Primary issues such as hunger, a long-standing developmental priority, remains an everyday battle for millions of people worldwide. According to UN statistics, hunger kills more people every year than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined.
So where do we stand if food security is destined to be a pivotal component to eradicating poverty and attaining sustainable development? The right to food is a basic human right addressed in the second of the 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes the target to end hunger by 2030.
More food requires to be produced in areas presently under-cultivated (if higher yields can be achieved), from new lands (likely to be more distant and less productive) and/or imported. This requires an increase in private investments and efforts, which producers may not be able to undertake, often due to a lack of suitable land, safe water, fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, skills, manpower, as well as credit. In addition, markets may not be accessible. Private investments in food production are also limited by lack of rural roads to potential production areas and rural markets, required to assemble marketable production.
Urban and peri-urban agriculture can be an important source of food for some cities, especially when the national food economy and transportation system is not well developed.
Food production in urban and peri-urban areas has been receiving increasing attention as it contributes to:
- local supply of fresh, nutritious food such as poultry, small ruminant meat, fruits, vegetables and dairy products;
- alleviating poverty and improving food security through consumption of self-grown products, employment and income generation;
- cost-effective environmental management through productive use of organic waste for fertilizer;
- productive use of suitable and unused open space, contributing to bio-diversity and watershed management.
While urban and peri-urban food production helps cities feed their growing population there are a number of problems connected with urban food production stemming from its close proximity to densely populated areas sharing the same air, water and soil resources. Food production in the polluted environment of cities may be subject to hazardous toxic contamination. The inadequate use of chemicals, solid and liquid waste in farming can contaminate food, soil as well as water resources used for drinking and food processing. The practice of livestock raising in and close to urban areas may generate health problems to residents. While many of the problems could be solved by information and extension assistance, CLAs have responded by destroying food crops and evicting food producers from public lands under cultivation.
Cities Need More and More Food
Increasing quantities and varieties of fresh and processed food are required to meet the needs of urban dwellers. Urban food needs quantity, quality and hygienic conditions in a context, which is experiencing continuous spatial, urban, social and economic modifications. Urban food needs are determined by demographic, economic and social factors and expressed in terms of consumption models and food purchasing patterns, which represent the strategies used by urban consumers. Change can result from:
- increased number of urban consumers, because of natural demographic growth or immigration;
- increased demand for certain food products (meat, fruit and vegetables) due to higher incomes;
- increased demand for convenience food, because there is less time for cooking.
Urban food needs, demand and consumption are concepts based not only on the total consumed, but also on the typology of consumption units (individuals and households). An urban consumption model will consider the characteristics of an average unit. The model must be explained and differentiated by economic and social criteria. The analysis helps determine why a unit purchases a given foodstuff, the quantity, quality, level of processing of the foodstuffs bought and where it is purchased.
Going forward, the goal of ending hunger requires more than words; it requires collective actions including efforts to sustainably double global food production, reduce waste and experiment with food alternatives. Diverse approaches are needed, realizing that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for improving food security.
In the fight against hunger, it is necessary to create food systems that offer better nutritional outcomes and ones that are fundamentally more sustainable – i.e. that require less land, less water and that are more resilient to climate change.
Feeding the world’s growing population is unlikely to be achieved through the efforts of governments and international organizations alone. It is needed to enlist everyone’s support if we are to ensure food security and adequate nutrition on a global scale – and truly become the Zero Hunger generation.