Good news in the battle against hunger

In the wake of the financial crisis, the number of people worldwide who do not have enough to eat has topped a billion. However, a new report, Pathways to Success (pdf), by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests that there is positive news in the battle against hunger.

In 31 of the 79 countries that the FAO monitors, there has been a “notable decline” in the number of undernourished people between 1991 and 2005. How? The report notes four trends:

  • creating an enabling environment for economic growth and human wellbeing,
  • reaching out to the most vulnerable and investing in the rural poor,
  • protecting gains, and
  • planning for a sustainable future.

Yes, a little vague, but it delves into four case studies (Armenia, Brazil, Nigeria, and Vietnam) that shed a little more light on the subject.

  1. Economic Growth – I guess a rising tide does lift all boats. Open markets and free trade = fewer hungry.  In Armenia there was a two-decade transition to an open market economy; in Nigeria there were de-regulation and privitization reforms as well as significant growth in the non-oil economy; in Vietnam there was integration of their textile industry into the world economy and strengthening of the “investment climate”; and in Brazil, well Brazil became a major regional economic force.
  2. Investing in the Poor – Armenia, with the help of the EU’s Food Security Program, provided financing for rural economic activity and a social safety net for the poor. Brazil did the same through Lula’s “Zero Hungry” strategy.  Nigeria provided technology and better economic integration to farmers and rural communities. And, Vietnam, created a social security system.
  3. Protecting Gains – Stimulus, stimulus, stimulus, as well as the release of food reserves during the financial crisis.
  4. Sustainable Future – This basically means a continuation of the above plus some cool localized stuff.  In Brazil, there are measures for protecting biodiversity; and, in Nigeria, the “Desert-to-Food Programme” is aiming to prevent the encroachment of the Sahara on arable land.

The report analyzes these and other cases in greater depth.