The National, Tuesday October 8th, 2013
By JAMES LARAKI
ABOUT 842 million people, or roughly one in eight people in the world, were estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger in 2011–2013, not getting enough food regularly to live active and healthy lives, a report by the United Nations says.
The number is down from 868m reported for the same period in 2010–2012, the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2013), an annual publication of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) says. The report said the vast majority of hungry people lived in developing regions, with 15.7m living in developed countries.
The report told of improved economic growth in developing countries, leading to improved incomes and access to food. Developing countries have registered significant progress towards reducing hunger. The number of undernourishment has fallen by 17 per cent since 1990-92.
Despite overall progress, marked differences in hunger reduction persist across regions.
Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with modest progress in recent years, with one in four people (24 per cent) estimated to be hungry and malnourished.
No recent progress is observed in Western Asia, while Southern Asia and Northern Africa show slow progress.
Significant reductions in the estimated number and prevalence of undernourishment have occurred in most countries of Eastern and South Eastern Asia, and in Latin America.
While uneven, the report stresses developing regions have made significant progress towards the target of halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015. This target was agreed to as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If the average annual decline since 1990 continues to 2015, the prevalence of undernourishment will reach a level close to the MDG hunger target. FAO, IFAD and WFP have urged countries “to make considerable and immediate additional efforts” to meet the MDG and WFS targets.
“With a final push in the next couple of years, we can still reach the MDG target,” wrote the heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP, respectively José Graziano da Silva, Kanayo Nwanze and Ertharin Cousin in their foreword to the report.
They called for nutrition-sensitive interventions in agriculture and food systems, as well as in public health and education, especially for women.
“Policies aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and increasing food availability, especially when smallholders are targeted, can achieve hunger reduction even where poverty is widespread,” they said.
“When they are combined with social protection and other measures that increase the incomes of poor families, they can have an even more positive effect and spur rural development, by creating vibrant markets and employment opportunities, resulting in equitable economic growth.”
The report says economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction.
More growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor, especially those in rural areas.
“In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but broadly shared,” the report noted.
The UN report not only measures chronic hunger but presents a new suite of indicators for countries to capture the multiple dimensions of food insecurity. These indicators give a true picture of food insecurity in a country. In some countries, for example, the prevalence of hunger can be low, while at the same time under-nutrition rates can be quite high.
Like other developing countries, Papua New Guinea has its own food insecurity challenges.
But first we need to understand what food security or insecurity is. Food security is a complex issue that is not well understood by many. It is not about one having food on a daily basis but is about nutritious food for today, tomorrow and many generations to come.
There are manifestations and dimensions of food security that we need to understand. We need to appreciate that agriculture is and will to be the primary source of food security in PNG. Therefore, the key strategy to attain food security is the enhancement of productivity and quality of agricultural production.
NARI and other concerned agencies are implementing a number of programmes and projects aimed at addressing food security in PNG.
These efforts need to be supported to unlock the untapped potential in our agriculture sector to assure food security through increasing crop and livestock productivity.
We need to have long-term commitment to mainstreaming food security and nutrition in public policies and programmes. And most importantly we need to keep food security and agriculture high on the development agenda, particularly by facilitating public and private investments in innovation through research and development in areas of high food production potential.