To mark the food theme of this year’s World Environment Day: ‘Think. Eat. Save’ IUCN urges policy makers to pay greater attention to the role that nature plays in boosting global food security.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of five die every day from hunger.
There are many ways of improving this situation and while reducing food waste is critical, IUCN urges policy makers to make greater use of nature’s ability to provide sustainable solutions and to improve cooperation between sectors to ensure food security.
Ecosystems such as forests, river basins and wetlands play a critical role in food production and security. They support the availability, access, and use of foods, both farmed and wild, and make our food systems more stable. Within these ecosystems, wild sources of food including vegetables, fruits, nuts, bushmeat are important to millions of people, especially during times of famine, insecurity, or conflict when regular food supplies are disrupted. Biodiversity also supports agricultural production through ‘services’ such as water purification, soil formation, nutrient cycling, pest control and pollination.
• Wild animal and plant foods provide vital calories as well as much-needed protein and nutrients to more than a billion people.
• Fish provide more than 1.5 billion people with 20 % of their average per capita intake of animal protein.
• Bushmeat in the Congo Basin alone feeds nearly 100 million people – both urban and rural dwellers – and is important in many other forested regions of the world.
• Bumblebees perform a free pollination service valued at over $200 billion dollars per year, or nearly 10% of the world's agricultural output for human food. If bees disappeared completely, more than one-third of the world’s food production would be threatened
Despite the importance of nature in food production, ecosystem degradation and weak environmental governance is compromising the ability of developing country populations to farm, access and use food effectively.
“An ecosystem aware approach to food security aims for more than just alleviating hunger. It embraces the goal of building long-term food resilience – the capacity of ecosystems to support food production and the ability of people to produce, harvest or buy food in the face of environmental, economic and social shocks and stresses,” says Mark Smith, Director of IUCN’s Global Water Programme.
IUCN is working with partners to promote dialogue and share solutions for the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus, an initiative to support innovation and cooperation between these interdependent sectors.
The main World Environment Day event is being hosted by the government and people of Mongolia, and focuses on the new UN Environment Programme and FAO campaign Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint, which aims at slashing food waste. Mongolia is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world, and is aiming to ensure this growth goes hand in hand with a green economy.