This Sunday is World Food Day, a time to pause and think about where our food comes from and what this represents.
It is also a day to reflect on the sad truth that too many people in the world go to bed hungry every night — suffering from too little food or not enough nutritious, healthy food. Roughly one in seven people lack access to food or are chronically malnourished.
At Conservation International (CI), we understand that in order for people to have healthy food on their plates for an active, productive life, they need healthy ecosystems: healthy soils, clean water, pollinators, bountiful fish.
The nascent CI Food Security Initiative has only begun its work with communities and development partners on this important global issue.
Throughout the process of designing the Food Security Initiative, we have learned a lot about the planet’s hungriest populations. Did you know that most of the world’s hungry are actually farmers or pastoralists? Most of the people who are food-insecure live in rural areas and live off the land. But often they do not produce enough food every year, or earn enough income from the food produced, to provide for their families. They are also very vulnerable to natural disasters, changes in weather and price increases. In many parts of the world, including large parts of Africa and Asia, many of the farmers are women. Women and children also tend to be the first to go without when food becomes scarce.
CI’s scientists, economists and field experts have examined the connections between nature and food supplies, concluding that when people are able to be better stewards of land and sea, over time they have more stable and healthier sources of food. Empowering poor, rural people to maintain better agricultural, livestock and fishing practices will ultimately improve their well-being and livelihoods.
In addition, preserving natural areas themselves can help ensure plentiful food down the road. Here are just a few examples:
- Preserving habitat for pollinator species benefits neighboring crops. In fact, bees and other pollinators are necessary for over 30 percent of the food we eat.
- Maintaining upstream forested areas provides clean water for farmers downstream.
- Establishing community-based marine protected areas allows for important fish populations to recover, and they then literally “spill over” from the marine protected area to neighboring fishing grounds.
We are working with our colleagues and local communities in the field to put into practice and better understand how healthier farms, ecosystems and seas can also mean more abundant food for the people who need it most, so we can communicate this message to generate change across the world. All of us can help by thinking about our own food choices every day. Just like a diverse ecosystem, our diets also should be diverse. We also encourage others to have a voice through their food choices and support farmers and brands that are good role models and are good stewards of the land and resources they depend upon.
Bemmy Granados is the manager of CI’s Food Security Initiative.