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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs