Global hunger is on the rise, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse.
In the midst of this rise in malnutrition, the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which provides lifesaving food assistance to millions across the world – often in extremely dangerous and hard-to-access conditions – has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. The win shines a spotlight on the important role food aid plays in peacekeeping. It also provides a rare insight into the challenges in delivering effective food aid.
One such challenge is that when food arrives in a country, for a variety of reasons from bureaucracy to corruption, it can be held up for a long time before finally arriving at the aid centres. The WFP needs to ensure the food is still edible and fit for consumption even after the long wait – this means providing food items that have a longer shelf life.
Palm oil’s contribution
One of the essential foods WFP provides is cooking oil, often made from palm oil. GAR has been working with WFP to provide 5-litre packs of fortified cooking oil, feeding people in Kenya, Togo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Myanmar.
To address the delivery-time challenge, GAR’s food technology experts conducted preliminary investigations into the shelf-life of the cooking oil we supplied to the WFP.
Starting in 2015, our R&D team in Marunda began researching the stability of vitamin A and other nutrients in fortified palm olein during extended storage and thermal treatment. The research concludes that, compared to other vegetable oils, palm oil is a superior vehicle for successfully delivering vitamin A fortification due to its oxidative stability. Palm oil meets the exacting requirements of the United Nations World Food Programme in delivering nutrient rich food to combat hunger.
Making a difference
WFP estimates that without international assistance, the number of acutely food-insecure people in high-risk countries may nearly double before the end of the year, from 149 million to 270 million. GAR has always advocated that to feed a growing global population, palm oil has an essential role to play.
We strongly believe palm oil is important in delivering several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. When produced responsibly, it can alleviate poverty, curb world hunger, bring economic growth, good health, support provision of education, and reduce inequalities. It can deliver all of these social goods while also being the most versatile and efficient vegetable oil in the world, yielding more per hectare than any other edible vegetable oil crop. As the global population continues growing, palm oil will maintain its key role in feeding the world.
As a company, we are proud to have supported the WFP’s important work by conducting this meaningful research into food nutrition and shelf-life. This, and other work done in our state-of-the-art Marunda R&D centre will continue to support the development of safe, healthy and delicious palm-based food products.
Food security indirectly linked to peace
The WFP was recognised, not only for its efforts in combating global hunger, but also for bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict. Last year, WFP assisted 97 million people in 88 countries. WFP has helped millions of people in extremely dangerous and hard-to-reach countries affected by conflict and natural disasters, including Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and more.
It highlights the importance of food security. Even in non-war torn countries, food systems play an important role in stability. As a company in the business of growing and supplying an important food ingredient – palm oil, we understand the importance of maintaining a constant undisrupted supply of it, even in challenging conditions.
More can be done in the area of combating world hunger, and we salute the work carried out by the World Food Programme. GAR has been making its own, smaller, contribution to supporting food security, helping communities around our plantation operations build food resilience through farming programmes. These measures are important in ensuring prosperity, balance and peace in societies.
Learn more about GAR’s efforts on food security, especially the Alternative Livelihood Programme, teaching villages sustainable and environment-friendly agriculture practices and improving the farmers’ ability to sell the crops in local markets to get additional income.