14-16 OCTOBER 2001

The cost of hunger

by Jean-Louis Arcand

Professor Jean-Louis Arcand, of the CERDI-CNRS, Université d'Auvergne, in Clermont-Ferrand, France, made the point that undernourishment is costly, not only in terms of the human suffering it causes, but also in terms of economic efficiency.

"Hungry people are less productive at work and live shorter lives," he pointed out, based on his statistical work that analyzes 122 countries over three decades.

"These factors constitute an important impediment to economic growth in countries where a large fraction of the population is undernourished," he added. As a result, "sub-Saharan African countries, where undernourishment reaches extremely high levels, have lost between 0.5 and 1.5 percentage points in the annual growth rate of their GDP per capita," according to his statistical findings.

Given the extremely low levels of economic growth in Africa below the Sahara, Professor Arcand estimates that "the average level of income per capital in the continent could have been almost twice as high (US$1,900 in constant terms during 1990) as it is today (US$1,200), had undernourishment been eliminated."

As he put it: "Fighting hunger is not just a moral imperative, it is also a good investment." And since, as he stressed, "economic growth has been shown by recent World Bank research to benefit the poor just as much as the population at large," it follows that "fighting hunger is an effective means of reducing poverty."

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Full speech (pdf document)

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Click below to read presentations:

The State of Food Insecurity 2001, by Hartwig de Haen

The Impact of Globalization and Trade Liberalization on Food Security, by Hartwig de Haen

HIV/AIDS and food security, by Marcela Villarreal

Why are so many people hungry in a world that produces enough for all?, by Alan Randell

The potential of new technology: how to feed a growing world population, by Jim Dargie

Does it make sense to talk about agriculture today?, by Louise Fresco

World Food Day, by Margareta Winberg

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