The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal #2 is to end hunger, achieve food security and promote sustainable agriculture.
While everyone understands what it means to end hunger and promote sustainable agriculture, "achieving food security” can be less intuitive. To be fully aware of the impact that lack of food security has on the population, we first need to understand what it is.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food security as when “all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, for an active and healthy life.”
The figure below may help illustrate the many factors that need to be satisfied in order to achieve food security for all people.
Our work at AgUnity directly impacts this diagram in two separate places: local food production and household income. By connecting smallholder farmers via our smartphones, we are able to facilitate the distribution of critical information relating to farming best practices and provide access to a broader range of inputs. This helps farmers to more effectively source and apply fertilizer and pesticides, whilst driving increased productivity. Our blockchain technology also allows for produce to be traced by commodity buyers back to the farmer, allowing to apply fairer price points to a higher quality of produce - meaning a higher pay to the latter.
How food security is measured and why it matters
Food security is measured and reported on a country level using the food security index which takes into account the following four pillars of food security:
Affordability - including food costs, percentage of the population living under the poverty line, GDP per capita, the presence of food safety net programmes and farmer access to finance
Availability - including food supply per capita, dependence on food aid, presence of sufficient supply chain infrastructure and political risks
Quality and Safety – including dietary diversity, food safety standards, access to potable water and ability to store food safely
Resilience to natural shocks - including susceptibility to drought, flooding, storms, sea-level rise and land degradation
The first three are considered the core factors making up the food security index, while the last one is a risk adjustment factor, accounting for the fact that food systems and the environment are deeply interconnected.
As an example, Australia performs well for affordability and availability due to its high average income per capita, a large amount of agricultural land and a relatively small population. Food standards also keep quality and safety high. The resilience of Australia’s food security to natural shocks, however, is ranked at the bottom half of all countries, due to its susceptibility to drought.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated why food systems resilience is so important. The closure of food markets around the world has created severe problems for smallholder farmers trying to sell their food, as well as for the households trying to buy it. AgUnity Response is currently tackling this issue through the development of contactless produce transactions and virtual food markets accessed via AgUnity smartphones.
The current state of food security
Global food insecurity was already on the rise prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the United Nations, primarily due to food insecurity increases in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. An estimated 26.4 per cent of the population was affected by moderate or severe food insecurity in 2018, up from 23.2 per cent in 2014. The FAO also warns that up to a further 132 million people may become undernourished as a result of a food crisis, specifically caused by the pandemic.
Additionally, the Global Food Security Index report of 2019 has identified some worrying trends: food prices are rising across the globe, particularly foods that constitute a healthy diet - leading to malnutrition and obesity - and the percentage of agricultural land with access to irrigation is less than 10 per cent in approximately 70 per cent of countries – increasing susceptibility to droughts. Hence, achieving food security is a goal that will benefit everyone, regardless of income level.
What we can do about it
There are a number of indirect ways to help the world and your own country to become more food secure and reap the benefits. The adoption of healthy diets is projected to lead to a reduction of up to 97 per cent in direct and indirect health costs and 41–74 per cent in the social cost of GHG emissions in 2030. The Australian agricultural sector, in particular, is well placed to directly help improve food security in low-income areas across Africa through sharing expertise given the similarities in climate, vast land areas and often poor-quality soils!
AgUnity is developing and deploying a suite of solutions that connect smallholder farmers in developing countries with co-ops and commodity buyers, whilst making learning resources and data available for them. This leads to improved productivity, higher availability of food in the region, reflecting positively on farmer’s income. Additionally, the proof of identity and immutable record keeping that our platform provides to farmers helps them to reach a range of previously inaccessible financial services. This is perhaps the most important benefit - the EIU’s findings point to the fact that farmer access to finance is one of the indicators that most highly correlate with overall food security.
If you’re working on helping the world to become more food secure - or just interested to learn more about what we’re working on - get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Information and statistics sources used:
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals website (https://sdgs.un.org/) FAO – The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (2020) The Economist Intelligence Unit – Global Food Security Index 2019 Food Insecurity Measures and Indicators (Rafael Pérez-EscamillaI; Ana Maria Segall-Corrêa, 2008) Australian International Food Security Research Centre - Food security and why it matters (2014)