PART II | More on Food Security, Peace and Stability

In more than half a century of humanitarian engagement, we have learned that fighting hunger is not a straightforward proposition. It requires collective action on various levels, aimed at various groups, drawing on various contexts and including various stakeholders. We have learned that fighting hunger involves not just delivering food, but also transferring cash; not just transferring cash, but transferring knowledge; not knowledge in a void, but knowledge that makes local sense; and not just knowledge we own, but knowledge derived from conversations of equals. The diversity of national settings, the gradations of peace and conflict, a changing climate and the complexity of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development all dictate that the World Food Programme (WFP)’s offer must be subtly calibrated, made up of an expanding range of tools and approaches. Used singly or in combination, always tailored and never identical, these tools and approaches express our current thinking about the best way to achieve Zero Hunger.

At any given time, the World Food Programme (WFP) is on the frontlines in the fight against hunger. Thousands of dedicated staff channel their expertise and use all means at their disposal – trucks, planes, ships, helicopters and even amphibious vehicles – to ensure that vast quantities of food and other essential items reach those who need them most. With close to 60 years’ experience delivering food assistance in some of the planet’s remotest and most insecure regions, WFP is a partner of choice in humanitarian response and also, increasingly, in the effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

By prioritizing local companies and national first responders as much as possible, for both our emergency assistance and our resilience-building projects, we contribute to more sustainable agricultural systems, more dynamic retail sectors, more robust transport networks. Through our supply chain, we spend more than US$2 billion in the countries where we operate, filling gaps in local supply chains wherever needed. Whether it is delivering assistance in the midst of conflict or helping in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the World Food Programme (WFP) is required to respond readily to crises or emergencies. Being accountable to the people we serve and those that provide funds, we need to measure performance and demonstrate results while meeting the needs of beneficiaries.

WFP works with partners on the ground to assess needs and support programmes to reach zero hunger. As we plan, design, implement and report on our activities, we are also responsible for monitoring and evaluating our efforts, and take every opportunity to learn first-hand from our operations and projects. Continuous monitoring of achievements and overall performance generates the information and data to tell WFP and its partners if the approaches chosen are successful. Learning from that evidence is necessary in order to adjust projects and report effectively on results.Regular, independent evaluations are needed to determine whether we are doing the right thing, if we are achieving results and whether or not we could do thing differently. This ensures both  accountability to donors and learning for the organization. Achieving Zero Hunger and eradicating malnutrition by 2030 – as mandated by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2) – is the World Food Programme’s raison d’être. In a fast-moving world, the challenges posed by this mission are constantly changing, and so are the tools and approaches that can be used to overcome them. WFP embraces innovation and has a proven track record of piloting, implementing and scaling new ideas. This is not limited to adopting novel technologies, but includes different ways of designing and executing its programmes. Whether it is using mobile phones to gather data from inaccessible areas via SMS or transfer cash to people on the move, adopting iris scan technology to identify people entitled to receive assistance, promoting airtight storage equipment or piloting hydroponic farming techniques to improve the livelihoods of refugee communities, WFP constantly strives to find ever more effective ways to ensure nobody goes hungry.

Focus Areas

The focus areas of   UNWFP action are Climate Action, Disaster Risk Reduction, Gender Equity, Small holder market support, Nutrition, Social protection and safety nets and Sustainable livelihood and ecosystem.

For millions of people across Africa, Asia and Latin America, climate change means more frequent and intense floods, droughts and storms, accounting each year for up to 90 percent of all climate-related disasters. These can quickly spiral into full-blown food and nutrition crises. In the last decade, almost half of the World Food Programme (WFP)’s emergency and recovery operations have been in response to climate-related disasters, at a cost of US$23 billion.

With the vast majority of the world’s hungry exposed to climate shocks, eradicating hunger requires bold efforts to improve people’s ability to prepare, respond and recover. Failing this, it has been estimated that the risk of hunger and malnutrition could increase by up to 20 percent by 2050.To support vulnerable countries and communities, WFP provides analysis highlighting the links between food security and climate risks, as well as the present and future impact of climate change on food security and nutrition. This helps identify which communities are most at risk and informs national policy and planning, including the development of food assistance programmes that build resilience and reduce hunger. The Food Insecurity and Climate Change Vulnerability map, developed by WFP and the UK Met Office, highlights the importance of urgent action to scale up climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts for the most food insecure people.

