The Malnourished Are Outnumbered by the Obese

The Millennium Development Goals aimed to ease some of the symptoms of global poverty. Now is the time to tackle the causes. The UN’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an unprecedented opportunity to reform the structures and power dynamics that keep people in poverty, particularly in the area of trade.

Goal 12 — “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” — sounds obvious, but its inclusion recognizes just how unbalanced production and consumption have become. Two billion people depend on agriculture for a living, but still half the world’s hungry are farmers. Our food system is badly out of balance: consumers in richer countries expect ever cheaper food, yet we throw away one-third of all the food we buy. The connection between value and price has been broken — in the U.K., we pay less for our food than ever before. There are more than 700 million malnourished people in the world, but now they are outnumbered by the obese. There is widespread use of agro-chemicals with little thought to the future ecosystem. What can be done to turn this around?

For more than 25 years, the Fairtrade movement has sought to address these challenges in the belief that trade — if done differently — can reduce poverty and boost sustainable development. The growth of Fairtrade is testament to how far these ideas have gained public and commercial support: more than 1.5 million farmers and workers in 70 countries now benefit from the clear terms of trade — including a minimum price — and commitment to social and environmental welfare at the heart of Fairtrade standards. The global Fairtrade market is now worth $6bn annually.

Increasingly, we can see evidence that Fairtrade is helping: producers are likely to be less hungry, their children more likely to be in school, —> Read More