Objective Zero Hunger in 2030? What strategy for Solidarités International?

Breeder in Kabo, RCA – 2015, ©Vincent Tremeau
  1. Conflict, Climate Change and Covid 19, the terrible trio that exacerbate global food and economic insecurity

According to the United Nations [1], “Extreme hunger and malnutrition remain an obstacle to sustainable development and create a trap from which it is difficult to escape. Hunger and malnutrition make people less productive, more prone to disease and therefore more often unable to earn more and improve their livelihoods. “Conversely, when people lack economic security because they are dependent on precarious employment or have lost their means of production, they cannot meet their food needs. 690 million people suffer from hunger in 2020, or 8.9% of the world’s population (FAO). Many of these people are in rural areas and yet contribute to feeding the world as farmers, breeders or fishermen. And ironically, people with access to too much food tend to waste it; according to the UN, each year an estimated one third of all food produced, the equivalent of 1.3 billion tons, ends up in the garbage cans of consumers and retailers.

Vegetable farming, Gado, Cameroon – 2019

The Global Food Crisis Report 2020 [2] analyzed the main factors contributing to food and economic insecurity and classified them according to the importance of their impact on populations: 1) conflicts and insecurity, 2) extreme climate shocks, 3) economic shocks. To a lesser extent, the following factors also aggravate food and economic insecurity: crop, livestock and human diseases.

The Covid 19 pandemic has changed this situation, making it one of the main causes of hunger and loss of income in the world again. Indeed, in many countries, restrictions on movement affect access to employment, access to means of production (seeds, etc.) or the sale of products. The income, and consequently the purchasing power of many people, is thus greatly diminished. In addition, the various restrictive measures implemented by governments (containment, border closures) have degraded access to food markets and the supply of food products on these markets, whether produced in the country or imported from abroad, sometimes causing price inflation [3]. David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), speaks of the risk of a “famine pandemic” with 270 million people affected [4]. Mark Lowcock, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator points out that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance will rise from 168 million in 2020 to 235 million in 2021, a considerable increase of 40%.

Conflicts and climate shocks will also continue to be major causes affecting the food and economic security of many populations in 2021. During conflicts, civilians are often deprived of their sources of income, food systems and markets are disrupted, resulting in higher prices and/or reduced availability of food and productive commodities and tools. Conflicts prevent businesses from operating and weaken the national economy. David Beasley estimated in 2017 that about 60% of the world’s hungry people live in conflict zones. 80% of WFP’s budgets are allocated to war zones. Concerning climatic shocks (floods, droughts, etc.), they affect the livelihoods of populations, especially those who are highly dependent on natural resources (farmers, herders). Land is degraded, crops are destroyed, while livestock struggle to find water for drinking and sufficient pasture. Natural disasters also impact productive and economic infrastructure: roads, bridges, dams, buildings, irrigation networks, etc. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that agricultural yields will decrease by 20% per decade by the end of the 21st century in some areas of the Sahel.

Fishermen from the village of Molo, Marsabit County, Kenya – 2016, ©Axel Fassio
  1. The Food Security and Livelihoods Strategy of Solidarités International 2020-2025

Achieving zero hunger in 2030 as desired by the Sustainable Development Goals seems, according to the situation previously exposed, an unattainable goal since world hunger figures are increasing again, whereas they had managed to decrease between 2005 and 2015 [5]. This increase could even accelerate if the current crises, conflicts, natural disasters, pandemics continue to intensify.

Solidarités International has been working in the SAME sector (Food Security and Livelihoods) since its creation with its first food assistance operations in Afghanistan. The general objective of its SAME interventions, recalled in its 2020 – 2025 strategy [6], is to ensure sustainable food and economic security for populations vulnerable to political, socio-economic, climatic and health shocks.

According to the intervention logic of SOLIDARITES INTERNATIONAL (SI), our SAME activities are part of 3 different phases of intervention to achieve this objective:

How do SAME activities work?

1) Shock absorption: by covering food needs and supporting food markets, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL (SI) helps prevent the risks of hunger and malnutrition and prevents populations from increasing their vulnerability to the crisis.

