Access to food: the SDC's commitment to sustainable food systems

Sufficient and adequate food is a human right, yet over 800 million people remain chronically undernourished. The SDC works at various levels to ensure that every person in the world has access to sufficient and adequate food.  

A woman stacking apples in a market with a rich selection of fruits and vegetables
The SDC is committed to diversified production and food systems and access to fruit and vegetables for all. © SDC

The SDC's focus

The SDC aims to achieve sustainable food security for all. That is why it promotes agriculture, markets and food policies that guarantee secure access to adequate food even for the poorest and most disadvantaged sections of the population. In its work, the SDC considers all aspects of the entire food system, 'from farm to fork', which affect food availability and quality.

While direct food aid deliveries play an important role during acute crises, the SDC is increasingly supporting projects that prioritise sustainable and balanced long-term nutrition and functioning local markets. In the event of a crisis, food aid can thus be delivered much more efficiently by focusing on those most in need.

The SDC focuses in particular on the role of women and young people in food production and nutrition. It works to ensure that they have access to resources and education. Young people often seek opportunities in the agriculture or food sector, both in the rural and in urban areas. By providing sound training endeavours in organic farming as well as start-up opportunities for food retailers in towns and cities, the SDC helps to boost economic prospects while also strengthening food systems.

To improve access for all, especially disadvantaged groups, the SDC is active in the following areas:

Right to food

The SDC was actively involved in drafting the UN's Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realisation of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security, adopted in 2004, and has since been working to ensure their implementation. A number of countries have subsequently adjusted their policies, legislation and institutions in accordance with the Guidelines. The SDC is also working to ensure that civil society organisations and other stakeholders can monitor compliance with the right to adequate food and tell governments where there is potential for improvement.

Balanced nutrition

The SDC works to ensure that, in addition to staple foods, people also have access to a varied diet. To this end, it supports diversified agricultural production and food systems. Information and awareness-raising work, education, access to safe drinking water, healthcare and proper processing and storage of food also play an important role.

Crop forecasting and insurance

The SDC uses new technologies such as satellite data with radar technology to establish crop forecasting and agricultural micro-insurance. Among other things, crop forecasts facilitate the early detection of food crises, enabling timely intervention to prevent food emergencies and famine. In partnership with the private sector, the SDC develops micro-insurance products for smallholder farmers as well as insurance for countries, against flooding and drought for example. This is important to prevent more people falling even deeper into poverty.

Background

Hunger and malnutrition are major challenges. While the proportion of hungry people in the world fell from 23% to 12% between 1992 and 2015, according to the UN approximately 821 million people were chronically undernourished in 2017.

Sufficient and nutritious food is especially important during the first 1,000 days of an infant's life, otherwise the child can suffer permanent damage. According to the 2018 Global Nutrition Report, over 240 million children under the age of five are affected by chronic or acute malnutrition and more than 2 billion people are suffering from vitamin or mineral deficiency. To counter this problem, food can be enriched with micronutrients. However, a sounder approach would be to promote diversified agricultural production that provides access to a wider range of foods.

The right to adequate food is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) made this right legally binding. In Switzerland, the ICESCR came into force in 1992.

To improve the overall quality of food systems, the SDC draws particularly on innovations developed by Swiss universities and private companies. Such partnerships range from research into sustainable cropping systems and scientific consolidation of practical experience from the food industry through to the development and application of technological solutions. The SDC helps to disseminate these approaches through international policy dialogue, drawing on its own decades of experience, as well as that of Swiss non-governmental development organisations in agricultural projects and from collaborative work with farmers' organisations.

Documents

Current projects

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Global Measurement of Diet Quality

01.01.2025 - 31.12.2025

Diets are the number one risk factor in the global burden of disease and multiple forms of malnutrition co-exist with overweight and obesity being the fastest growing form, particularly among poor populations in developing countries. Routinely collected information on Diet Quality is necessary to better understand dietary trends, help to create awareness, and inform policies to improve diets and health outcomes. Therefore, SDC supports an international initiative to develop diet quality measurements.


Horn of Africa: One Health Units for Humans, Environment, Animals and Livelihoods

01.09.2024 - 30.06.2032

The project aims at improving the well-being of targeted pastoral communities challenged with inadequate access to basic health/veterinary services and environmental conditions in Somalia, Ethiopia and Northern Kenya through integrated health service delivery for both pastoralists and their livestock. The project will contribute to stability and vulnerability’s reduction of citizens in the region, thereby reducing their displacement/migration which is in the interest of Switzerland and the international community.


