WEDNESDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2006
11:15 - 12:45, Conference Room 2
Moderator: Mr. Prabhu Pingali, Director,
Agricultural and Development Economics Division, FAO
Ms. Rajul Pandya-Lorch, Head, 2020 Vision
for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Initiative, and Chief of Staff,
Director General's Office, International Food Policy Research Institute
Mr. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Mr. Roberto Bissio, Executive Director, Third World
Institute; Coordinator, Social Watch
Session organized by FAO, IFAD, WFP and UNHABITAT
Trends in Hunger and Extreme Poverty
Half way through the time period for reaching
the millennium development goals (1990-2015) the progress with achieving
the poverty target presents a mixed picture of success in some parts
of the world (China, East Asia) and failure in others (sub-Saharan Africa).
On an aggregate however, poverty reduction seems to be on target to meet
the first Millennium Development Goal.
However, as regards progress in hunger reduction
the picture is discouraging. Virtually no progress has been made towards
the realisation of the World Food Summit target of halving by
2015 the number of undernourished people from the 1990-92 level.
Recent data confirm that since 1990–92, the undernourished population in the developing
countries declined from 823 million to 820 million, only by 3 million people. This
corresponded to a reduction in the proportion of undernourished from 20
percent in 1990–92 to 17 percent in 2001–2003. However,
progress over this period was slower than over the previous two decades.
The hunger-poverty nexus
Poverty in developing countries is predominantly
a rural phenomenon, both in that the majority of the poor tend to live
in rural areas and that poverty rates in rural areas are almost always
higher than in urban areas. The
rural poor derive their living directly from agriculture or from activities
closely linked to it, while participation of rural households in agricultural
activities is as high as 90 per cent in some countries.
Poverty and hunger are closely related. Extreme
poverty is almost always at the root of chronic hunger. Poor people do
not possess the means to access and/or produce the food necessary for
an active and healthy life and are more vulnerable to destitution following
extreme events. However, hunger also impacts negatively on longer term
sustainable development through its negative impact on health, disease
and mortality. Hunger causes
the loss of millions of productive life years as a result of disease, disabilities
and premature death.
The “hunger–low productivity–extreme poverty“ nexus
acts as a trap, a vicious circle from which poor rural people find difficult to
Hunger also have adverse impact on the effectiveness
of effort to achieve other Millennium Development Goals: malnutrition
is a major cause of child and maternal mortality and of low rates of
school attendance; the struggle for survival may cause the overexploitation or misuse of natural
resources which, in turn, compromises people’s food security,
thus giving rise to a vicious circle of poverty.
Lessons learnt in the fight
against poverty and hunger
Lessons from past experiences including those of the three Rome based
food agencies (FAO, IFAD and WFP) can provide important insights for general
Pro-poor agricultural growth plays a critical
enhancing food security and reducing poverty in developing countries. Countries
which gave due importance to the development of the agricultural sector
and the rural areas have performed better in terms of hunger and poverty
Pro-poor institutions are vital for sustainable reduction of poverty and
the poor must be empowered to negotiate investments in the rural and
agricultural sectors. Impact is higher when project designs involve beneficiary
Access to land and other natural resources is vital for ensuring
sustainable reduction of poverty and ensuring food security.
Hunger reduction is a prerequisite for fast development and poverty
reduction. Poverty reduction and progress towards other MDGs is faster
when carefully targeted programmes provide immediate hunger relief.
Access to improved technology, especially for small-scale farmers,
can accelerate poverty reduction through increased crop yields and higher
incomes. Technologies that build on and complement local knowledge tend
to be particularly effective in meeting the needs of poor farmers in
Bottom-up and participatory approaches through local institutions,
managed by local communities, are the most effective ways of sustainable
poverty reduction. Empowering poor people involves local capacity building
and the enhancing of legal and property rights and access to resources,
especially for vulnerable people. It is essential to strengthen the political
leverage of rural people.
Equitable and secure access to resources can accelerate poverty
reduction. Traditional supply side policies must be combined with enhanced
access to productive assets, especially land and water as well as technologies
and support services. More equitable access to land requires changes
in policies legislation and institutions both at the national level and
by local communities.
International trade can contribute toreductions in
hunger and poverty, but the benefits are neither automatic nor universal.
The pace and sequencing of trade reforms is crucial as is the existence
of policies and programmes for the most vulnerable, who stand to lose
from the impacts of trade.
Public investment in agriculture such as in infrastructure, agricultural
research, education and extension, is essential. But the share
of agriculture and rural development in actual public expenditures in
the developing countries does not reflect the importance of the sector
to their national economies and the livelihood of their populations.
Development assistance for agriculture and rural development has to
increase in volume and targeted at the neediest countries and regions.
Development assistance is essential for very poor countries, and it is
particularly critical for agriculture. Yet, external assistance to agriculture
has declined significantly in real terms from the early 1980s and has
not been targeting sufficiently the neediest countries.
Peace and stability are sine qua non conditions for growth and poverty
reduction. Violence and severe economic and political disruptions
hit particularly hard the poorest and most vulnerable populations
and pushes them into chronic destitution.
Emerging policy challenges
in a changing world context
Designing participatory development interventions
Reduction of poverty and hunger is not just a matter of increasing
income on aggregates and producing enough food. Extreme inequality in
distributing development benefits lie at the heart of much of the woes
of the world today. The challenge of involving the poor and the hungry
in designing appropriate investment interventions lies at the root of
development policy making. Building capacity so that the poor can effectively
engage in development, giving their voices due weight, channelling more
resources to their welfare, and involving responsive civil societies
and the poor in policy dialogues are some of the major policy challenge
that the development community faces today.
Urbanisation and the transformation of food markets
Rapid urbanization in developing countries poses a new set of issues for
poverty and hunger reduction. Rising urban food demand and diet diversification
induce an increasingly commercial orientation of production systems,
an increasing dominance of agribusiness, private standards on food safety
and quality and new forms of contractual arrangements between buyers
and sellers along the food marketing chain.
There is a need to ensure that small farmers
are equipped with the necessary knowledge, technology and have access
to cost-reducing public investments. The development of rural and urban
areas must be addressed in an integrated manner in order to promote market
integration with benefits to both urban and rural areas and to stem premature
development and institutions are key interventions in this regard. Strengthening
the development of secondary cities and towns has proven to be an
effective way of furthering rural-urban linkages and achieving balanced
and sustainable territorial development.
Resource use and resource degradation
Rapid and extensive degradation of ecosystem services is exacerbating poverty
and food insecurity in the developing world. Because many ecosystem services
are not traded in markets, markets fail to provide appropriate signals
for efficient allocation and sustainable use of the services.
A major task therefore is to devise and implement
appropriate economic and financial instruments to influence behaviour,
such as: the elimination of subsidies that promote excessive use of ecosystem
services and the promotion of market based approaches, including user
fees and payments for environmental and ecosystem services. In
addition, strengthening institutional and environmental governance mechanisms,
including the empowerment of local communities, is fundamental.
Science and technology for development
Rapid advances in science and technology is opening up new opportunities
. It is important to harness this knowledge both for small scale primary
producers, as well as for activities such as processing, distribution
and meeting grades and standards. The key is to remove obstacles
to access by smallholder farmers and small rural enterprises . Biotechnology
involves promises and risks. In most countries, the scientific,
political, economic or institutional basis needs to be built in order
provide adequate safeguards for biotechnology development and application,
and to reap all the potential benefits.