Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

Sonja Vermeulen CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food ...

Theme 1:

What do you see as the key lessons learned during the current Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Framework (1990-2015), in particular in relation to the MDGs of relevance to hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition?


One of the key lessons is a positive one – the MDGs have demonstrated that it IS possible to achieve large-scale and long-lasting reductions in poverty and gender inequality (as measured by enrolment of girls in schools).  What we can learn from this for the post-2015 agenda is that we should again be highly ambitious in our goals for future human and planetary well-being.



Theme 2: 

What works best? Drawing on existing knowledge, please tell us how we should go about addressing the hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition challenges head on. 
Provide us with your own experiences and insights.  For example, how important are questions of improved governance, rights-based approaches, accountability and political commitment in achieving food and nutrition security? 


On behalf of the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) of the CGIAR (Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers), I wish to draw particular attention to the importance of seriously investing in environmental sustainability and food chain efficiencies if we are to feed ourselves in the long-run.  With the Global Donor Platform on Rural Development, CCAFS co-funded the independent Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change during 2011-2012.  The Commissioners brought scientific evidence together to argue that we need to bring action on three fronts together if we are to achieve universal food security in future: (1) increasing yields per unit of land and other inputs in ways that deal with increasing climate variability and climatic trends (for example via genetics, careful matching of crops and environments, very precise management of nutrients, innovative use of downscaled climatic forecasting), (2) reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture (many of the strategies are synergistic with the strategies for yield increases and adaptation) and (3) reducing inefficiencies in food supply chains (particularly by shifting towards healthier lower-emissions diets, reducing losses of food due to poor post-harvest storage or wasteful household food management, and improving distribution and affordability for people vulnerable to malnutrition).  Readers interested in the Commission’s findings (including many detailed sub-recommendations) can download the report at - where there is also a 6-minute video that synthesizes the arguments very clearly. 


Sets of aspirational recommendations can sound vague or impossible.  But around the world we now have many success stories: examples in which interventions have been brought to scale that increase availability of food to poor consumers while also reducing environmental impacts, particularly greenhouse gas emissions.  Substantial learning on successes (and pitfalls) has been shared (and can be found) via international platforms such as Africa Adapt ( and CDKN (, as well as sector-specific initiatives like the Climate-Smart Agriculture Partnership ( – as well as many regional, national and sub-national learning platforms.  While there have been some efforts to collate globally promising technologies and institutional arrangements (e.g. ), or to draw generalized lessons from large-scale success stories (e.g. ), the reality is that climate change is experienced locally and must largely be addressed locally (for adaptation; mitigation is more global in scope).  What the global level most needs to do is to provide the kinds of governance and learning frameworks that enable local-level resilience and creativity.  This means investment both in very general development needs (e.g. free, universal, high-quality, compulsory education, or fair universal tax systems) and in very specific climate-related needs (e.g. scientific research that brings us to the stage that we can make climate forecasts that are downscaled sufficiently in time and space to be directly useful to individual farmers and local policy makers). 


Theme 3:

For the Post-2015 Global Development Framework to be complete, global (and regional or national) objectives, targets and indicators will be identified towards tackling hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.  A set of objectives has been put forward by the UN Secretary-General under Zero Hunger Challenge (ZHC):

a.    100% access to adequate food all year round
b.    Zero stunted children less than 2 years old
c.    All food systems are sustainable
d.    100% increase in smallholder productivity and income
e.    Zero loss or waste of food.

Please provide us with your feedback on the above list of objectives – or provide your own proposals.  Should some objectives be country-specific, or regional, rather than global? Should the objectives be time-bound?



These objectives are highly appropriate in terms of (a) simplicity and (b) level of ambition.  Additionally the focus on smallholders is appropriate due to their continuing major role in the nutrition and livelihoods of both rural and urban consumers.  On the other hand the objectives lack (a) a tangible definition of sustainability (and hence an explicit objective for managing our natural environment) and (b) a clear goal for nutrition security as opposed to food security.  The post-2015 Global Development Framework could certainly use the ZHC objectives (and thus contribute to this critically important agenda) but perhaps build in explicit objectives on environment and on nutrition.  Given the huge variation around the world in climate change impacts, water scarcity (and soils, biodiversity and other key environmental factors), level of dependence of livelihoods on agriculture, provision of social services and safety nets, and the burden of nutrition-related diseases (e.g. stunting, obesity, diabetes, micro-nutrient deficiencies), perhaps the over-arching objectives should be global but the targets country-specific (or even specific to particular places or social groups within a country).  Targets should certainly be time-bound.  In doing so, they keep abreast of the rapid pace of change in climate, demographics, economics and geo-politics – and acknowledge that development is never “done”.  It is not an admission of failure to accept that the set of objectives and aspirations under design now will be followed by yet another (iterative) set in a couple of decades.