News / Asia

Hunger in Focus: Lower Food Costs Help Lower World Hunger

In this photo released by the World Food Program, North Korean children eat a lunch, including rice provided by the U.N. World Food Program.
In this photo released by the World Food Program, North Korean children eat a lunch, including rice provided by the U.N. World Food Program.

Only in recent history have entire societies been able to rise above chronic hunger and the constant threat of famine.  Even with that success, many countries in Africa and South Asia continue to struggle with the problem.  Technological advancements have helped to improve agriculture production.

But the cost of food remains perhaps the biggest obstacle to feeding the hungry.  The United Nations says the global population is projected to increase by 47-percent over a 50-year period, from 6.1 billion in 2000 to 8.9 billion in 2050.

Joachim von Braun, the director of the Center for Development Research at University of Bonn, says with an increased demand for food, and increased prices.  "Each year, except one year, the international food price has been higher than the year before," he said.  "So, the world food situation has become stressed.  And, the poor of the world in Asia and Africa have been particularly adversely affected."

"On this World Food Day (Saturday, October 16), we should remember that a billion people are undernourished, and that 60-percent of that one-billion live in Asia, and the Asian food problem is predominantly also a problem of undernourishment of children," von Braun said.

The recent global economic downturn has affected nearly every market, including food.  The instability on food prices in many parts of the world has complicated addressing hunger issues.  Katsuji Matsunami is an advisor/practice leader on Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development with the Asian Development Bank's Regional Sustainable Development Department.

"In the short term, market volatility goes on," Matsunami said.  "And, there is a very strong likelihood that some unexpected volatility and a price hike could happen.  In long term, as we all know the population keeps on increasing.  And, the dietary habits, or the consumer demands for food, is also changing," he said.

Matsunami said achieving the goal of growing more food is not simple and requires continuous investment.  "The world needs to produce more food, more feed and more fuel because of the climate change concerns," he said.  "So, agriculture has to produce more.  But, the resources needed to do that is limited, particularly water.  And, investment needed for agriculture modernization is not flowing in as we hoped for."

While the global economic slowdown has had an impact on investment in agriculture, Joachim von Braun says there are some recent developments which give hope to improving world hunger.

"In the last three years, good things have happened.  Developing countries have invested more in agriculture and have put agriculture higher on the agenda," he said.  "India, for instance, has launched, two years ago, a $6-billion program.  China has invested a lot more.  And, at least 20 countries in Africa have done so, too.  And, the development community, such as the United States with their Feed the Future program (through USAID), have also reactivated investment in agriculture with a focus on small farmers," said von Braun.

Katsuji Matsunami hopes that programs can be expanded to regional discussions and plans, especially in Asia.

"Can the ASEAN, plus three countries, come to sit down at the table and openly talk about the prospects of rice.  Who might need rice, how much, and who might have a marketable surplus of rice?  This kind of talk is not going on.  These are all bilateral, government to government.  And, we are asking, could this be possible to make it into the regional framework?" said Matsunami.

He says the regional approach to providing enough food is critical, as urban areas continue to grow at astonishing rates in Asia.  "Governments will have to make (it so) that these large numbers of small farmers will have some means to live," Matsunami added.

"At the same time, there are increasing populations, and the major part of it, poorer still, in cities, and that they need cheap food.  So, on one hand, they have to make sure the farmers get a proper price, and high enough so that farmers are interested and (are) able to survive out of rice production.  But, by bringing rice in to the consumer place, that should be cheap enough for the poor consumers to buy," he said.

The shortage of food has been linked to other needs such as better infrastructure, water and technology, which can help lower production costs and bring more food to the market at lower prices, while maintaining incomes for farmers.

Joachim von Braun says government projects have shown tangible results in parts of Asia.  "Vietnam has been particularly successful in addressing hunger and food and nutrition insecurity.  It is really, next to China, a shining example of progress in fighting hunger," he said.

Von Braun has suggested two global collective actions to help prevent another food price crisis as seen in 2007-2008.  He says a small physical food reserve should be established to facilitate a smooth response to food emergencies.  Second, an innovative virtual reserve should be set up to help prevent market price spikes.


Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid