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Re: From economic growth to food security and better nutrition

Final Year Economics Students (group 1)
  1. Can you tell us about policies that led to better nutritional status as a result of investment into agriculture?

Improved food security stems directly from a set of government policies that integrates the food economy into a development strategy that seeks rapid economic growth with improved income distribution (Timmer, Falcon and Pearson 1983). With such policies, economic growth and food security are mutually reinforcing.

One of the main goals of China’s agricultural policy is ensuring national food security. By producing most of the food it needs for its large population, China contributes significantly to world food security and accounts for much of the decline in the number and percentage of the world’s population who are undernourished. China’s success in increasing the supply of food and fibre in the last 50 years to meet the needs of its growing population is well recognized. Per capita daily energy supply reached 2,990 kcal, well above the recommended level of 2,100 kcal in the MDGs and 14 percent higher than the average daily energy supply in developing countries and 8 percent higher than the world average (FAOSTAT database, 2008).

At the national level, grain security has received the attention of national leaders: in the late 1990s, a target of 95 percent grain self-sufficiency was set. To achieve this, China invested heavily in irrigation and other agricultural infrastructure (Wang, 2000), research and extension (Huang et al., 2000) and domestic production and marketing of chemical fertilizer and pesticides (Nyberg and Rozelle, 1999).

Agricultural reforms in China had huge consequences for food security and the improvement of the nutritional status of Chinese citizens. According to FAO estimates, the number of undernourished people decreased from 304 million in 1979–1981, 30 percent of the population, to 123 million in 2003–2005, 9 percent of the population. One policy that brought China to this level was centered on DEVELOPMENT AND DISSEMINATION OF AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY. Since a country such as China, where agriculture is dominated by small farms, this is even more important.

Reference: Agricultural Development and Nutrition: the Policies behind China’s Success