Most of the food that the World Food Programme (WFP) distributes to people-in-need requires cooking, while drinking water often needs to be disinfected by boiling. Not only is energy necessary to consume food but also to produce, process, preserve and transport it, making it key to achieving Zero Hunger.
The vast majority of people in food-insecure places use firewood or charcoal to cook — an increasingly scarce and often unaffordable resource - forcing households to barter food for fuel, buy less food, - or less nutritious food - and skip or undercook meals. They may walk long distances to cut trees in forests that are shared with other communities.
This has an impact on people’s nutritional needs, raises tensions between communities, exposes firewood collectors —who are disproportionally women and children— to harassment and violence and contributes to deforestation. Smoke from cooking on open fires also causes respiratory diseases that are responsible for more premature deaths worldwide every year than malaria and tuberculosis combined.
WFP promotes improved cookstoves that burn biomass more efficiently than open fires; or modern cookstoves powered by bottled gas, biogas or electricity, to lower or eliminate both polluting emissions as well as the harmful demand for wood fuel.
The importance of having access to modern forms of energy does not stop at food consumption but affects the entirety of Food Systems.
For example, mechanised labour improves the quantity and quality of food produced and processed. Solar water pumps enable irrigation while solar mills substitute diesel generators that depend on expensive fuel and have high maintenance costs. In addition, preserving food by chilling, smoking, drying, pasteurising, dehydrating, vacuum sealing (all processes that require energy) substantially cuts the amount of food that is spoiled and wasted.
Facilitating access to energy helps people, both during emergencies (to enable cooking, lighting and communications) and in fragile areas (where it can improve livelihoods, prevent shocks and build resilience).
WFP aims to bring transformative economic and social change to local communities through combining energy initiatives into school feeding programmes. Solar electricity in schools for cooking, lighting and digital learning, it can also power fridges and machines that process agricultural output.
This supports smallholder farmers participating in the Home Grown School Feeding Programme to sell more high-quality food to schools and other customers in their community. Food such as milk, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables that are kept fresh by refrigeration, enrich the diet of children and the rest of the local population.
From production to processing, preserving and consuming food, having access to energy makes all the difference in achieving Food Security.