Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture

The situation in the world as regards food security worsened in 2016, according to the report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World”, jointly published by the FAO, WFP, IFAD, UNICEF and the WHO. The number of undernourished people rose by 38 million, reaching an estimated 815 million, or 11% of the global population (1 in 9 people). Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with 22.7% of the population affected in 2016, i.e. 243 million people. Meanwhile Asia, at 520 million, is the region with the most undernourished people, accounting for 11.7% of the population.

According to the same FAO report, the main factors of hunger are climate change and conflict.

Food and nutrition security : definition

France shares the definition of food and nutrition security adopted by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in September 2012 :

Food and nutrition security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Malnutrition is also a serious and persistent problem. There are three main forms of malnutrition : undernutrition (chronic or acute), micronutrient deficiencies and obesity.

In 2016, around the world, chronic malnutrition affected a quarter of children aged under five, i.e. 155 million. This figure has been falling since 2005, particularly in Asia and Latin America. But it is not falling fast enough to meet the targets set by the international community for 2030. In Africa, the number of undernourished children is still increasing.

Multiple issues

In September 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted and constitute the framework for international action for development until 2030. SGD 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture are linked to other SDGs, in particular SDG 1, which deals with the fight against poverty by providing jobs and income, especially to vulnerable groups, in its production and processing sectors.

Agriculture also contributes to SDG 13 on the climate. On the one hand, it must adapt to climate change through agro-ecological practices. On the other, it provides an opportunity to mitigate climate change through its capacity to sequester carbon in soils, prairies and forests.

In addition, agriculture and food and nutrition security are also fundamental in order to achieve SDGs :

  • Maternal and newborn health (SDG 3)
  • Sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12)
  • Terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15)
  • Peace (SDG 16)

Over 440 million young people will enter the African labour market by 2030, more than half of whom will be from rural areas. In the coming decades, agriculture and agri-food will be the main source of employment in developing countries (World Bank). However, these sectors can only attract these young people by offering decent and attractive jobs. Support for agricultural jobs in rural areas must be provided through training, as well as through access to land and financing for young farmers and contractors (processors, retailers) in the agri-food sector. Structuring these sectors and integrating smallholder farmers into them is a major issue.

France’s action

The situation is extremely urgent in the countries of the South : demographic growth and the already apparent impact of climate change on rural populations, which are the most vulnerable, require immediate action.

The French vision of food and nutrition security is part of a broad definition based on four pillars :

  • physical, economic and social access to food
  • the availability of food
  • the health and nutritional quality of products
  • the regularity of access, availability and quality

France is also committed to specific nutritional issues, particularly as part of the fight against maternal and newborn malnutrition. France has drawn up a roadmap for French action internationally (2016-2020) in order to improve the nutrition of vulnerable populations.

Protecting populations from food crises can be achieved by improving their resilience to various shocks and stresses and better crisis prevention and management. The sustainable management of food and nutrition security also requires support for family agriculture, the development of fields of activity and the creation of agricultural, food and nutritional policies which include sustainable development issues. It will also make progress by improving financial and non-financial services for farmers. In 2016, France invested €456 million to support family-run farms, agricultural activities, the sustainable development of rural areas, food security and nutrition.

The contribution of research in the agricultural and rural area will be crucial in order to support the major changes necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, in the face of the two-fold challenge of demographic growth and climate change.

A favourable political context

The Addis Ababa International Conference on Financing for Development, the adoption of the SDGs and the highlighting of links between agriculture, food and nutrition security and climate change during COP21 create a particularly favourable political context. We must take advantage of this to effect large-scale shifts towards sustainable agricultural and food systems. Strengthening food and nutrition security can be achieved through improved global governance of food and agriculture, with a view to providing better international coordination.

A priority for France’s action in the international arena

As stated in the law of 7 July 2014 on orientation and programming for development and international solidarity policy, agriculture and food and nutrition security are priorities for France on the international scene, both as regards bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Through its diplomatic action, it promotes this theme within international forums, such as the G7 and G20, and to the European Union. France plays a full role in the operations of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and supports the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement Secretariat. It works in close collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and in the field of research, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

At national level, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs uses a working group, the French Inter-Ministerial Food Security Group (GISA). This group brings together all French stakeholders (Ministries, the French Development Agency, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and agricultural trades and foundations). It is co-chaired by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAA).

Updated : June 2018