World Food Day: A Holistic Approach to Food & Nutrition Security for a #ZeroHunger World

Image Courtesy: Twitter/FAO

World Food Day is celebrated every year on 16th October across the world to honour the foundation of United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). This day is aimed to create awareness among the people globally who suffer from hunger and to spread the knowledge about the need for food security and nutritious diets in our life. The main focus of this day is that food is a basic and fundamental human right.

The theme of World Food Day 2019 is “Our Actions Are Our Future. Healthy Diets for A #ZeroHunger World”. The objective of the theme is to call for action across sectors to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone. At the same time, it calls on everyone to start thinking about what we eat. Also, achieving zero hunger is not only about addressing hunger but also nourishing people while nurturing the planet.

On the occasion of World Food Day 2019, the three Rome-based UN agencies in India – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) came together to work on the major issue of food and nutrition security from the holistic lens of a food systems approach. Food systems approach takes into consideration the entire cycle which includes production, access (or transformation) and absorption of food to ensure food and nutrition security in India. This ties in with this year’s theme for World Food Day which is making a healthy and sustainable diet affordable and accessible to everyone.

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Focusing on the role of agriculture and production in enabling food and nutrition security, Mr. Tomio Shichiri, Representative of FAO said, “The focus must not only be on increased food grain production but to also increase the production of targeted Nutri-cereals (nutrition-rich crops) such as millets. Promotion of homestead gardens and diversification of agriculture production towards fruits, vegetables and aquaculture can contribute towards addressing the malnutrition.” Mr. Tomio also spoke about the need for agriculture and food systems to be climate resilient in addressing issues related to land degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change mitigation and sustainable forest management.

Ms. Meera Mishra, Country Coordinator, IFAD India Country Office spoke about the benefit of changing patterns of consumption on farmers’ production systems and incomes. Noting an example of millet production in Madhya Pradesh, Ms. Meera said, “Tribal Baiga women in the remote Dindori district in MP grew minor millets; Kodo and Kutki using traditional practices. After being trained in better agronomic practices as well as processing, packaging and marketing, the farmers were able to increase the demand for these millets in local and nearby markets. These minor millets are climate-resilient crops and more suitable for the agro-climatic conditions in the district.”

Referring to the reforms being undertaken by the Government of India to improve access to food, Mr. Bishow Parajuli, Representative and Country Director, WFP India, said, “There are some great initiatives being undertaken by the central and state governments to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the food safety nets through the deployment of technology. Such useful practices need to be amplified so other states can replicate it. Some examples include use of SMS service and IVRS to reach beneficiaries for awareness on entitlements and grievance redressal and the multi-modal authentication mechanism to ensure zero-denial of services in states like Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.” Mr. Parajuli also emphasised on the importance of promoting health and nutrition seeking behaviours such as; a focus on the first thousand days, intra-household distribution of food and the role of women in ensuring food and nutrition security for their families along with ensuring access to food.

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