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Impact of COVID 19 on SDG 2: Zero Hunger

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A group of motivated youths representing from Sustainability Week Kathmandu, Thought for Food (TFF), Child Development Society and symposium on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have launched a weekly webinar. With the overall coordination and management by a core team composed of four youth leaders namely Mr. Ashish Lamichhane, Ms. Barsha Raut, Mr. Ghanshyam Bhattarai and Ms. Insha Pun.

The main aim of such weekly sessions is to inspire the youth to contribute in possible areas of SDGs as per their expertise and interest. Furthermore, this session is vital to bring together experts from various walks of life to share their learning and way forward. Additionally, it can sensitize different stakeholders towards their roles to achieve SDGs amidst the global crisis of COVID-19.

The first episode was launched on 7th May 2020 titled “Impact of COVID 19 on goal number 3”. This was our fourth episode conducted on 28th May 2020 and this time the subject experts discussed the impact of COVID 19 on SDG 2, zero hunger”. The speakers were from diverse walks of life, all but related with their contribution to sustainable development goal number 2. The 5 speakers were Mr. Arun GC, Ms. Christine Gould, Prof. Dr Ganga P. Kharel, Mr. Maheswar Ghimire, Special guests Ms. Neha Malla and Mr. Utsav Soni.

The session was conducted through Zoom and live via our two official facebook pages viz Sustainability Week Kathmandu and Symposium on SDGs. The session was formally opened by Mr. Ghanshyam Bhattarai. He presented an introductory video with testimonials from different youth expressing their answers to three questions regarding “concept of SDG 2”, “impact of COVID-19” and “one possible solution”. Following this the entire session was moderated by Ms. Insha Pun (Health and Nutrition In-charge at Child development society).. At last, Ms. Barsha Raut (Public health scholar, Sustainability Week Kathmandu) finally summarized the session by presenting consolidated ideas shared by speakers. Throughout the session, the organizing teams worked closely to minimize the technical errors.

The 85 participants who shared the live platform with the speakers were selected based on their responses at the registration form circulated beforehand. And most of them had their own level of expertise in the field of SDGs. Other interested participants (100+ viewers) had joined us live on our Facebook pages.They were actively engaged in the webinar via chat and comments with #SDG2&Issues and #Agri- Entrepreneurship.

The specific objective of episode-4 was to create a platform whereby youths (University level) from various backgrounds can have first hand information regarding the SDG 2 and the impact of COVID 19 on it from the experts in the field (academicians and professionals). Most importantly, the session was useful in identifying areas where local youth could be mobilized to adopt contextual solutions regarding SDG 2 in rural and urban settings.

The webinar was divided into 2 different short sessions. The first session was titled “Understanding SDG 2: then & now against the backdrop of COVID 19 & future similar shocks ”, which was addressed by the speakers Mr. Arun G.C(Agriculture extension officer at Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Nepal) , Ms. Christine Gould(Founder and CEO of Thought for Food) and Prof. Dr. Ganga Pd. Kharel(Professor at Tribhuvan University). The following session was titled “Way forward: exploring local and sustainable Agri-solutions in Nepal”, which was attended by the professionals from governmental and non-governmental organizations. The speakers for this session were Mr. Maheswor Ghimire (Chief of SECARD Nepal), Prof. Dr. Ganga Pd. Kharel and Mr. Arun G.C. respectively.

The ideas that the speakers presented on that day can guide and direct the youth who wish to engage meaningfully in the achievement of SDGs. Meanwhile, it can be equally informative for all the stakeholders who are relentlessly working to achieve SDGs despite the national crisis. The below mentioned points are the consolidated ideas presented by the subject experts that can be referred by the students, graduates and academicians:

Mr.Arun G.C  outlined that the issues around food date back to time immemorial right from the beginning of human civilization and that just the dimensions are changing. He added that there are several international conventions regarding food security as well as hunger issues that also addresses the changing dimensions. He further related the issue of food with the ongoing pandemic; the first line population being affected are poor and daily wage earners followed by marginalized groups, farmers, pregnant women, labor migrants. Prolonged closure of employment activities, the insufficient market for local farmers, are the major factors contributing to the food crisis.

He further explained, young people are not much attracted towards agriculture as it is a comparatively less profitable profession. He clarified, to increase the youth involvement in agriculture we have to first address the factor associated with the unwillingness of people toward agriculture.

He therefore, pointed out that agricultural revolution is a must to solve the problem; branding, processing and service should be integrated to ensure more productive and profitable agriculture. He wrapped up by saying that we should shift  focus on future smart food; which is available around us and is highly resilient and nutritious.

