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March 11, 2016
Good food for a better future

By Joan, Josep y Jordi Roca, masterchefs and Good Will Ambassadors of UNDP.


In El Celler de Can Roca, we are very well aware of the potential of food as a driver of sustainable development and inclusive economic growth. In recent years, our gastronomic tours in Latin America, North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa have allowed us to share experiences, learn about different culinary traditions, and explore new flavours and tastes. But also, we have come closer to the issue of hunger and malnutrition in disadvantaged local communities, where millions of people have no say in choosing their food. As chefs, we feel that it is our duty to provide our know-how for this cause. We believe that this is the time – for all of us – to take action.

At the dawn of the new era of the Sustainable Development Goals, we face the opportunity given to us as Goodwill Ambassadors for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with great responsibility with enthusiasm. Our work starting today will support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDGF) in the field we know best: the promotion of food security and nutrition, with a special emphasis on local food supplies.

Our new partners have already informed us of the great challenge at hand with some illustrative data. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), despite the great progress between 2000 and 2015, the number of people still suffering from hunger globally is 800  million, that is, one person in nine in the world. Furthermore, in developing regions, the prevalence of malnutrition still affects 12.9 per cent of the population. A complete eradication of world hunger by 2030 will require an average of 267 billion dollars a year in investment in rural and urban areas, and in social protection.

After years of experiences and travles  we have realized that the way us people live food, cook food and keep culinary traditions, has a direct impact on fundamental areas of our life. What we eat affects our health, our economy and our planet. As famous Catalan writer Josep Pla said: "We are what we eat."

Unfortunately, there is no magic recipe to fight hunger and malnutrition. Given the complex nature of this issue, there are many interrelated aspects, some of which stem from poverty and lack of empowerment. Also, there are underlying issues such as gender, discrimination against certain ethnic groups, use rights and land ownership, war, pandemics such as AIDS as well as environmental issues related to climate change. Therefore, we are encouraging governments, with the help of international agencies and the support of civil society and the private sector, to implement as soon as possible integrated and multifaceted food solutions.

Despite the apparent abundance of food, we are living in a time of loss. 1,300 million tons, a third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is lost or wasted. FAO data show that the food currently wasted in Africa could feed 300 million people. There are traditional food preservation techniques (accessible, inexpensive and simple) that can substantially reduce food waste. We are also concerned about the loss of food biodiversity. In the whole world there are around 250,000 plant species available for agriculture, but only 3% of them are in use today. Abandoning indigenous cultures and culinary traditions generate poverty and exclusion.

We are confident that food and especially agriculture will become a central part of national strategies and programmes to fight hunger and malnutrition. Not surprisingly, three-quarters of the affected poor and food-insecure people in the world depend on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods. Another important characteristic[B2]  is that 80 percent of food is produced by small farms and family farms. Therefore, support to farmers is essential for promoting food production, their community development, quality of life of the inhabitants, and the local economy.

The SDG Fund is already working on programmes that address the food issue on several fronts, and soon hopes to have the opportunity to visit these communities[B3] . For example, in Colombia, they are promoting employment, nutrition, livelihoods and above all, peace in Cauca, one of the areas most affected by the armed conflict in the country, through sustainable agricultural production of indigenous crops and their international marketing. In Peru, the SDG Fund is collaborating on the production and marketing of quinoa and other Andean grains. Thus, it is expected that the increase in demand in the international market may improve the economic and social situation of vulnerable farmers.

Our work starts now. We will help promote local markets with varied and nutritious food that would meet the supply needs of the community and create decent jobs. We will encourage local farmers to join the dialogue and engage in activities to fight  hunger and malnutrition, and in turn we will learn from their techniques and food traditions. We will contribute to building knowledge to minimize waste production and improve the methods of food preparation, storage and use. Also, we will promote the establishment of training centres where young people, through the kitchen, may discover different life alternatives and sustainable sources of income for their families.

The mandate of the Sustainable Development Goals  is clear. We can not leave anyone without access to food; healthy and nutritious food that help to create prosperity. We need to build a socially just and environmentally sustainable-economically inclusive food chain to ensure access to food for all. There is a long and exciting road ahead. Our commitment, which is also our big challenge, will be to make the culinary experience of the Roca family a bridge between cultures and a vehicle for social inclusion.


This article was originally published in Planeta Futuro (El País), on 11 March 2016