Towards Building a Resilient and Sustainable Food System

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    Photo: AH/OV

    Md Billal Hossen

    Food is one of the basic human needs. Without food, it is impossible to lead a life in this earth. Every living being needs food to grow, nourish and sustain in the world. Food is an indispensable part of human life.

    The world’s population is growing faster than the past. The global population in 2019 was about 7.6 billion and it is expected that the population will grow more than 10 billion by 2050. At present, we produce enough food to feed the world, but still more than 2 billion people don’t have access to food. As the population is growing very rapidly, the shortage of food will also appear in next few years. To meet the demand of the world’s population we need to make our food system more resilient and sustainable.

    The journey of food from farm to table is generally known as food system. The food system comprises of several steps to reach the table. Every player in the food system has significant role to make it sustainable. The most important and valuable player in the food system is our farmer or grower. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) ‘80% of the world’s food is produced by family farmers and there are more than 600 million farms across the globe’. They are at the baseline of the food system. If farmers or growers tend to give up crop cultivation, our whole food system will be collapsed within few days.

    Can you imagine how much they contribute to feed you? Have you ever thought about their great role in your everyday’s food? I think, you couldn’t think about them. It is time to thank our Food Heroes, who support us to live in this world. To make our food system sustainable and resilient, firstly we have to find out the obstacle that is faced by the Food Heroes every day during the food production.

    Challenges faced by the farmers or growers

    As farmers are the core players of a food system, they face many challenges while producing food for us, which make them more vulnerable and thus reduce the overall food production. As a result the food system loses its sustainability and resilience. Let’s disclose the challenges:

    Poverty

    Crop cultivation needs continuous financial support to grow and nourish properly. Generally, a poor family doesn’t have sufficient money to buy fertilizers, pesticides and some other accessories for cultivation. Therefore, they give up crop cultivation and migrate in search of a different job. This means, poverty is one of the greatest barriers in making the food system sustainable.

    Climate change

    Climate change adversely affects the agricultural system by contributing to global warming. Global warming causes several disasters such as storms, drought, cyclone, bushfire and flood. It also contributes to rise in sea level. All these disasters can cause destruction in the food system and make it harder to grow food, rear animals or practice aquaculture. It is also causing plant pests and diseases to travel to places they have never been before. In Bangladesh, every year due to heavy flood a huge amount of paddy being destroyed and people of northern region faced an unprecedented challenges to cope with growing demands of foods. It is also the consequence of climate change.

    Conflict

    Conflict such as war makes it hard to grow food or get food to those, who need it. Conflict can destroy the whole infrastructure related to food system. It can also cause poverty and hunger. As of FAO information “more than 2 billion people without access to enough food live in conflict zones of the different parts in the world”.

    Food loss

    When food is wasted between the farm and the market, it is termed as food loss. There are several causes of food loss such as bad packaging, unsuitable transport, extra moisture and weak preservation system. Due to the above-mentioned causes food may be wasted on its journey to the market. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), ‘In developing countries it’s estimated that as much as half of all fruit and vegetable crops are lost between harvest and the market’. It means the water used to produce the lost crops is also wasted.

    Inadequate internet facilities

    As stated by FAO, “Over 3 billion people in the world don’t have access to internet”. That is, our farmers are still left behind from the cutting-edge technology to build better food system or food chain. Access to technology can help farmers and food sector workers to produce more and earn better.

    Viruses and Pandemics

    Virus or pandemic outbreak may deteriorate the entire food system. For example, COVID-19 hampers the whole world’s food chain in a greater amount.

    Ways to overcome the challenges

    To resolve the aforesaid challenges we need to work together. As the food chain comprises of different stakeholders like farmers, retailers, processors, industry and customers, if someone deviates from the food chain the production process will be hampered. That means we all have an important role to play to build resilient and sustainable food system. Here are some ways to build resilient food systems—

    • Ensure micro financing facilities for the poor farmer.
    • Reduce carbon emission and deforestation to mitigate the adverse effect of climate change.
    • Establish peace among the world population is obligatory to build resilient food systems.
    • Ensure better transportation, storage facilities and packaging systems for the food while transportation from farm to market.
    • Ensure better access to modern technology and better internet facilities for all farmers.
    • Innovate early disaster or pandemics detection system to mitigate the dangerous effect of pandemics like COVID-19.

    If we can ensure all these facilities for our Food Heroes, they will give us a resilient and sustainable food system. A sustainable and resilient food system is the prerequisite to build a healthy and active nation. To end hunger and malnutrition resilient food systems can be a great tool. Let’s stand beside our Food Heroes to make a sustainable and resilient food system.

    (Writer is MS student in the Department of Applied Nutrition and Food Technology under Faculty of Biological Science in the Islamic University, Bangladesh.)

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