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IFPRI Calls for Greater Action to End Hunger

  • Joe DeCapua

Global Hunger Index 2012 says hunger remains serious global problem. Credit: IFPRI

Global Hunger Index 2012 says hunger remains serious global problem. Credit: IFPRI

A food policy organization says there’s been a lot of talk about fighting hunger, but too little action. IFPRI (IF-pree), the International Food Policy Research Institute, says progress has been piecemeal, at best.

IFPRI says world food security remained at risk last year with 870-million people listed as hungry and two-billion as being deficient in micronutrients. It’s making recommendations to help speed progress in a new report called Walk the Talk.

IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan described 2012 as a “mixed year” for progress against hunger.

“On the one hand we do see some positive developments, particularly at the country level. African countries, India, China, Brazil continue to commit themselves to increase investment in Agriculture, in agricultural research -- to really increase their agricultural productivity at a global level. Donor agencies, the World Bank, USAID, have also increased their investment in agriculture, in food security and nutrition.”

But he said THAT 2012 also saw plenty of talk with little follow through.

“In 2012, we had lots of debates, discussions, conferences without a clear roadmap – without a clear, actual plan to implement,” he said.

Fan said that a lack of political will means that food security did not progress as far as it should have last year. Also, following the food crisis in 2008 and 2009, many promises were made to increase investment in smallholder agriculture. Small farms, many headed by women, were described as a key element in reducing hunger and ensuring food security.

Many countries have made progress in supporting smallholders. However, many other countries have also failed in doing that in providing very much needed smallholder technologies, smallholder market access, smallholder inputs to help them to increase their production, to improve their income and eventually to diversify their livelihoods away from agriculture.

The IFPRI chief issued a statement saying that “on its current trajectory of tepid promises and unfulfilled commitments, the international community will fall far short of the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people who suffer from hunger by 2015.”

Supporters of greater agricultural investment in poor countries have often criticized the use of subsidies by rich nations. They say it puts developing countries at a disadvantage in producing and selling their goods. Now, countries such as India and China, with their booming economies, are also opting for subsidies.

“Well, this has been a trend, but it’s not necessarily the right trend. So we need to change that trend. When poorer countries or middle income countries move to a higher level income status, they should try to think very hard why they should follow the more advanced countries,” said Fan.

He said that 2013 is a critical year to both the review the progress of the Millennium Development Goals and set new development goals for post 2015.

“Hungry people, poor people, must be on the top of the post 2015 agenda. And clearly, the whole economy, including agricultural production, food production, has to be sustainable in the long run by using less water and less land and less energy or use them more efficiently.”

IFPRI’S director general said ending hunger would have implications far beyond nutritional concerns.

“The global community will be more peaceful; probably will be more prosperous because if people don’t worry about the food they have the energy to think something else to improve other dimensions of their life. And if people have food to eat, they are less violent,” he said.

There’s no excuse, said Fan, for anyone to go to bed hungry, adding it’s time the international community walked the talk on food security.