Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Thanks to FSN team for this open consultation. FSN team prepared a detailed document on a complex subject covering important points. Inputs from professionals with diverse backgrounds and lateral thinking will enrich the contents. Framework based on the Gini coefficients has limitations.

A system’s engineering approach to reduce unequal experiences of FSN would be to slow down the ‘engine of inequity’ such that it halts in a reasonable time. Framework proposed in the draft may take much longer time and may not give the expected outcome. Other approaches like stopping the engine immediately might result in unforeseen consequences.  Suggestion is to identify the determinants leading to unequal experiences of FSN and carry out ‘causal analysis’ to the systemic drivers and the corresponding root causes of FSN inequities. The current framework is very complex, it is better to delink inequities within food system from inequities in other systems.  In the first phase, develop solution(s) to FSN inequities by the year 2030.  In the second phase consider the inequities in other system impacting FSN equity and solve by 2050.

Data collection and report by itself does not provide leads to solution(s). It only adds confusion due to lack of clarification. Pursuing ‘further research needs’ in (PROTEIN AND AMINO ACID REQUIREMENTS IN HUMAN NUTRITION, WHO technical reports series no 935) is necessary. Current report focus should be on ‘scientific progress’ on the globally valid nutrition issues published across the world. Necessary modifications to a member nation should be left to the ‘scientific community’ in the respective member nation. This reduces the possibility of applying dietary guidelines of high income countries in low income countries without understanding the consequences. Local scientific community is best equipped to modify the global guidelines to local and indigenous population (IP) traditions and food preparation practices.  

Consider adding FSN standards or guidelines in the document (SOFI 2022 report on protein in diet does not cover this point). This will help those countries lacking their own standards and guidelines. In general, citizen’s tendency is to follow standards and guidelines laid down by global bodies ratified by local authorities.

 Some of the solutions for addressing FSN inequalities are given below. Documents giving details and references are attached.

  1. Exclusion of agriculture from GDP computation pushes the agriculture-based economies into low and low middle income countries. It is necessary to include monetary value of biofuel products like ethanol, biodiesel along with industry produced goods in computing GDP. Participation in cassava fuel ethanol production helps small farmers and landless laborers in reaching GDP per capita level by 2030. Cassava based biofuels will play an important role in poverty elevation and food security issues in low- and low-middle income countries. One tonne of cassava, produces about 350 litres ethanol. Globally, cassava production in 2020 is 303 million tonnes, which gives more than100 billion litre ethanol for blending with fossil fuel.
  2. Cassava fuel ethanol is (1) 98% pollution free, (2) biodegradable, (3) renewable, (4) there is no carbon left when ethanol burns in automobiles, (5) ethanol does not cause climate change, and (6) all the by-products in the production of ethanol are edible and non-toxic, providing a very good source for animal feedstock.
  3. Cassava is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, can be successfully grown on marginal soils, and gives reasonable yields where many other crops do not grow well. Cassava is well adapted within latitudes 30° north and south of the equator, at elevations between sea level and 2,000 m  above sea level, in equatorial temperatures, with rainfalls from 50 to 5,000 mm annually, and to poor soils with a pH ranging from acidic to alkaline. These conditions are common in certain parts of Africa and South America. Cassava plays a particularly important role in agriculture in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, because it does well on poor soils and with low rainfall, and because it is a perennial that can be harvested as required.
  4. There are two aspects of cassava that are useful in meeting UN SDG’s.
  • If value of fuel ethanol produced from cassava is included in GDP calculation. Cassava fuel ethanol price varies with fossil fuel price in the global trade, synchronising farmer’s economic status with global trends. Contribution of agricultural worker in countries with large percentage of small farmers and landless workers will approach other sector workers leaving no one behind.
  • Exchanging fuel ethanol with nutritious food from other countries having surplus nutritious food and in need of fuel ethanol for blending fossil fuel with ethanol will address the food security and nutrition of vulnerable groups in cassava fuel ethanol producing countries.
  1. Review the daily intake suggestion of including ‘500gms’ vegetables and fruits is needed. Leaves and stem in vegetables and pulp in fruits are intermediate products in plant growth. Nuts and seeds are the end products that have large quantities of all micronutrients present in vegetables and fruits. Maintaining the current level of vegetables and fruits (200 grams in total) production and consumption is necessary to limit global greenhouse gas emissions and fresh water use. It is necessary to review the emphasis on increasing the global consumption of fruits and vegetables to double by 2050 to meet global nutrition targets. Many nutritionists encourage people to consume plenty of fruit and vegetables, five or more portions a day often being recommended. Vegetables and fruits consumption should be based on palatability and taste of individual, not driven by nutrition.

