Is the world close to ending rural hunger?

As humanity commemorated World Food Day on 16 October 2017, 800 million people remained chronically hungry across many parts of the planet, where food production is believed to be all-time high.

To honour this occasion, the Brookings published an update on the progress in ending the rural component of global hunger to see if there is evidence yet for a potential break from business-as-usual global trends.

Unfortunately there is not any right now, the think-tank said, adding that ending hunger by 2030 – the target agreed under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 – would require a decline by around 50 million people per year.

The same basic pattern holds for malnutrition, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) says dropped by 0.6% percentage points in 2015, but for malnutrition to be eliminated by 2030 it has to drop by 1.7% per year.

However, all is not that gloom.

“There have been some hopeful signs—the number of family farmers with access to a bank account has surely gone up given the rapid increase in global financial inclusion that is being reported,” the Brookings report, penned by Homi Kharas and John Mckenzie, said. “Agreements to eliminate agricultural export subsidies are also good steps to removing distortions in global trade in agriculture,” it added.

But these are unlikely to be game changers in and of themselves.

“The persistence of hunger—both undernourishment and malnutrition—depends on where, who, and how food is produced, not just on how much food is produced globally,” the two senior fellows wrote in the report.

“It depends on access by all families to a healthy and diverse diet. In many countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, a large part of the challenge lies in raising yields on family and small-holder farms.

“As one simple benchmark, the weighted average cereal yield across developing countries in 2014 was about 3.5 tons per hectare (tons/ha), a level that could make a major dent in hunger if achieved everywhere.

“But 48 developing countries still have cereal yields below 2 tons/ha and, of these, barely half (25 countries) saw higher yields in 2014 while the other half (23 countries) generally saw slightly lower yields.”

Developing countries bear the brunt of the responsibility and challenge to improve their own food and nutrition security (FNS), the report said.

“But the most recent assessments by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) suggest that policies for rural investment have not been improving much.”

(Content courtesy of the Brookings, final editing by Issa Sikiti da Silva)

Photo courtesy of Global New Light of Myanmar


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