by Curswell Tshihwela
World Food Day is commemorated annually throughout the world on the 16th of October in remembrance of founding the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945 as an organization that deals with global food and agricultural issues. FAO supports countries in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of agricultural and rural development investment plans, programmes and projects. FAO works with financing institutions, national and international organizations, the private sector and producer organizations to promote inclusive investment processes;
It also elaborates socioeconomic assessments and gender analyses to better link investment programmes to the needs of the beneficiaries, it additionally provides countries with capacities to formulate effective investment plans, through practical guidance and tools, institutional strengthening and learning support. The main focus of establishing the FAO was to deal with the global physical availability of food and agricultural development after World War 2. World Food day is commemorated widely by governments and many other organizations in the world concerned with the production, preservation and distribution of food to ensure food security. In 1979 World Food Day was proclaimed by the Conference of the FAO.
Objectives aimed at highlighting food and nutrition security in South Africa
- To inform South Africans on the National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security.
- To heighten public awareness on issues such as absence and scarcity of food in the country and to strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
- To promote food production and to stimulate national, bi-lateral, trans-national and non-governmental initiatives.
- To encourage research and technology development for the development of symbiotic ecological food production systems so as to ensure sustainable food production.
- To enhance the participation of rural people, particularly women and the under privileged in decisions and events impacting their living conditions.
- To heighten public awareness on the government programmes aimed at halving hunger in South Africa.
- To raise awareness of the public regarding the contribution of indigenous forests to food security and nutrition.
World Food day provides an occasion to highlight the plight of 870 million undernourished people in the world. Most of them live in rural areas where their main source of income is agriculture. Global warming and the biofuel boom are now threatening to push the number of the hungry even higher. FAO helps countries make better investment decisions by strengthening relations with investors and fostering strategic partnerships. FAO facilitates multi-stakeholder dialogue between public authorities and the private sector, banks and microfinance institutions to promote responsible investments in agriculture and rural development, and foster private investments. Contributing to 36 percent of the GDP, agriculture is a key component of the economy in rural areas, with youth unemployment levels remaining high.
Each year, around 180 000 young people enter the labour market and find it extremely difficult to find a job. In particular, young people have difficulty fully engaging in the agricultural sector because they lack access to land, market, technologies, microcredit and occupational skills. Together with fast population growth, this situation increases distress migration, forcing them to leave rural areas in search for better opportunities. This poses additional sustainability challenges to urban centres. Poor smallholders and family farmers dominate the livestock sector, but most struggle with the limited availability and high costs of feed, degraded pasture lands, acquisition of good quality fodder seed or animal health care and access to financial services, markets or technologies.
In addition to these challenges, poor farmers generally do not practice proper animal husbandry. Collectively, this leads to low productivity of livestock. The Livestock and Pasture Development Project aims to reduce poverty and enhance the nutrition of rural households. This initiative also aims to increase income generating opportunities of rural women, including youth, by providing them with job skills, productive inputs and organizational capacities.
FAO is supporting the implementation of the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems. Endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2014, the principles aim to improve nutrition and eradicate food insecurity and poverty by promoting investments that:
- contribute to food security and nutrition
- contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic development and the eradication poverty
- foster gender equality and women’s empowerment
- engage and empower youth
- respect tenure of land, fisheries, and forests, and access to water
- conserve and sustainably manage natural resources, increase resilience, and reduce disaster risks
- respect cultural heritage and traditional knowledge, and support diversity and innovation
- promote safe and healthy agriculture and food systems
- incorporate inclusive and transparent governance structures, processes, and grievance mechanisms
- a¹ssess and address impacts and promote accountability to all sizes and types of agricultural investments, including ones in fisheries, forests and livestock, and to all stages of the value chain.
FAO contributes to the implementation of these principles by strengthening the capacities of policy makers, government staff, parliamentarians, small-scale food producers, producer organizations, and the corporate private sector to make responsible investments in agriculture and food systems.