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Zero hunger by 2030: 11 points to new UN report

Study estimates that an extra annual investment of US$160 in each poor person would eliminate extreme poverty and hunger

A major new UN report has estimated the cost of additional investments needed to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger, the first two major objectives of proposed global sustainable development goals. The study, prepared by FAO, IFAD and WFP, the UN Rome-based agencies, ahead of September’s summit on the post-2015 development agenda, finds that an extra investment between 2016 and 2030 of US $267bn per year (US$160 per poor person per year) focused on rural people would sustainably end hunger and extreme poverty. These 11 points help break down the numbers…

Hunger to remain high without extra investment

According to current “business as usual” trends, the number of hungry people in the world is projected to decline to 653 million, or 7.9% of the world population by 2030, well above the proposed SDG2 target, End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. To achieve SDG2 and SDG1, End poverty, additional investments targeted to the poor must be promoted.

Social protection + pro-poor investment = zero hunger

To sustainably achieve zero hunger by 2030 – the end date of the SDGs – a combination of investments in social protection and additional pro-poor development is the best way to quickly take people out of hunger and extreme poverty. Globally, the average annual investment to eliminate hunger by 2030 above what would occur in “a business as usual” scenario is estimated at US$267bn (US$ constant 2013 prices) between 2016 and 2030, or 0.31% of global GDP. That means an extra US$160 per year over the next 15 years is the average investment in each of the world’s extreme poor to sustainably end hunger and extreme poverty.

Transfers to bring poor to the poverty line

The social protection part of this total investment envelope is estimated at an average of US$116bn annually between 2016 and 2030. It constitutes a “transfer to cover the poverty gap” (PGT), to bring the extreme poor living on less than US$1.25/day (in PPP terms) to the poverty line income. The PGT, which amounts to 0.13% of global GDP, would immediately eliminate both extreme poverty and hunger.

Income growth to gradually replace social protection

To sustainably achieve zero hunger by 2030, an additional US$151bn yearly is required on average to ensure and sustain higher pro-poor growth of employment and incomes. As the incomes of the poor increase due to the returns on the additional pro-poor investment, the amount of social protection needed to close the poverty gap declines accordingly.

Rural, agriculture the main focus

Of the estimated average US$116bn annual investment in social protection between 2016 and 2030 to sustainably achieve zero hunger, US$75bn/year would be in rural areas and US$41bn/year in urban areas. Of the US$151bn/year additional pro-poor investment, US$105bn/year would be for the rural poor and US$46bn/year would be for the urban poor.

A market for smallholder entrepreneurs

To achieve greatest impact, the majority of “zero hunger” investments should target goods and services for the poor and vulnerable in rural areas where almost four-fifths of the poor live. Key interventions would include enabling and encouraging smallholder family farmer output increases through agricultural research and development, vocational education and extension services, transport and communication infrastructure, land and water management, and activities that promote rural employment generation.

Producing and consuming sustainably

Together with creating income opportunities and providing access to food, the proposed investments should be designed to contribute to more sustainable food systems by conserving natural resources and adopting sustainable agricultural practices. They should also contribute to reducing food losses in production and processing, modifying unsustainable dietary preferences, reducing levels of food waste in consumption, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture and other sectors, to slow climate change and ensure the food security of future generations.

A varied plate

Along with immediate hunger and extreme poverty eradication, social protection would also allow the poor to afford more diverse and healthier diets, and improve nutrition by, among other things, addressing ‘hidden hunger’ or micronutrient deficiencies – the inadequate intake of vitamins, trace elements and minerals critical for healthy human life. Improving nutrition should enable the poor to engage more productively in economic activities, improving their incomes and livelihoods.

Encouraging public and private investment

Achieving zero hunger in the long term requires a mix of public and private investments, and appropriate policies to ensure that the poor benefit from the growth and employment opportunities generated. While private investors, especially farmers themselves, contribute the largest financial investment in rural areas, public investment in public goods – such as institution building, productivity-enhancing research, rural transport, health, education and social protection – is essential to ensure food security and nutrition and inclusive sustainable development.

A fair share

While economic growth is key to eradicating hunger, it has to be inclusive and provide opportunities for improving the livelihoods of the poor. To defeat hunger, the additional investment in rural development and agriculture has to be married to sustainable development approaches that are likely to bring high economic, environmental and social returns.

Smart economics

Ending poverty, hunger and undernutrition is viable and affordable. In the past, there has been insufficient investment specifically targeting the food security and nutrition of the extreme poor. Explicit political commitments with follow-up are needed to make ending hunger and poverty an international, national and government-wide priority. 

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