Natural and man-made disasters are among the main drivers of hunger and malnutrition. They cause the loss of lives and livelihoods, destroy homes, productive assets and infrastructure, and affect the availability of food and water. The strategies people adopt to cope – including selling cattle and tools for food, and taking children out of school to work – can have long-lasting effects, trapping them in a cycle of hunger and poverty.For the World Food Programme (WFP), working to prevent, mitigate and prepare for disasters is an essential part of its mandate to combat global hunger. As many as half of WFP’s programmes address the risks of natural disasters and their repercussions on food security, reaching approximately 80 million people each year. WFP’s policy on Disaster Risk Reduction commits it to preventing acute hunger and investing in disaster preparedness and mitigation measures. The policy guides WFP’s action to support the implementation –at both government and community levels – of the international framework for disaster risk reduction adopted in Sendai, Japan, in 2015.WFP works with governments to strengthen their capacity to prepare for, assess and respond to hunger caused by disasters, and to develop national policies and plans that address the impact of disasters on nutrition.

Gender equality is a must for a world of Zero Hunger where all women, men, girls and boys can exercise their human rights, including the right to adequate food.This is why the pursuit of gender equality and women’s empowerment is central to fulfilling the World Food Programme (WFP)’s mandate. Wherever we work – saving lives, changing lives – we must tackle the inequalities that oppress and discriminate against women and girls and promote equity and the empowerment of all.  This is particularly so in humanitarian crises and places of conflict, when food insecurity and malnutrition are exacerbated.

To reach food and nutrition security for all, it is essential that food assistance policies and programmes create conditions that advance, rather than undermine, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Women’s empowerment is a key means of achieving gender equality. It involves women having the capacity to determine and shape their own lives and contribute – equally with men – in shaping the lives of their families, communities and societies.To get to Zero Hunger, food is not enough. Providing food assistance in an emergency can save lives, but the right nutrition at the right time can also help change lives and break the cycle of poverty.  This is why, as the leading organization providing food assistance to the world’s most vulnerable, the World Food Programme (WFP) prioritizes nutrition as a core element of its work. Despite significant progress over recent decades, poor nutrition remains a colossal and universal problem, with one in three people on the planet affected by some form of malnutrition. Undernutrition – inadequate energy or nutrients – continues to affect more than 150 million children worldwide, while rates of overweight and obesity are also rising in all countries. Conflict and natural disasters are exacerbating the problem. Malnutrition at its extremes can be a matter of life and death, and in the long term can hold back people and countries, undermining economies and development.

Despite producing most of the world’s food, smallholder farmers tend to be food insecure themselves: globally, they form the majority of people living in poverty. Helping raise their incomes and improve their livelihoods holds the key to building sustainable food systems, advancing food security and achieving Zero Hunger.The World Food Programme (WFP) is well placed to contribute to this process. Thanks to our large demand for staple foods, farmer-directed procurement processes and locally-geared supply chains  many smallholders gain an entry point into formal markets. Encouraged to form associations, they are able to negotiate better, sell more, lower their transaction costs and extend their customer base.

But smallholders continue to face serious constraints. Some are unable to produce enough to last through the lean season. Others may generate a small surplus, yet struggle to make a profit. Overall, smallholders lack access to productive inputs and financing.  Post-harvest management, including storage, is often inadequate: crops are exposed to mold, rot and pests. All the while, increasingly extreme weather events add to the challenge: often reliant on rain-fed agriculture, smallholders are powerless in the face of climate hazards.Every year, the World Food Programme (WFP) provides vital food and nutrition assistance to around 100 million people. Yet, the number of people who do not have enough to eat worldwide is much higher – currently standing at 690 million. Reaching Zero Hunger by 2030 means meeting the needs of these people and WFP works with governments to ensure this can be done through national systems, including social protection.Social protection can help people address the risks they face, such as poverty, social exclusion, inequality and food insecurity, and protect the most vulnerable from shocks and stresses throughout their lives.Social protection systems typically include social assistance schemes – predictable and reliable transfers of cash, food or other goods, as well as subsidies and service fee waivers for vulnerable groups. Every country in the world has at least one social assistance scheme in place.

Food insecurity is highest in the most fragile and degraded environments, prone to natural disasters and exposed to recurrent shocks and crises. In these landscapes, scarce in water and biodiversity, live some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Reliant on meagre resources, they lack access to diversified diets. They also have little opportunity to improve their health, education, economic growth, or development in the broadest sense.Climate change and cyclical weather extremes have a disproportionate impact on these settings, multiplying existing threats to food security and nutrition. In the long term, climate change makes natural disasters more frequent and intense, land and water more scarce and difficult to access, and agricultural productivity harder to achieve.

( concluded)

Tariq Ahmad Safapuri teaches at DoFT,IUST Awantipora and specializes in food security and sustainable development.