Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture


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Hunger has been increasing in the world since 2014. According to the most recent State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World or SOFI report, published jointly by the FAO, WFP, IFAD, UNICEF and the WHO, around 690 million people (8.9% of the world’s population) were chronically undernourished in 2019: 12 million more than in 2018 and 60 million more than in 2014. Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with 18.8% of the population affected in 2019 (39.6 million people). Meanwhile Asia, at 378.7 million, is the region with the most undernourished people. In 2020 the consequences of the desert locust crisis in eastern Africa and the Covid-19 global pandemic will further worsen these figures. Depending on the scenario, the pandemic’s long-term effects could force 83 to 132 million people into hunger in 2020.

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.

France has identified four pillars to this definition:

  • Physical, economic and social access to food
  • Availability of food
  • Sanitary and nutritional quality of products
  • Regular access, availability and quality

Malnutrition is also a serious and persistent problem. There are three main forms of malnutrition: undernutrition (chronic or acute), micronutrient deficiencies and obesity. In 2019, around the world, chronic malnutrition affected 21.3% of children aged under 5, i.e. 144 million. Obesity, which affects 675.7 million adults worldwide, has also become a central problem.
Given these growing figures, there is a real risk of not achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 2 aimed at ending hunger by 2030.

Multiple challenges

In the last three years, the SOFI report has focused more specifically on the links between food insecurity, conflict (SOFI 2017), climate change (SOFI 2018) and slowing economic growth (SOFI 2019); in 2020 it analyses the “hidden costs” of diet on public health and climate change, estimated at $1.3 trillion and $1.7 trillion respectively, each year from now to 2030 – should current food consumption habits be maintained.

The 2020 SOFI report also underscores the growth in inequalities between men and women faced with food insecurity between 2018 and 2019. The picture painted by SOFI is serious: exposure to increasingly complex, frequent and intense climate events risks undermining the progress made in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. What is more, climate change has negative consequences on the nutrition of vulnerable populations including lower quality nutrients and food diversity, impact on water and sanitation and sanitary risks.
Furthermore, there is a reciprocal link between food insecurity and conflict with instability and conflict creating or exacerbating food insecurity and food insecurity and increasing agricultural prices leading to or worsening conflictual and unstable situations. Some 6 in 10 people suffering from hunger currently live in countries affected by conflict.

Lastly, it is important to take into account the importance of the agricultural sector in countries of the South. In the Sahel region, for example, 80% of the population is rural and the sector provides 66% of jobs. Compared with other sectors, growth in the agricultural sector is two to four times more effective in increasing the income of the poorest people. At the continental level, malnutrition-related economic losses are estimated at 11% of GDP.

France’s action

France’s new international strategy for food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture for 2019-2024 is the fruit of consultations with French stakeholders involved in these fields and sets out the framework for French development institutions. This new strategy is focused on 5 main objectives:

Strengthening global governance of food security and nutrition

  • France wishes to play a driving role in improving the efficiency of governing bodies in the field of food security and nutrition, particularly by defining a clear, shared vision of the objectives and tools for action in these fields and by promoting greater harmony and better coordination between bodies and donors.
  • Developing sustainable agricultural and food systems
  • Faced with the consequences of climate change and the erosion of biodiversity, it will be critical to develop and promote the transition towards sustainable agricultural and food systems, from an economic, social and environmental perspective to meet the challenges of climate change as well as to ensure the food security and nutrition of populations.

Stepping up France’s action for nutrition

  • France takes a multi-sector approach in order to provide cross-cutting responses tackling the different factors that contribute to undernutrition. It aims to have a significant and sustained impact on undernutrition.
  • Supporting the structuring of sustainable agrifood chains to promote the creation of decent jobs in rural areas, especially for young people
  • The agricultural and rural sector is often the key socio-economic activity in developing countries and continues to provide a wealth of jobs. Including family agriculture in these chains is a key issue.
  • Enhancing food assistance actions for vulnerable populations and improving their resilience to the causes of food insecurity, be it in emergency situations or contexts of chronic food insecurity.

France is working closely with national and international partners

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).
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).

Download France’s International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture

Updated October 2020