United Nations: Farming for a Healthy Planet
Farmers are the backbone of our society. Be it the smallest or the largest country; the entire population depends on the farmers to propagate crops and rear animals for human consumption. However, as the world population grows exponentially, more effort and innovation will be needed to keep up with the demand on global food systems while decreasing food waste. Indeed, food insecurity presents an enormous global challenge, thus, bringing into question if it is possible to eradicate these plaguing issues by applying environmental sustainability in agriculture.
In support of this goal, during the 2012 Conference of the World leaders, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Zero Hunger Challenge. The challenge reflects five vital elements from within the Sustainable Development Goals: building sustainable food systems, ending rural poverty, eliminating food wastage, ensuring access to adequate and healthy food, and eradicating all forms of malnutrition. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations calls on governments, civil societies, private sectors, and research institutions to build a shared vision for sustainable food and agriculture. The 1996 World Summit on Food Security declared, "Food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure."
Since then, the Zero Hunger Challenge has garnered widespread support from numerous multilateral institutions, one of which is the Scaling-Up Nutrition Movement. A global movement has already made significant progress in incorporating strategies that link together themes of productivity, social protection, resilience, clean water, education, and healthy lifestyles to capture the multidimensional nature of sustainable agriculture.
Moreover, Louise Mabulo, a 2019 United Nations Environment Program Young Champion of the Earth, founded The Cacao Project. It is an initiative that works to improve the livelihoods of Filipino farmers in the Bicol Region by giving participating farmers cacao seedlings a long-term, resilient crop that provides them with a higher income. Farmers were also provided with short-term crops such as bok choy, okra, and pumpkins to intercrop with the cacao and the resources and training they need to implement their livelihoods better. Louise Mabulo also took the time and effort to educate the farmers on the need to revive barren lands through tree planting to create economic forests and promote reforestation. Many of the farmers involved in The Cacao Project have already been able to enroll their children in school.
Ultimately, healthy soil, water, and plant genetic resources are vital inputs to boost agricultural land yields. The outcome calls for achieving a land-degradation-neutral world. Given the current extent of land degradation, the potential benefits from restoring these lands through sustainable farming practices would relieve the pressure of clearing forests for agricultural production. Proper management of the water supply through improved irrigation and storage technologies and the development of new drought-resistant crop varieties will help significantly prevent future food shortages.
To conclude, sustainable food systems need to be pursued from a holistic and integrated perspective. A more integrated approach to decision-making processes at national and regional levels is required to achieve synergies and produce sustainable, resilient, and inclusive agricultural practices. However, the vision of a world without hunger cannot be achieved in isolation. Every individual has a critical role in establishing sustainable food systems that advance food security, protect the environment, and ensure economic opportunity. Thus, building the resilience of global food systems will be critical to providing a secure food future for all.
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