Nepal and EU fight food insecurity together

My key takeaway of the visit to this beautiful country of yours is simple: The European Union and Nepal will continue to grow stronger and flourish together.

Jutta Urpilainen

  • Read Time 3 min.

The right to food is a basic human right. It is also a key objective of the Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. Globally, the number of acutely food insecure people has grown as a repercussion of conflicts, economic shocks and climate extremes.

Russia’s illegal and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine has further deepened the food insecurity around the world, as Ukraine alone provides more than half of the World Food Programme’s wheat supply. Reduced crop production and exports from Russia and Ukraine carry significant risks for both food availability and affordability, not only in Europe but also in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

In Nepal, Article 36 of the Constitution recognises Nepali citizen’s right to food. The Right to Food and Food Sovereignty Act, adopted in 2018, is a powerful step toward meeting Nepal’s commitments to rid the country of malnutrition, hunger and food insecurity.

Although the present situation in Nepal is not as critical as in some other countries, the situation remains of concern. At the end of last year, the World Food Programme registered an increase in food insecurity with approximately 5.21 million people (17.8 percent of the population) not consuming an adequate diet. About 1 in 7 households—a five-fold increase compared to June 2022—reported that they did not have enough food to meet their daily needs. Increased food prices (43 percent) and lack of money (43 percent) were the main reasons reported.

Nepal is an agricultural country, the sector providing an important livelihood to many Nepalis. However, Nepal has not been self-sufficient in food for the past several years since its production growth rate is slower than its population growth rate. Limited economic opportunities, frequent natural disasters and social conflicts, inadequate market connectivity, as well as regional heterogeneity, gender, and caste inequality are reasons for food insecurity and malnutrition.  

There are also some major social and geographical inequalities when it comes to food security in the country. Neither the pregnant women, new mothers and adolescents in rural areas have easy access to nutritious food. Similarly, 12 percent of people in rural regions are severely food insecure, while nine percent are in urban areas.  

As a long standing and trusted partner, the European Union is working through its new Global Gateway strategy to ensure resilient food systems worldwide. In the face of the profound challenges, the EU has been a responsive, responsible and reliable global actor.

To help mitigate the effects of Russia’s war on food security, Team Europe—EU together with its Member States—has put in place a four-pronged approach. We tackle the challenge through (1) solidarity through emergency relief, (2) strengthening local, sustainable production and reducing import dependency, (3) fostering trade through helping Ukraine export agricultural goods and (4) effective multilateralism working together with our partners. This approach amounts to EUR 8.3 billion support until 2024.

The EU has long been an active and steady partner in supporting Food Security in Nepal. It has contributed to the establishment of Nepal Food Security Monitoring and Analysis System (NeKSAP). In the past 4 years, budget support worth EUR 40m was provided directly to the Government of Nepal and contributed to the implementation of the long-term Agriculture Development Strategy of the country.

Food security is a key element of this strategy. Its vision statement provides for “a self-reliant, sustainable, competitive, and inclusive agriculture sector that drives economic growth, and contributes to improved livelihoods and food and nutrition security leading to food sovereignty”.

Nutrition, one of the four dimensions of food security, is also an area where the EU has been very active for more than a decade. The European Union is currently the only development partner supporting directly the Government’s Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan. The first Human Milk Bank in Nepal was made possible thanks to European Union support. With this plan, currently transitioning to its third phase, Nepal has been an early adopter of the multi-sectoral approach to tackle malnutrition, as recommended by the Scaling-Up Nutrition global movement.

I was particularly honored to visit this milk bank myself, when I visited Nepal for the first time. This is a prime example of what Nepal and the European Union can achieve together. Therefore, my key takeaway of the visit to this beautiful country of yours is simple: The European Union and Nepal will continue to grow stronger and flourish together.

Jutta Urpilainen is Commissioner for International Partnerships of the European Commission. She is on a Nepal visit today.