To make more progress in the fight against hunger, the world needs to make at-risk communities less vulnerable to climate shocks and other emergencies, according to the UN World Food Programme.
“If we want to break out of the never-ending cycle of crisis and response, we need to address the root causes of hunger by multi-year, long-term projects that shield communities from the impacts of the climate crisis,” said Volli Carucci, WFP’s Head of Resilience and Food Systems.
Reducing humanitarian need is just as important as responding to humanitarian emergencies, noted Carucci. “It’s the flipside of the emergency response coin and we shouldn’t pursue one without the other.”
On World Food Day this year, some 345 million people are facing acute food insecurity and the humanitarian system is struggling to keep pace with the needs. Climate extremes are a key driver of global hunger and in 2022 alone, they pushed 56.8 million people into acute food insecurity.
While the role of climate in driving up hunger is growing, solutions are available. Early-warning systems can help vulnerable communities prepare for weather shocks. Communities and local food systems can be protected by restoring water resources, digging irrigation canals and rebuilding natural barriers against climate extremes.
In 2022, 9.4 million people in 50 countries benefited from WFP programmes which work to restore and manage the natural resources on which food production depends. Meanwhile, 15 million people in 42 countries received assistance in managing climate risks, using solutions such as crop insurance. To implement these programmes, WFP works with communities, governments, other UN agencies and NGOs on the ground.
In Malawi, WFP’s integrated resilience projects have helped communities adapt to more extreme weather and has reduced the need for humanitarian assistance. The number of participants depending on emergency relief dropped from 19 percent in 2019 to 3.6 percent in 2022.
Meanwhile, nearly 500,000 people have received humanitarian assistance this year through climate risk insurance payouts after drought disasters in Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Mali. This was made possible by insurance policies that WFP purchased through the African Union’s African Risk Capacity Replica programme.
Making food systems more resilient involves a raft of different approaches. Some programmes help rural people to restore soil fertility, rebuild market infrastructure and reduce post-harvest losses. Others promote so-called Home Grown School Feeding, in which school meals programmes source the food they need from local farmers. Land rehabilitation and water conservation are also critically important.
“We need to rewire food systems in the places where people are hungry, and regenerate the foundation of those systems: the land. We have to help small farmers bring food back to degraded land and create jobs within food systems. In the long run this will help reduce humanitarian needs and the number of costly emergency response operations needed,” Carucci said.