Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FAO: 925 Million in Chronic Hunger Worldwide

Today, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization announced that there are 925 million individuals enduring chronic hunger worldwide, a significant reduction from the 1 billion, 23 million hungry estimated at the peak of the food crisis of 2007 and 2009. Many news wires broadcast the press released as an important milestone: "World Hunger to Fall for First Time in 15 Years on Growth" says Bloomberg.

According to FAO, the reasons behind this reduction are twofold: 1) the reduction of food prices in developing countries from their peak levels in 2008 and 2) the projected economic growth in the developing countries for 2010. These have allowed poor people to buy more food. Although the developing world is faring this economic down-turn much better that developed countries, is hard to predict if lower prices and growth in the developing world will continue robustly. Instead, the trend has been quite the opposite, i.e since the mid- 1990s hunger has been increasing. Today, 16% of the world population remains hungry, six points away from the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015.

This welcomed news must not hid the fact that nations need to address the underlying problems of hunger in other to empower people to either buy or produce enough food to meet their diet requirements. Essentially, African and South-Asian governments need to commit to a set of policies focusing on small farmers, helping them produce and market their products better. The Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and the government's Feed the Future Initiative are two steps in the right direction. However, in the former, few countries have reached the goal of spending 10% of their government expending on Agriculture, and in the later, the actual program implementation hasn't reach the field yet. Let's hope that African countries will strengthen their commitment to food security and agriculture, and that bi-lateral and multilateral support continue increasing agricultural spending. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "We have the resources to give every person in the world the tools they need to feed themselves and their children. So the question is not whether we can end hunger. It's whether we will."