Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Measuring progress in the Nordic countries

Work in progress: This page is under active development.

Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations (UN) members, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global agenda for making the world a better place by 2030. They are described by the UN as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet‘, and goals are to be achieved by all countries, in global partnership, by 2030.

This data tracker uses the latest official data to look at how the Nordic countries are progressing towards achieving the 17 SDGs, with this page looking closer at Sustainable Development Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Data for the other goals can be access via this link.

Each target is presented by first looking at global trends, before zooming in on the Nordic countries and assessing their performance. The assessment is based on work by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in analysing the progress made toward the SDGs in all OECD countries.

Target 2.1

By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round

Indicators:

2.1.1Prevalence of undernourishment
2.1.2Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population, based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)

Global trends

A. Undernourishment

According to the latest data from the United Nations, around 770 million people, 10% of the world population, were suffering from undernourishment in 2021.

The number of undernourished people has been on the rise since 2014 and could increase further in 2022 due to the lasting effects of the pandemic as well as the effects of the war in Ukraine disrupting the global food supply.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, almost 1 in 4 people are undernourished, a share approximately at the same level as in 2005. About 3 out of 4 people who are undernourished reside in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia.

B. Food insecurity

Food insecurity has also been on the rise in recent years, with the share of the world population who are moderately or severely food insecure rising from 22% in 2015 to over 29% in 2021. In 2021, that entailed 2.3 billion people experienced moderate or severe food insecurity worldwide.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines moderate and severe food insecurity as follows:

  • People experiencing moderate food insecurity have reduced the quality and/or quantity of their food and are uncertain about their ability to obtain food due to lack of money or other resources. Moderate food insecurity can increase the risk of some forms of malnutrition, such as stunting in children, micronutrient deficiencies or obesity in adults.
  • People experiencing severe food insecurity have run out of food and, at the most extreme, have gone days without eating. This group of people are those we call the “hungry”. 

The regions most affected by food insecurity are Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Southern Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Nordics

There is no data that indicate any presence of undernourishment in the Nordic countries. However, over the past six years for which data is available (2015-2020), a minor share of the population is experiencing food insecurity. The underlying data from the UN/FAO shows that the majority of those reporting food insecurity are experiencing it at a moderate level.

Given that the target for 2030 is to end hunger and ensure access by all people to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food, the data indicates that the Nordic countries still have some way to go to eliminate food insecurity in the population.

No OECD assessment is included, as new data (for 2020) has been released since the OECD published its report earlier this year.

Target 2.2

By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons

Indicators:

2.2.1Prevalence of stunting (low height for age) among children under 5 years of age
2.2.2Prevalence of wasting (low weight for height) and overweight among children under 5 years of age
2.2.3Prevalence of anaemia in women aged 15 to 49 years

Global trends

A. Stunting

Stunting is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation". As of 2020, over 1 in 5 children under 5 years of age worldwide (150 million) were affected by stunting. The share of childen affected has declined over the last two decades in all regions. Still, current progress will not be enough to reach the internationally set targets of a 40% reduction (compared to 2012) by 2025, and a 50% reduction by 2030.

Oceania, Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Africa are the three regions with the highest prevalence of stunting.

On this indicator, the UN notes that since the collection of household survey data on child height and weight was limited in 2020 due to the pandemic, estimates are based "almost entirely" on pre-pandemic data and thus do not take into account the impact of the pandemic on this indicator.

B. Wasting and overweight

Wasting is defined as a condition where a child has low weight for his or her height, reflecting acute undernutrition. In 2020, the UN estimates that 6.7% of children under 5 years worldwide were affected by wasting. There is a lack of data to assess trends over time, though the current level is above the internationally set target of reducing the prevalence at a global level to 5% in 2025 and 3% in 2030. The prevalence of wasting is particularly high in Central and Southern Asia at over twice the global average (14%).

Data also shows that little progress has been made on the prevalence of overweight among children under the age of 5. In 2020, the UN estimates that 5.7% of children under the age of 5 are overweight worldwide. Based on the current trajectory, the internationally set target of reducing the prevalence of children overweight to 3% by 2030 seems out of reach.

Australia and New Zealand have the highest childhoood overweight rates, followed by Northern Africa and Western Asia and Europe and Northern America.

On this indicator, the UN also notes that since the collection of household survey data on child height and weight was limited in 2020 due to the pandemic, estimates are based "almost entirely" on pre-pandemic data and thus do not take into account the impact of the pandemic on this indicator.

