What would it take to eliminate hunger in our lifetime? The key is agriculture, though it's complicated.
"Investing in climate resilient agriculture is essential to improving the lives of 500 million small-holder farmers around the world and bolster local, resilient food systems," Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations, told Global Citizen, ahead of the G7 summit in June. The op-ed urged host country Germany to once again lead the fight against hunger and strengthen multilateral institutions to protect the most marginalized.
The power of sustainable agriculture lies in its potential to relieve hunger and create lasting change by addressing the environmental, economic, and social factors affecting food security — critical to meeting United Nations Global Goal SDG2 to 'end hunger, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.'
Today almost 2.3 billion people lack reliable access to sufficient food, 828 million people are undernourished, and 50 million are on the brink of famine, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Conflict and crisis have exacerbated the challenge of global food security. Almost a decade of progress toward ending extreme poverty was as risk due to COVID-19, and global hunger is on the rise and predicted to worsen in the years ahead as a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
So what will it take to create a world free from hunger by 2030 in accordance with SDG2? Farmers around the world must continue to adapt and leverage new technologies, while returning to traditional knowledge aimed at sustaining the livelihoods of farmers, communities, and the food systems that support us.
As a committed and outspoken champion for small-holder farmers, Ban Ki-moon and the Ban Ki-moon Center for Global Citizens (BKMC) have worked with Global Citizen to bring attention to the role small-holder farmers play in the fight against climate change. This means calling on world leaders to meet the financial need to support adaptation measures that promote global food security.
"If we don't act now to build resilience to climate change in small-holder farming, a 30% decline in agricultural production is predicted by 2030, alongside a 50% rise in global food demand that would cause great peril to the livelihoods of many, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, where small-holder farmers produce 80% of the food," said Ban Ki-moon in his remarks during July London Climate Action Week.
By investing in small-holder farmers today, "almost $1.8 trillion spent on adaptation [could] save more than $7.1 trillion in climate costs, preventing further poverty and hardship while increasing global food security."
That's why Global Citizen positions small-holder farmers at the heart of its SDG2 campaigning, collaborating with BKMC to elevate agricultural adaptation and unlock financial commitments that power agricultural research and innovations — led by institutions like CGIAR that directly benefit rural communities.
BKMC members attended Expo2020 in Dubai in March, holding decisive presentations on agricultural adaptation while facilitating conversations that could shape the future of food security.
BKMC and Ban Ki-moon published op-eds in the Independent (UK) and Welt (Germany) in May and June calling on world leaders to take the necessary steps ahead of the G7 meetings in Germany to resource rural farmers properly. Not long after, more than 35,000 Global Citizens signed an open letter urging world leaders to fight food insecurity and equip rural communities.
The work continued in 2022 as Global Citizens explored the effects of transformative adaptation in the agricultural sector and climate change, taking action on food security. And for some, the work began at home, becoming food champions by growing their food while cultivating a relationship with the garden and food systems worldwide.
"Nature never forgives," Ban Ki-Moon told the Independent (UK) in September, ahead of the COP27 meetings in Sharm El-Sheikh — an annual global climate summit in which world leaders will meet to discuss their plans to combat the climate crisis. Global Citizens campaigned alongside 'AgriChampions,' and youth activists who, in partnership with BKMC, advocated tirelessly for the needs of rural farmers throughout the event.
Richard Kachungu, Azeez Akanni Salawu, and Jean Claude Niyomugabo took to Global Citizen's Instagram for a day, showing the world COP27 proceedings through their eyes, following a BKMC-hosted panel on agricultural adaptation where the 'AgriChampions' presented a demand paper calling on world leaders to step up for small-holder farmers.
Agricultural trade remains fragile across the globe, and small-holder farmers are among the first to be affected by climate change's impacts. But agricultural adaptation solutions that enable rural communities to thrive amid crises only receive a tiny fraction of climate finance allocated annually by world leaders.
"In this extraordinary time of need, citizens must urge their government to step up and do all they can to provide support. That will mean donors raising development budgets to cover rising costs," wrote Ban Ki-moon in May.
One thing rings true as we look toward 2023: small-holder farmers play a crucial role in creating just, resilient, and nutritious food systems, and supporting them holds the key to ending world hunger.