By Elisa Jiménez Alonso
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) recently released its annual flagship publication The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World stating that world hunger was on the rise for the third year in a row. The number of people facing chronic food deprivation had increased to almost 821 million in 2017, from roughly 804 million in 2016. Climate variability and extremes are two of the key drivers of this trend.
In 2017, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU), or the percentage of undernourished people in the world population, reached 10.9 percent. According to the FAO, the main reasons for this deteriorating situation are instability in conflict-ridden regions, economic slowdowns in more peaceful regions, and adverse climate events. The most affected regions are Africa with a PoU of 21% and Asia with 11.4%. The worldwide trend indicates that without increased efforts by the international community, the world will fall short of the Sustainable Development Goals target to eradicate hunger by 2030.
Climate impacts food security and nutrition
Last year’s FAO report suggested conflict and violence were the main causes for food insecurity and efforts to fight hunger should go hand-in-hand with those that aim at sustaining peace. This year and thanks to new evidence, climate variability and extremes are added as a key factor influencing global hunger and a leading cause of food crises.
Since the early 1990s, the number of climate-related disasters has doubled. An average of 213 events per year have occurred between 1990 and 2016 with numbers rising dramatically after 1998.
Climate variability and climate-related extreme events are already impacting agricultural production of major crops in the tropics. A situation that will only worsen without adaptation measures.
Drought: biggest risk to agriculture
Food production is most severely affected by floods, tropical storms, and droughts. However, droughts impact it by far the most causing over 80% of the total losses and damages to agriculture.
Droughts have the potential to affect national food availability and access, impacting nutrition and increasing the national PoU.
Countries in Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia experienced drought through abnormally low accumulated rainfall and also through lower rainfall intensities and fewer days of rainfall.