Blog Post

Progress and challenges in achieving zero hunger and food security for all

The world continues to face the challenge of ending hunger and malnutrition (undernutrition and obesity) in all its forms. The progress made towards reducing hunger in the last two decades has been reversed, especially due to economic slowdown and geographic closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during which food security, nutrition, poverty reduction and agricultural productivity—all have suffered.

The United Nations’ High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development discussed sustainable and inclusive practices in the transformation of agri-food systems to reduce environmental degradation such as desertification, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions which particularly impact vulnerable and marginalized populations and lead to health concerns such as various diseases and pandemics.

While COVID-19 has added to and amplified existing challenges facing global food systems, affecting vulnerable groups in low-income countries the most, it has highlighted the deficiencies that exist within. During the HLPF meetings, IFPRI’s Markets, Trade and Institutions Division Director, Rob Vos, confirmed and underscored the importance of addressing pervasive inequalities within our food systems in light of COVID-19 and FAO Chief Economist, Maximo Torero, called attention to the exacerbating hunger trend as a compounding effect of the pandemic, as shown below.

In addition, a study by IFPRI, Cornell University and International Institute for Sustainable Development shows that delaying action to ameliorate the situation will result in greater trade-offs and higher expenditure. The transformation of agri-food systems must consider and act upon changing preferences towards healthy diets; sustainable production systems, food value chains and natural resource management; and improving livelihoods of smallholders, indigenous food producers and other marginalized groups.

The transition to a sustainable and resilient agri-food system requires a combination of enabling public policies, inclusive governance mechanisms to increase responsible investments and public-private partnership, access to innovation and sustainable technologies and incentives to adopt them, behavioral changes, and better international collaboration to “build back better” and fulfill SDG2, that is, to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Swati Malhotra is a Communications Specialist with IFPRI's Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division (MTID)