2) early recovery: through the distribution of productive inputs, technical support and the rehabilitation of economic infrastructure (reconstruction of markets, road rehabilitation, drainage of agricultural fields, etc.), SI contributes to the revival of the population’s economic activities.

3) risk preparedness and adaptation: in-depth analysis of livelihood capacities and vulnerabilities to shocks enables SI to strengthen these livelihoods and diversify them so that they are more resilient. Through the value chain approach, SI strengthens the adaptive capacities of actors along food chains and labor markets.

For 2025, the strategy of the SAME sector focuses on 3 axes:

  •  Developing our emergency response capabilities, particularly by integrating with our Water-Sanitation-Hygiene (WASH) emergency responses to maximize their impact on populations
  •  Better alert and anticipate SAME needs in the face of chronic shocks by participating in food and nutrition security surveillance systems.
  • Develop the long-term adaptive capacities of food and economic systems, particularly in the face of economic and climatic crises.

SI is well involved in the global Food Security cluster co-led by FAO and WFP, where the association is a member of the SAG (Strategic Advisory Group) [7]. 7] It is the voice of NGOs and contributes to the strategic orientation of this cluster and its accountability to its partners and the populations supported by SAME interventions. SI’s objective is to mobilize as many humanitarian actors as possible in order to find relevant, efficient and sustainable solutions to help reduce food and economic insecurity in the world as quickly as possible.

 How is the search for quality and impact of programs organized at Solidarités International?

SI’s Food Safety and Livelihoods (SAME) unit is part of the Deputy Program Operations Department (DOAP), alongside the  Water/Sanitation/Hygiene (WASH) and MEAL (Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning) units, as well as cross-  functional reference points for the Market-Based Approach and Public Health. This Deputy Directorate guarantees the  technical and methodological quality of IS programs. Its mandate is divided into 4 objectives:

To improve the overall quality of IS operations through the development of tools, guides and training, as well as support for  the formulation of intervention logics and the demonstration of the impacts of interventions.

Improve IS technical skills by conducting training, technical workshops and developing technical partnerships

Provide direct technical support to field programs on specific technical aspects or at critical phases (diagnosis of needs,  strategy, implementation, monitoring-evaluation, development of innovations)

Represent SI’s expertise externally to humanitarian coordination networks or networks for the exchange of expertise and  learning (EAH and Food Security Clusters, ALNAP, Global Task Force Cholera, Humanitarian Environment Network, etc.).

Who Is Julie Mayans ?

Trained as an agricultural engineer, she has been working for 15 years in the Food Security and Livelihoods sector (SAME),  emergency development responses in Africa, America and Asia with several NGOs (SI, ACF, CARE, TGH and IFRC). She has  held several positions in the field: Program Manager, Program Coordinator and also Regional Coordinator.

For the past 6 years, she has been working at Solidarités International’s headquarters as a SAME technical advisor and focal  point for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate. Within the technical department, she provides technical support to the  field teams in the different phases of the project cycle (needs assessment, project design, implementation, monitoring and  evaluation). On the other hand, she is responsible for the development and operationalization of the SAME IS strategy and  the technical orientations related to this sector. Finally, she represents SI’s SAME expertise externally to the global food  security cluster and various inter-NGO working groups (Humanitarian Environment Network, DRR Network, Agriculture  Working Group of the cluster).

1] Sustainable Development Goals, UN

2] Global Report on Food Crises 2020: https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000114546/download/?_ga=2.23710714.192553430.1592491272-1602702074.1572458169

3] To go further, see the study of the Covid 19 working group of the Food Security Cluster: https://fscluster.org/sites/default/files/documents/lessons_from_the_wider_industry_with_respect_to_covid_19_and_impact_on_fs.pdf.

4] In addition, the FAO report “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020”, although referring to the year 2019, estimated that the Covid-19 pandemic could add between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished people in the world by the end of 2020.

5] In ten years, between 2005 and 2015, the number of undernourished people increased from one billion to 800 million, i.e., 200 million fewer people (FAO).

6] SAME Strategy 2020 – 2025: https://www.solidarites.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/strategie-securite-alimentaire-moyens-dexistence-SOLIDARITES-INTERNATIONAL.pdf

7] For more information, see the SAG webpage of the Global Food Security Cluster: https://fscluster.org/page/gfsc-strategic-advisory-group-sag.

