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Investing in Rural Agriculture

By Ignatius Banda

The politics of global food consumption remain contentious, with the upcoming COP28 taking place against the backdrop of worsening food deficits in the Global South.

Aid agencies lament the continued wastage of food by rich countries that make up some of the largest food production ecosystems. As this trend continues, there are increasing calls to build resilience, invest in rural agriculture, and escalate climate change programmes in poor countries.

Food security issues still exist in Africa because most of the food production is rural and run by women. Yet aid agencies insist millions across the globe continue to be left behind in the food chain as hunger persists, despite evidence that global food production is more than enough to address the crisis.

However, humanitarian agencies say that more investment in rural agriculture resilience is required for such goals to be realised. At this time, many African countries and more in the Global South are struggling to attract investment in the agriculture sector.

Poor countries have routinely been cited as being on the receiving end of climate calamities that have left empty silos in their wake, further emphasising the urgency of building resilience for affected communities.

“We need the right investments in rural women and men to combat hunger and poverty, promote sustainable food production, and address climate change, breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger,” said Alberto Trillo Barca, International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) spokesperson.

“For every dollar invested in resilience, we can save up to USD10 in humanitarian assistance, such as food assistance, in the future,” Barca told IPS.

IFAD says while smallholder farmers produce the bulk of food consumed globally, those farmers still go hungry. There is also a disconnect between the food production and consumption habits of rich countries that has resulted in billion-dollar wastage of processed food.

“Many small-scale farmers, who produce the food we eat, go hungry; they earn as little as six cents per dollar worth of food produced. We need to waste less food in rich countries while becoming more efficient across the value chain, especially in the Global South, since food production places significant pressure on increasingly scarce land and water resources,” Barca said.

Amid such concerns, global hunger is occurring parallel to what researchers say is unchecked food waste, especially in rich countries that are also some of the world’s major food producers.

“The bulk of food waste happens in Western countries. They eat for pleasure and leisure rather than for hunger,” said Tapiwa Gomo, an independent researcher.

“For that reason, some of the food they buy ends up not being used and being thrown away. A strong economy that allows people to afford food and gives them the option to buy food they feel like eating rather than when they are hungry is one of the factors that contribute to food waste, according to Gomo, who spoke to IPS.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has noted that food loss from the field to the table has reached more than 1,6 billion tonnes, highlighting the struggle global efforts face in addressing world hunger under the aegis of such commemorations as World Food Day.

However, it is building resilience to counter climate change-induced food insecurity that is seen as the answer to addressing enduring global hunger.

While several African countries have made commitments to pour financial resources into agriculture, such endeavours have been complicated by the slow release of climate finance by richer countries pledged during several climate negotiation platforms.

“Rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and extreme weather events contribute to lower crop yields, reduced livestock productivity, and increased food prices,” said Tomson Phiri, World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson.

“It is time to invest in climate solutions—provide more resilient crops and livestock breeds, improve irrigation systems, and develop better storage facilities to protect against extreme weather events,” Phiri told IPS.

“Climate shocks and stresses, such as drought, heatwaves, storms, and floods, affect the functioning of global food systems at all levels—from production to consumption—and erode development, which would strengthen food systems,” he added.

Yet stalled substantial agro-finance, there remain concerns that efforts to meet goals such as achieving zero hunger by 2030 could be jeopardised by other competing global crises such as wars and armed conflicts.

As IFAD’s Barca said, “We [also] need a New Global Financial Pact and institutional reform of financial institutions so that they are fit for purpose, ensuring the benefits of globalisation flow to all, and delivering on their mandate by providing a safety net for all countries in times of trouble.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


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