Re: From economic growth to food security and better nutrition

George Kent Department of Political Science, University of Hawai'i, États-Unis d'Amérique

FSN Friends –

As the opening statement by Juan Carlos García y Cebolla and Mauricio Rosales reminded us, The State of Food Insecurity in the World for 2012 shows that economic growth “can be a powerful driver for increased food security when translated into agricultural growth and in particular when it is inclusive and reaches smallholder farmers and women.”

This language acknowledges that the linkage between economic growth and increased food security is not tight. It depends on whether those in power are genuinely motivated to increase food security, especially among the poorest sections in the population. And it depends on the successful implementation of programs favoring the poor. Thus, as Juan Carlos and Mauricio have emphasized, their third question is particularly important:

"How can we mobilize the political will necessary to put policies for hunger reduction and improved nutrition higher on the list of political priorities?"

This challenge is especially difficult when the political will of the central government to end hunger is completely absent. However, where the will is present but weak, there are options. It might be possible to find means for addressing hunger that are not difficult or costly for the central government.

This approach could mesh nicely with ideas that emphasize local food sovereignty and self-reliance. Instead of thinking in terms of central governments providing food directly to needy people or organizing large-scale projects, the emphasis could shift to having the central government facilitate local initiatives.

To illustrate, central governments could encourage the creation of local food policy councils that would take initiatives to improve local food systems. This practice is already widespread in several high income countries. Central governments could also encourage local exchanges of information on farming practices, marketing, household food production, nutrition education, etc. The policies of central governments could shift to place greater emphasis on local rather than national food systems.

Many things could be done, at little cost, to encourage community-based nutrition security, so that people come to depend more on each other than on the central government. Many different kinds of food and nutrition projects could be implemented locally, and also managed locally, through programs that would build local capacities.

Food insecurity at the local level could be diagnosed, and ways might be found to strengthen communities so that serious nutrition problems do not arise. Rather than designing projects to fix problems, it might be possible to make changes in communities so that basic nutrition is no longer a problem. Achieving this would mean that the hunger problem has been attacked at its roots.

Aloha, George Kent