The polarization of diets continues in the world, with obesity hitting record levels on one side and hunger increasing on the other. International organizations have been pushing efforts to lend a helping hand to those in need with various programs worldwide. Accumulating experience on humanitarian diplomacy in recent years with campaigns by state organizations, Turkey is one of the highest-contributing countries working to achieve a balanced distribution of food.
"Thanks to the operational support of the Turkish government, our ability to respond to the national needs and regional priorities has been strengthened with the establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organization Subregional Office for Central Asia [FAO-SEC] in Ankara," the FAO-SEC representative told Daily Sabah. With more than 194 member states, one of which is Turkey, FAO strives to end hunger once and for all in the world, enabling everyone to lead a healthy and active life.
Every year on Oct. 16, the FAO of the United Nations celebrates the organization's founding with World Food Day (WFD). Marking its 74th anniversary this year, it is celebrated through events organized by FAO offices, governments and stakeholders of up to 150 countries around the world and calls for action to achieve zero hunger. Given the increase of overweight and obesity rates worldwide, this year, World Food Day calls for action to make healthy and sustainable diets available and affordable to everyone. In light of this, many activities will be organized in Turkey.
"The theme of this year's World Food Day is 'Our actions are our future. Healthy diets for a #ZeroHunger world' and to raise awareness specifically thinking about what we eat, we plan to organize many activities with private and government institutions and nongovernmental organizations," FAO-SEC explained. The many activities of WFD 2019 include a FAO-WHO Joint Symposium on "Prevention and Control of NCDs, Healthy Diet, Food Safety and Risk Management for Sustainable Development" in Elazığ on Oct. 4-5, on Oct. 10 a Food Festival in collaboration with Turuncu Bayrak in Ankara and on Oct. 17 the main event, the 5th Sustainable Food Conference and World Food Day Meeting in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Sustainable Academy and the Turkish Food and Beverage Industry Association (TÜGİS) in Istanbul.
Not long ago, in 2015, Turkey led a significant initiative within the framework of the G20 chairmanship and ensured that the focus of the G20 Agriculture Ministers Meeting in May 2015 became food waste and loss. "The campaign was launched with the heading 'Zero Waste for Zero Hunger: Support to reduce Food Loss and Food Waste.' Two workshops were realized for this project carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The first technical workshop was conducted on Feb. 19 with the personnel of central units of the ministry, of 81 provincial directorates and representatives of FAO-SEC and the Turkish presidency. The second one was organized in early April, hosting speakers from both the private sector and civil society to find an area of collaboration to reduce food loss and waste in Turkey," according to the FAO-SEC.
The first office of FAO, of which Turkey has been a member since 1948, was opened in 1982 in Ankara and in 2007, together with the Host Country Agreement, the Subregional Office for Central Asia was opened and FAO's relationship with Turkey and the projects in the region were enhanced. "As a donor, Turkey has provided financing of $30 million so far," the FAOSEC representative said.
Joint programs assist refugees in integration
In cooperation with the World Food Program (WFP), over 5 million refugees, the majority of which are Syrians, are being assisted in Turkey, the country with the greatest refugee influx in the world. In May 2011, Turkey set up its first camps for the refugees and began to help them build a life in Turkey like normal citizens. The Turkish Red Crescent, the countries' largest humanitarian aid organization, also sent 50,000 trucks of aid to those in Syria besides helping those within Turkey's borders. Turkey experienced a lack of qualified workers in the agriculture sector and thus, the need for skilled and semi-skilled workers arose.
"As FAO, we saw this as an opportunity for refugees to acquire agricultural skills and a regular income, thus the main aim for our projects was set," stated FAO.
"In cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the funds of the EU, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Japanese government, we organized vocational and technical training in eight provinces selected according to need base, namely Adana, Mersin, Şanlıurfa, Gaziantep, Mardin, Isparta, Kilis and İzmir, together with the support of the ministry's provincial directorates and the union of local producers. 2015 trainees completed the training successfully and about 22% of them got a job from job fairs organized after," the FAO-SEC stated.
The Turkish Red Crescent also pursues aid campaigns for the fight against global hunger every year in larger aspects. Under the leadership of the President of Turkish Red Crescent Kerem Kınık, one of the headings of the 2030 Strategy in accordance with the U.N.'s goals was "The Fight against Global Hunger." The Turkish Red Crescent provided help for 5.6 million people in 28 countries in 2016, and 6,8 million people in 38 countries in 2017. In 2018, on the other hand, these numbers rose to 7 million people in 53 countries.
In another FAO-supported project completed in February, 150 refugees chosen from the temporary housing center in southern Osmaniye province, home to 15,000 people, were educated on vegetable growing in the greenhouse set up by FAO next to the camp. At the end of this training, the vegetables were distributed in the center for free and a great contribution was made for food security and access to food for refugees.
In 2000, a U.N. summit was held, and the historic millennium declaration was signed by 189 countries, thus creating the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with deadlines that include ending poverty and hunger. These goals include eradicating hunger in a world where according to the numbers of 2018, some 821 million people, in other words one in nine, are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Hunger and malnutrition are currently the greatest health risks in the world, constituting of a number that is more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Therefore, the Sustainable Development Goal 2 is to achieve zero hunger by 2030.
Furthermore, the project "Creating Turkish-Syrian Socioeconomic Integration and Employment with Agriculture" funded by the EU and in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will be launched in the upcoming months and within this scope, education for nearly 4,500 Syrians and 1,500 farmers/producers will be provided. Some lessons regarding the creation of sustainable job opportunities will be given to farmers and producers.
"By this means, we intend to enhance product quality and efficiency in the agricultural sector besides creating jobs," FAO-SEC added.
Even though the production of food increased substantially, the demand for food increased parallel to it as the population of the world continues to grow. The most alarming situation is in Africa, where numbers show slight but steady increases in nearly all regions. In Asia, the numbers have been falling except for Western Asia and Southern Asia, with the highest numbers in undernourishment. In fact, the majority of undernourished people in the world is living in Asia, constituting of a number of more than 500 million people. According to the data of 2018, this number has steadily increased to 260 million people in Africa. Considering all these facts, achieving zero hunger by 2030 seems to be quite a tough challenge.
Through the FAO Turkey Forestry Partnership Program, Turkey contributed $3 million to expand Africa's Great Green Wall (BRIDGES), which aims to restore 5,000 hectares of degraded land in three African countries along the Sahara, namely Eritrea, Mauritania and Sudan.