World Map of Grain on Plate
World Map of Grain on Plate

Proven Anti-hunger Strategies [Excerpt]

Jul 17, 2013

EXCERPTED from the Ethics & International Affairs Policy Brief, "How We Count Hunger Matters," by Frances Moore Lappé, Jennifer Clapp, Molly Anderson, Robin Broad, Ellen Messer, Thomas Pogge, and Timothy Wise.

Beyond economic growth and safety nets there exists a wide range of proven anti-hunger strategies, some of which the FAO has analyzed and promoted and which we encourage the agency to feature more in its annual SOFI [State of Food Insecurity] reports. Here we highlight four strategies—fundamental building blocks for stronger food security policies that we feel deserve greater attention in the current policy-making context.

Policies Promoting more Equitable Control over Productive Assets

We welcome SOFI [20]12's encouragement of changes giving "workers a stronger voice in social dialogue and bargaining processes" and of investing in smallholders. Beyond such advances, however, there are a number of other reforms that could help small farmers, and especially women, achieve more equitable access to productive assets.

Some of the countries that have shown the most progress in reducing hunger, including China and Vietnam, have a relatively equitable distribution of land and other food-producing resources. SOFI 12 acknowledges the positive effects of more equitable access to land, but does not suggest agrarian reform, carried out in a democratic fashion, as a policy option.

Additionally, policies encouraging coproduction, marketing, and savings via cooperatives—not mentioned in SOFI 12—are proving to be effective in a number of countries, including Ghana.

Policies Promoting the Right to Food

In 2000 the United Nations created the post of Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to promote right-to-food policies worldwide. The Special Rapporteur and the FAO have been developing indicators to assess the progress of countries in the realization of this goal. Brazil, a leader in the movement, created a "legislative framework on the right to food" in 2006, and in 2010 the right became part of its constitution.

Since 1990–1992, Brazil has cut its number of hungry people by 40 percent through new civil-society and government structures that have provided specific policy and accountability mechanisms. SOFI 12 praises Brazil's safety net, the Bolsa Familia program (which consists of the world's largest conditional cash transfer system), as well as the country's right-to-food policies. However, because of the report's emphasis on safety nets, readers may miss the way that right-to-food initiatives in Brazil are also creating fairer market relationships.

For instance, the city of Belo Horizonte, as mentioned in SOFI 12, provides local farmers with the opportunity to sell healthful produce in the inner city provided they do so at set prices that are within the reach of poor consumers.

More Fair and Supportive International Economic and Trade Policies

Other effective anti-hunger policies involve removing obstacles that originate far beyond the countries where hunger concentrates. As seen dramatically in recent years, policies in rich industrialized countries that affect the entire global economy—including those driving up investment in agrofuels and speculation in agricultural commodity markets—have been associated with elevated and more volatile world food prices.

At the same time, agricultural trade policies and practices that systematically disadvantage developing countries have contributed to a growing dependence on imported food in some of the world's poorest countries. The food import bill of the LDCs, for example, rose from $6.9 billion in 2000 to $23 billion in 2008.

Volatility-reducing policies on trade, agrofuels, and financial speculation in the industrialized countries could have positive effects on hunger globally, yet these are not taken up at all in SOFI 12.

Policies Supporting more Diversified Food Production Practices

Finally, policies encouraging agroecological farming methods hold much promise for ending hunger. SOFI 12 notes the importance of sustainability in food production, and reports that there is "a range of possible approaches to incorporating environmental values in agricultural policy-making." Agroecological farming methods merit strong support because they can reduce poor farmers' indebtedness and can increase income when inputs are farmer-controlled.

Agroecology also enhances crop diversity, which helps avert total crop failures and protects the natural environment for long-term food security. Agroforestry and organic systems can, for example, restore degraded soil, thus bringing damaged land back to higher levels of production while largely avoiding expensive external inputs.

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