Knowledge for better food systems

Improved indicators for agriculture and food security

Image: World Resources Institute, Two farmers in Brazil with their acerola berry harvest, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

FCRN member Ken Giller has co-authored a paper that reviews the targets and indicators used to measure the second sustainable development goal (SDG-2), i.e. the pursuit of global food security and agricultural sustainability. The paper concludes that the UN’s current set of targets and indicators for SDG-2 are not universally applicable, and proposes a revised set of indicators.

Some limitations of the existing set of targets and indicators pointed out by the paper include:

  • Use of concepts that are not clearly defined, such as “sustainable practices” and “eco-friendly fertilizers”
  • Indicators phrased in a way such that targets can never be achieved, e.g. the prevalence of stunting where height is less than two standard deviations below the median (this indicator will always be constant unless a reference year is set)
  • Limited data availability for some indicators.

 

Abstract

The pursuit of global food security and agricultural sustainability, the dual aim of the second sustainable development goal (SDG-2), requires urgent and concerted action from developing and developed countries. This, in turn, depends on clear and universally applicable targets and indicators which are partially lacking. The novel and complex nature of the SDGs poses further challenges to their implementation on the ground, especially in the face of interlinkages across SDG objectives and scales. Here we review the existing SDG-2 indicators, propose improvements to facilitate their operationalization, and illustrate their practical implementation in Nigeria, Brazil and the Netherlands. This exercise provides insights into the concrete actions needed to achieve SDG-2 across contrasting development contexts and highlights the challenges of addressing the links between targets and indicators within and beyond SDG-2. Ultimately, it underscores the need for integrated policies and reveals opportunities to leverage the fulfillment of SDG-2 worldwide.

 

Reference

Gil, J.D.B., Reidsma, P., Giller, K., Todman, L., Whitmore, A. and van Ittersum, M., 2018. Sustainable development goal 2: Improved targets and indicators for agriculture and food security. Ambio, pp.1-14.

Read the full paper here. See also the Foodsource building block What is food security?

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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