For most of us, food goes beyond simple nutrition and sustenance: it shapes our traditions, brings us together and creates lasting memories. World Food Day is an occasion to celebrate the diversity of our foods and to ponder the future: which foods will feature on our communal table as the world population continues to grow and the planet’s climate continues to change? With 99 per cent of all the calories we consume coming from land, protecting its lasting productivity equals safeguarding our future food supply.
World Food Day 2022 is taking place amidst multiple global challenges that put the world off track to secure good food for all by 2030. One of the obstacles is the growing number of droughts that affect countries in all parts of the world – up 29 per cent since 2000, with more frequent and more severe droughts on the horizon. Securing the future of our food and those who produce it against drought is a key priority for UNCCD. No country or region is immune to drought, but all countries can work together to better prepare and respond to this urgent and global challenge.
When speaking of drought resilience, it is important to recognize that drought is not just the absence of rain: it is often the result of poor land management. We cannot hope to have enough resources to feed the world’s population that’s set to reach 10 billion by 2050 without changing the way we produce, distribute and consume our food. The current food systems have already taken up 40 per cent of the world’s land surface — an area the size of Asia — and caused 80 per cent of all deforestation.
The future of our food depends on reshaping our food systems toward sustainable agricultural practices – such as agroforestry, agro-pastoralism and use of drought-tolerant crops. For example, maize is a staple food for more than 300 million people in Africa, but by the 2030s drought and rising temperatures could render 40 per cent of the continent’s maize-growing area unsuitable for current varieties. In response, researchers have developed more than 160 maize varieties for sub-Saharan Africa that yield 25-30 per cent more than farmers’ standard varieties under drought. More than two million smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are now growing drought-tolerant maize varieties that build resilience and increase yields and productivity.
Many successful approaches proven to keep land fertile and protected from drought are also centered on empowering rural women, who produce 60–80 per cent of our food, to emoloy the ancestral knowledge of nurturing their land with secure tenure and modern technology.
This World Food Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that no matter where we are along the food production and supply chain, we all depend on the secure future of our food. As we sit down to dinner, let’s commit to improving our relationship with food by making smart consumer choices, supporting sustainable agricultural producers and choosing plant-based diets focused on resource-efficient crops. We invite you to explore the Dry Delights content featured in our Droughland campaign: (re)discover some drought-resilient foodstuffs and pick your favorite! Making smart choices starts on our plates and supports better production, better nutrition, better drought resilience and a better life on land.