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Notwithstanding the efforts of the international community, and despite the progress that has been made, under-nutrition still persists on a massive scale in the countries of the South. FAO’s most recent estimates indicates that a total of 842 million people in 2011–13, or around one in eight people in the world, were estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger. In this figure, 12.5 percent of the world’s populations are undernourished in terms of energy intake, yet these figures represent only a fraction of the global burden of malnutrition. An estimated 26 percent of the world’s children are stunted, 2 billion people suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiencies and 1.4 billion people are overweight, of whom 500 million are obese. The bulk of this poverty-stricken and undernourished population lives in rural environments and is composed primarily of small producers who are often forced into exile in cities where their situation does not improve, to say the least.

There are countless causes of malnutrition. The rising price of cereals in 2007-2008 plunged a significant section of the population into a situation of food insecurity. Natural disasters, conflict and climate change, not to mention the depletion of land and other natural resources – these are all factors that lead to a worsening food situation.

Short-term measures are not the answer to this extremely complex problem. Sustainable conditions of subsistence must be promoted and set in place and supported if the world‟s population is to be protected. This implies a new structure for aid that will bridge the gap between short-term measures and long-term development assistance initiatives.

In such a situation, agriculture has to come to grips with three major challenges: feed the world’s growing population; contribute to the reduction of rural and urban poverty; and respond to concerns about natural resources management, whilst simultaneously ensuring an adequate food supply.

However, there is no way that current agricultural systems can meet these challenges in so many regions where water resources are being squandered, are being used in non–sustainable ways, jeopardizing land quality and threatening biodiversity.

So, time is of the essence in finding the ways and means that will lead to another, more sustainable, form of agriculture: i.e. one that is economically viable, socially acceptable and that respects both the earth’s natural resources and the environment.

Seeking sustainable solutions in the fight against hunger and under nutrition is central to interventions of the Food Security and Livelihoods sector which works to set in place agricultural programmes whose goal is to support family agriculture to enable a given population to grow and consume food produced locally or to exchange these products with others required to satisfy other needs, whilst using natural resources in an equitable manner.

This document has been produced to serve as a reference tool for ACF-IN staff. It describes and explains practices aimed at improving the quality and sustainability of ACF-IN programmes in the field by facilitating their implementation.

To help beneficiary populations satisfy their needs by producing more, at lower cost, without depleting the basic resources on which they depend, ACF-IN field staff, whether agronomists or not, need to know what are the most suitable strategies and techniques.

ACF-IN intervenes mainly in regions where farmers depend primarily on local resources. By and large, modern technologies are not the first option when the issue is that of improving agriculture. In these regions, better use of local resources and optimization of natural processes can improve agricultural effectiveness. A change of direction from intensive agriculture towards agro-ecology to help feed the planet and safeguard the climate, is possible, affirmed UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter 2 (August 2011).

The transfer of knowledge and dissemination of good practice to beneficiaries, humanitarian workers and decision-makers is the raison d’être behind this handbook.


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