Food security, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture

Although the world produces enough food to feed every woman, man and child, nearly one billion people go hungry every day. We believe that hunger is not caused by a lack of food, but rather a lack of justice.

Women in her field

Levels of food production are sufficient, yet millions of people are still suffering and dying of starvation. This is truly scandalous.”
Pope Francis, 2013

In 2014 around 805 million people – about one in nine of the world’s population – were chronically undernourished. The vast majority (98 percent) lived in developing countries.[1]

Some regions of the world are particularly at risk: in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, more than one in four people were undernourished in 2014. Malnutrition increases the risk of disease and mortality, especially child mortality.

Food security and insecurity

Food security is having year-round access to nutritious, affordable and sustainable food for an active and healthy lifestyle.

However, as the statistics above show, not everyone in the world enjoys secure access to food. The factors that can cause food insecurity are often multiple and interrelated, including:

  • The ‘financialisation’ of food
  • Market dominance of multinational agribusinesses and exporters
  • Access to farming land
  • Land 'grabbing'
  • Biofuels
  • Natural disasters and climate change
  • Conflict
  • Unfair trade rules
  • Food wastage

Food sovereignty

As the list of issues above shows, the term 'food insecurity' does not always capture the complex factors that hinder people's access to nutrition. Proper nutrition is not always simply about access to food. It is also about economic, social and political participation. It is about systems of food production and distribution as much as farming techniques. It is about actions taken in the developed world as much as about issues experienced in the developing world.

'Food sovereignty' is a concept we use to ensure that our work covers these wider issues that impact on people's food security.

Food sovereignty covers both the right to food and the right of people and communities to have a say in the sources of their food. It's not just about having enough food, it's also about access resources such as land, water, seeds and biodiversity, as well as having a voice in the food economy.

Supporting food sovereignty doesn’t just mean standing up for a community’s right to food, but also their right to participate in and control their food production.

What can you do to help improve food sovereignty? Find out and take action »

Our Caritas approach

Woman in her field

Caritas Australia believes that food is a basic human right. We work in partnership with communities to promote their food sovereignty. Our approach draws upon several principles of Catholic Social Teaching including human dignity, solidarity, partnership, the common good, and stewardship of the world's resources.

With our partners, we work to ensure that farmers, families and communities are at the centre of the decision-making process. Our long-term programs focus on strategies that promote good nutrition, community control, and safeguarding the environment.

Strategies might include training in farming skills, improving crop management and crop productivity, increasing access to local markets, improving seed selection for different soil types, improving irrigation, promoting organic fertiliser, and helping communities develop rain water collection systems.

Every day we work with our partners around the world to empower vulnerable people so they can establish sustainable food sources and develop income streams for life.

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Examples from our work:

  • Mariama and Fati

    Essential food for life

    When Mariama's little girl becomes malnourished, she receives life-saving food and care at a Nutrition Centre in Niger.

  • Vinsen

    Sustainable food for life

    Teaching Indonesian farmers how to terrace land and grow sustainable crops for life, regardless of the changing weather.

  • Kaluram, a Nepalese farmer

    Integrated pest management

    More than training in organic pest control, this program builds a strong platform for farmers to advocate for their rights in Nepal.

[1] Data on this page come from: