Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

Scott Bleggi Bread for the World Institute, United States of America

Bread for the World Institute’s 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach – Global Development Goals, was recently released. The report argues that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are within reach by 2015. With three years left before the goals are set to expire, now is the time to double down and focus on getting the job done.

In the report we highlight the good news—and there is plenty of it. In 2012, for example, we learned that the MDG poverty target has already been met. We’re not on track to meet the hunger target, but we are closer than we thought we’d be just a couple of years ago. To reach the hunger target, the share of the world’s population that is hungry would have to fall to 11.6 percent. At the current rate, we would expect 12.5 percent to be hungry in 2015.  

The keys to achieving the 2015 targets depend on investments in smallholder agriculture and social protection. Most of the people in the world who are hungry are smallholder farmers. They may grow enough to feed themselves and their family but earn no more than $1.25 per day and in some cases much less. Poverty prevents them from diversifying their diets, investing in their children’s education, taking advantage of health care and other services. By providing smallholders with farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizer, preventing post-harvest losses by building basic storage facilities, or roads that allow them to gain access to a larger market, they can earn the additional income they need to improve their living conditions.

Social protection is another key piece of puzzle that we focus on in the Hunger Report. Social protection is a broad term but it basically means systems of support that allow vulnerable people to manage risks. Poor people are highly vulnerable to risk. No one is more exposed to the risks associated with climate change than a smallholder farmer. When poor families are better able to manage the risks in their life, we find they are more inclined to invest in their children’s development: sending them to school, for example, rather than to the fields.

There is a gender dimension to achieving the MDGs that we also discuss in the report. Women do the majority of farming in poor countries. By supporting smallholder farmers we are supporting women—and their children. We know that when assistance is provided directly to women more of it goes towards improvements that benefit the whole family.

Beyond 2015, the post-MDG agenda should include new development goals. Goal 1, once again, should be focused on hunger and poverty. The Hunger Report calls for the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty within a generation. As recently as a decade ago this may have sounded like a pipe dream. But not any longer. In light of the progress so many countries have made in recent decades, we’d be underestimating our own capacity by shooting for less. We don’t have to spend trillions of dollars or wait for scientific breakthroughs that have eluded us. The tools are already available, but we have to be willing to deploy them. Mostly it depends on a concerted and sustained push by government leaders and civil society organizations working together.

The U.S. government has a role to play in this and we highlight that in the report. U.S. government leadership won’t be the decisive factor in whether we meet the hunger goal by 2015 or eradicate hunger in a generation, but as the most generous donor of development assistance it can set an example for other donors and alert partners in developing countries that we intend to be reliable partners in the realization of these goals.

Todd Post and Scott Bleggi, Bread for the World Institute