Empowering accessibility of food and dealing with pandemics

  • Jagadish Wagle

Accessibility is one of the four components of food security. Food is believed to be accessible and inclusive if the cost is affordable and the goods are easily available. The regular source of income determines the affordability of a consumer. Affordability can also be empowered by the entitlement of direct cash distribution. Moreover, inclusive distribution approach with perfect market helps people to get food everywhere and anytime which empowers the approach of accessibility. The accessibility of food has already been broken globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic which is, indeed, a health crisis that has also dismantled the sources of income, market and the food system which triggers food insecurity, if preventive and innovative measures are not taken in time. COVID-19 has added further crisis on the crisis of food insecurity by damaging the system.

Food security is not only a matter of filling belly but also a serious issue of nutrition that helps to boost physical immunity up. The people whose immunity power is low are more vulnerable with COVID-19.  More importantly, Food system aims to achieve food security by providing essentials nutrients (carbohydrates, lipids (fats), proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water) along with social and environmental welfare. It doesn’t matter how much food is being consumed but what is important is how much calories have been achieved. Hence, the approach behind the food consumption should be considered as a gain of nutrients. Lack of nutrients creates unhealthy hungry world and unbalanced consumption of nutrients make the population obese. Hence food, less or over both are harmful. In another words, food sometimes can be a poison if it is not consumed by calculating daily need of calorie intake. An inclusive food approach in terms of its variety and availability to all is a way of empowering accessibility of food. Moreover, accumulating nutrients through accessibility ultimately increase body immune system that helps to fight against harmful virus like COVID-19.  

Food system is an interconnected complex web of activities from ‘farm to fork’. It involves all efforts of production, processing, transport, and consumption where as food security considers availability, affordability, utility and sustainability. Issues concerning the food system include the governance, economics of food production, its sustainability and the degree of food waste. Hence, a food system works closely with how food production affects the natural environment (climate change) and the impact of food on health.’       

Moreover, inclusive distribution approach with perfect market helps people to get food everywhere and anytime which empowers the approach of accessibility. The accessibility of food has already been broken globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic which is, indeed, a health crisis that has also dismantled the sources of income, market and the food system which triggers food insecurity

A huge, unbearable negative impact on food system and the socio-economic sector has been experienced since COVID-19 started from Wuhan, China in December 2019. People are losing affordability to access food due to stagnant economic activities and reducing their income. Food market is struggling to meet the demand which push the price level up. The world had already experienced economic recession due to the hiking of food prices in 2007-08. Hiking food price is the factor that breaks access to food for vulnerable people in the resource less community. Similarly, food price strongly influence livelihoods and dietary choices. 

Nepal imports nearly two-thirds of all its needs from India including essential products such as food items, medicines and petroleum. The 24 percent fall in India’s economy due to COVID19 obliviously is affecting negatively to Nepalese economy as well. Similarly, potential price inflation in India will certainly push the products price up in Nepal. Hence, out of 136 country-food combination, 118 showed climbing food price up 6.4 percentage average since COVID19 has captured the world from December 2019. The 135 million people are out of access of food in the world due to various reasons, facing extreme hunger. According to the World Food Program, that figure could rise to a staggering 265 million people by the end of 2020 in low and middle-income countries unless a swift action is taken.

Policymaker should be worried how broken food system is recovered well to feed increasing population. In contrast, the corona pandemic, natural calamity, trade war between United States and China and beginning of anti-global populist movement have simultaneously diverted the responsibility of global leaders instead of putting global attention on getting new solution to repair broken food system. Whereas, the United Nations (UN) has already announced an ambiguous Sustainable Development Goals 2015-30 (SDGs) and has been seeking global support to ‘leave no one behind’ by alleviating poverty and eliminating hunger from the world. The entry point of the goals is agriculture and food system to achieve the objectives.

A combined global efforts are needed to improve food economy through increasing investment, productivity, diversification and modification in agriculture system. Every nation should take action seriously towards food security from today right now, calling their people to stop food waste, greedy acts on natural resources and engage more on agricultural activities. China has recently urged for ‘Clean plate’ movement to stop food waste. China’s food waste is “shocking” that is enough to feed up to 50 million people annually’. Restaurants and canteens are the main sources of wasting food.

Nepal has been passing through the miserable condition of food system which has negatively impacted on food security. The COVID19, natural calamity, swarm of locusts, climate change, food waste and the lack of good governance are the drivers to hit hard the food system.  Currently, the country has followed a range of measures to curb the pandemic. The measures such as lockdowns, border closures, restriction of free movement, social distancing, isolation and quarantine have simultaneously affected the economy where food sector has been taken as the most hit hardest one. The farmers are compelled to throw their agricultural production of millions rupees due to having no access of transportation during COVID19 lockdown. On the contrary, Nepal imported vegetables and fruits amounting to four billion’s rupees during the first three months of lockdown. It seems, there is a huge problem of agricultural market and inclusive distribution network.  

Like elsewhere, farmers in Nepal are not empowered enough by providing easy loan, inputs, insurance, land, fertilizer, equipment, seeds and seedlings to maintain the productivity of agricultural output and welfare of the farmers. The latest fertiliser crisis is the greatest shame for the agriculture dominated economy. Farmers, off course, deserve the salute immediately after having food at least three times a day. Unfortunately, farmers are poorest can’t afford the cost of inputs to increase food production. So, the state mechanism need to be more cooperative out there. Indeed, the post- COVID19 economy can also be improved easily from the investment and innovation in agriculture sectors.

The majority of the sectors have been stopped due to COVID-19 but food and health have been proved again a very important sector of human wellbeing which cannot be ignored in any cause. The modernisation discourse so far has left the sustainable food system approach behind by putting more priority of on materialistic gains such as profit, urbanisation and industrialisation. It has also ignored the existence of nature, natural settings and the resources. A drastic change in development discourse is needed urgently to leave no one behind by empowering accessibility of food. Otherwise, sooner or later the world will be near to collapse or a mass destruction alike with Maya civilisation that was demolished due to draught and famine. Famine will be worse than the pandemics.  

Originally published on INCOMESCO


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