While mentioning future government’s plan to engage youth and returnee labor migrants in agri- entrepreneurship he said that the government will support them by more cheaper and convenient financial terms, optimal subsidies, electricity and infrastructures, seeds and other logistics. On a final note, he said that the government will make sure that the farmers’ agricultural produce is purchased at minimum prices in case they are unable to sell it off.

Ms. Christine Gould: she highlighted the work of Thought for Food and shared how the new generation innovators (youth) are addressing the most complex issues as natural resources depletion, overconsumption, food wastage, hunger, and malnutrition. She stated that these pressing issues can be systematically addressed if we focus on locally, culturally acceptable solutions by integrating technology and innovation. She added that youth should come together to combine traditional agriculture with technology. This she said can be achieved by tapping the learning need and vitality of youth, local farmers, and other innovators. One of the aspects that she and her team worldwide focus on is to initiate a need-based learning platform digitally. This was done by engaging, empowering and investing for sustainable food production by the involvement of youths worldwide. She concluded with a powerful remark that “we should act here and now rather than just discussing and contemplating at issues”.

Dr. Prof. Ganga Pd. Kharel said that although our major occupation is  agriculture, it is limited at the local level, we are not able to produce food enough for the nation. He pointed out that the other factors threatening the food safety and security are the uneven distribution, insufficient storage capacity nationwide and limited purchasing power of the consumers. He added that COVID-19 is aggravating those factors. He highlighted that many off season vegetables food are available in market (grown with haphazard use of the chemicals), while the consumer tends to purchase without verifying its quality, which is another great challenge to maintaining food safety. He added that with respect to food safety and security everyone including the producers and consumers should be conscious, it should not just be the concern of the government. Government should focus on investing in institutions which focus on research and use of modern technology within the country.

Mr. Maheshwor Ghimire: he pointed out that while our maximum portion of land is still left barren and uncultivated, the major population of Nepal depends on imported food. He added that it was high time we get back to our land and think about it.  With regard to a local solution to increase agricultural produce, he replied that firstly feeding the soil by organic manure and locally produced biomass is fundamental, and second we should shift towards the use of locally available plants to prepare pesticides. While answering the question on high yield, diversified and genetically superior seeds he said that instead of depending upon the hybrid seeds, we should focus on preserving our locally available agri-seed which can easily be adopted in our land, and this can be a sustainable solution. He further added that we do have a community seed bank, for research purposes and as preservation; He also shared that there is quite a knowledge gap among farmers on the importance of genetically superior seeds.

He concluded by saying that tremendous amounts of land are left barren and untended, so there should be action at the local level to use and maintain its productivity. There should be efficient utilization of Natural resources which ultimately foster and guide to level up the entrepreneurship .

Ms. Neha Malla shared the different  working aspects of SOCHAI & innovative local solutions that youth can engage in to support SDG-2. She briefly explained the community engagements and working with mothers, Female Community Health Volunteers, adolescents and local youth. Above all, they were working with youth to break taboos and that their community based learning programs are the major approach of their work; Nutri bracelet and Red cycle bracelet are the innovative tool used to  accomplish their organization goal and are highly acknowledged at national and international platforms. She suggested that shifting the focus toward training and empowering women in kitchen garden , terrace farming can ensure food security at an individual level. She concluded with a powerful message that youth should identify the gap in society, reach out to community groups and encourage a combination of innovative technology and traditional food practices.

Mr.Utsav Soni;  of all the points he stated, most important was that agriculture and farming practices is a profession that people don’t still take with pride. He pointed out that there are still stereotypical beliefs around farming as a profession and he appealed that this paradigm should see a positive shift in our time.And that the traditional knowledge about cultivating crops, and people associated with it should be equally respected as other professions. As a concluding remark, he motivated the participants to come together to combine science and technology along with knowledge and expertise of local farmers. The last question for him was “what if he had a magical wand to shift the interest of youth to farming as a profession”, to which he replied beautifully that he would make it compulsory for each student to attend farming classes right through their formative years in school.

So, with these discussion points, the organizing team successfully completed their fourth week long journey into the weekly webinars on SDGs and impact of COVID-19. They received encouraging feedback, one of the participants wrote “what an informative session that I had today, I have received many ideas for my research topics as well”. The team is motivated to come up with their next episode on Thursday (4th June 2020). To have more information and know about the next goal follow their pages on Facebook and Instagram.