Boosting green development to ensure food security

Food security is achieved when all people have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food at all times, and is thereby able to maintain healthy and active lives. The Natural Resources Institute Finland participates in the development of agriculture and food processing in developing countries.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 795 million people suffer from hunger worldwide due to inadequate food security. Moreover, it is likely that many times more lack of access to safe food. The consequences of food insecurity vary from food poisoning to congenital symptoms caused by deficiencies and contaminants, or chronic diseases that appear later in life.

Given Ethiopia’s arable land water resources and a large number of productive power, the government has found it effective to concentrate its effort on it to lead Ethiopia to prosperity. Information obtained from the Office of the Prime Minister indicates that the government wants to plant 20 billion seedlings in four years to raise the current 15 per cent of forest coverage to 30 per cent by 2030. This initiative helps to enable the country to achieve environmental protection endeavours as well as ensuring food security.

Agricultural productivity growth will increase food availability and benefit consumers to the extent that domestic prices are lower than they would otherwise be. Productivity gains imply lower unit costs and also translate into higher incomes for innovating farmers. But the resulting decline in prices dissipates some of these gains. Farmers who fail to innovate will only experience the price decline and thus face adjustment pressure. For that reason, broad-based development is needed to ensure that less competitive farmers are pulled, rather than pushed, out of farming into more remunerative activities.

Trade will have an increasingly important role to play in ensuring global food security. Developed and major emerging economies in particular need to avoid policies that distort world markets, making them a less reliable source of food supplies. Multilateral action to ensure that national policies do not generate a new range of spillovers that compromise food security in poor countries has been elusive thus far but remains a priority for early action.

Climate change and the degradation of land, water and biodiversity resources are expected to require changes in production systems. Policies at the national level need to be aligned towards sustainable productivity objectives. An essential step is to remove agricultural policy incentives to market-distorting environmentally harmful practices, such as subsidies to energy and agricultural inputs.

More efforts are needed in the areas of agricultural R&D, technology development, and skills. Environmental policies are also required to ensure well-defined property rights for natural resources and to tackle economy-wide environmental challenges. Given the local specificity of the challenges, targeted agri-environmental policies have a role to play to effectively redress negative environmental impacts and to ensure better management of resources.

According to the FAO State of Food security report for 2020, The PoU in Africa was 19.1 per cent of the population in 2019, or more than 250 million undernourished people, up from 17.6 per cent in 2014. This prevalence is more than twice the world average (8.9 per cent) and is the highest among all regions. New analysis for this report has estimated the health and climate-change costs of five different dietary patterns: one benchmark diet, representing current food consumption patterns, and four alternative healthy diet patterns that, although differing in the way they include foods from several groups and diversity within food groups, all include sustainability considerations.

The health impacts associated with poor diet quality are significant. Diets of poor quality are a principal contributor to the multiple burdens of malnutrition – stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity and both undernutrition early in life and overweight and obesity are significant risk factors for NCDs. Unhealthy diets are also the leading risk factor for deaths from NCDs. In addition, increasing healthcare costs linked to increasing obesity rates are a trend across the world.

Assuming that current food consumption patterns accommodate expected changes in income and population, as per the benchmark scenario representing current food consumption patterns, health costs are projected to reach an average of USD 1.3 trillion in 2030. More than half (57 per cent) of these are direct healthcare costs as they are associated with expenses related to treating the different diet-related diseases. The other part (43 per cent) accounts for indirect costs, including losses in labour productivity (11 per cent) and informal care (32 per cent).

If instead, any of the four alternative diet patterns used for the analyses are adopted (FLX, PSC, VEG, VGN), diet-related health costs dramatically decrease by USD 1.2–1.3 trillion, representing an average reduction of 95 per cent of the diet-related health expenditures worldwide compared to the benchmark scenario in 2030. What people eat, and how that food is produced, not only affects their health but also has major ramifications for the state of the environment and climate change. The food system underpinning the world’s current dietary patterns is responsible for around 21–37 per cent of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which reveals it to be a major driver of climate change, even without considering other environmental effects.

Most global and cross-country valuations of environmental impacts focus on GHG emissions because data limitations hamper global cross-country comparisons of other important environmental impacts related to land use, energy and water use. This data limitation also affects this report’s global analysis, which looks at the hidden climate-change costs by focusing exclusively on GHG emissions and their climate impacts.

The diet-related social cost of GHG emissions related to current food consumption patterns is estimated to be around USD 1.7 trillion for 2030 for an emissions-stabilization scenario. Our analysis shows that adoption of any of the four alternative healthy diet patterns that include sustainability considerations could potentially contribute to significant reductions of the social costs of GHG emissions, ranging from USD 0.7 to USD 1.3 trillion across the four diets (41–74 per cent) in 2030.


The Ethiopian Herald may 11/2021

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