C. Anaemia

Almost 1 in 3 women worldwide in reproductive age are affected by anaemia, a condition where the number of red blood cells or the haemoglobin concentration within them is lower than normal. This increases the risk of adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes.

Globally, the prevalence of anaemia has been stable over the past decades, affecting almost 1 out of 3 women in reproductive age. The prevalence of anaemia varies considerably between regions, with the levels in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia almost three times as high as in Europe and Northern America. As of now, the target of reducing the prevalence of anaemia by 50% before 2030 looks unlikely to be reached.

The Nordics

There is no data indicating any prevalence of stunting or wasting in the Nordic countries. With regards to the prevalence of childhood overweight, the OECD has added the obesity rate among the general population to gauge progress on the target of malnutrition. Thus, the following two indicators are applicable to the Nordics:

  • prevalence of anaemia among women in reproductive age
  • the obesity rate

Anaemia

The prevalence of anaemia has been on the rise over the last decade in all the Nordic countries. Still, the latest data from 2019 show that the Nordic countries have a slightly lower prevalence than the average for the Europe and Northern America region as a whole (15% in 2019).

Obesity

The obesity rate has increased in almost all OECD countries over the past two decades. The Nordics are no exception to this trend, and although data is not available for all years, all countries have higher rates in the latest year (2017-2021) compared to the level at the start of the millennium (2000-2002). The OECD has set a reference target of reducing the obesity rate to 3% or lower by 2030.

Looking at the two indicators combined, none of the Nordic countries are on a trajectory of reaching the 2030 targets. This leads to the following assessment of target 2.2 by the OECD:

Target 2.3

By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

Indicators:

2.3.1Volume of production per labour unit by classes of farming/pastoral/forestry enterprise size
2.3.2Average income of small-scale food producers

Global trends

There is limited data available to measure progress on these two indicators. In its preliminary annual report on the SDGs for 2022, the UN notes that for those countries where data is available, small-scale food producers have an annual income of less than half of large-scale producers. Labour productivity is also lower for small-scale producers. Furthermore, women-headed production small-scale production units have only 50-70% of the income of those headed by men.

The Nordics

No data is available to measure progress on this indicator.

Target 2.4

By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality

Indicators:

2.4.1Proportion of agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture

Global trends

The indicator is currently under development, and thus no data exists to measure progress on a global level.

The Nordics

To gauge the environmental impact of the agricultural sector in OECD countries, the OECD uses an indicator on nitrogen balance in its assessment of SDG progress on target 2.4. The addition is based on the following reasoning:

Nitrogen surpluses contribute to water and air pollution, while, conversely, agricultural areas with sustained nutrient deficits may suffer reductions in soil fertility (zero surplus can thus be considered as an aspirational target for 2030).

Data for the Nordic countries on this indicator shows that except for Iceland, all other Nordic countries are classified as having a large distance to the target of zero nitrogen surplus. The trend over the last decades is that levels have declined in Sweden (though they increased sharply in 2018), Denmark and Finland, while being more stable in Norway and Iceland. In its assessment, the OECD finds that no OECD country is expected to achieve a nitrogen balance by 2030.

Target 2.5

By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed.

Indicators:

2.5.1Number of (a) plant and (b) animal genetic resources for food and agriculture secured in either medium- or long-term conservation facilities
2.5.2Proportion of local breeds classified as being at risk of extinction

Note that the target was set to be reached by 2020.

Global trends

A. Plant genetic resources

The latest global data from the UN shows that around 5.8 million plant genetic resources for food and agriculture were conserved under medium or long-term conditions as of 2021. While the number has almost doubled since 1995, the growth rate has declined over the past decade.

Based on the current status, the UNs assessment of the current global situation is that:

The diversity of crop wild relatives, wild food plants, and neglected and underutilized crop species continues to be underrepresented in ex situ collections.

(Ex situ collections: plant genetic resources stored and maintained outside their natural habitat.)

B. Animal genetic resources

In terms of animal genetic resources, only 277 out of 7704 local livestock breeds (3.6%) are currently classified as having sufficient material stored in genebanks to allow them to be reconstituted in case of extinction.

Data on the share of local breeds classified as being at risk of extinction is scarce, and thus the UN provides no assessment no the current global progress. FAO estimates that out of a limited number of surveyed local livestock, 72% were at risk of extinction.

