ADDIS ABABA – During World Food Day 2021 commemoration on Saturday, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Food Program (WFP) called for renewed collective action as Ethiopia races to defeat hunger by 2030.
In a joint statement, Omer Hussein, Minister of Agriculture, said Ethiopia has developed an ambitious vision to guide the transformation of national food systems and achieve Sustainable Development Goal or SDG 2 – Zero Hunger, by 2030.
“The vision puts multi-stakeholder collaboration at the center of its implementation and success,” the minister said.
“We need everybody on board; from government agencies, development partners, private sector, research, and educational institutions, the media, farmers, and every individual,” he added.
Ethiopia is commemorating World Food Day during extraordinary times, says the joint statement.
The country is dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and desert locust invasion while many continue to be affected by climate-related disasters, conflict, displacement and diseases.
All these disasters have a direct effect on the food security, nutrition, and livelihoods of the population as well as the environment and natural resources, reads the statement.
Even when food is produced, some of it is wasted or lost due to poor post-harvest management and sub-optimal market linkages.
According to a 2017 study conducted by FAO in Ethiopia, post-harvest loss of maize, wheat, haricot bean, and sorghum ranges from 14 to 27 percent.
Currently, one in four (24.8 percent) households in Ethiopia fall below the food poverty line, and 25.5 percent of individuals are food insecure.
In addition, one in every four children under five is stunted, which has an implication on their potential as productive adults.
Only one out of four households (26%) would potentially have access to a nutritious diet.
Currently, the trio says 13.4 million people rely on food assistance in Ethiopia, which underscores how urgently we need to collectively work towards building a food system to deliver to all.
Time for a shift
“It is clear that if we carry on with business as usual, we shall not achieve the targets of ‘Zero Hunger’ as stated in SDG – 2. We might miss other related SDGs as well. We need to shift the way we think, and the way we produce, handle and consume food,” said Fatouma Seid, the FAO Representative in Ethiopia.
Every institution and individual in their different capacities has a role to play in building sustainable, inclusive, and resilient agri-food systems, she said.
“At a practical level, we can start by consuming nutritious food, and reducing food waste. The private sector can commit to nutrition and food standards by limiting levels of saturated fats, transfats, sugars, and salt in products and ensuring clear labeling while improving food safety and quality,” Fatouma continued.
“Education institutions can provide or scale-up nutrition education,” she said, advising the Governments to help smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods by increasing access to training, finance, digital technologies, extension services, social protection, early warning systems, and crop varieties or animal breeds that are resistant to climate change.
Transforming Food systems
Last month, Ethiopia launched a vision to transform the country’s agri-food systems from nature-positive production to sustainable consumption patterns that promote enhanced food safety, nutrition, and healthy diets.
It also seeks to improve equitable livelihoods, land preservation, as well as resilience to shocks and stress.
Despite the ongoing efforts, several challenges are affecting the country’s food system.
“While Ethiopia is making strong strides towards middle income status, progress is impeded by humanitarian crises driven by combinations of natural and man-made hazards: drought, flooding, pest invasions, conflict leading to population displacement, infectious diseases, and, perhaps most damaging and difficult to address, chronic poverty and food insecurity,” said Steven Were Omamo, WFP Ethiopia’s Representative and Country Director.
“This World Food Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on the collective action we all must take to tackle the root causes of hunger and build a sustainable and equitable food system for everyone in Ethiopia,” said Omamo.