak with one voice.
The Security Council is divided over two ways to step up pressure on South Sudan's government-an arms embargo, or sanctions on additional people blocking peace.
Malok warned that an arms embargo and additional sanctions "would further aggravate the situation and would hit hard the vulnerable groups, as the previous experiences had proved."
South Sudan's three-year civil war has devastated the country, killed tens of thousands, and contributed to a recently declared famine in two counties.
The war began after a struggle for power between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. The pair signed a shaky peace deal a year ago, but fighting has continued.
The top monitor of South Sudan's peace deal, former Botswana President Festus Mogae, echoed Guterres' call for a unified approach that also includes the African Union and the international community, saying the security, economic and humanitarian situation in the country "has steadily deteriorated to an unacceptable level."
"Across the board, there is a heightened sense of alarm over the fact that the situation is slipping out of control," Mogae told the council. "We must now stand together to do something about it."
This article was published on Al Jazeera's website on March 24, 2017.