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World Food Day: Better resilience for a food-secure future

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. 

World Food Day: Better resilience for a food-secure future
Re-shape policies to transform food systems and end hunger

Nearly 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030 – 8 percent of the world population. This is equivalent to the population facing hunger in 2015 when Agenda 2030 was launched. What’s more, access to food is not necessarily leading to healthier eating, mainly because food and agricultural policies are not aligned with delivering healthy food. Governments need to repurpose food and agricultural policies to make healthy diets affordable. This is the conclusion of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022  (SOFI 2022) Report released Tuesday, 5 July 2022, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). SOFI is published every year to track progress towards reaching the 2030 sustainable development goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms. The latest report presents an update on the situation of hunger and malnutrition around the world. Globally, between 720 million and 828 million people faced hunger in 2021, about 150 million more people since COVID-19 broke out. The last report identified conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks as the key drivers of hunger and malnutrition. To these, SOFI 2022 adds policies that lead to inequality. Policies are no longer having a significant effect in reducing hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms, SOFI 2022 states. And in fragile economies, there are constraints to using financial policies to transform agrifood systems. For instance, all over the world, financial support is directed mainly to produce staple foods, such as rice, sugar and meat, not fruits and vegetables. As a result, fruits and vegetables are more expensive and unaffordable. Moreover, food and agricultural policies are not aligned with the promotion of healthy diets. Further, the war in Ukraine is affecting supply chains, in turn raising the costs of fertilizer, energy, and food, such as grains, especially in the first half of 2022. Considering the unfolding challenging economic situation globally, the report states that public-private partnerships are needed to boost investment. However, partnerships require the support of a robust governance system to ensure vulnerable communities benefit, and not powerful industry players. The second edition of the Global Land Outlook (GLO2) released in April 2022 also calls attention to the issue of food insecurity. It spotlights the impacts of modern agriculture on food systems that alter the land and the impacts of globalizing food systems. Global food systems are responsible for 80% of deforestation, 70% of freshwater use, and the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss. The disconnect between where food is produced and consumed is key. In the past, local consumption led to land degradation. Behind this rapid land use change today are the demand for food internationally and for urban communities. GLO2 urges the international community to re-think its global food systems. It calls for a turn to the sustainable management of the land, which experience shows can “both improve the productivity of the land and reduce the cost of food production.” The international community has committed to restore one billion hectares of land by 2030, an area the size of the United States or China. GLO2 points to hundreds of practical ways to carry out the desired ecosystem restoration at local, national and regional levels. This year’s SOFI report is a joint initiative of the FAO, International Food and Agriculture Development (IFAD), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The brief and full reports are now available online.

Re-shape policies to transform food systems and end hunger
Restoring life to land: Sustainable land management for ecosystem restoration 

As the UNCCD COP 15 draws near and The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (UNDER) gathers momentum, UNCCD and WOCAT are partnering up on a video series that highlight the central role of sustainable land management (SLM) in restoring and maintaining the health of ecosystems.  SLM has a central role in each of the eight UNDER ecosystems – farmlands, grasslands, forests, mountains, freshwaters, urban areas, peatlands, oceans and coasts – by combating land degradation, improving production and securing livelihoods while simultaneously generating multiple environmental co-benefits.  While people have directly contributed to ecosystem degradation, they can also be the primary agents of change toward a sustainable land management restoration when armed with knowledge to adopt and upscale SLM.  The new video series presents successful practices for each ecosystem, demonstrating how SLM can deliver powerful solutions to ecosystem degradation.  

Restoring life to land: Sustainable land management for ecosystem restoration 
The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods

Communities all over the world have suffered some of the most brutal effects of drought and flooding this year. Flash floods in western Europe, eastern and central Asia and southern African. And catastrophic drought in Australia, southern Africa, southern Asia, much of Latin America, western North America and Siberia are cases in point. The impacts extend well beyond the individual events. For example, the rise in food insecurity in the southern African region and unprecedented wildfires in North America, Europe and Central Asia.   What is going on? This is much more than bad weather in some cases, and is increasingly so. The UNCCD organized an event at COP26, the Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom, to focus attention on the land-water-climate nexus. The science and policy responses discussed make it clear that human decisions exacerbated by climate change are significantly – and arguably, catastrophically – amplifying the impact of drought and floods.  The discussion encouraged more strategic land use decisions. Decisions that ensure what we do where, and in particular, what we plant where, mitigatesthe impacts of both extremes, be it too much or too little rainfall. It also shed light on how important it is to have healthy soils. Soils that are replete with organic matter will obtain “more crop per drop”, and reduce the risks associated with drought and flooding.  Extreme events, including both droughts and floods are on the rise. With more land projected to be get drier and more and more people living in drylandsin the future, the discussions centered on the shift more than 60 countries are making from “reactive” response to droughts and floods to “proactive” planning and risk management designed to build resilience. Participants from Malawi, Pakistan, Honduras, Grenada and Burkina Faso provided concrete examples of policy alignment and cross-sectorial approaches to implementation. Here is a quick overview of the highlights. Read more:  Land and drought

The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods
Nations call for reversal of soil degradation

The Ministerial Global Forum on Food and Agriculture, hosted by Germany, concluded today with a call from 68 nations across the globe to prevent and reverse soil degradation. While 90 per cent of our food production depend on soil, which is also one of the earth’s most important carbon sinks, its quality is increasingly deteriorating, and fertile land is becoming more scarce. To stop this trend, countries must unite in their efforts to bring life back to degraded soils. Recognizing that land degradation and drought destroy the soil quality and threaten global food security, the communiqué issued at the closing of the Forum urges the countries to combat desertification and restore degraded land to achieve a land degradation-neutral world by 2030. The communiqué specifically notes the crucial role of land-restoration initiatives such as the Great Green Wall of Africa for political and social stability. UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, who moderated one of the Forum's sessions, expressed the convention's strong commitment to supporting countries in making the spirit of the communiqué a reality and shaping ambitious long-terms goals on soil restoration at the upcoming UNCCD COP15 in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire, in May 2022.  "The decisions taken at our next Conference of the Parties will ramp up response actions of countries that have committed to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality for a sustainable and resilient future.​​​​​" — UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw While the global extent of land degradation is estimated at between 20-40 per cent of the total land area, restoring degraded land has been proven as an efficient and cost-effective solution to reverse degradation, climate change and biodiversity loss and to reduce the risk and intensity of disasters. Moreover, our food systems can be redesigned to ensure positive outcomes for nature and climate. Shifting from inefficient, resource-intensive production models to conservation and regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and other integrated systems, we can rebuild healthy and resilient food systems and restore degraded soils. Read more: Full communiqué UNCCD COP15 Sustainable food systems

Nations call for reversal of soil degradation