Experts gathered at Expo 2020 Dubai on Sunday to discuss food security problems being faced across the world and to determine future solutions during the mega-event’s designated World Food Day.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset, many countries suffered from hunger, with large amounts of the world’s population being malnourished with no access to healthy food.
Recent estimates suggest that over 51 million people in the Near East and North Africa region have been grappling with hunger and that agriculture systems in many countries are under tremendous pressure due to loss of biodiversity and climate change, a statement released by the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“This World Food Day, we commit to take transformative action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals through food systems that deliver better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for every person,” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his annual video message.
“We are global citizens, and we need to do our part as well as help others. Our national food security strategy will make the UAE a world-leading hub of innovation-driven food security in the next 30 years,” Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb al-Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said at the event.
The FAO has been using real-time data to “identify hot spots” and to determine “where and what the challenges are,” said the organization’s Chief Economist, Maximo Torero Cullen.
“Widespread hunger persists because of five factors: COVID-19, climate variability, conflict, cost, and the affordability of healthy diets, as well as economic slowdown and downturns,” he said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic “pushed another 140 million people into poverty, and the impact is unequal between countries, which means it will have a long-term effect on food insecurity.”
“We [the FAO] use innovation and technology to find the best solutions, as well as science, and we ensure that all of the data and everything we use is inclusive to all, especially smallholders,” he added, suggesting that if they could attract an annual investment into the matter of around $39-50 billion until 2030 to fund targeted interventions such as agricultural R&D, agri-tech and innovation in food waste, they can “implement low-cost, high-impact interventions” to eradicate hunger.
The UAE has been actively working on innovating the industry with community-focused solutions.
“One particular aspect of sustainable food systems we are actively working on is urban farming, an emerging form of agriculture that has huge potential in meeting SDG2 [United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 2: to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030] by placing crop production at the heart of the community,” said minister al-Mheri.
Expo 2020 Dubai, the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, launched on October 1, and features the participation of over 190 countries.
The mega-event, which is the world’s biggest in-person event to take place since the pandemic’s onset, will continue until March 31, 2022.