How young people are transforming food systems around the world

The 2023 Global Hunger Index (GHI) was released on October 11, 2023, by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide. The report highlights the role of youth in shaping food systems and addressing hunger and malnutrition.

What is the Global Hunger Index?

The Global Hunger Index is a tool that measures and tracks hunger at the global, regional, and national levels. It ranks countries based on four indicators: undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality. The GHI score ranges from zero to 100, where zero is the best score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst.

How young people are transforming food systems around the world
How young people are transforming food systems around the world

According to the 2023 GHI, the world is making progress in reducing hunger, but not fast enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030. The report estimates that 690 million people are undernourished, 144 million children are stunted, 47 million children are wasted, and 5.2 million children die before their fifth birthday due to hunger-related causes.

The report also reveals that hunger is unevenly distributed across regions and countries, with the highest levels of hunger in Africa south of the Sahara and South Asia. Moreover, hunger is exacerbated by conflicts, climate change, pandemics, and inequalities.

Why youth matter for food systems?

The report defines youth as people aged 15 to 24 years, who make up about 16 percent of the world’s population. Youth are not only the future of food systems, but also the present. They are involved in various aspects of food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management. They are also consumers, innovators, activists, and leaders who can influence food policies and practices.

The report argues that youth have the potential to transform food systems for the better, by bringing new ideas, skills, technologies, and perspectives. However, they also face many challenges and barriers, such as lack of access to land, credit, markets, education, training, employment, and participation. Therefore, they need more support and opportunities to realize their aspirations and contribute to food security and nutrition.

How are youth shaping food systems?

The report showcases several examples of how young people are making a difference in food systems around the world. Some of these examples are:

  • In Kenya, a group of young farmers formed a cooperative called Shamba Maisha, which means “farm life” in Swahili. They use digital platforms to access information, markets, and services for their crops and livestock. They also practice climate-smart agriculture and agroforestry to improve their productivity and resilience.
  • In India, a social enterprise called Kheyti provides low-cost greenhouses to smallholder farmers, along with training, financing, and market linkages. The greenhouses enable farmers to grow high-value crops year-round, increase their incomes, and reduce their risks from weather shocks. Kheyti was co-founded by a young woman named Kaushik Kappagantula.
  • In Brazil, a youth-led movement called Slow Food Youth Network promotes local, traditional, and sustainable food cultures. They organize events such as [Disco Xepa], which means “disco soup” in Portuguese. They collect food that would otherwise be wasted from markets and supermarkets, and cook it into a communal meal with music and dance.
  • In Nigeria, a young entrepreneur named [Angel Adelaja] founded a company called [Fresh Direct], which grows fresh vegetables and herbs in shipping containers using hydroponics and solar power. The containers can be placed in urban areas, reducing the need for transportation and storage. The company also employs and trains young people from low-income backgrounds.

What can be done to empower youth in food systems?

The report calls for more actions to enable youth to participate in and benefit from food systems. Some of these actions are:

  • Investing in youth education and skills development, especially for girls and young women
  • Providing youth with access to land, finance, technology, and markets
  • Creating decent and dignified employment opportunities for youth in food systems
  • Supporting youth innovation and entrepreneurship in food systems
  • Engaging youth in policy dialogue and decision making on food issues
  • Strengthening youth networks and movements for food system change

The report concludes that youth are key actors for ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. By empowering them to shape food systems that are inclusive, sustainable, and resilient, the world can achieve a brighter future for everyone.

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