Humanitarian to the end!

Forty years ago, in December 1980, when we clandestinely crossed the Afghan border to help the victims of a cruel war imposed on them, I never imagined that 40 years later I would write the preface to the book Aider plus loin by Pierre Brunet and Tugdual de Dieuleveult. This book – published by Éditions Autrement, with the support of Edouard Lagourgue, Frédéric Bos and other friends, and available in bookshops on September 30th – vividly recounts the humanitarian action of Solidarités International.

At the time, we did not take the easy way out. Crossing the border without a visa, acting at the risk of war and having no institutional funding for almost 10 years, when it was massively available in Pakistan for refugees. There was nobody on the other side of the border! We had to go, help them. That was the founding act.

Red Army convoy in Afghanistan.

Access to populations in danger is Solidarités International’s priority and is still its priority today. The book Aider plus loin (Helping further, not translated) illustrates the continuous link between past, present and future. It is a witness to this commitment that is still relevant today.

The editorial choice of the authors is a mirror of the identity of the association. It is the spirit of mission embodied by women and men committed to the field, crisis after crisis. Testimonies, analyses and perspectives complement each other. It is humanitarian action that has built Solidarités International, whose communication is at the service of its mission.

Displaced population in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2015. ©Solidarités International

A fascinating book of testimonials and photos.

You will not get bored leafing through this book where photos and testimonials from the field alternate. It is lively, human, rhythmed, authentic and close to the people and communities at risk. It shows the incredible ability of humanitarians and populations to adapt to each situation: whether it is the Afghan people in resistance or abandoned Romanian orphans, the Rwandan genocide or Sarajevo surrounded and bombed, the earthquake in Haiti or the Ebola epidemic, Syria, Yemen or the Sahel among 46 countries of intervention.

The authors have structured the book in 4 decades, from the birth certificate in 1980 to this year 2020. These 4 stages intersect geopolitical and humanitarian periods with their share of conflicts and disasters that require country-specific relief.

Attacks on the World Trade Center, New York, 11 september 2001.

Think of the East-West Cold War of the 1980s and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the USSR. From the Agenda for Peace of the United Nations Secretary General, Boutros Ghali, to the break-up of the Eastern bloc with its 10 years of war in the Balkans and tragedies such as the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. Let it be the major disruption of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 with new wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Whether it is the Arab springs full of hope and misfortune of which Syria, Yemen or Libya are painful examples.

These humanitarians, actors of the relief effort, are in fact also alert to the challenges that are growing in large proportions and at a frenetic pace. They make the world more unpredictable and dangerous and, year after year, cause an ever-increasing number of internally displaced persons and refugees.

Humanitarian aid in the face of future crises.

There are many crises to come. Climate change and the destruction of the environment and biodiversity. Water scarcity and pollution, epidemics such as cholera, Ebola and Covid-19. Terrorism and war are returning as political tools. Isolationism or tensions caused by heads of state such as Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The questioning of multilateralism also caused by the excesses of globalism. Galloping demography and urbanisation.

 Treatment site for the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, 2015. ©Solidarités International

In these contexts, the politicisation of aid is bound to reduce the space of access to populations in danger and increase insecurity for humanitarians. More than ever, in order to fulfill a difficult mission over time, the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence and humanity are the most faithful allies. This does not prevent us from being lucid about the causes of crises and their logic of exacerbation.

This 40-year history was not written in advance. It was built on boldness over time with a great sense of adaptation and the constant need to do more and better. Today, it is the Covid-19 virus and its consequences that we must fight by innovating, as we did in the spring with the humanitarian airlift to make up for the interruption in air transport.

Other risks are emerging, such as that of confrontation over access to resources or the threat of the internal breakdown of societies undermined by selfishness, mercantilism, consumerism and the lack of unity of peoples and nations.

I encourage you to read this book, offer it for the holidays and spread the word around you. It is a great and magnificent story that shows how solidarity can be the first response to suffering while carrying the hope of living. For this book is first and foremost a message of hope.

Alain Boinet