World Food Day 2021: An indispensable march to ending hunger

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World Food Day 2021: An indispensable march to ending hunger

This year’s World Food Day finds us at a critical moment. The Covid-19 pandemic remains a global challenge, causing untold losses and hardship. The impacts of the climate crisis are all around us. Crops have gone up in flames. Homes have been washed away. Lives and livelihoods have been thrown into turmoil due to conflict and other humanitarian emergencies. Global food security challenges have not been this severe for years. Yet in the midst of this all, there is an encouraging new momentum and energy building as we strive to overhaul the ways in which our food is produced, stored, distributed and consumed. We have started confronting the problems and making the structures more fit for purpose. Last month’s UN Food Systems Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, mapped out the broad outlines of how the world needs to move forward to transform agri-food systems. The closing maxim of the gathering was: “From New York back to Rome,” where the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and sister UN food agencies are based. We at FAO have already rolled up our sleeves and got down to the practical tasks of leading the implementation and driving the transformation. A groundbreaking World Food Forum was successfully convened here in the Italian capital early this month, powered by the global youth, and youth representatives at FAO and our sister agencies focused on harnessing the creativity and resilience of our younger generations. They have the most at stake. They will be the ones living with the direct consequences of the climate crisis and malfunctioning agri-food systems. At the same time, the 1.8 billion young people in the world today between the ages of 10 and 24, of which nearly 90% are living in developing countries, provide an unlimited potential to tap. We have already started to leverage that into widespread awareness, holistic solutions and concrete youth-lead actions for change. Of course, the young aren’t the only ones who need to worry about our agri-food systems not being fit for purpose, and on how to make them more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable. We also need to realise that scientists and bureaucrats and even food producers and distributors will never be able to bring about all these desperately needed changes on their own.