When it comes to reducing the number of people who can’t afford food, the world has come a long way. In 2012-14, an estimated 795 million people were chronically undernourished, down more than 100 million over the last decade, and 209 million fewer than in 1990-92.
Clearly, progress has been made. This is proof that the war against hunger can be won, and it should inspire countries and corporations, with the assistance of the international community, to work toward a world free of hunger.
Why is this so important? Addressing hunger is one of the most effective ways to reduce extreme poverty: boosting agricultural productivity not only ensures more food but also boosts incomes up to four times more effectively than other sectors.
Improving agricultural productivity also has a multiplier effect. By feeding more people with the nutrients needed to grow and be healthy, household incomes rise. It’s no wonder then, that in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, agricultural growth has been 11 times more efficient than non-agricultural growth at reducing poverty.Rwanda is one example of how boosting food security acts as a means of poverty alleviation. After the country committed to allocating 10% of its national budget to the agriculture sector, more than 1 million Rwandans were lifted out of poverty. The agriculture sector is believed to have contributed 35% to this achievement. In addition to Rwanda, eight other African governments have allocated 10% of their national budgets to agricultural development, and many more are on track to increase their investments over the next few years.
Limited access to food not only threatens the health and well-being of vulnerable people, but also the economic vitality of communities and nations. Without adequate nutrients, malnutrition detracts from workers’ productivity and economic growth. Reducing hunger and increasing the economic well-being of people in the developing world helps create more prosperous and stable markets. It is clear that agricultural productivity is key to enhancing food security for the one in nine people worldwide who still don’t have enough to eat.
Despite the multiple dividends of boosting agricultural productivity, political and financial support for food security has stagnated – in some countries, aid assistance has started to decline. Still, there have been some shining lights of leadership. The recent declaration by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that food security will feature prominently at the upcoming 2015 G7 Summit in Munich provides an opportunity to ignite much needed momentum around this critical issue. A statement like this from the host of the G7 Summit – which represents 52% of the world’s economy – is not insignificant.
What is clear is that additional advocacy efforts will be required following the G7 to ensure that ambitious targets are matched with financial pledges. A clear statement from the G7 following the Summit in Munich would provide the necessary political momentum and leadership to enhance food security globally.
Critically, G7 leaders should renew or increase their pledges to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program to help ensure agricultural productivity remains up to four times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in any other sector.
In the United States, the Global Food Security Act would strengthen and codify Feed the Future, which, in 2013 alone, improved the nutrition of 12.5 million children and assisted 7 million farmers and producers in improving their use of technology and land management practices.
On World Hunger Day, we are reminded that 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas, and that a dynamic approach to food security is needed that boosts agricultural productivity and provides nutrient-rich food. Evidence shows that with the requisite political and financial commitments accelerated, substantial, and sustainable hunger reduction is possible.
As for 2015, the year in which the world will agree on a new set of global goals, now is the time for such commitments to be made from those who can make the biggest impact.
Hugh Evans is CEO of The Global Poverty Project.