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Agriculture can contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goals

UN’s 17 global sustainable development goals will play a significant role in agriculture in Denmark and the rest of the world in many ways – including the direction for research and development in agriculture, climate, environment and food.

2018.01.10 | Janne Hansen

Global and committing collaboration is necessary for solving the UN's sustainable development goals. Photo: Colourbox

- In a world where the media paint a picture of war, refugee crises and environmental and climate disasters, it is helpful to point out that there is actually justified hope for a better world. The United Nations has set 17 global sustainable development goals that also require Danish action, including from Danish agriculture, says Professor Jørgen E. Olesen from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University.  

On a global level, some of the major goals are to eradicate poverty and hunger and to ensure health, education and proper working conditions for all irrespective of sex or background. The goals also aim at reducing inequality in society, providing access to clean energy, fighting climate changes and pollution, and ensuring biodiversity.    

- These goals are to a great extent interdependent and therefore one of the goals for sustainable development is to create partnerships for the goals. The goals can only be reached through global collaboration. The latest tendencies towards a greater focus on national interests are worrying.

The goals for a better world can only be reached if we commit ourselves to working together and place demands on each other, says Jørgen E. Olesen.   

Resources must be used in a better way

Technological developments have increased food production to a level where no one today needs to go hungry due to lack of food. Medical science has solved most problems regarding infectious diseases and is well on its way in many other areas. At the same time, popular education and general economic growth have helped reduce birth rates in many countries.   

However, not all problems have been solved. There is no food security for the world’s population as a whole, and sustainable production methods are not always used to supply the food. There are still about 800 million people who do not receive sufficient nutrition, primarily due to poverty and insufficient distribution. Add to this an expected population growth by 2050 of two billion people. 

- In addition, there are groups of people in both developed and developing countries who consume too much or wrong food. At the same time, enormous amounts of food are wasted.  Much of modern agriculture has a too intensive or improper resource use. This leads to depletion of soil and water resources and, in many cases, pollution of the surrounding environment. We must therefore reevaluate how food is produced, distributed and consumed, says Jørgen E. Olesen and continues: 

- Future solutions for avoiding hunger or malnutrition must take a starting point in the many different living conditions there are around the world. It must be a prerequisite that we produce sufficient food with a nutritionally right composition, and that it is produced in a responsible way with regard to the climate and environment. If the global community succeeds with its goals for sustainable development, then the future actually looks much brighter.   

You can view the UN's goals for sustainable development here

For more information please contact: Section Manager, Professor Jørgen E. Olesen, Department of Agroecology, email: jeo@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 7778, mobile: +45 4082 1659

Climate-Smart Agri-Food Systems is one of the research areas in which the Department of Agroecology is particularly strong and from which results are delivered in line with national and global societal challenges and goals.




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