13 April 2023, London: Ending global hunger is an “affordable goal” despite the ongoing food crisis but requires a rethink of development aid and finance, according to a new report.
Analysis carried out by Economist Impact with global agrifoods-focused research partnership CGIAR showed that increases in development funding alone have been insufficient to bring down food insecurity, with almost 670 million people projected to face hunger by 2030.
The report found that too little investment had been directed towards long-term improvements in food production, with less than 7.5 per cent of overseas aid spent on research and innovation to tackle the root causes of hunger and malnutrition in 2021. Almost half of overseas development assistance (ODA) for food and agriculture was spent on food aid.
The report, Ending hunger: the role of agri-food financing, highlighted an estimated funding gap of $33-50 billion a year, of which at least US$14 billion would need to come from ODA. Among its recommendations was a reform of international financing institutions (IFIs), such as the World Bank and IMF, including a reallocation of unused currency reserves known as Special Drawing Rights from high-income countries to low-income countries.
“While humanitarian food aid is a natural response to a crisis, funding research and innovation allows us to break free of the crisis response cycle and build long-term resilience,” said Claudia Sadoff, Executive Managing Director of CGIAR, which supports science, research and innovation for greater food security across the Global South.
“Investment in innovation takes time to bear fruit, but it pays off forever. With urgent action and growing investment, an end to world hunger, and the possibility of sustainable food systems, are within reach.”
As part of the report, the authors interviewed development experts including Prasad Gopalan, Former Global Sector Manager, Agribusiness and Forestry at IFC; Rasmus Egendal, Deputy Director, Government Partnership Division, World Food Programme (WFP); and Saharah Moon Chapotin, Executive Director, Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research.
To increase the volume and impact of funding for more resilient food systems, the report made three recommendations, which included scaling up ODA, tapping new sources of private sector funding, and maximizing existing investments.
The report was published as the World Bank and IMF hold their spring meetings in Washington D.C. amid rising pressure to increase support for low-income countries to address the ongoing food, climate and debt crises.
“IFIs could do more to provide support. There is definitely progress, but not at the pace that we need to see it,” Rasmus Egendal, Deputy Director, Government Partnership Division, World Food Programme (WFP), told the report authors.
“We are not seeing a commensurate increase in investment in longer-term food security. This only adds pressure on humanitarian needs.”
Experts emphasised the disproportionate impact of systemic improvements in agriculture on reducing hunger. For example, a single percentage point increase in annual growth of agricultural production in Nigeria has been found to lift six million people out of poverty. Similarly, giving small-scale farmers modern storage equipment – such as hermetic silos and storage bags – can reduce food loss by 40 per cent, ensuring more food reaches supply chains.
“Investment in agriculture can be an engine for economic growth [by] alleviating poverty and giving people the ability to purchase the food they need,” said Saharah Moon Chapotin, Executive Director of the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research.
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