Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Mixed progress in hunger reduction in Asia and the Pacific: South Asia trails

Nepal, 14 May 2002 -- Kathmandu - One out of every six of 3 billion people in Asia and the Pacific does not eat enough to be able to lead a healthy and active life. According to FAO’s latest global food insecurity survey, the region has two-thirds of the 780 million undernourished people in the developing world. Lack of adequate nutrition saps the economic productivity of individuals and undermines the economic health of nations. Studies show that raising the average daily dietary intake to 2 770 calories per person in countries where it is below that level, increases annual per capita GDP growth by as much as 1.48 percent. […]

The most recent estimate for 1997-99 shows that while Asia and the Pacific has moved faster in tackling hunger than other parts of the developing world, it is still far short of the rate needed to achieve the WFS target, particularly in South Asia. India, the world’s second most populous nation, had some 11 million additional hungry people in 1997-99 compared to the base year, even though the percentage of undernourished people declined and the per capita dietary energy supply increased slightly during this period. In South Asia, only Pakistan and Sri Lanka improved their anti-hunger performance in terms of reduction of both absolute numbers and percentage of undernourished people.

Nepal saw increases in both the number and proportion of hungry people from 3.5 million to 5 million and from 19 to 23 percent of the population. Poverty and faster growth in population than food production, are the main reasons for the increase in hunger in Nepal, where the per capita dietary energy supply declined to below the sub-regional average. On the other hand, China, Thailand and Viet Nam are among the 12 “best performers” in the developing world, with China reducing the number of hungry by 76.3 million between 1990-92 and 1997-99, corresponding to a decline from 16 to 9 percent of its population over this period. […]

Agriculture development strategies should pay special attention to the needs of rural women who make up more than 40 percent of the agriculture labour force in the region. Rural women in Asia and the Pacific must take advantage of emerging opportunities in agriculture and their access to support services should be improved. It is important to keep in mind that agricultural tasks are traditionally divided along gender lines and women’s information, advice and technological needs differ from those of men.

Non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs) have an increasingly important role in moblizing community action and advocacy for agricultural and rural development, sustainable resource use and empowerment of disadvantaged social groups. FAO encourages the forging of closer community-government partnership in pursuit of food security. The regional conference will consider the views of NGOs/CSOs from Asia and the Pacific put forth at the 11 to 12 May 2002 consultation of civil society in Kathmandu.

A serious threat to regional food security arises from the multitude of recurring natural disasters with between 150 to 263 such calamities striking Asia-Pacific countries in the 1990s. Persisting civil strife in some parts of the region also took their toll on food security with large chunks of agricultural land uncultivated due to the presence of land mines.

Developing countries in Asia and the Pacific also need assistance to prepare for world trade liberalization. Many of these countries have not yet been able to take advantage of the special provisions designed to assist them in adapting to the new world trade rules.

RAP 02/16

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