Spotlight on Food Security: The Key to Economic, Environmental and Global Stability

May 10, 2012
Ryan Vroegindewey/USAID/MaliA little girl stands beside her family's harvested rice, part of a USAID project. Families benefit from improved food security and increased income from sales of surplus grains.

You may have noticed a lot of increased talk about “food security” lately, particularly in the international development realm. There’s good reason for that.

A family experiences food security when it lives without hunger or even fear of hunger. In essence, it means that people have enough food to live happy, healthy lives. It’s a right I’m sure we all wish were accessible to every man, woman, and child on the planet.

Yet global hunger and chronic malnutrition remain two of the greatest development challenges today. Nearly 20 percent of all people in the world live on less than $1.25 a day, and almost one billion suffer from chronic hunger. Compounding this problem is the fact that, by 2050, the global population is expected to grow to more than nine billion people, requiring up to a 70 percent increase in agricultural production to feed us all. Given increasingly limited natural resources, we’ll also need to produce this additional food with less land, water, and other resources.

The challenge is indeed great, but there are opportunities for solutions. An estimated 75 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas, where farming can be a key economic driver. Because growth in agriculture is, on average, at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors, we already know that investments in agricultural development are fundamental to alleviating hunger and propelling long-term economic growth.

The time to accelerate these investments and growth is now. The G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy and the World Food Summit in Rome in 2009 united the global community to intensify efforts to advance food security by scaling up investment in the agricultural sector, which had been suffering from extreme underinvestment for several years. 

Feed the Future is the United States’ contribution to this collaborative global effort, which is centered on country-owned processes to improve food security, agricultural production, nutrition, trade, and broad-based economic growth through development of the agricultural sector. We’ve made a lot of progress, as a recent report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has noted. But we’re only just getting started.

Three years after L’Aquila, the leaders of the G8 are preparing to meet once again, this time at the 2012 G8 Summit at Camp David on May 19. This Summit is expected to build upon the food and nutrition successes of L’Aquila by focusing on creating a better environment to mobilize private sector investment as a catalyst for long-term economic growth.

Through the collective engagement of international donors, country governments, the private sector, the NGO community, and civil society organizations, we can help break the cycle of hunger and poverty so that countries can feed themselves, helping their communities to thrive. This work is important because it translates to a healthy, prosperous, and sustainable future for us all.

This post originally appeared on the USAID IMPACTblog.