Food is one of humankind’s most fundamental needs — and is a basic human right. Yet in spite of its importance, a staggering one in nine people worldwide go to bed every night hungry and chronically undernourished. The costs of hunger and undernourishment fall heavily on the most vulnerable.
- 60% of the hungry in the world are women
- Almost 5 million children under the age of 5 die of malnutrition-related causes every year
- 4 in 10 children in poor countries are malnourished damaging their bodies and brains
We are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015.
|Small oily fish, such as these herrings from Lombok, Indonesia, are nutritionally important as they contain highly unsaturated fatty acids and other micronutrients. Photo: Paul Jones|
This year’s World Food Day’s theme is Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth. There are 570 million farms globally, of which 85% are family owned and have the huge responsibility of producing half the world’s agricultural production.
Family farming has a crucial role to play in eradicating hunger and poverty through providing food and nutrition security. Family farms also contribute to improving livelihoods, sustainably managing natural resources, and stimulating economic development through interacting with a range of input, market and processing activities that rely on agriculture, especially in rural areas.
|The FACASI project is introducing two-wheel tractors to reduce drudgery (particularly for women) and help farmers sustainably intensify their farms in eastern and southern Africa. Photo: Frédéric Baudron/CIMMYT|
Empowering women farmers will generate significant food security gains. If women had the same access to resources as men, they could significantly increase yields on their farms and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by up to 150 million.
Today, on World Food Day, the Alliance for Agricultural R&D for Food Security announced its first project. It aims to ensure that new crop varieties better meet the needs of African smallholders and their customers. The official launch took place at the World Food Prize event in Iowa, USA.
The initiative brings together the Australian International Food Security Research Centre (AIFSRC) in the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) and the Crawford Fund.
Speaking in connection with the launch, SFSA Director Dr Marco Ferroni emphasised: “Progressing research and breeding results through to millions of smallholder farmers is essential. Today, plant science often fails to create impact at scale. However, solutions are within reach, and the private sector plays a central role.”
ACIAR is focused on agricultural research to support family farmers, particularly women, around the world. ACIAR works across the whole value chain with research focused on developing better crop varieties (such as Seeds of Life in East Timor), sustainable intensification of agriculture and strengthening market opportunities.
|Thanks to Seeds of Life, farmers in Timor-Leste have access to new varieties of staple crops such as maize. Photo: Sarah Vandermark/ACIAR|
In Laos partnerships have helped build vegetable research and extension capacity through activities such as farmer training and support for government extension services.
|Women buying and selling vegetables at a market place in Laos. Photo: Tony Bartlett/ACIAR|
So on this World Food Day, let us celebrate the critical work done by family farmers, both men and women, in feeding the world. Let us also celebrate and be inspired by the current and past World Food Prize Laureates – and strive to improve the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. And let us not lose sight of achieving zero hunger in our lifetime.