Ending hunger: Way forward on SDG 2

3 February 2017

The world has committed to the  17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 2 is on ending hunger, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture – a world which is healthy not hungry. How is the Anglican Communion responding?

Sustainable Development Goals

Over 2017, the Anglican Alliance will be running a series of articles reflecting on the Anglican Communion’s response to the SDGs. These articles will share the insights from the international community on how to achieve the SDGs, as well highlighting the activities and learning of the churches and agencies around the Anglican Communion.

At last year’s Primates’ gathering, the Primates also asked the Anglican Alliance to gather theological resources and Bible studies to underpin the Communion’s response to the SDGs. This will ground our activities within the broader understanding of holistic mission as set out in the Anglican Five Marks of Mission. Many churches and agencies are already working on this and the Alliance’s role will be to gather and share these theological and biblical resources.

Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger

SDG 2 – ending hunger –is a deeply Biblical concern. The Bible tells repeatedly of God’s response to his people when they hunger. In the prayer our Saviour taught us, we pray: “Give us this day our daily bread”. In the Beatitudes, Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.” (Luke 6:21) And of course Jesus fed the Five Thousand.

As a Church we continue to gather around food – around the breaking and sharing of bread in the Eucharist. And as a Church we are also deeply involved in the lives of our communities, as farmers, traders, consumers and families.

This first article looks at SDG 2: ending hunger, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. Over the coming year we will look at this from different aspects, asking questions and holding up examples of local agricultural practices to achieve food security. We will also discuss deeper advocacy issues of food justice for a sustainable global food system.

World Food Programme’s initiatives

Last week, Revd Rachel Carnegie, Co-Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance, attended a World Food Programme (WFP) event in London which highlighted the key steps to achieve SDG 2.

The World Food Programme has identified 5 key interventions or steps to Zero Hunger:.

Step 1: Put the furthest behind first – we must commit to leave no-one behind.

Step 2:  Pave the road from farm to market – access to affordable, nutritious food is vital.

Step 3: Reduce the amount of food we waste from our plate and after harvest.

Step 4: Encourage a sustainable variety of crops – address over-dependence on a few staples.

Step 5:  Make nutrition a priority – ensure every child reaches his or her full potential.

There are today 2 billion people in the world who are malnourished. The main message from the WFP is that this problem, with its terrible human cost, can be solved. And the solutions cost less than the current cost of global malnutrition.

The various steps proposed by the WFP relate to all countries in the world – places where people survive on subsistence farming or places of gross food waste.

This article focuses on Step 4: encouraging a sustainable variety of crops – addressing over-dependence on a few staples. In the coming weeks the Anglican Alliance will explore the other food issues.

Today 60% of all the crops grown in the world are just four staples: rice, wheat, maize and potatoes. This narrow variety of staples make populations very vulnerable to food shortages, if crops are affected by changing climate patterns, insufficient, unreliable or too much rain, as well as crop disease. Rotation with other crops as well as inter-planting legumes can also help to rebuild the fertility of the soil.

Experience of hunger across the Communion

In 2016 and in early 2017, the Anglican Alliance has been contacted by a number of dioceses and provinces whose people are facing severe food shortages – in Africa and other parts of the Communion.

Just in January, the Diocese of Kagera in the Anglican Church of Tanzania wrote to the Anglican Alliance about their people’s hunger.

Thomas William Shavu, who works in their Church and Community Mobilisation programme, wrote: “The Diocese of Kagera is once more in crisis but this time it is a gradual erosion of our ability to support ourselves due to climate change and the consequent loss of reliable rains for the crops.”

” This is having a particularly devastating effect on three Districts, but is affecting all parts with reduced crop yields and income. People are now going without food.” Many are surviving on a single meal a day, he added.

Similar accounts have come to the Anglican Alliance from other parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique, Southern Africa and Madagascar – as well as other parts of the world. The family of churches and agencies around the Communion are coming together to assist where the situation is critical but also to see how local churches can support agricultural adaptation to climate change and measures to prepare for periods of food insecurity through better storage, etc.

Encouraging a sustainable variety of crops

The Anglican Alliance has been discussing this issue with the Council of Anglican Provinces (CAPA) which is monitoring the situation across Africa and working with the provincial development teams.

June Nderitu, CAPA Social Development Officer and Anglican Alliance Africa Regional Facilitator, highlighted the overdependence on single staple crops. Echoing the WFP’s promotion of a sustainable variety of crops, June said: “Maize is not a traditional crop in Africa… but it has become the staple. It is very dependent on rain. People say that there is a drought when there is no maize. But they can still grow and eat millet, sorghum and cassava [traditional crops] which are more resilient to drought.”

“Some parishes, especially those involved in Church and Community Mobilisation (CCM) processes, are working to change people’s perceptions of what is food shortage [not just a lack of maize] so that they will open to use other foods,” June added.

June’s words are confirmed by experience in the dioceses.

Yesterday, Revd Rachel Carnegie and Dr Janice Proud of the Anglican Alliance spoke with Bishop Dickson Chilongani, of the Diocese of Dodoma in Tanzania. Bishop Chilongani was visiting the Anglican Communion Office as part of the Canterbury Cathedral’s course for new bishops.

Bishop Chilongani described the desperate situation of delayed rains and food shortages in his diocese: “The rain is late. It should have come in November but only started properly last week. Farmers have planted three times,” he said, as each planting failed due to lack of rain.

“Poor farmers have nothing. Food prices have doubled, while livestock is being sold at half price or even less,” he added, as farmers can no longer afford to feed their cattle and goats. He asked the whole diocese to pray. The rains have now come.

Growing demonstration farms

Bishop Chilongani is himself an advocate for diversifying crops and has tested this in his own farm. “I have challenged people to plant millet. It doesn’t dry [like maize when the rains fail] and it is very traditional. My own millet has survived even when there was no rain for three weeks,” he said.

The bishop has also introduced legumes (cow peas) to plant between the millet to increase the nitrogen fertility in the soil.

Bishop Chilongani’s vision is for the diocese to develop its model demonstration farm, so that clergy, the Mothers’ Union and others can study and learn.

In many dioceses the churches are also working with the government agricultural departments. This is crucial for sharing learning and focusing appropriate investment.

In terms of advocacy, June Nderitu raised the questions: “What are governments committing to in terms of percentage of budget investment in agriculture? And is this investment adding value?”

Rachel Carnegie, from the Anglican Alliance, said: “The goal to end hunger by 2030 is achievable, but it will take the commitment of all, to share what we have and to bring the best learning and practices to create a just and sustainable food system globally. Please pray for all those that hunger today, that they shall be filled – and that the world shall achieve zero hunger.”

Please send your examples of activities, photos, theological reflections and Bible studies on the Sustainable Development Goals to the Anglican Alliance so these can be shared with others in the Communion – at AnglicanAlliance@aco.org

WFP are using the hashtag: #HealthyNotHungry which you can also use to engage in the global movement and share your examples. You can also link to the Anglican Alliance’s Twitter handle @AngliAlliance