Ex Director General  José Graziano da Silva
Artículo de opinion del Director General de la FAO José Graziano da Silva

Conquering hunger
By José Graziano da Silva
Originally published on 27 August 2014 by Jakarta Post

These are exciting times for Indonesia.

As one of Asia’s most populous countries and important economies, one of Indonesia’s greatest challenges – shared by many others across the region and the world – is ensuring food security. Will our children have enough nutritious food to eat in the coming decades? While food is plentiful now, hundreds of millions of people go hungry across Asia each day, and as populations grow we will need to produce more food.

Indonesia has maintained high economic growth rates in recent years and is using it to improve the food security of its population. As the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recognized in 2013, Indonesia is one of the countries that has already met the Millennium Development Goal hunger target of reducing by half the proportion of undernourished people between 1990 and 2015. But Indonesia has gone even further and is now at the doorstep of the more ambitious World Food Summit Goal: reduce the absolute number of hungry people.

Since 1990-92, the proportion of hungry people in the world has declined significantly from roughly one in five to fewer than one in eight. Yet at the same time, over 800 million suffer from hunger and nearly two-thirds of them live in Asia and the Pacific.

The progress we are seeing in Indonesia and worldwide in the fight against hunger and the still unacceptably high number of undernourished means that now is the time to be more ambitious. We should not settle for reducing hunger, but rather ending hunger by responding to the Zero Hunger Challenge launched by UN Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon.

It’s an imperative. We need to conquer hunger and extreme poverty to be able to reach all goals humanity has set and sustainable, inclusive, development. Each country needs to find its own solutions, but successful stories throughout the world provide inspiration and ideas. There are also key actors that need to play a prominent role in this effort. Family farmers are among them.

In Indonesia and across the Asia-Pacific region there is increasing awareness of the role that family farmers and smallholders play in eradicating hunger and conserving natural resources, central elements of the sustainable future we want.

Fittingly, the United Nations named 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. We have much to learn about this group that includes smallholders and medium scale farmers,  indigenous peoples, traditional communities, fisher folk, pastoralists, collectors and many others.

Over 70 percent of the world’s food insecure population lives in rural areas in developing countries. Many of them are subsistence producers who may not grow enough to meet their families’ needs. At the same time, experiences in many countries show that family farmers respond well with increased sustainable production if the appropriate policy environment is effectively put in place.  Together, we need to transform family and smallholder farming to make it more productive, more profitable to the family farmer – and sustainable – as part of the solution to eradicating hunger. That is the future we want.

We must also recognize that while fighting hunger remains our biggest challenge, malnutrition manifests itself in many ways. Hunger affects some 12 percent of the world’s population - or nearly one in eight people, an estimated 162 million children  below the age of five  are stunted, 51 million wasted or acutely malnourished  and two billion people suffer one or more micronutrient deficiencies. But at the same time, 500 million people are obese.

How to ensure adequate nutrition and firmly place the right to healthy diets near the top of the global development agenda will be center-stage at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) which is being jointly organized by FAO and the World Health Organization and will be held in Rome from 19-21 November.

Global problems need global solutions, and that is part of the rationale behind the holding of a high-level intergovernmental international conference such as ICN2. Some people believe that it is solely up to the family or the individual to make decisions on what they like to eat. However, nutrition is and needs to be treated as a public issue, not a private one because of its global price tag of up to five percent of global income due to loss of productivity and health care, and a complexity that touches upon many different sectors.

There is still much we can and should do to meet the food security, nutrition levels and sustainable development challenges we face. There is reason to be optimistic but we must remain diligent in our efforts and work together as we move forward to ensure a future of food security for all and hunger for none.