Policies aimed at increasing farm productivity needed to address global hunger

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



ROME, Oct. 1, 2013- Global hunger is on the decline, but roughly one in eight people, or 842 million still suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-13, according to a report released today.

The overall number of hungry dropped from 868 million in 2010-12 to 842 million in the 2011-13 study period. Compared to 1990-92, the total number of undernourished has fallen by 17 percent, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2013), published every year by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

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But the decline is not yet sufficient enough to reach the goal world leaders set of reducing the proportion of hungry people in developing nations by half by 2015.

Listen to more: Pietro Gennari, Director of FAO Statistics Division, answers questions about the report in this video.

The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions and many of those are benefiting from new investments in agriculture.

“Continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability,” the report notes.

But despite overall progress, strong differences across regions persist.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with modest progress in recent years, with one in four people estimated to be hungry, notes the report.

Western Asia shows no progress, while Southern Asia and Northern Africa show slow progress. Significant reductions in both the estimated number and prevalence of undernourishment have occurred in most countries of Eastern and South Eastern Asia, as well as in Latin America.”

As a whole, developing regions as a whole have made significant progress towards reaching the target of halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015. This target was agreed internationally as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If the average annual decline since 1990 continues to 2015, the prevalence of undernourishment will reach a level close to the MDG hunger target, the report noted.

A more ambitious target set at the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS), to halve the number of hungry people by 2015, remains out of reach at global level, even though 22 countries had already met it by the end of 2012. 

FAO, IFAD and WFP urged countries "to make considerable and immediate additional efforts" to meet the MDG and WFS targets.

"With a final push in the next couple of years, we can still reach the MDG target," wrote the heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP, José Graziano da Silva, Kanayo F. Nwanze and Ertharin Cousin in their foreword to the report. They called for nutrition-sensitive interventions in agriculture and food systems as a whole, as well as in public health and education, especially for women.

"Policies aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and increasing food availability, especially when smallholders are targeted, can achieve hunger reduction even where poverty is widespread,” the agency leaders said. “When they are combined with social protection and other measures that increase the incomes of poor families, they can have an even more positive effect and spur rural development, by creating vibrant markets and employment opportunities, resulting in equitable economic growth.”

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