Sustainable food systems, the key to ending hunger and malnutrition

The international community is committed to eradicating hunger and all forms of malnutrition for 2030 through Agenda 2030 's second sustainable development goal. It is a bold and ambitious goal and will not be easy to reach, but I am convinced that we can achieve it. In the European region and Central Asian, countries are on the right track. Most have made considerable strides in reducing the proportion of the hungry population, but important food security and nutrition problems persist.

Some continue to have difficulties with the so-called Triple burden of malnutrition: malnutrition, persistent micronutrient deficiencies, and, at the same time, increased obesity and overweight rates. Micronutrient deficiencies and overweight in children and adults have become two of the main concerns in the region, both resulting in limitations of human capacity and productive losses.

Perhaps even more striking is the moderate or severe food insecurity indicator that, according to the so-called food Insecurity Experience scale, reveals that 14.3 million adults in the region are still seriously affected by the Food insecurity. Hunger and malnutrition have many interconnected causes, which makes a global response necessary. These could be some of their foundations:

First of all, sustainable food systems. From the stages of production to consumption, agriculture and sustainable food systems provide food security and nutrition for all without compromising the ability of the planet to continue producing for future generations. Having seen the effects of climate change, achieving them will involve sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries, diversifying production, and ensuring that agriculture contributes both to mitigate and to adapt to climate change. It also means that the natural resources of this region must be managed – including water, soils, biodiversity, forests and unique and fragile ecosystems – in a sustainable manner.

Eradicating hunger is not the only big challenge we have. Today, the world is witnessing a real epidemic of overweight

Secondly, we must ensure regular access to adequate food and healthy diets for all. Eradicating hunger is not the only big challenge we have. Today, the world is witnessing a real epidemic of overweight and obesity, and the numbers continue to go up in most developing and developed countries. In 2015, there were over 1.9 billion of overweight adults in the world. Of them, more than 650 million were obese. Excessive consumption of processed foods rich in salt and sugar is the main engine of this increase. Countries should address this situation by promoting sustainable diets and, in that sense, national public policies are fundamental. Consumers should know the benefits and disadvantages of what they eat. To do this, we must redouble efforts in nutritional education, raise awareness of its importance, and regulate labelling and advertising.

Third, there is there is to end waste and food losses. One third of all the food we produce is lost or wasted every year. To put an end to this absurdity we will need the commitment of producers, traders and consumers in all countries, both to minimize losses during production, storage and transport and to reduce the waste of food By vendors and consumers while strengthening consumer choices. I would like to stress that several actors in the food industry in the region have already presented concrete measures and proposals. In several countries there are already initiatives underway to raise awareness on this issue, identify solutions and take a different legislative approach. Improvements in the efficiency of farms throughout the region will also reduce losses during production.

Finally, we must end rural poverty. Supporting small farmers and family farmers is essential because they have the key to sustainably nurture a growing world population, and to help eradicate extreme poverty.

There are less than twelve years left for 2030, and the countries of Europe and Central Asia cannot lower their guard. Promoting sustainable food systems is key to achieving sustainable development.