Achieving zero hunger by 2030 is possible only with collaborative efforts from development partners, private sector, civil society and other stakeholders
The government of Nepal is committed to achieving national development goals in line with the constitution, the current 14th Periodic Plan and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Nepal signed its commitment in 2015 to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The government is making effort to accomplish the targets of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. More importantly, the SDG-2 is vital for Nepal because this is about ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. The focus is on achieving “Zero Hunger by 2030.”
Right to food
The constitution has guaranteed right to food and food sovereignty as fundamental rights of Nepali citizens. Article-36 of the constitution states: “Every citizen shall have right to food; every citizen shall have right to be safe from being in risk of life due to food scarcity; and every citizen shall have the right to food sovereignty in accordance with law.” The national development programs and plans including 14th Periodic Plan have also embraced this spirit. Right to food is our national agenda.
Government of Nepal has recently formulated Multi Sector Nutrition Plan (2013-2017) which has helped reduce malnutrition among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and children below two years. Of late, in line with the first nutrition plan, government has also put forward Multi Sector Nutrition Plan-2 (2018-2022) to address malnutrition issue.
National Planning Commission chaired by Dr Prabhu Budhathoki in the presence of Country Representative of World Food Program (WFP), Pippa Bradford, held a series of three national consultations in Kathmandu recently: first with development partners, UN agencies and INGOs, second with government authorities and private sector and third with civil society organizations. They all pushed for collaborative efforts from all sectors to achieve SDG-2 targets.
Needless to say, achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 is very challenging and this is only possible with collaborative efforts of development partners, private sector, civil society and other stakeholders.
The WFP states that Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries, with alarmingly high malnutrition rates. The ten years long armed insurgency, earthquakes of 2015 and Nepal’s vulnerability to frequent natural disasters have impeded food security and nutrition in Nepal.
The recent reports of Households Surveys conducted by Central Bureau of Statistics indicate around 4.6 million (16 percent of total population) people are estimated to be food insecure in terms of inadequate food consumption. The situation is worse in rural and remote areas. The Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) reports (2016) shows that over one-third (36 percent) of Nepali children under five are stunted, nearly 27 percent of the children are underweight and one in ten (10 percent) are wasted. This results from acute malnutrition. Also micronutrient deficiencies are widespread and it is miserable to note that half of the population on an average is anemic. Malnutrition impacts people’s health, society and the nation. The NPC’s 14th Plan indicates that 23.6 percent of Nepal’s population lives below national poverty line on less than US$ 0.50 per day.
On a positive note, the government statistics suggest that percentage of people living below the national poverty line dropped from 38 percent in 2000 to 21.6 percent in 2015. Likewise, the proportion of population below the minimum dietary consumption dropped from 47 percent in 2000 to 22.8 percent in 2015. These are some successful achievements of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This could be achieved through collaborative efforts among all concerned stakeholders.
While people are struggling to manage two square meals a day, the food they eat is not nutritious either. This is a big challenge. While many waste food, others in the rural areas do not get enough to eat.
Tarai is often said to be Nepal’s food bank. But children in Tarai districts suffer from malnutrition. While there is food crisis in some places, people also lack knowledge about consumption of nutritious food. School textbooks highlight this aspect of nutrition and encourage nutritious food consumption but we have not been able to do much. Only a few Nepalis know how much calories they need to take on a daily basis. Nepali diet is heavy on rice and carbohydrate but light in other vegetables, proteins and vitamins.
Therefore public health awareness programs are critically important. We tend to eat only rice. We have to change food habits and switch to alternative sources. For this we need to enhance agricultural productivity. Agriculture, livestock, public health and public awareness should go hand in hand.
Like other SGDs, achieving SDG-2 is critically vital for Nepal. As food security and nutrition are the two major challenges facing the nation, not only do we require a strong institutional capacity but also diverse types of resources to achieve the goal.
There are families in Karnali region who do not have enough food to eat. In spite of tremendous potentials in agriculture sector, Nepal is not self-reliant on agricultural products. It should also be noted that even in places with good food availability, access to nutrition is a major challenge.
In Tarai districts like Siraha and Kapilbastu, stunting, wasting and underweight are rampant. As we strive to meet these goals, we need to understand the challenges and opportunities within the country.
Rays of hope
We have completed all three sets of elections. With the elected representatives at all three levels, the government efforts to achieve SDGs can be much easier as development partners will extend hands to work with locally elected bodies as well.
Out-migration of young workforce, feminization of agriculture, difficult geography and poor infrastructure, poverty, significant urbanization and with that, a nutrition transition paired with shifting diets, and climate change risks and devastating natural disasters are threats to achieving food security and nutrition. Cooperation, coordination and collaboration among government, private sector, civil society and development partners are crucial for achieving 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), SDG-2 in particular.
The author is a Planning Officer at National Planning Commission, Nepal