The world food situation continues to be cause for serious concern. Millions of small food producers -- many of whom are women -- are struggling to cope with economic and climatic shocks, and with high and volatile food prices. Newly released figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World food Programme now put the number of hungry people worldwide at nearly 870 million -- unacceptable in a world of plenty, a world in which, if food were distributed properly, every person would have enough to eat.
The theme of this year’s World Food Day, “Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World”, draws inspiration from the observance of the International Year of Cooperatives (2012). Agricultural cooperatives play a vital role in improving food and nutrition security. Owned by their members, they can generate employment, alleviate poverty, and empower poor and marginalized groups in rural areas, especially women, to drive their own destinies. As enterprises with a social conscience, cooperatives have also proven to be an effective vehicle for social inclusion, promoting gender equality and encouraging the involvement of youth in agriculture.
The collective orientation that animates the cooperative movement will be equally crucial in meeting the Zero Hunger Challenge, which I launched in June at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Zero Hunger is our vision for a world without hunger, where all food systems are sustainable and everyone enjoys their right to food. The great expertise of agricultural cooperatives will be invaluable in achieving one of initiative’s primary aims: doubling the income and productivity of smallholder farmers. We will also need broad engagement if we are to end childhood stunting and eliminate food waste, two other pillars of the Zero Hunger effort.
On World Food Day, I urge all partners to join the Zero Hunger Challenge. Collectively, we can end hunger in our lifetime.