The Nordics

Data on the Nordic countries for this target is limited. Data exists for the number of stored resources, but this does not allow for cross-country comparison or measurement of progress against set targets.

The share of local breeds at risk is the only indicator for this target that can be compared across countries. Except for Iceland, the Nordic countries have a high share of local breeds classified as being at risk. This is in line with the level for most OECD countries, with an average of 80% of local breeds classified as being at risk.

With weight given to the high share of local breeds at risk, the OECD gives a negative assessment of progress in the Nordic countries:

Target 2.a

Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries

Indicators:

2.a.1The agricultural orientation index (AOI) for government expenditures
2.a.2Total official flows (official development assistance plus other official flows) to the agricultural sector

Global trends

A. The agricultural orientation index

The agricultural orientation index (AOI) is calculated by taking a country's agricultural share of government expenditure and dividing it by the agricultural share of GDP. As such, it aims to capture the orientation toward the agricultural sector in a country with scores given according to the following methodology:

  • An Agriculture Orientation Index (AOI) greater than 1 reflects a higher orientation towards the agriculture sector, with the sector receiving a higher share of government spending relative to its contribution to economic value-added.
  • An AOI equal to 1 reflects neutrality in a government’s orientation to the agriculture sector.
  • An AOI less than 1 reflects a lower orientation to agriculture.

At the global level, the AOI has remained relatively stable over the past decades. There is no globally set target for this index. At a regional level, it has increased markedly in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia. According to the FAO, the increase is primarily driven by developments in China.

B. Aid to the agricultural sector

Total official development flows to the agricultural sector have increased in absolute volume since 2000, though its share of total aid flows has decreased from around 25% in the mid-1980s to around 5% in 2019. According to the UN SDG status report, the shift is largely caused by increasing aid flows toward social sectors.

The Nordics

The agricultural orientation index shows a mixed pattern across the Nordic countries. Norway and Finland have decreased their index score over the past two decades, indicating a lower orientation towards the agricultural sector, while the other countries initially had a lower index and have seen less change.

Data on official development flow to the agricultural sector exists for the Nordic countries, but only in terms of absolute values and are thus not discussed further in this comparative analysis. The OECD provides no assessment of progress towards this target.

Target 2.b

Correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, including through the parallel elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies and all export measures with equivalent effect, in accordance with the mandate of the Doha Development Round

Indicators:

2.b.1Agricultural export subsidies

Global trends

In late 2015 WTO members agreed to eliminate all forms of agricultural export subsidies. Developed countries were to immediately abandon them, while developing countries had until the end of 2018. Data from the WTO show that the level of subsidies has been drastically reduced over the past years.

While no evaluation is given on a country-level basis, the OECD points out in its analysis of this SDG target that when looking at a broad range of measures of agricultural support:

Two-thirds of support to farmers is provided through measures that strongly distort farm business decisions - thereby distorting global agricultural production and trade.

Target 2.c

Adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility

Indicators:

2.c.1Indicator of food price anomalies

Global trends

The indicator of food price anomalies (IFPA) aims to capture instances of high or moderately high food prices.

According to the IFPA, over 47% of all countries worldwide experienced high or moderately high food prices in 2020, as food prices rose rapidly during the second half of 2020. At a regional level, all regions saw an increase in countries experiencing food price anomalies.

Note that international data for this indicator is not available yet for 2021 when prices reached record levels.

The Nordics

Data from the IFPA, based on national consumer price indices, show a much more stable trend for all the Nordic countries. However, the Nordic countries have not been immune to the food price hikes, which one would expect to be captured in the data for 2021.

In summary, with the available data, the OECD gives a positive assessment of the Nordic countries on this indicator.

About the data

The data presented on global, regional, and national trends are from the UN SDG Global Database and the OECD unless otherwise stated.

The assessment of the Nordic countries is based on the findings from a recent OECD report, published in April 2022. The OECD uses a three-tier classification for each target:

  • Target is achieved or on track to being achieved
  • Progress has been made, but is insufficient to meet the target
  • No progress or moving away from the SDG target

Note that the OECD methodology uses the current status of a target and calculates a likely trend towards 2030 based on recent progress. Thus, a country that is close to a target, but trending away from it, will be classified as having "No progress or moving away from the SDG target". Conversely, a country that is currently further away from the target, but trending towards it (and has a high likelihood of reaching it before 2030), will be classified as "Target is achieved or on track to being achieved".

Changelog

  • Pilot release 30 May 2022
  • Layout update 6 June 2022

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