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In today’s world the challenge of achieving Zero Hunger is quite daunting as demographic pressures, increasing urbanization and climate change are transforming the world we live in. Our agricultural and food systems, which includes all the stages from growing to processing food, are evolving rapidly to counter these pressures. The change is already happening, even where we wouldn’t expect: small cities and rural areas.
However, these rural transformations have not happened everywhere. Why not? South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have not seen the same growth as Latin America and East and Southeast Asia. Are the rural transformations of today leaving some behind?
It is surely not too late to change this course of action and ensure rural transformations are more inclusive. By tapping into the potential of food systems and recognising the roles of small cities and towns in integrated rural-urban planning, inclusive transformations are still possible and they will be crucial to eradicate poverty and hunger. (FAO SOFA, 2017)
Agricultural-related challenges like food insecurity, unsustainable management of resources, distressed migration, natural disasters and other problematics like poverty and conflicts make this phenomenon the worst challenge to be overcome by the human being nowadays. As well as hunger, poverty, unsustainable management of natural resources, distressed migration, food insecurity, malnutrition and conflicts are all connected.
While 2.5 billion people derive their livelihoods from agriculture (FAO, 2012), this is exactly where solutions are crucially needed, especially for smallholders and family farmers who made up 90% of the agricultural ecosystem worldwide!
Internet and digital usage has increased rapidly in the last 15 years; the global internet population has grown to 3.4 billion (46% of the world population). More people now have mobile phones than electricity, clean water, or sanitation, and millions are now better connected, increasing access to new or better products and services with a positive impact on their livelihoods and the economy. In 2015, 89% of the world urban population and 29% of the world rural population have 3G coverage. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that the usage rates of 3G and above will reach 38% in 2020 (from 20% in 2015).
However, the impact of these technologies are not all positive, increasing inequality between those who use them and those who can’t widening rewards for people with skills and access, while upping the penalties for those not having them. These inequalities are reflected too between industrialized and agricultural economies, urban and rural areas and the digital divide affects women and youth even more. ITU estimates that there are some 250 million fewer women online than men and the global Internet user gender gap grew from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016, and is as high as 31% in the world's Least Developed Countries.
At the same time, where the advancement of technology represents a huge potential and offers an innovative approach to tackle global complex challenges, it is fundamental to start focusing on new sustainable agricultural practises, supporting small holders and family farmers and allowing them equal access to land, water, knowledge, technology and markets. Let’s join forces and act collectively toward a better and sustainable future!