There is no scientific evidence to support doubling the consumption of vegetables and fruits. Indians mostly vegetarians are also susceptible to Vitamin B12 deficiency. Moreover, there is insufficient evidence to support reduced vegetables and fruits increases health risks. In 14 of the 20 G20 countries, consumption of vegetables is less than 200 grams per day. Health risk due to low vegetables and fruits intake is not in the top 10 of reasons of death in the world and low income countries. It is ranked 8 and 7 for middle income and high income countries respectively.

  1. Gender inequality is created by us over the centuries. In several countries, communities have preferred boy over girl right from the childhood. There is significant difference in food energy and protein given to boys and girls in all age groups, nearly 40% more food energy is given to boys at 18 years age. Any sustainable solution to gender inequality should start with gradual reduction of difference in food energy intake of male and female. The food energy intake plays key role in physique, strength and confidence of a female. Male with higher food energy intake will dominate female. Increase in food energy intake by female in the age group 13-30 years will boost the physical strength and confidence levels of female in facing the domestic violence, household and child-care responsibilities, mental health, and economic impacts.
  2. Increase soya protein products for human consumption to reduce protein energy malnutrition. Globally, about 98 percent of soybean meal is used as animal feed. Increase human consumption of soybean meal, soy flour and other soybean products from current 2 percent.
  3. Integrate long shelf -life food products with fresh local food items to meet special dietary requirement of aged and vulnerable.
  4. FAO 2019 statistics indicates that there is nearly 8% increase in per capita consumption of dietary energy in the world between 1997 and 2017. There is more than 50% increase in the adult obesity rate during the same period. 
  5. Locally produced food can contribute to resilience of the vulnerable and resource-poor by increasing food availability, enhancing nutrition, improving farmers’ livelihoods and creating job opportunities for other disadvantaged groups. By adding value within local supply chains and markets, this approach contributes to improved local revenues.  Farmer’s forum of India emphasised ‘Nutritional resilience and production for self-consumption of rural communities with backyard poultry, home gardens & farmers’ & community markets.
  6. Income generating activities in villages improves standard of living that in turn leads to small farmer, landless agricultural workers income reaching national GDP (PPP). Food is a potential sector of income generating activities in villages. Village cottage industry producing farm fresh products with local flavor and food quality matching high volume big industry produced food goods at a comparable price will improve the availability of variety of food goods and services in the villages.
  7. Rural transformation leading to vibrant village atmosphere is necessary to bridge the urban- rural development gap. In several middle, low- income countries including India, the economic development is varying and is not uniform across the country, regions and states. There is a large disparity between urban and rural development. MPCE-Monthly Per capita Consumption Expenditure has increased in both rural and urban areas over the years. However, the increase in expenditure has been greater in urban areas compared to rural areas. This shows a wide rural-urban disparity in the MPCE.  During 2011-12 average urban MPCE at ₹2,630 was about 84% higher than average rural MPCE ₹1,430 for the country as a whole.
  8. Agriculture value added per worker in India is 1669(constant USD), GDP per capita is 6516(USD, PPP). Agriculture produce is priced at international market price, whereas the GDP per capita is based on country inflation. The agricultural worker / marginal farmer gets paid less for produce, where as they have to pay higher price for the food they consume.
  9. ‘Sustainability’ and ‘resilience’ are often misused terms. Currently there are no sustainable systems, there are no energy efficient resilient systems. Sustainability requires adaptation to evolution process which in turn depends on migration during adverse climate conditions. Resilience requires expensive energy to develop or maintain existing system under severe weather conditions like global warming.