Development pathways toward “zero hunger”

Elsevier, World Development, Volume 118, June 2019
Blesh J., Hoey L., Jones A.D., Friedmann H., Perfecto I.

Globally, industrial agriculture threatens critical ecosystem processes on which crop production depends, while 815 million people are undernourished and many more suffer from malnutrition. The second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2), Zero Hunger, seeks to simultaneously address global environmental sustainability and food security challenges. We conducted an integrated literature review organized around three disciplinary perspectives central to realizing SDG 2: ecology and agricultural sciences, nutrition and public health, and political economy and policy science. Within each discipline we first draw on a wide range of literature to summarize the state of knowledge on effective pathways to achieve food security while ensuring the sustainability of food systems. We then conduct a comprehensive review of articles in each of these disciplines that discuss SDG 2, using the pathways we outline initially to frame our analysis. In particular, we ask whether the framing of SDG 2 is appropriate given current understandings of transitions to sustainable food systems. By applying a food systems lens, our review identifies several limitations in the way SDG 2 is applied by researchers including a productionist perspective, limited attention to ecological processes on farms, a definition of food security that lacks a food systems perspective, and a lack of attention to historical and structural factors that shape opportunities for equity and food security in different contexts. Finally, we consider possibilities for expanding the research agenda and associated implications for development practice. We argue that the pathway to achieving Zero Hunger should center on place-based, adaptive, participatory solutions that simultaneously attend to local institutional capacities, agroecosystem diversification and ecological management, and the quality of local diets. Two conceptual frameworks – social-ecological systems and sustainable diets – offer systems-based lenses for integrated analysis of agriculture and food security, which could inform the development of effective policies.