Authors: Suleiman Yakubu, Monitoring & Evaluation Programme Manager and Hannah Hayes, Senior Communications Manager
As the world gathers for the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this month, the midway point towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) casts a sobering shadow over our collective aspirations. With 2030 in sight, it is disheartening to observe the sluggish pace of progress, particularly in low and middle-income countries across Africa and Asia. These regions, which have long been grappling with developmental disparities, find themselves further off track due to an intricate web of challenges ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to geopolitical conflicts.
As we reflect on the SDG journey so far, it becomes clearer than ever that focusing on strategic investments in Nutrition (SDG 2) holds the key not only to address the immediate crisis but also to fuel longer-term economic recovery.
SDG 2: Zero Hunger – A Stalled Journey
SDG 2, aimed at eradicating hunger, achieving food security, and promoting sustainable agriculture, is pivotal for global prosperity. However, the halfway point to 2030 marks a sad reality of slow progression. Climate change, in particular, has intensified its impact on agricultural yields, further straining already fragile food systems in Africa and Asia. Erratic weather patterns, frequent droughts, and extreme temperatures are rendering traditional farming practices ineffective, leading to reduced crop yields and economic instability.
A Perfect Storm: Climate Change, COVID-19, and Geopolitical Unrest
The world is grappling with a confluence of crises that have disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable populations. The COVID-19 pandemic not only disrupted healthcare systems but also shattered livelihoods, pushing millions into poverty and food insecurity. The consequent disruptions in food supply chains, coupled with pandemic-induced economic downturns, contributed to the food crisis. Adding to this already complex scenario, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent ripples through the global food system and global economies. Escalating tensions have contributed to rising costs of living and strained resources, making it even more challenging for low and middle-income countries to allocate resources needed to achieve the SDGs.
Investing in Nutrition for Economic Recovery: A Path Forward
Amidst these challenges, a beacon of hope emerges in the form of strategic investment in nutrition. Addressing malnutrition, improving agricultural practices, and ensuring access to nutritious food not only align with the aspirations of SDG 2 but also offer a tangible solution for economic recovery. Nourished populations are better equipped to learn, work, and contribute to their economies – nutrition should therefore been seen as a key building block for sustainable development.
The Call to Action: Accelerating Bold Steps
Time is of the essence and we call upon global leaders in government, the private sector and civil society to take bold actions to accelerate progress towards SDG 2, with a multi-pronged approach:
Innovation: Invest in innovative agricultural practices that are resilient to climate change. Embrace technologies that improve crop yield, reduce wastage, and ensure sustainable farming.
Strategic Partnerships: Forge alliances between governments, non-profit organizations, and businesses to create holistic solutions. Collaboration can bridge gaps in resources and knowledge, leading to a more effective response.
Sustainable Finance: Channel financial resources towards nutrition-focused initiatives. By aligning investments with the SDGs, we can unlock new avenues for funding that drive meaningful change.
Community Empowerment: Empowering local communities with knowledge and resources to enhance their food security. This includes providing training in sustainable farming practices, nutrition education, and establishing local food networks.
Policy Advocacy: Civil society and concerned citizens can play a pivotal role in holding governments and businesses accountable for their commitments to SDG 2. Advocating for pro-nutrition policies ensures that the goal remains a top priority.
As we reflect on the journey of the SDGs at the halfway point to 2030, the urgency to accelerate progress cannot be overstated. The world’s most vulnerable populations cannot afford further delay, especially considering the compounding challenges they face. Strategic investment in nutrition, underpinned by innovation, partnerships, and sustainable finance, presents a roadmap to not only recover from the impacts of climate change, COVID-19, and geopolitical unrest but also to pave the way for a resilient and nourished global community. The time to act is now; the future we strive for depends on the choices we make today.