Addressing Future Problems of Food and Nutrition Security—A Double Goal

de Haen stated that there is now broad agreement among experts that to achieve the nutrition related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and ultimately food and nutrition security for all requires pursuing a double goal: (1) Alleviate hunger and malnutrition on a sustainable basis and (2) Create conditions for meeting the increasing demand of a growing world population.

Alleviating Hunger and Malnutrition

Addressing this first goal requires a strategy with three entry points:

(1) Giving the poor better access to income earning opportunities. The experience of successful countries shows that public investment in rural areas, in particular investments benefitting smallholder agriculture, generates greater reduction of poverty than does investment in non-agriculture sectors. The majority of the poor still lives in rural areas. With further urbanization, more action against hunger will be needed in cities as well.

(2) Social safety nets. There is now a wide array of practical experiences with social safety nets,2 which provide the neediest persons immediate access to vital social services, including food assistance, health and sanitation, education and training. In the absence of social protection, each reoccurrence of a crisis will force the poorest into unsustainable and often detrimental coping strategies.

(3) Targeted nutrition improvement measures. These may range from fortification of certain foods in some countries to training for life course approaches to address obesity risks in others.

Meeting the Growing Demand

de Haen explained that the second strategic goal requires ensuring future production growth to meet the demand of a growing and increasingly prosperous world population.3 Whether or not the world-wide food system will succeed in meeting that growing demand on a sustainable basis will depend on the effective interplay of a number of driving factors. The most important ones are listed below.

Population growth: According to the medium variant of the 2008 UN population projection, the world population is expected to reach 9.3 billion by the year 2050. More than two thirds of that population will be urban, compared with 50 percent today. Nearly the entire increase will occur in today’s developing countries, with the largest increase in Asia.


2 See, for example, B. Guha-Khasnobis, S. S. Acharya, and B. Davis (Eds.) 2007. Food Insecurity, Vulnerability and Human Rights Failure. UNU-Wider.

3 Production growth is also needed to enable today’s almost one billion undernourished to increase consumption to the minimum requirements. Depending on the food gap to be filled, this would require between 30 and 50 million tons of grain equivalents, hence a small fraction of today’s total supplies.

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