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805 million reasons to claim the right to nutrition

December 10, 2014

kidricecopy275Every human being has the right to nutritious food, either by producing their own food or buying it. This right has been recognised under international law since 1948. The site of the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food adds to this: "To produce his or her own food, a person needs land, seeds, water and other resources, and in order to buy them, he or she needs money and access to markets.” Although no one questions this right, on 10 December 2014, the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there still remains much to be done.

Nutrition at the heart of the debate

Globally, 805 million people still suffer from hunger. Two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies caused by diets low in vitamins and minerals and about a quarter of children under five years of age have stunted growth. At the same time, new nutritional challenges are appearing, such as obesity, which particularly affects Pacific countries. The World Health Organization estimates that 50–90% of the population are overweight in at least 10 countries in the Pacific. These are alarming figures that call for joint action by the international community. Recognising the urgency of the situation, the European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) CTA and the World Bank Group have developed a framework for joint action. The document, entitled Agriculture and Nutrition: A common future, outlines how these organisations aim to strengthen the link between agriculture and nutrition as a means of improving diets and people’s nutritional status. It also emphasises the need to support poor producers and peasant agriculture.

Creating effective and sustainable local food systems

Reducing world hunger is not simply a matter of improving food distribution. Whether it is supporting fisherfolk in the Caribbean, women entrepreneurs from Samoa or West African producers’ organisations, CTA believes that agricultural development offers a solution to improving nutrition for ACP producers. This is why the Centre supports efforts to improve the agriculture-nutrition pathway all along value chains, from production through distribution and marketing. In Samoa, for example, CTA is supporting an initiative called ‘Farm to Table' that enables local producers to find new markets for their products. As well as allowing producers to earn more, the initiative has helped to put the spotlight back on local products that have often been disregarded or forgotten about despite their high nutritional value.

Increasing biodiversity and competitiveness

The loss of agricultural biodiversity is contributing to malnutrition. In a few decades, many nutritious traditional crops have been displaced by a handful of crops that dominate world agriculture (maize, wheat, rice, potato, cassava and soya bean). FAO has called for organisations working in the field of agricultural development to concentrate their efforts on re-establishing local food cultures and traditional food systems. There are many initiatives in ACP countries aimed at achieving the universal right to food. In Africa, the 3N initiative ('Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens'), launched by the Government of Niger, aims not only at increasing agricultural production but also at improving the nutritional quality of diets and improving the regular market supply of nutritious foods. In the Pacific, a framework for action on food security for the period 2011–2015 focuses on producing more sustainably grown food and locally caught fish, providing for healthier, affordable diets.