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We are facing a great opportunity for the food system: we can continue to consume too little or too much, even foods that are not adequate and in an unsustainable way at the cost of the environment, health and political stability or we can change the course of things .
Fixing the food system will help solve humanity's greatest challenges such as creating jobs, reducing pollutant emissions and improving health.
It is worrying that the latest research shows that after a prolonged decline, hunger is on the rise again in the world, with 815 million people in 2016 severely or chronically undernourished, up from 777 million the previous year.
Another 2 billion people suffer from chronic micronutrient deficiencies, also known as 'hidden hunger', the effects of which cause lifelong damage. And what is absurd is that another 2 billion people are overweight or obese.
Food insecurity affects what has become one of the most complex problems in the world, that of forced migration.
This year, World Food Day, celebrated on the 16th of this month, focuses on migration and the importance of investing in food security and rural development so that people do not have to uproot themselves and undertake journeys often. dangerous into the unknown.
The 21st century turns out to be a time of massive human displacement. People are leaving their homes and lands at a much faster rate than World War II (1939-1945).
Conflicts, hunger, poverty and an increase in the occurrence of extreme climatic events are phenomena that favor instability and forced migrations.
In 2015, there were 244 million migrants in the world, 40 percent more than in 2000. Between 2008 and 2015, some 26.4 million people were forced from their homes each year by weather disasters, and 65.3 million fled persecuted or by conflict.
It is possible to change the course of events and it will require a huge effort from governments, civil society, the private sector and academia.
For this reason, it is urgent to carry out research and rigorously involve scientists, who best know the conditions in which deprivation is greatest and what emphasis will be needed.
Genomic transformation, big data, communications, markets and understanding nutrition can also be harnessed to benefit the people who need it most.
The importance of agriculture and agribusiness as engines of growth and promoters of stability cannot be overstated.
As the world's largest individual employer, agriculture provides a livelihood for 40 percent of the world's population, 78 percent in developing countries, so advances in this sector will have a powerful multiplier effect in national economies and in the prosperity of local communities.
In my first year at CGIAR, I was honored to be a direct witness to some of the inspiring and remarkable initiatives undertaken by scientists at our 15 research centers around the world who are committed to finding and sharing innovations so that achievements in agriculture translate into successful rural economies.
To feed a population forecast to exceed 9 billion people by 2050, our scientists implement pioneering improvements to crops, animals and trees to increase their yield, nutritional value and efficiency of use. of resources, as well as build the resistance of plants to drought, higher salinity and against diseases.
Each year, some 200 varieties of new crops with improved characteristics are distributed globally through CGIAR partners with whom we work to drive transformation on the ground.
For example, CGIAR researchers designed a diagnostic tool for caprine pleuropneumonia, a deadly disease that causes large economic losses in goat production in Africa and Asia.
In large parts of South and Southeast Asia, some 5 million people were able to preserve their fragile income modes thanks to a variety of flood-tolerant rice, while in 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the adoption of a drought-tolerant maize it would have generated about $ 395 million in profits.
Biofortified varieties, such as vitamin A fortified cassava, corn and sweet potato, as well as iron beans and millet and zinc rice and wheat are supplements to diets lacking in micronutrients, causing irreparable damage, in particular in the first 1,000 days of life of girls and boys.
The latest studies undoubtedly highlight the number of hungry people, which indicates that we are going in the opposite direction, but there is great potential to reverse that trend.
Science can and is producing solutions to tackle hunger and poverty, so it is essential to support innovation and research to take advantage of scientific advances and address local challenges.
By 2030, the actions of CGIAR and its partners will allow 150 million less hungry people, 100 million fewer poor people, at least 50 percent of them women, and 190 million hectares of less degraded land.
That translates into real prospects to stem the tide of poor and undernourished people, giving them hope for a decent future without leaving their home.
This is an op-ed by Elwyn Grainger-Jones, CEO of the CGIAR organization. It is part of the coverage on World Food Day, October 16.
Translated by Verónica Firme
Photo: Land degradation, responsible for the emigration of rural populations, is a big problem in Senegal. Credit: M. Mitchell / IFPRI.