Sustainable Development Goal number 2 is Zero Hunger. Now, the goal may be slightly misleading because the targets that sit under Zero Hunger encompass all aspects of food. Everything from food insecurity, malnutrition, small scale farming, sustainable agriculture and genetic diversity protection of plants, to name a few.
Last week I did the first goal, no poverty. Like many of these goals, it is easy to get overwhelmed when looking at the breadth and depth of the individual goals. This week, I will focus on two aspects of goal number 2- global hunger and increasing the sustainability of local food systems.
Overview of the targets of Goal 2: Zero Hunger
- 2.1 By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round
- 2.2 By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons.
- 2.3 By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markers and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.
- 2.4 By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding, and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality
- 2.5 By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified see and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed.
- 2.a Increase investment, including through enhance international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries in particular least developed countries
- 2.b Correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, including through the parallel elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies and all export measures with equivalent effect, in accordance with the mandate of Doha Development Round
- 2.c Adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, or order to help limit extreme food price volatility.
The big hunger issue
It is important to note that food insecurity globally is on the increase. Food insecurity is the availability and access to supply of food in a local area. The bad news is that with global trends like climate change, the pandemic and global economic tensions are exacerbating food insecurity. It is no surprise that those who are most affected are the most vulnerable members of society. In 2019, 9 million people around the world died from hunger and hunger -related diseases. This is more than from AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined.
Globally, 822 million people suffer from undernourishment. This means that 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry every day. Unfortunately this number is not decreasing at the rate needed to ensure food security for all by 2030.
Addressing food security
Understanding how to strengthen the productivity of small scale farming practices is critical for reducing global hunger. There are a number of great charities who are addressing this. One in particular is One Acre Fund who addresses all the barriers to small scale farming productivity in Africa.
From the Life You Can Save‘s website, ‘Agriculture is the dominant profession of the world’s poor: 80% of Africa’s poor are rural farm families, trapped in a state of subsistence-level farming. They face shockingly low yields, but lack the resources, training, or funds necessary to increase their farm’s productivity. One Acre Fund deliver thousands of tons of high-quality farm inputs to within walking distance of every customer at the start of each planting season — and extend those inputs on credit at a quarter the size of the average microfinance loan.
Throughout the season, One Acre Fund field staff deliver in-field training on best farming practices. And at harvest time, they provide farmers with the tools and knowledge to safely store their harvest and sell during the off-season for significant profit. On average, this boosts clients’ incomes on supported activities by at least 50% within a single growing season. Furthermore, when farmers improve their harvests, they produce more food for their families and communities. By 2020, One Acre Fund estimates that participating farmers will produce enough surplus crops to feed themselves and an additional 5 million of their neighbours.’
How this addresses SDG 2
2.3 By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markers and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.
By coupling inputs and practices that increase productivity with microfinance loans, they are able to support local farmers to increase their yields and build local food security. These models are so critical to building sustainable outcomes for small scale farmers. Check out One Acre Fund’s 2019 Annual Report to see their amazing impact.
Understanding the Food System
Locally, understanding our food system is critical. The ‘food system’ is the route any food product takes from paddock to our plate. Often these routes are convoluted, opaque and complicated. Over recent years the food system has become fuelled by economies of scale. Effectively, practices that increase efficiency of food production to maximise yields at the cost of the environment.
According to Julian Cribb, a journalist and science communicator in Australia, ‘Every meal we eat destroys 10kg of top soil, uses 800 litres of water, 1.3 litres of diesel, and produces 3.5kg of Co2. We are currently devouring the planet in order to feed ourselves. That is not a sustainable method of food production.’
This was from the Big Shift for Small Farms podcast on urban farming. Check the podcast here.
Think about it, do we know where most of your food comes from? Can we trace it back to its origin? Do we know the impact it has on the environment?
Building local, resilient food systems
Healthy food systems are those where food has a shorter route. It focuses on how food moves within a certain geographic area. It is of growing importance in Australia as our cities continue to expand. We need to find sustainable, regenerative models to support our food system.
Further, our food system may not be as resilient as we think. Global economic, climate and social disruptions can easily impact our access to fresh, healthy food. Resilient food systems are not just about food security. Investing in local food production increases biodiversity, builds community education about the environment and creates stronger natural ecosystems. It allows us to build stronger communities, natural ecosystems and people!
Models that strengthen local food systems
There are a number of ways we can support the development of local food systems. This can range from supporting local farming networks including urban farms, engaging in education hubs and building an edible garden in your backyard.
In Australia, urban farming is of growing importance. It has the potential to shorten food routes and complement broader agricultural productivity. Urban farms can take many forms but I was particularly inspired by a local from Heidelberg. He worked with his landlord to transform his backyard and front yard into productive land.
Another great model is Yerrabingin who are bringing native, regenerative practices to urban living. They are Australia’s first native rooftop farm located in Sydney. The farm hosts events including workshops focusing on Aboriginal culture, native permaculture, environmental sustainability, physical and mental health and well-being. Urban farming and education are critical to achieving SDG 2. Yerrabingin offer monthly virtual tours of the space. You can book your ticket here.
One of my favourite local organisations committed to strengthening food systems is Sustain. They work to transition the food system so that it supports flourishing communities, individuals and ecosystems. They do this through research, connecting communities and building local opportunities for citizens to engage with food in new and sustainable ways.
Food is important, but it is the community connection and education that accelerates the impact of Sustain. They work with Local Governments, businesses and others to create vibrant local food systems based on education, connection and sustainability. One example of their work is the Melbourne Food Hub. This was established in 2018 at the Melbourne Innovation Centre directly opposite Alphington Train Station. It includes an accredited weekly farmers market, a commercial kitchen, co-working offices, a farmers’ depot, aggregation and distribution network, marketing and branding services, urban agriculture, and a workshop and events space.
The exciting thing about this model is that it can be scaled to a range of local communities. Imagine if every suburb or town had a food hub!
Local farming platforms
Purchasing food from local food networks is a really impactful way to strengthen local systems. There are a number of online platforms that facilitate relationships between growers and buyers. Here are a few:
- Local Harvest (they have an awesome, interactive map highlighting shops, grow and share networks as well as education spaces).
- Melbourne Farmers Market
- Open Food Network Australia
- Local Food Loop
Backyard farming/Edible Gardens
Engaging in nature and gardening helps with overall wellbeing. During the pandemic, more people are gardening more and learning of the food potential of their backyards. I started growing food from my food scraps and have planted spring onions, rosemary and celery. Edible gardens though are a great way of transforming backyards. They can become spaces that provide seasonal food and build awareness of how food grows.
A good friend, Erin Wallis is particularly passionate about transforming her backyard into an edible landscape. She uses a Vegepod as well as garden beds to grow a range of seasonal vegetables.
Erin started growing veggies for a few reasons. ‘First, growing up I always had veggies and herbs avail in the garden and I missed being able to duck outside to get some parsley, or a shallot, or a grapefruit etc. I didnt realise how much it helps how much you spend on your weekly shop!! But also because I care about food mileage. ie: how far has the food travelled to get to our plate. And finally, because I care the nutrient density of food. This is how much “good stuff” we get out of the food. The more nutrient rich it is, the less we need, the better our overall health, the better it tastes. When we taste food fresh from the ground or vine or tree – we do notice the difference!’
Erin’s top tips to getting started are:
- Plant what you like to eat! This helps with your motivation to look after it, and of course makes it more likely you’ll use it
- Know what’s in season to plant in your climate! Little Veggie Patch Co have a calendar that tells you what to plant when to help out
- Start small and experiment! Vegepod is an awesome way to start – really productive and protected metre squared little patch that can be put on a balcony or deck or in your yard. It grows an enormous amount! And I’ve even seen people put worm bins straight into the soil!
Check out her awesome Vegepod on Instagram. Erin’s page has has a range of great tips, ideas and ways to bring food to life in your backyard.
How food systems address SDG 2
2.4 By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding, and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality
Supporting sustainable, local food systems will help build resilience, community and environmental outcomes.
Planet B Insights articles
If you want to read more global exaples from Planet B Insgihts that address SDG 2: Zero Hunger, check out these below:
- Slow food and the future of regional communities
- The global pact saving our urban food system
- Baltimore is focusing on food to transform cities of the future
- Reflections from the 2019 Urban Food Policy conference
- Spain’s powerful approach to strengthening agricultural communities
Reducing hunger globally and strengthening local food systems are both incredibly important to achieving SDG #2: Zero Hunger. Some key areas to reach Goal 2 are:
- Understanding where food comes from and buying local
- Supporting urban farming and creating food through edible backyard gardens
- Focusing on practices that regenerate natural ecosystems through food production
- Donating to charities that are supporting small scale farmers in Africa and Asia to increase their sustainability and food security