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Dr Shenggen Fan

Dr Fan believes that the MDG of halving global hunger by 2015 can be achieved (IFPRI)
Dr Fan believes that the MDG of halving global hunger by 2015 can be achieved

A new approach to halving hunger

Dr Shenggen Fan is director general of IFPRI (the International Food Policy Research Institute). He believes that the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) of halving global hunger by 2015 can be achieved, but only by changing from the current "business as usual" approach to agricultural assistance and development.

The global community faces a challenge: we have only five years before 2015, the date set for halving hunger, and over the last two decades we have not achieved any significant progress. In fact the number of hungry people has increased during this period. What we need is not the current "business as usual" approach to agricultural assistance and development but business unusual or not usual. Now, what do I mean by this? In brief, five things.

The first priority is that we need to increase investment in agriculture and in social protection for the poor. And these two investments should be combined. If that happens, the poor will be protected by access to food through social protection, and the social protection investment will help promote agricultural activity particularly for smallholders. Further, these smallholders will benefit by being linked to the markets. So that is the first approach.

The second approach concerns the role of the private sector and our emerging economies. In the past, we have not paid much attention to how the private sector can contribute to global food security and, more importantly, how the emerging economies can be encouraged to play a much greater role in reducing hunger in developing countries. Firms must be offered the right incentives to move on from their short-term focus on being philanthropic to develop longer term business initiatives that help fight hunger and integrate smallholders into the global value chain. I have no doubt that the emerging economies must be fully integrated into strengthening global food security: they are ever more prominent in trade and investment, and in providing development assistance, so their on-going participation is both crucial and logical.

My third business unusual approach is to encourage developing countries to lead the fight against hunger with their own strategies. In the last four or five decades, all the large scale successes in cutting hunger were led by countries themselves: China, India and Vietnam are but three, and they have all enjoyed agrarian and economic success thanks to their own country-led policies, including partial liberalisation, which, at the time, were considered unorthodox. So we need to promote that.

The fourth approach is to encourage innovation and experimentation; I don't think that we have done nearly enough of this in the past. We need to use experiments to test whether certain investments, certain policies will work on the larger scale. And here, policymakers need to allow such experiments and pilots to be evaluated impartially so that the successful ones can be scaled up and replicated. We have not seen nearly enough of innovation and impartial evaluation, and yet they are key.

This brings me to my fifth approach, which has to do with policymakers, decision makers at global, regional and national levels. In the past they have made many commitments to enhance food security but too often these commitments have not been followed through. If we are to have any progress and success with our development goals governments and other institutions must keep their promises. And we need urgently mechanisms to monitor accountability and measure progress. The private sector needs to be involved in this also, pledging plans for assistance and business development to benefit the poor, and having their commitments monitored and evaluated for impact. We need to be able to keep our citizens, our stakeholders informed: who is doing a good job, who is fulfilling their commitments, and who is lagging.

There is a lot of catching up to do. Agriculture has been largely ignored by many governments and international agencies in recent years yet, as we all know, agriculture is a vital key for reducing hunger and poverty because the majority of the poor are dependent on agriculture. In recent years priorities have been shifted to health and nutrition, which I applaud, but how do we improve people's health and nutrition if we do not improve agricultural productivity? The link should be made stronger so that agriculture can help improve health and nutrition. There is a strong link between these three elements.

We only have five years before 2015 but I believe that we can achieve our goals if we adopt changes in our approach to tackling hunger and pursue it with increased vigour and innovation. What we need is the will.

Date published: November 2010


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I would suggest to do some research on aquaculture so as to ... (posted by: Ibrahim Rassool)


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