Sustainable Agro-Food Systems for Addressing Climate Change and Food Security
Wijerathna-Yapa A and Pathirana R
Despite world food production keeping pace with population growth because of the Green Revolution, the United Nations (UN) State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 Report indicates that the number of people affected by hunger has increased to 828 million with 29.3% of the global population food insecure, and 22% of children under five years of age stunted. Many more have low-quality, unhealthy diets and micronutrient deficiencies leading to obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related non-communicable diseases. Additionally, current agro-food systems significantly impact the environment and the climate, including soil and water resources. Frequent natural disasters resulting from climate change, pandemics, and conflicts weaken food systems and exacerbate food insecurity worldwide. In this review, we outline the current knowledge in alternative agricultural practices for achieving sustainability as well as policies and practices that need to be implemented for an equitable distribution of resources and food for achieving several goals in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, animal husbandry, particularly ruminant meat and dairy, accounts for a significant proportion of agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and land use but contributes only 18% of food energy. In contrast, plant-based foods, particularly perennial crops, have the lowest environmental impacts. Therefore, expanding the cultivation of perennials, particularly herbaceous perennials, to replace annual crops, fostering climate-smart food choices, implementing policies and subsidies favoring efficient production systems with low environmental impact, empowering women, and adopting modern biotechnological and digital solutions can help to transform global agro-food systems toward sustainability. There is growing evidence that food security and adequate nutrition for the global population can be achieved using climate-smart, sustainable agricultural practices, while reducing negative environmental impacts of agriculture, including GHG emissions.