Feeding the Planet


Windhoek – Although considerable effort and large sums of money have been devoted to addressing hunger worldwide, some 842 million people ‑ roughly 12.5 percent of the global population ‑ went to bed hungry in 2011-13, according to a report released by UN agencies.

According to the annual food security report published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the vast majority of hungry people ‑ in total 827 million ‑ live in developing regions, where the prevalence of undernourishment is now estimated at 14.3 percent.

Some 15.7 million hungry people are in developed countries. Although the total number of hungry people in 2011-13 has gone down from the 868 million reported for 2010–12, it is insufficient overall to achieve internationally agreed hunger reduction goals.

The report is titled “The State of Food Insecurity in the World” and was released on October 1, 2013. “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,” says the report.

“In addition, in some countries, remittances from migrants are playing a role in reducing poverty, leading to better diets and progress in food security.  “They can also contribute to boosting productive investments by smallholder farmers “Despite the progress made worldwide, marked differences in hunger reduction persist.”

FAO, IFAD and WFP said Africa south of the Sahara has made only modest progress in recent years and remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment. One in four people are estimated to be hungry in this region. “Levels and trends in undernourishment differ within the continent. While Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest level of undernourishment, there has been some improvement over the last two decades, with the prevalence of undernourishment declining from 32.7 percent to 24.8 percent. 

“Northern Africa, by contrast, is characterised by a much lower prevalence of undernourishment.  “Overall, the region is not on track to achieve the MDG hunger target, reflecting too little progress in both parts of the continent,” says the report.

No recent progress is observed in Western Asia, while Southern Asia witnessed slow progress.   Substantial reductions in both the number of hungry and prevalence of undernourishment have occurred in most countries of East Asia, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Since the 1990-92 food security study, the number of undernourished people in developing countries has fallen by 17 percent from 995.5 million to 826.6 million.  The latest report stresses that 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 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.  But the more ambitious target set at the 1996 World Food Summit – to halve the number of hungry people by 2015, looks out of reach globally even though 22 countries met it by the end of 2012, according to the report.

In the foreword of the report FAO, IFAD and the 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,” write the heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP, José Graziano da Silva, Kanayo F Nwanze and Ertharin Cousin, respectively.

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. 

“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,” the agency heads said. The report underlines that economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction. 

“But growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor, especially those in rural areas.  “In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared,” the report notes.

Governments, civil society and private sector representatives will discuss the findings and recommendations of State of Food and Agriculture 2013 at the October 7-11 meeting of the Committee on World Food Security, in Rome, Italy.

October 2013
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