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Multi-Pronged Approach Needed to Fight Global Hunger

Worldwatch Institute

The volatility of food prices, in particular price upswings, represents a major threat to food security in developing countries and typically affects poor populations the hardest. According to the World Bank, during 2010–11 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people worldwide into extreme poverty.

“Food prices have continued to rise since 2007, and this has led to millions of people being unable to meet their daily food needs. The price hikes unfortunately also have meant that there is less money for food aid at a time when it is most vital,” said Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project, an evaluation of environmentally sustainable agricultural innovations to alleviate hunger.

World Food Day is a global event designed to increase awareness and understanding and to create year-round action to alleviate hunger. Since 1981, the event has been observed on Oct. 16 in recognition of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a specialized agency that was established in Quebec City, Canada, in 1945. This year’s World Food Day theme is “Food prices—crisis to stability,” with the purpose of shedding some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.

Since the inception of World Food Day, organizations have taken advantage of the occasion to inform the public about what they can do to help end world hunger. Although the number of undernourished people worldwide has decreased since 2009, to nearly 1 billion, it is still unacceptably high. According to a recent FAO report, in Africa alone, nearly one-third of the population is undernourished and one child dies every six seconds because of the problem.

“There’s something wrong with a world in which a billion people can’t get enough to eat for normal health while a different billion people threaten their health by overeating,” said Robert Engelman, Worldwatch’s president. “World Food Day is a day for thinking hard about how to see the problem of access to nutritious food whole, as a shared global responsibility for us all.”

On Oct. 16 of this year, countries, organizations and communities are organizing events to educate and raise awareness, with the aim of addressing widespread problems in food supply and distribution systems. These events are raising money to support projects that focus on initiatives such as measures to ease population growth, boost incomes and prepare farmers to protect their harvests against the negative effects of climate change, among others.

Throughout the world, organizations and governments are developing and implementing various plans to stabilize food prices and ensure that there is food on every table. Here are just a few examples:

  • India. The government is in the process of enacting a food security act that would provide food for nearly 70 percent of the population, specifically targeting the poor, who are often not counted in state surveys and who are denied many benefits.
  • Armenia. The government is enacting a sustainable development program that invests in infrastructure improvements, makes financial services and credit available to farmers, encourages the environmentally sustainable use of natural resources, and ensures food safety by improving food standards.
  • Telefood. Launched in 1997 by the FAO, Telefood funds micro projects that help small-scale farmers at the grassroots level. The projects aim to help farmers be more productive and to improve both local communities' access to food and farmers' access to cash income. Telefood is involved in 130 countries worldwide.
  • World Food Programme. The WFP operates in 74 countries and is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger. Currently, the Horn of Africa is suffering from the worst drought in 60 years, and 4 million people are in crisis in Somalia, with 750,000 people at risk of death in the next four months. WFP is providing food assistance to nearly 1 million people in Somalia and will scale up its operations during the coming months to reach some 1.9 million people.
  • Hunger Free World. This Japanese NGO was formalized in 2000 with the goal of ending hunger and poverty through education and awareness around the world. The group supports local initiatives and young volunteers, organizes information programs, and joins forces with national and international networks to make these issues a priority for both citizens and politicians.
  • Trussell Trust. This charity works to empower local communities to combat poverty and exclusion in the United Kingdom and Bulgaria. Last year, the group’s U.K. food bank network fed more than 60,000 hungry people.

There is no single solution to end world hunger, and these are just a few of the organizations that are taking the multi-pronged approach that is necessary to address this global problem. World Food Day is the perfect occasion for researchers, policymakers and NGOs to reflect on the existing efforts as well as potential future initiatives that can help fight global hunger and malnutrition.

Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project recently traveled to 25 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, shining a spotlight on communities that serve as models for a more sustainable future. The project is unearthing innovations in agriculture that can help alleviate hunger and poverty while also protecting the environment. These innovations are elaborated in the recently released State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

State of the World 2011 is accompanied by informational materials including briefing documents, summaries, an innovations database, videos and podcasts, all available at www.NourishingthePlanet.org. The project‘s findings are being disseminated to a wide range of agricultural stakeholders, including government ministries, agricultural policymakers, farmer and community networks, as well as to the increasingly influential nongovernmental environmental and development communities.

For more information, click here.

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