The UN Food and Agriculture
Organization says there's growing evidence that the fight against world hunger could
be lost. It estimates nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from hunger
and malnutrition compared with 825 million about 10 years ago.
from the FAO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development open
a two-day meeting in Paris Tuesday to discuss the problem. Joseph Schmidhuber,
head of the FAO's Global Perspectives Unit, spoke from Rome about the growing
number of people labeled as hungry or malnourished.
seen first a stagnation in the number of under nourished people and then
actually we saw quite an increase. And we expect a further increase due to the
financial and economic crisis. The first increase was essentially an increase
that reduced implicit incomes through higher food prices and the second one is
an increase that will reduce explicit incomes and purchasing power through the
financial and economic crisis," he says.
Paris meeting will look for long-term solutions. "The meeting will focus on
investing in agriculture and food security. What we sense now is an urgent need
to step up investment in agriculture in order to avoid the situation as we had
in the early 1980s," he says.
economic crisis of the 1980s, triggered in part by a debt crisis, brought a
sharp downturn in investment in agriculture. Schmidhuber says that resulted in
"a reduction of production and stagnation in the fight against hunger."
June, in Rome, international donors held an emergency meeting in Rome on
soaring food prices and widespread food shortages. Asked whether anything
substantial has come from that meeting, he says, "What we've seen is actually
that international prices went down considerably. There's no doubt about that."
However, what did not happen in many countries was an equal decline in national
prices. In fact, in some cases food prices actually rose.
of the problems we see as an organization is that we saw enormous pledges in
2008 in the meeting…but there was relatively little follow-up in terms of
actual investment. So, we saw pledges to the tune of $26 billion and we
saw…actual money coming forward to the tune of $2 billion."
the Paris meeting be any different? Schmidhuber says, "We don't expect that to
bring about the big action. But we think it's a very important stepping stone
towards a world food summit that we will hopefully have in November 2009. And
now we gradually want to prepare that process and one of the stepping
stones…will be this meeting in Paris."
warning about the growing hunger problem, the FAO says there are about a dozen
so-called "left behind" countries.
are a number of countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and also in South
Asia, that have not made progress…in terms of fighting hunger. At the same
time, these are countries with still very high population growth rates… They
have relatively limited agricultural resources, limited land. And they've
exhausted much of the land. They have very limited non-agricultural resources.
And therefore, we don't see much possibility for them to get out of the
doldrums unless there is much more investment and much more investment in
productivity," he says.
These countries include Niger, Mali
and Burkina Faso.