Despite progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 736 million people still live in extreme poverty, relying on less than $ 1.90 a day. However, according to current estimations of the World Bank, 40 to 60 million people will fall into extreme poverty in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.

According to the latest report of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 690 million people suffered from hunger in 2019 worldwide. As stated in the World Food Programme's (WFPGlobal Report on Food Crises 2020, about 135 million people in 55 countries suffered from acute food insecurity in 2019. Food security could further deteriorate in fragile countries or regions already affected by multiple crises. It is projected that the global number of undernourished people in 2030 will exceed 840 million people. In this case, it is estimated that the Sustainable Development Goal target 2.1 (Zero Hunger) cannot be achieved.

Although enough food is produced worldwide, particularly rural populations are affected by hunger and undernourishment on a global scale: They cannot afford to buy food, often lack tenure and use rights to land as well as access to basic services and are excluded from policy decision-making processes. This also becomes evident in the agricultural and food security policy of many countries: They often marginalize subsistence and smallholder farmers.

Food security is predominately a question of equal distribution of resources, goods and services. The challenges of people facing chronic food insecurity are exacerbated by massive crop failures due to climate disasters such as droughts or floods, pest infestation such as the locusts plagues, social conflicts and political unrests. Food and water are becoming increasingly scarce. Famines do not only lead to the loss of human life, but also bear potential to destabilize whole regions, causing militant conflicts and migration.

During the last years, hunger and malnutrition have been increasing, especially due to conflicts, variable weather conditions (e.g. extreme heat and drought periods) as well as decreasing economic growth. Rising unemployment and under-employment severely reduce people’s purchasing power and thus access to food. Also, the availability of food, even of the most basic food items, is reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In its efforts to achieve the SDGs, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) supports sustainable and inclusive land-use planning in its partner countries as well as tenure and use rights for the local population. ADA further promotes the empowerment and participation of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in decision-making processes. ADA supports smallholder farmers (family farms) to produce in an environmentally sustainable and resource-efficient manner as well as in improving access to local and regional markets. Investments in local infrastructure (such as improvements in storage and processing of agricultural production) as well as extension and financial services for smallholder farmers and producer associations contribute to local value added.