January 2017

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One of the goals of the United Nations is summed up in the tagline, “Climate is Changing, Food and Agriculture Must too.” The aim is to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition thereby achieving zero hunger by the year 2030. To participate in this illustrious goal, some students of The UWI aspire to highlight the key challenges, major steps that should be taken as well as consequences and benefits of achieving the status of “Zero Hunger.”

Four of the major challenges affecting the Caribbean region on the way to achieving zero hunger are:

  • Food insecurity and climate change
  • Poverty, hunger and malnutrition
  • Food waste
  • Inadequate distribution of key resources

Hunger is a problem that has plagued the world throughout history. Despite the media’s heavy focus on countries such as those on the African continent, hunger is present worldwide. Some methods specific to the Caribbean which will aid in accomplishing the “Zero Hunger” goal include:

  • Home gardening
  • Investment in aquaponics
  • Proper prisoner utilization
  • Minimize food wastage

Home gardens will allow people to produce a portion of their food, thus resulting in an overall diminishing demand. Consequently, large producers will begin to lose sales and in a scrambling effort to maintain their market share, will decrease their prices. Accordingly, more people would have regular access to cheaper, more economically priced foods.

Aquaponics is an integrated agriculture system whereby fish waste and water fertilize plants and inversely, the plants filter the returning water for the fishes. A small aquaponics system which can produce up to 100 fishes and 1.5m2 of crops cost an average of TT$700. Use of such systems will result in a cheaper, more accessible supply of food and allows us to have assured year-round production.

Another idea could be to have prisoners cultivate marginal lands.

These methods take the impacts of climate change into account. However, the following highlights some specific considerations about working in tandem with these growing climate-related challenges to achieve the zero-hunger goal in the Caribbean.

Culture is the backbone to any nation, and in order to produce substantial yet sustainable change within a country, we must get personal. The installation of aquaponics systems in schools introduces the notion of a green culture. By exposing youths to simple, effective strategies of sustainability, they are able to experience the reality of a greener tomorrow immediately. It becomes a way of life. This fosters the sustainable culture necessary within the Caribbean.

This creative technique of educating the public should not cease with students. It is important to educate the leaders, farmers and home gardeners about the importance of investing in drought-resistant crops and providing incentives for them to do so.

With regard to food wastage, we should take “deformed” goods into consideration as they can be perceived as “inedible” based on appearance, although they are indeed highly nutritious, and actually edible. This would end the vicious cycle of disposing these “imperfect” fruits and vegetables to maintain a certain quota of customers and quality, which is practised by competitive companies. The media plays an influential role in the way we perceive things. Studies have shown it affects consumer patterns and in turn, businesses react to those buying habits. It is important to remind the public of their power and encourage them to make a conscious change in their buying patterns to contribute to less food wastage.

Finally, it is important to consider the numerous consequences which may arise if we do not achieve the zerohunger goal. These include extreme hunger which evidently leads to malnutrition, lack of access to education, inadequate housing, poor sanitation and nutrition.

The United Nations elaborates that poor nutrition causes 45% of deaths of children under five (3.1 million) each year. These consequences can result in decreased productivity, which hampers sustainable development and GDP. Overall, there would be increased yet severe cost to society, the environment, the nation and the wider world.

Moreover, by achieving the zero hunger goal, previously deprived populations will now have access to safe and nutritious food, improved healthcare, housing and education. Through agricultural biodiversity and technological advancements, they will experience the results of nutritious diets, enhanced livelihoods for farming communities and more resilient and sustainable farming systems. By means of access to education, it will generate a more cultured and knowledgeable population, thus contributing to productivity of their country hence increasing the country’s GDP. Finally, implementation of sustainable food production systems would aid in maintaining ecosystems and strengthen their capacity to adapt to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters.

This article was written by: Prashant Maharaj, Rayisa Yearwood, Regene Pope, Renata Ramoutar, Rommel Dookeran, Ryan Dhanraj, Samantha Singh, Sangeeta Ramberran and Saschel Bujan. It was a feature done in celebration of World Food Day, in the course ENRM 3000: Natural Resource Economics and Assessment lectured by Dr Sharon Hutchinson.