After a prolonged decline, world hunger appears to be on the rise again. Conflict, drought and disasters linked to climate change are among the key factors causing this reversal in progress (SDG Goals Report, 2018).

Hunger facts

With soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity rapidly degrading and climate change putting more pressure on the resources we depend on, many people, especially in rural areas, can no longer make ends meet. According to the United Nations, 1 in 9 people in the world today (815 million) are undernourished, the majority of those in hunger live in developing countries, and Asia is the continent with the hungriest people (two thirds of the total). Poor nutrition causes nearly half of the deaths in children under five, which translates into 3.1 million children each year.

 According to the World Bank, the world will need to produce at least 50% more food than we currently do in order to feed 9 billion people by 2050. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) links hunger and food security to development:

“In food – the way it is grown, produced, consumed, traded, transported, stored and marketed – lies the fundamental connection between people and the planet, and the path to inclusive and sustainable economic growth.”

UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation

Ending hunger by 2030

Sustainable Development Goal 2 – zero hunger – aims to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. The targets associated with this SDG relate to ending hunger, achieving food security, improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. Since food is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 2 is connected to other SDGs such as no poverty, good health & wellbeing, clean water & sanitation, affordable & clean energy, climate action, life below water and life on land. These interconnections call for a global response to hunger and food security that includes multiple stakeholders and multi-level governance structures. It requires capacity development at all levels, and investment in research, technology and innovation to mitigate some of the potential negative trade-offs between the SDGs and strengthen the synergistic effects. 

Some of the organisations that are working hard fighting hunger are World Food Programme, the World Bank Group and International  Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The World Food Programme is the leading humanitarian organization that works towards a world of Zero Hunger. They deliver food assistance in emergencies and work with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.

The World Bank Group invests in agriculture and rural development to boost food production and nutrition by encouraging climate-smart farming techniques, restoring degraded farmland, but also by breeding more resilient and nutritious crops, and improving supply chains for reducing food losses. The IFAD focuses exclusively on rural poverty reduction, working with poor rural populations in developing countries.

A focus on Australia

Hunger is not only an issue for developing countries. In Australia, it is estimated that two million Australians rely on some form of food relief, which roughly equates to one in ten Australians. Of these, there is a skew towards regional Australia, low-income earners and pensioners, and children make up approximately 22% of this category (Foodbank Hunger Report, 2018). 

Agriculture is a significant sector of the Australian economy and provides enough food to feed 80 million people, while also providing 93% of the nation’s food supply. The challenge for Australia’s, and the world’s agriculture, is to become more productive and more resilient in order to tackle the interconnected challenges of poverty, hunger and climate change. At the other end of the spectrum, food waste is a growing wicked problem that Australia has to tackle.  While organisations such as Food Bank, SecondBite and OzHarvest have made significant strides in salvaging food and offering food relief, food waste continues to cost the Australian economy close to $20 billion a year. In addition to the cost to the economy, food waste has cost implications in a number of areas, including loss of water and energy, greenhouse gas emissions and of course, hunger (Department of Environment and Energy, 2017).

SDG Video

The second video in the SDG series features Donna Burnett and Dr Tim Clune from the La Trobe Business School. Donna focuses on the problems of hunger and food security, the SDG’s and emphasises the shift in thinking that is necessary to reach the zero-hunger goal. The video discusses the ways businesses negatively impact food security, but also explains what businesses can do. Ultimately, Tim talks about the issues around climate change, how to build the capacity to enable resilient and sustainable agribusiness systems for the future.

If you would like access to the full video to use in your teaching, please contact Dr Swati Nagpal.

This blog is part of the SDG Series, a series that focuses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, in the lead up to the CR3+ Conference in October 2019.

More blogs in the SDG Series: