Last year, between 720 and 811 million people faced hunger, an estimated increase of 118 million people compared to 2019. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger was already on the rise and the world was not on track to end hunger. COVID-19 has caused further backsliding in many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), disrupting supply chains, food security, and livelihoods. As global hunger continues to rise, the question becomes: how will the global community respond to the call of ending hunger, particularly through food systems?
The U.N. Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) will be held in September 2021 as a part of the Decade of Action to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The Summit aims to launch innovative, new actions that will help move the needle on all 17 SDGs, all of which rely at least partly on more sustainable and equitable food systems. The UNFSS is a critical opportunity to drive a collective strategy to turn the tide on global hunger and malnutrition and reach the goal of ending hunger by 2030.
On June 16, 2021, the Congressional Hunger Center and the 10th Class of Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows hosted an Independent Dialogue for the UNFSS. The dialogue series brought together diverse voices and perspectives to highlight primary concerns and recommendations that need to be addressed at the Food Systems Summit. The ideas and recommendations that were gathered from the independent dialogue have been submitted to the UNFSS conveying committee. Recommendations submitted to the committee prior to the Pre-Summit starting on July 26 will then be reviewed by the conveying committee.
The fellows’ Independent Dialogue was attended by just over 40 participants joining the conversation from 17 different countries. A majority of participants represented small to medium size farmers, indigenous communities and local NGOs. The following recommendations are distilled from group discussion with participants:
- Build agency of local leadership and strengthen local food systems through the promotion of indigenous crops and traditional forms of agriculture
- Complement traditional agriculture techniques with conservation and climate-smart agriculture techniques that are accessible to all local communities
- Ensure smallholder farmers have access to quality inputs and resources to grow for their own consumption and sell at prices that allow them to live adequately
- Empower women and youth to be directly engaged with agriculture value chains and improve market access for both income generation and nutrition outcomes
- Ensure that foreign assistance truly supports communities in becoming resilient and self-sufficient rather than perpetually dependent on aid
Read the full recommendations submitted to the UNFSS below:
Participants engaged in conversation about all five Action Tracks and discussed the need for systemic change in the approaches to ending hunger. They identified the intersectionality of agriculture, climate, and conflict, and discussed the need to focus on education and early warning systems so communities and households would be able to withstand shocks and stresses. Discussion groups expressed how traditional methods of agriculture are often lost due to international agencies promoting new technologies. These new technologies may not always be the best approach, given barriers such as cost and accessibility. Therefore, participants recommended hybrid approaches to agriculture that include traditional techniques and the practices of conservation and climate-smart agriculture techniques. As the discussion ended, participants asked that development agencies reflect on their practices and determine if foreign assistance programs promote resilience or dependency.
The conversations held during this independent dialogue highlighted gaps that currently exist within development practices. When the culminating Summit gathering takes place in New York next month, we hope that participants will listen to this expert advice from people with on-the-ground experience on how we can bridge these gaps, and make up our lost momentum on reaching a hunger-free world by 2030.