Why Chefs for Change is backing sustainable farming

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This week, world leaders gather in New York for the UN General Assembly. It’s a key moment for global reflection on progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These global goals, which came into effect in January 2016, aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

Today, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will convene a High-level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, addressing growing concerns about the gap in financing necessary to achieve the goals.

Tomorrow and Wednesday, Bill and Melinda Gates will host eminent speakers at their second annual Goalkeepers Event, which takes stock of progress to date towards achieving the goals.

It’s clear that progress towards achieving the SDGs is significantly off track. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018, the third annual review of the 2030 Agenda, brought the sobering news that the current rate of progress is not sufficient to meet the goals.  

Pockets of extreme poverty continue unabated. Global hunger is on the rise rather than falling. Gender inequality persists in holding women back.

Despite their huge contribution to feeding the world’s people and protecting the environment, rural communities are amongst those most likely to live in poverty and ill health, and on degraded land.

Urgent action is needed to bring the SDGs back on track. And sustainable farming needs to be central in that action.

Transforming agriculture and enabling rural communities to thrive is key to the success of many of the SDGs.

Agriculture is at the heart of the SDGs

The majority of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas in developing countries, and most depend on agriculture for their livelihood. If current trends continue we will fail to make good on the promise to end poverty (SDG 1): 240 million rural people will remain in extreme poverty in 2030.

Of the 815 million undernourished people globally, the vast majority work in agriculture. The world is off track to achieving SDG 2: ending hunger. Unless we up our game, 385 million people will continue to go to bed hungry in 2030.

Increasing farming yields and profits, and increasing the nutritional benefits of the food produced, is key to getting SDGs 1 and 2 back on track.

From climate action to responsible consumption and production, agriculture is key to achieving many of the other SDGs. For farming to drive progress across all 17 goals we need to help rural communities make agriculture work better, use natural resources well, and create stronger markets for what farmers produce.

Food. Farming. Future.

As hungry humans hardwired to seek the next mouthful of food it’s often difficult to consider anything beyond your next mouthful.

Yet, the provenance of food matters. Food’s journey from farm to plate influences everything from the air we breathe to the landscapes we inhabit to the wellbeing of rural communities.

The world’s best chefs know that creating the world’s most celebrated dishes relies on the ability to source the very best produce. More than anyone, they appreciate the importance of sustainable agriculture. They understand that most of the world’s food is grown on small-scale family farms, and that without farmers’ hard work their profession would simply not be possible.

The interdependence between chefs and farmers lies at the heart of Chefs for Change. The new food movement, launched in June at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards by international NGOs Farm Africa and TechnoServe and elite chefs Joan Roca, Gaggan Anand and Eneko Atxa, bridges the gap between the two very different worlds of high-end cuisine and international development.

Chefs for Change is rooted in the shared understanding between chefs and rural food producers that improving agriculture is central to tackling many of the world’s most pressing problems.

The Founding Chefs (left to right): Eneko Atxa (Azurmendi), Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca) and Gaggan Anand (Gaggan).

The Founding Chefs (left to right): Eneko Atxa (Azurmendi), Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca) and Gaggan Anand (Gaggan).

Keeping the SDGs on track

The Chefs for Change movement celebrates the vital contributions of small-scale farmers to sustainable development.

Each ambassador chef will be paired with a high-impact agriculture development programme in Africa, Asia or Latin America. They will visit the programmes and share the stories of the diverse range of food producers taking part, including livestock herders, vegetable growers and beekeepers. 

Every year, the chefs will gather at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards to report on the contribution of those programmes towards achieving the SDGs.

The chefs will demonstrate that agriculture is to sustainable development what food is to life. Essential. Yet, this essential ingredient is largely missing from the world’s international development shopping list.

Despite the fact that 78% of the world’s poor people rely on agriculture to make a living, agriculture made up just 4% of OECD country aid spending in 2016. This week’s events in New York are crucial milestones in efforts to ensure the SDGs are adequately resourced. Sustainable agriculture must be a major part the solution.

By rallying support for the world’s food producers, and highlighting the role of sustainable agriculture in ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring peace and prosperity for all by 2030, Chefs for Change will focus a spotlight on the importance of agricultural international development projects.

Here at Chefs for Change, we are united by an insatiable hunger for making agriculture work better for small-scale farmers. If you too are passionate about the power of food to change lives, then we want to hear from you!

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Nicolas Mounard