Solar Irrigation for Agriculture Resilience (SoLAR)

01.07.2024 - 31.07.2027

To adapt to climate change farmers rely increasingly on irrigation, ultimately depleting groundwater resources and raising energy demand. The project aims to address these challenges by promoting solar irrigation, water efficient agriculture and groundwater governance. The project will harness Swiss expertise on hydrogeology and technical innovations to contribute to climate resilient agriculture and facilitate knowledge sharing in South Asia and at the global level.


Programme d’appui à la commercialisation du bétail en Afrique de l’Ouest

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2028

Dans la région ouest africaine, le secteur de l’élevage est une grande opportunité d’intégration économique et de création de richesses pour les populations et les pays. En complément au soutien au secteur dans les pays prioritaires, ce programme vise le renforcement de la chaine de valeur régionale des produits animaux au profit des éleveurs. L’accent est mis sur le renforcement du secteur privé et l’amélioration des politiques et pratiques régionales d’échanges en  produits animaux.


Global Governance on Food Security

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2027

Switzerland will strengthen its commitment for an inclusive and effective global architecture for food security and nutrition. Therefore, the SDC/GPFS will maintain the focus of its attention on  the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), which is the most inclusive policy platform for food security-related issues. The second focus will be on the coordination role of the UN system at interagency and policy levels. The participation of farmers’ organisations in country-based public investment programmes will also be facilitated, in line with the above-mentioned interventions.


Clean Air Project in India (CAP India)

01.10.2023 - 30.06.2027

India is one of the most severely affected countries by air pollution in the world. This project will contribute to India’s new National Clean Air Programme, with the aim to improve air quality with co-benefits on public health, environment and climate change. Capacity building and technical assistance through Swiss expertise will support data measurement and analysis, city level clean air action plans and awareness raising campaigns to take precautionary measures and mitigate air pollution.


Sustainable water management for food security and nutrition in agriculture and food systems

01.07.2023 - 31.03.2027

Agriculture accounts globally for 70% freshwater use. Inefficient water use, water pollution, climate change and increasing global water demand puts agriculture under pressure, as well for smallholders. SDC can build on successful experiences in this domain and will support projects in Africa in ecologically sustainable water management in smallholder agriculture and food systems, improve smallholders’ economic and social situation and increase the resilience of their livelihoods.


Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Africa

01.03.2023 - 31.07.2026

Today, only 12 plant species and five animal species provide more than 75 percent of all human food. Quality seed and maintaining the agrobiodiversity are key concerns for food security and nutrition. Aiming at enhancing access of smallholders to quality seed of their choice, the Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa programme combines public and private efforts. With its contribution and policy work, SDC supports healthy food systems, as well in fragile contexts.


Albania: Sustainable Rural Development

01.02.2023 - 31.12.2026

Large potential for additional value creation exists in the agriculture sector and related activities in Albania. The project will develop innovative, economically viable and inclusive business models for market actors to leverage investment and ultimately increase income and employment for the population in rural areas, especially for women, young people and returnees.


SYNAD - Programme d’Appui au Système National de Décentralisation

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2026

Au Burkina Faso, les institutions nationales sont encore insuffisamment capables d’assurer leurs tâches de coordination, de financement et d’appui technique à la décentralisation. La Suisse soutient les institutions chargées de mettre en œuvre cette réforme, afin d’accroître l’accès aux services de base, de réduire la pauvreté et de prévenir l’extrémisme violent. Elle reste engagée en combinant ses instruments de coopération et montre son soutien dans un contexte de crises sécuritaire et humanitaire.  


Sustainable Natural Resources Management (NRM) for Enhanced Pastoralist Food Security in the Borana Zone, Ethiopia.

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2027

Natural resources, particularly water and pasture, are among the key determinants of pastoralist livelihoods’ sustainability. The proposed Project contributes to the outcomes of the SDC’s Food Security Domain as stipulated in the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Horn of Africa. It aims at improving pastoralist food security and adaptive capacities in the lowlands of Borana Zone, Southern Ethiopia, through enhancing the sustainable management of natural resources.


WFP, Hurrican Ian Response, Cuba

01.12.2022 - 31.05.2024

Hurricane Ian has caused significant losses in the agricultural and fishing sector limiting the availability and access to food and affecting the livelihoods of the population in the provinces Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Mayabeque and Isla de la Juventud. With its contribution to the World Food Programme through the United Nations Plan of Action, SDC helps providing food assistance and restore food production and livelihoods to meet the needs of 798’000 severely affected people in those provinces.

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