Globally, 795 million people are chronically hungry; 161 million children under five are stunted. Yet we use 1.5 times the planet’s resources every year, exhausting resources faster than the planet can naturally regenerate them. A fifth of cropland has been so degraded it is no longer suitable for farming, while 90 percent of fisheries are fished at or above capacity. At the same time, changes in climate in the last 30 years have already reduced global agricultural production 1 to 5 percent per decade and could reduce it by 2 percent per decade for the rest of the century. Up to 600 million more people could be at risk of hunger by 2080 as a result. Proposed solutions to hunger in a changing climate often emphasize increasing food production. Improving yields where there is not enough food or among small-scale food producers is key. But simply increasing small-scale food producers’ yields is not enough to end hunger.
Inequality shapes who has access to food and the resources to grow it and buy it. It governs who eats first and who eats worst. Inequality determines who can adapt to a changing climate. Hunger and poverty are not accidents—they are the result of social and economic injustice and inequality at all levels. The reality of inequality is no truer than for women—half the world’s population, with far less than their fair share of the world’s resources. To end hunger and malnutrition in a changing climate, we must address the underlying inequalities in food systems.
The way forward: Recommendations for cultivating equality in food systems
We cannot solve hunger in the face of climate change without address inequality. The cumulative reality of the challenges we face is proof that we need a new response to hunger, climate change, and poverty in which sustainability and equity are the foundation.
CARE’s recommendations for the global community in developing approaches to addressing climate change and food and nutrition security mirror our own priorities:
- Integrate gender awareness and prioritize women’s empowerment in all approaches;
- Prioritize capacity building and investments that support small-scale food producers as vital contributors to food security;
- Ensure small-scale food producers’ and women’s participation in planning, policy, and budget processes; and
- Integrate a response to climate change in all approaches to food and nutrition security.
CARE is calling on policymakers and donors to enact policies to address the threat of climate change, to ensure the rights of small-scale food producers and women in particular are protected, and to scale up funding to support their efforts to realize their right to food.
But CARE’s appeal to the world community includes the general public. Each of us can make a difference:
- Know where your food comes from to make sustainable consumption choices;
- Call on your governments to support gender and equity and ambitious climate action; and
- Celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8), Earth Day (April 22), and World Food Day (October 16) by volunteering locally and spreading the word.
Without urgent action in the face of climate change, the world is at risk of the breakdown of local food systems, migration, increased risk of food insecurity, conflict and the loss of rural livelihoods due to water scarcity. Smallholder farmers – particularly women – deserve our support as they struggle to adapt to a new and challenging era.