Failure in crop production can mean only one thing – deepening the food crisis already impacted by the pandemic.
By Salam Rajesh
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2022) report published by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO does have some bad news for the world community, including the alarming statement that 702 to 828 million people in the world are prone to chronic undernourishment and severe food insecurity.
The report does not mince words when it says that, “This year’s report should dispel any lingering doubts that the world is moving backwards in its efforts to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its form. We are now only eight years away from 2030, but the distance to reach many of the SDG2 targets is growing wider each year”.
The report, while diagnosing the basic causes of the increased level of food insecurity across the globe, says that “The intensification of the major drivers behind recent food insecurity and malnutrition trends combined with the high cost of nutritious foods and growing inequalities will continue to challenge food security and nutrition. This will be the case until agrifood systems are transformed, become more resilient and are delivering lower cost nutritious foods and affordable healthy diets for all, sustainably and inclusively”.
The SOFI report, ‘presenting global indicators founded on rigorous statistical measurement principles, which ensure comparability across countries and over time’, indicates that up to 2.3 billion people in the world suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity.
The report looks at how the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted world economy, reducing earning capabilities worldwide and enhancing inequalities. This heightened the challenge of eradicating hunger globally, the report stressed, adding that the updated projections indicate that more than 670 million people may still be hungry in 2030 – far from the Zero Hunger target.
A staggering population of 3.1 billion people across the globe could not afford healthy diet during 2020 when the pandemic hit the world community, the report stated, reflecting tremendous increase in inflation rate in consumer food prices.
During 2021, this extended global hunger affected up to 278 million people in Africa, 425 million in Asia and 56.5 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for 20.2, 9.1 and 8.6 percent of the population respectively, the report stated indicating that most of the world’s undernourished people live in Asia while Africa is the region where the prevalence is highest.
The gender gap in food insecurity widened under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, and was around 2.5 percent greater during 2021 than in 2019 globally. In 2021, 31.9 percent of women in the world were moderately or severely food insecure compared to 27.6 percent of men.
Outlining few statistics on women and children affected by the pandemic-induced food crisis, the SOFI 2022 report provides a bird’s eye view of the scenario where an estimated 22 percent of children under 5 years of age were affected by stunting, 6.7 percent by wasting and 5.7 percent by overweight during 2020.
Compared to this worrying factor, the report stated that nearly 30 percent of women aged 15 to 49 years were affected by anemia during 2019, while in the year 2020, 43.8 percent of infants belonging to the age group of 0 to 6 months were exclusively breastfed, up from 37.1 percent in 2012.
The statistics provided in the SOFI 2022 report reflects the growing food crisis across the several continents in the context of extreme weather and climate events read as impacts of climate change. It has been discussed continuously during these past years on how the changing pattern of rainfall, temperature, and climatic conditions is hitting hard on food productions in the backdrop of the unprecedented rise in global temperature which is reportedly inducing heat waves, droughts, wildfires, cyclonic storms, and floods at a more increased frequency and intensity.
The almost simultaneous occurrence of heat waves, droughts, cyclonic storms and floods in a short time scale is largely seen as impacting on the production of food crops, with the reported unprecedented pest infestation in few regions affecting crops tremendously.
The IPCC 2020 report on ‘Climate Change and Land’ states that “Since the pre-industrial period, the land surface air temperature has risen nearly twice as much as the global average temperature. Climate change, including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes, has adversely impacted food security and terrestrial ecosystems as well as contributed to desertification and land degradation in many regions”.
This brief analysis is indicative of the extent of damages that impacts of climate change can have on land and the production of food crops, given the reasoning that increase in global temperature is creating havoc in the agricultural system, with the rainfall pattern going haywire – less rain when it is expected and more rain when it is not expected.
The IPCC report also stated that ‘Global warming has led to shifts of climate zones in many world regions, including expansion of arid climate zones and contraction of polar climate zones. As a consequence, many plant and animal species have experienced changes in their ranges, abundances, and shifts in their seasonal activities’.
The report further explains that ‘Climate change can exacerbate land degradation processes including through increases in rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and severity, heat stress, dry spells, wind, sea-level rise and wave action, and permafrost thaw with outcomes being modulated by land management’.
In a nutshell, it is as good as saying that in case the world community fails in meeting targets set to limit global temperature rise by 2030 and 2050, the world can expect extended crisis in food production with original species of crops failing due to climate change and alien invasive species dominating the landscapes.
Failure in crop production can mean only one thing – deepening the food crisis already impacted by the pandemic. The current conflict in Ukraine had also deepened the food crisis as major crop producers Ukraine and Russia are locked in battle. Climate change and wars are the new nemesis of hunger and deaths across the globe.
(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be reached at [email protected])