Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger and Sustainable Agriculture

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To rethink how to grow, trade and distribute our food is the second SDG included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals included in the UN 2030 Agenda are, today, the main references for identifying and solving the challenges that our generation faces to achieve prosperity. Although difficulties may be felt on different scales or dimensions, nations across the globe have come together with the common goal of eradicating universal, serious and urgent problems – and hunger is, undoubtedly, one of them.

Listed as the second objective of the 2030 Agenda, the SDG 2 – Zero Hunger and Sustainable Agriculture has the mission of ending hunger, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture. The goal does not only address the consumption of food, but also the way it is generated and distributed. Thus, eradicating hunger implies addressing economic and environmental issues as well, discussing how agriculture, forestry and fishing can provide nutritious food, generate adequate income for those involved in its production, support rural development and still protect the environment.

Major changes are necessary for making that happen. Despite continued policies against hunger, the number of people living without adequate food has grown in recent years. According to UN, it was estimated that 821 million individuals – approximately 1 in 9 people in the world – lived in hunger in 2017, a number considerably higher than the 784 million identified in 2015. This represents a worrying rise for the third consecutive year, after a long period of decline.

Predictions for the future are not optimistic, with climate change reducing the planet’s available resources and increasing the incidence of natural disasters, such as droughts and floods. For experts, environmental degradation has a major impact on economies and people, forcing producers to abandon rural areas and migrate to cities in search of better opportunities. According to data released by the UN, agriculture is today thesingle largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40% of today’s global population . Furthermore, 500 million small farms provide up to 80% of food consumed in a large part of the developing world, drawing attention to the importance of small farmers and sustainable farming practices.

According to the latest study released by the UN, new information collected points out that hunger has not only increased, but has also affected countries in Africa and children more heavily:

  • Malnutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under five years old, the equivalent to 3.1 million children annually. This means that it kills more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined;
  • Stunting has been decreasing in nearly every region since 2000. Still, more than 1 in 5 children under 5 years of age (149 million) were stunted in 2018;
  • Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of hunger, with the rate increasing from 20.7 per cent in 2014 to 23.2 per cent in 2017;
  • If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million people;
  • Government spending on agriculture decreased by 37%, as did agriculture’s contribution to the total economy: the index fell from 0.42 in 2001 to 0.26 in 2017.
Source: UN

Brazil is moving at a slow steps, but has already seen progress in its hunger policies. That is what says FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization linked to the United Nations. According to a released research, the number of malnourished Brazilians fell from 4.6% in the period 2004-2006 to less than 2.5% between 2016-2018, indicating that around 5 million people are still living in the inadequate condition. The country left the Hunger Map in 2014, but the current scenario of economic recession has made the numbers present little improvement since then.

Public policies have been trying to reverse the situation by giving special attention to younger age groups. Seen by many with some skepticism, school feeding programs have proven their transformative potential in the countless countries where they have been applied, including Brazil. In addition to promoting healthier diets among children, eating habits acquired at school also influenced their families.

Managed by the Fundo Nacional de Desenvolvimento da Educação, the Programa Nacional de Alimentação Escolar (PNAE) offers “school meals and nutrition actions to students from all stages of basic public education in Brazil”. Among the solutions created by the initiative is the e-PNAE, an app that allows the monitoring and evaluation of the served meals by parents, students, teachers, nutritionists, school feeding counselors and members of the community.

Another app that has been ensuring positive changes is Wefarm. The international initiative is aimed at small agricultural producers, arguably those most vulnerable to climate change, missing seeds, volatile markets and pests. Functioning as a support network, a farmer can make questions and ask for help online, where other community members can help in a matter of minutes. Launched in 2015, the initiative has already been installed in the United Kingdom and is undergoing testing in Kenya, Uganda and Peru.

Smart solutions like these are constantly being added to the Bright Cities database. With its disruptive technology, the platform evaluates which of them are adequate for a given urban context, based on a complete diagnosis featuring areas such as governance, environment, health and education. To have access to these kind of data, a series of indicators aligned with the 17 SDGs reveal which urban problems should be solved by public administrations.

We listed some of the indicators used by Bright Cities that are releatable to SDG 2 – Zero Hunger and Sustainable Agriculture:

  • Indicator “Under age five mortality”: because malnutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under five years old, it indicates the scale of hunger in a municipality according to goal 2.1 of SDG 2: “By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round“;
  • Indicator “Number of nursing and midwifery personnel”: the indicator evaluates the services provided by a given municipality, indicating whether there are enough professionals to meet the demand of child patients and pregnant women. Thus, it relates to goal 2.2 of SDG 2: “By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons“;
  • Indicator “Average annual rain”: the indicator reveals fundamental data for agricultural production chains, which can help governors and private initiatives to understand the natural resources offered by certain regions – as well as which products are best suited for them, according to goal 2.4 of SDG 2: “By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality“.

The information collected by indicators not only provides an overview of the living conditions in a given city, but also influences the urgencies and priorities of its public agenda. Follow our News Platform, where we’ll fully explain all the 17 goals and which smart solutions exist for each of them!

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