NASA Harvest extends a hearty congratulations to 2020 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). WFP is one of the world’s largest nonprofit humanitarian organizations dedicated to feeding the most vulnerable populations in the face of emergency, natural disasters, and conflict. The institution works tirelessly to promote policies and programs supporting sustainable global food security and ensuring that no person goes hungry. WFP aims to ensure that all children have the nutrition they need for healthy growth, that families have access to nutritious food even when disasters occur, that farmers are able to produce enough food for themselves and profitable market participation, and that nations can quickly respond to food crises. The Nobel Peace Prize committee strongly believes in this mission, emphasizing that “the work of the World Food Programme to the benefit of humankind is an endeavour that all the nations of the world should be able to endorse and support” and furthermore, that "multi-lateral cooperation is absolutely necessary to combat global challenges."
This year has thrust global food security into the limelight. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, global food insecurity was already on the rise. 690 million people went hungry in 2019. This is an increase of 10 million individuals since 2018 according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World -- continuing an unfortunate trend of yearly increased hunger that started in 2014 largely due to conflict, weather extremes and economic shocks. The World Food Programme explains that “Where there is conflict, there is hunger. And where there is hunger, there is often conflict. [The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize] is a reminder that food security, peace and stability go together. Without peace, we cannot achieve our global goal of zero hunger; and while there is hunger, we will never have a peaceful world.”
Furthermore, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030 is, at this moment, a far-off target that is only getting farther away given the impact of COVID-19. If recent trends continue, the number of people affected by hunger is estimated to surpass 840 million by 2030 according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. This is without considering the potential damaging short and longer term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a disproportionate effect on the world’s most at-risk communities and is estimated to add between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world in 2020. The pandemic and the associated restrictions are pushing people into further levels of acute food insecurity and affecting new communities previously food secure. “Food is often the first thing people need when catastrophe strikes. Natural disasters like typhoons and droughts destroy homes and farmland, leaving entire communities homeless and hungry,” says WFP USA. The organization is not only faced with the challenge of responding to new global food crises as a result of the pandemic, but also continues to provide aid to high-risk areas experiencing other types of emergencies that threaten food security.
NASA Harvest is proud to work with our partners of WFP’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) team. VAM provides geospatial and economic analysis, food security monitoring and assessments, post-shock assessments and thematic analysis allowing WFP to perform effective targeting, determine the most appropriate type and scale of intervention (e.g. food distributions, school feeding, cash or voucher programmes), and ensure the most efficient use of humanitarian resources by allocating funding according to needs. WFP VAM has been a core partner of the NASA Harvest coordinated GEOGLAM Crop Monitor for Early Warning (CM4EW) since its inception in 2016, which operationally reports monthly science-backed and consensus-based summaries of current global crop conditions in countries at risk of food insecurity in partnership with the main international agriculture and food security monitoring agencies. Through this collaborative partnership, the Crop Monitor for Early Warning Community is supporting humanitarian decision making in their relief response, strategy, and planning by reducing uncertainty surrounding global crop conditions and putting actionable information into the hands of decision makers.
The award of the Nobel Peace Prize for WFP’s work towards supporting our world’s most vulnerable communities is shining a critical spotlight on the state of food insecurity and conflict, turning the world’s attention to those affected. The opening lines from this year’s Nobel committee in their award of the prize to the UN WFP stated that “the need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation is more conspicuous than ever...” These words ring true. Addressing both the COVID-19 pandemic and the sheer scale of food insecurity requires us to work across disciplines and sectors and come together as a community to use the tools and research available to mitigate shocks to food production and threats to food security. Through collaboration and open data sharing, we can better support national ministries at the frontlines of these impacts through earlier warning of disasters and in turn earlier mitigation actions, supporting agricultural resilience. While our goal of Zero Hunger by 2030 goal may still be a far way off, the tools and technology at our disposal can support farmers, policy makers, and humanitarian organizations in building a sustainable and food-secure world for all if we work together towards this common goal.
*This article was revised on 11/3/20 to reflect FAO SOFI's updated 2020 report*