Acute hunger is busy accelerating its march across the globe as the countdown to 2022 is gaining currency in most parts of the world. But, for some already identified 50 million people, their survival in the New Year will depend on humanitarian assistance.
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is praying for $1.5 billion in 2022 to save their lives and livelihoods. The 50 million folks are said to be the world’s most food-insecure people. The FAO announcement came as part of the United Nations’ large-scale humanitarian appeal launched on Friday.
With less than 4 percent of the $41 billion required across all appeals for 2022, FAO aims to provide livelihood assistance to 50 million people.
The humanitarian appeal is coming at a time family farms account for 90 percent of all agricultural holdings in the world, covering a wide range of production systems and peoples, and their thriving is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) number 1 (No poverty), 2 (No hunger) and 10 (Reducing inequalities).
For that reason, FAO is launching a technical platform on family farming, aiming to foster innovation and information exchanges across regions.
The Organisation’s Director-General, QU Dongyu, said via video in his keynote address at the launch event held in Santiago, Chile, “when resources and knowledge are shared, innovation is accelerated. The platform will enable us to think big, but also facilitate concrete actions.”
There are more than 500 million family farms in the world, and as well as producing 80 percent of the world’s food, many of them can and do play fundamental roles in biodiversity preservation and represent the first step for rural transformation, Qu said.
“The multiple incomes and livelihoods strategies generated by family farming play a critical role across agri-food systems”, the Director-General added as his organisation is launching five technical platforms, each global in scope while coordinated by one of FAO’s Regional Offices, to accelerate the adoption of innovations through exchanges of experience and knowledge.
The Regional Technical Platform for Family Farming will be coordinated by FAO’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, in line with the region’s accumulated experience in matters of public policy, policy instruments, legal frameworks, national programmes and institutional capital.
The platform, offered by FAO as a new global public good, makes available to governments, farmers’ organisations, the scientific community, policymakers, the private sector and all those interested in rural development a set of innovative tools for the exchange of experiences and specialized knowledge.
By mobilizing existing knowledge, expertise and best practices from around the world and fostering dialogue, learning and collaboration among a diverse array of partners from inside and outside FAO, the platform aims to promote technical and institutional innovations that strengthen family farmers around the world.
It works as a digital facility to push FAO’s knowledge products, technical and policy expertise an operational know-how, and also as a digital “convention place” making available digital spaces and tools allowing partners and participants to carry out concrete initiatives such as webinars, training events, policy dialogue and virtual learning tours.
Promoting and supporting innovations and the development of family farming is a core requirement for implementing FAO’s Strategic Framework to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 10, the Director-General said.
Several countries in Africa, Europe and Asia have already requested support from FAO in the development of their own National Plans on Family Farming, while the Near East and North Africa has launched a Regional Action Plan on Family Farming. These initiatives should enhance the platform’s corpus of shared knowledge and innovation and help better support and “prepare this sector to take advantage of, and shape, the new opportunities presented by agri-food systems transformation,” he added.
The platform also contributes to the UN Decade of Family Farming 2019-2028, jointly led by FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
FAO has consolidated significant knowledge on family farming, a category that includes farm labourers, indigenous peoples, fisher people, mountain farmers, nomadic pastoralists and many others in all regions of the world.
Family farms include a vast array of production systems and scales. Recent FAO-led research found that more than 90 percent of the world’s 608 million farms are family farms, occupying around 70 to 80 percent of farmland and producing 80 percent of the world’s food in value terms. The term is not synonymous with small farms – covering less than 2 hectares – which operate around 12 percent of all agricultural land and produce roughly 36 percent of the world’s food.
The Platform will also be coordinated with FAO projects and programmes in support of small-scale producers that focus on “the equitable access to resources that is fundamental for agricultural development and growth, and fair markets”, Qu said.
In the meantime, intensifying and spreading conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies, climate extremes and the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – compounded by the multiple impacts of the climate crisis — have pushed more and more people to the extremes of hunger. By September, 161 million people were experiencing high acute food insecurity of whom, 45 million were facing an imminent risk of starvation – a sharp rise compared with 155 million for the whole of 2020.
Rural people are right on the frontlines. Two-thirds of those experiencing acute hunger are in rural areas, relying on agriculture for their daily food and income, and their livelihoods are being threatened.
Speaking at a high-level panel discussion at the launch of the 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview, Qu stressed that the only way to halt and reverse acute hunger is to repurpose financial support to the agriculture sector, which currently receives only 8 percent of allocated humanitarian resources.
“The arc of acute food insecurity continues to shoot upwards, despite a parallel upward trend in humanitarian funding to the food sector,” he said underscoring that agriculture is crucial for providing a path out of protracted and deepening food crises and must be a fundamental element of the immediate emergency humanitarian response.
In 2021, humanitarian appeals related to the agricultural sector were massively underfunded despite being among the most cost-effective humanitarian frontline interventions. For example, in Afghanistan, where four out of five people experiencing high acute hunger are in rural areas, a $157 wheat cultivation assistance package can supply a family of seven with enough staple food for a full year.
Likewise, keeping livestock alive and protected against diseases costs little but provides enormous benefits. For a family on the edge, just one cup of milk a day can make the difference between life and death. In Yemen, for example, with just $8, FAO can vaccinate and deworm an average herd of five sheep or goats, protecting assets worth $500 on the local market.
To this end, the FAO chief called on the humanitarian sector to be more strategic in allocating resources, helping vulnerable people grow food right where it is needed most. This requires providing farmers with seeds and fertilizers in time for the planting season, as well as better access to water and other resources, Qu noted.
The overarching theme of the 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview – a global analysis of humanitarian needs published annually by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – was centred around climate change and humanitarian action.
While conflict remains the number one driver of acute hunger, the climate crisis acts as a risk multiplier, affecting the socio-economic condition, livelihoods and natural resources of people worldwide and increasingly eroding their capacities to cope. It also heightens tensions between communities.
Smallholders and rural communities as a whole are bearing a disproportionate burden of the impact of climate change, climate extremes and conflict. As the climate crisis deepens, the livelihoods of 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, fishers, foresters and pastoralists are being exposed to rapidly mounting risks. In fact, in 2020, 15 food major crises were caused primarily by weather extremes.
Acting before crises unfold
FAO highlighted that alongside humanitarian livelihoods interventions, there is a need to ensure continued efforts to strengthen resilience and scale up disaster risk reduction at the community level to avert and minimize the impact of inevitable climate extremes on food production and availability. It is also critical to increase resources for anticipatory action linked to early warning.
In 2020/21, FAO invested $250 million in anticipatory action, and with the help of partners, the Organization aims to dedicate at least 20 percent of its emergency funding to anticipatory action by 2025.
The latest event in Stockholm is one of six sequential launches to present the 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) taking place in various global capitals. This event was co-hosted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.