FAO released their new report on global food insecurity earlier this week. The first headline in the report is ‘Despite setbacks, the race against hunger can be won’ which to me clearly illustrates the somewhat contrasting situations when looking through regional developments across the world in relation to successes and failures to reduce hunger and mal-nutrition.
A depressing story is that globally, the number of undernourished people is basically the same today (around 800 million) as they were 10 years ago, when the leaders of 185 countries agreed at the World Food Summit (WFS) to halve the number by 2015. However, the proportion of hungry people is dropping, from 20% in the early 1990’s, to 17% today. According to FAO this suggests that the world is on a path towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal on hunger reduction (halving the proportion of hungry people in developing countries by 2015 as compared to what it was in 1990–92). FAO cautions to dismiss the period as a “lost decade since that could compound existing skepticism and would risk detracting from positive action being.
So what are the good parts of the story? Well, several regions have substantially reduced hunger and undernourishments. The largest progress can be found in Asia & the Pacific as well as in Latin America & the Caribbean (see figure). When looking at commonalities across sucess storeis Margarita Flores, secretary of the committee of food security, FAO says:
When we analyze the successful stories, most of them have at least two common characteristics. One of them is economic growth, and particularly agricultural growth. When you see the rapid growth in cities, especially in Latin America, you see a reduction of poverty in rural areas and increase in poverty in urban areas. That means a migration of poor people to the cities. We need to solve the problem in the rural areas.
However, there are severe setbacks in several regions of the world. As usual it is most countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have some of the major challenges. At the same time the FAO report is trying to be optimistic:
Recent progress in reducing the prevalence of undernourishment is noteworthy. For the first time in several decades, the share of undernourished people in the region’s population saw a significant decline: from 35 percent in 1990–92 to 32 percent in 2001–03, after having reached 36 percent in 1995–97. This is an encouraging development, but the task facing the region remains daunting: the number of undernourished people increased from 169 million to 206 million while reaching the WFS target will require a reduction to 85 million by 2015.
The report list a series of steps that they believe are needed to eradicate hunger in the years ahead:
- focusing programmes and investments on “hotspots” of poverty and undernourishment;
- enhancing the productivity of smallholder agriculture;
- creating the right conditions for private investment, including transparency and good governance;
- making world trade work for the poor, with safety nets put in place for vulnerable groups;
- and a rapid increase in the level of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.7 percent of GDP.