We’re now less than 10 years away from 2030, the year by which the international community hoped to eradicate global hunger. It was always a tall order, and climate change plus the pandemic have made it even more challenging. The international community is being forced to consider how global food systems must be transformed.

Since 2014, the year before the international community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the number of undernourished people in the world has actually increased, from 607 million to 650 million in 2019, according to the UN. Then, the pandemic happened, and it’s estimated that 70 million to 161 million more people experienced hunger in 2020. This equates to as many as 811 million people who are hungry and nearly 40 percent of the world population (or more than 3 billion people) who cannot afford a healthy diet.

Global awareness of the problem and urgency to solve it is increasing—although, some might argue, not fast enough. This month, the UN once again celebrated World Food Day, with a focus on promoting sustainable agri-food systems, defined as food systems in which affordable, nutritious food is available to everyone, less food is wasted, the supply chain is resilient against shocks, and production does not exacerbate climate change or harm the environment. Not only is this critical to achieving a UN goal of nourishing 10 billion people by 2050, but it is also critical to addressing profound inequalities and severe environmental degradation caused by the way we currently produce, consume, and waste food. Additionally, agri-food systems make up the largest global economic sector, employing 1 billion people around the world.

This global event follows closely on the heels of the first ever Food Systems Summit in September, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. There, the UN secretary-general, UN agencies, governments, business leaders, farmers, and Indigenous people made the case for food systems reform with only “nine harvests left” until the SDGs deadline of 2030. The U.S. announced $10 billion in funding to “end hunger and invest in the food system,” half of which would be spent in the U.S., while the other half would be invested in “fighting global food insecurity.”

Regardless of the controversy, Indigenous people have been a key part of the discussion about sustainable food systems because their regenerative practices have sustained their communities and the earth for tens of thousands of years. Even now, Indigenous people protect 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. Their ability to continue doing so is critical to the entire world’s survival, including global food production. This is something that Nia Tero recognizes, which is why they work to “ensure that Indigenous peoples have the economic power and cultural independence to steward, support, and protect their livelihoods and territories they call home.” They do so through storytelling, policy advocacy, and initiatives that range from building solar-powered infrastructure to promoting Indigenous creatives.

Read the full article about food security and food systems by Joanne Lu at Global Washington.