Ceres2030 Co-Director Carin Smaller presents the study results to German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller.
Photo: ©bmz

How to fight hunger

In advance of the World Food Day, two new studies offer suggestions for achieving SDG2 – a world without hunger. They were presented at an event organised by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The world is off track in achieving SDG2 – ending hunger by 2030. After decades of decreasing, the number of those living in hunger has risen again in recent years. Hunger still dominates the lives of over 800 million people worldwide. The coronavirus is making things worse. But a world without hunger is still possible – if we act now, according to two new studies presented at a conference entitled "A world without hunger is possible – what has to be done” (Eine Welt ohne Hunger ist möglich – Was zu tun ist) organised by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on 13 October 2020.

AI machine-learning tool to analyse over 500,000 reports and articles

For two years, a team of researchers at Cornell University, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) worked on the study “Ceres2030 – Sustainable Solutions to End Hunger” to determine how much it will cost to achieve SDG2, and where the needed funds could be most effectively used. 

For the purpose, they created a new AI machine-learning tool to analyse over 500,000 reports and articles. Using this tool, researchers summarised the evidence from the last 20+ years of agricultural development literature. The summaries answered eight key research questions covering areas such as water scarcity and employment for the future. The findings were published by Nature Research in a new research collection of peer-reviewed journal articles. 

The cost of ending hunger: an additional USD 14 USD billion a year

The Ceres2030 study goes a step further, and uses a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model to show how much it would cost to end hunger, increase incomes and protect the climate by 2030, assessing the best way to spend money across dozens of agricultural interventions in different countries. The results were presented at the conference by IISD Senior Advisor and Ceres2030 Co-Director Carin Smaller. 

According to the study, donors must spend an additional USD 14 billion a year between now and 2030, roughly double what they currently spend on aid for food security and nutrition. Smaller describes this as a “modest effort” and calls for an end to world hunger. 

Three areas are critical

The researchers identified three areas which are particularly important in fighting hunger, and where the additional USD 14 billion a year should be invested. 

  1. On the farm: supporting small-scale farmers in using technologies, educating themselves etc. 
  2. Food on the move: the route taken by food from farm to market, specifically reducing post-harvest losses and getting a better picture of companies downstream of the farms. 
  3. Empower the excluded: including all those excluded from progress, specifically women 

According to the study, the additional USD 14 billion a year to 2030 needs to be used as follows: USD 9 billion for supporting farms, USD 2 billion for strengthening transport to markets, and USD 3 billion for empowering the excluded.

Transforming Africa’s food production

The study “Investment Needs and Policy Action Opportunities for Reaching a World without Hunger (SDG2)“, produced by the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) in cooperation with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), generally agrees with the statements of the Ceres2030 study. The authors also conclude that an additional USD 14 billion a year is needed to free 500 million people from hunger by 2030, as explained by Joachim von Braun, Director of the Centre for Development Research (ZEF), in presenting the study results at the BMZ event on 13 October.

He notes that ending hunger by 2030 needs a focus on transforming Africa’s food production. In particular, investment in improved trade policies, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area and Africa’s own agricultural agenda is decisive. Further, agricultural methods must be expanded and social security systems strengthened to end acute hunger. Investment in research and education is also needed to combat hunger in the long term.

The research teams outlined an action plan showing how joint European action could work towards SDG2. 

One third of food is lost

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics, noted at the event that one third of food is not eaten, and is lost. This could be used to feed the hungry. Food waste and misdirected distribution are accordingly one of the major themes which the international community needs to tackle in connection with fighting hunger.

He sees food waste in the wealthy countries more as an ethical and environmental problem, while food losses in the developing countries are actually directly linked to hunger. 30 to 40 per cent of food is lost in transport, storage etc. Banerjee argues that this must be tackled in order to fight hunger. 

Political commitment is decisive

Bill Gates also believes it is possible to achieve SDG2, given investment in research and development. He particularly mentions research which makes agriculture more resilient to climate change, and notes that the CGIAR is an important institution in this area. 

Germany’s Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation, Gerd Müller, describes the USD 14 billion a year to 2030 as modest, given the importance of the goal. The decisive issue now is not to stop at the theory, Müller warns. “We need to act. Political commitment is decisive.” 

Ousmane Badiane, Co-Chair - Executive Chairperson, AKADEMIYA2063, comments that scaling up is particularly important, agreeing with Máximo Torero, FAO Chief Economist, who argues that investment must be used as a catalyst and broadly distributed. Digital technologies play a major role here, and could make possible a quantum leap. 

Ines Lechner, Rural 21

More information:
Nature research
“Investment Needs and Policy Action Opportunities for Reaching a World without Hunger (SDG 2)” (FAO/ZEF) – PDF
ONE WORLD - no Hunger
Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development 

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    VJgzdcGEnYCvufpm October 30, 2020 At 10:24 am
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