Meeting global hunger with local solutions

Iron-rich millet
A farmer holds up some iron-rich pearl millet in India’s Maharashtra state. Copyright: AS Rao / ICRISAT, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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How can we feed a growing world, without increasing agriculture’s already-significant environmental impact? This is one of the most pressing questions of our time.

The world is getting hungrier, less nourished, and increasingly overweight — all while food waste reaches unprecedented levels.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on food accessibility and affordability, the full extent of which is still being measured. But the problems inherent in the world’s food systems existed long before SARS-CoV-2 came on the scene. Since 2014, the number of people facing moderate or severe food insecurity has been climbing, rising by 60 million over five years.

Food systems include every aspect of the production and delivery of what we eat — from what goes into producing the crops, livestock and fish that farmers grow, to the processing, transportation and sale of food. Whether global, regional, or local in scale, the world’s food systems are gearing up to feed around 10 billion people by 2050.

But growing our food systems is taking an environmental toll. Agriculture is one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters and is responsible for massive deforestation, soil degradation, freshwater use and biodiversity loss.

In this Spotlight, we ask how the world can sustainably produce enough nutritious food to feed 8.5 billion people within a decade, without increasing environmental degradation. With global supply chains thrown into disarray during the pandemic, we investigate local methods of future-proofing food systems.

Our facts and figures article outlines all you need to know about the state of the world’s efforts to meet the second Sustainable Development Goal – to end hunger by 2030.

We investigate the reasons that poor nutrition is increasing worldwide — scientists now refer to the triple burden of malnutrition  — and the role that school meals could play in boosting nutrition knowledge.

From re-greening farmland, to biopesticides and using plant science to improve crop resilience, we dig into the ways agriculture could be transformed by innovations rooted in natural processes.

Women experience some of the greatest burdens of hunger and malnutrition. But, they could also hold the key to sustainable solutions that keep communities, children and families well-fed.

And, we find out how modern science and traditional knowledge are coming together to conserve an agricultural way of life that has been given heritage status.

Hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation are global problems. The solutions may be local.