Framing Hunger: constructive criticism and accurate data

Essential questions on food security that require answers

Essential questions on food security that require answers

At the beginning of 2013, a group of 17 high ranking individuals and 7 organizations deeply rooted in agriculture and food security have sent a ‘Communication for Discussion‘ to the FAO Director General, Mr. Graziano da Silva.

Under the title Framing Hunger. A response to The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012‘, scientists, civil society representatives and policy makers alike raised concerns about the essential questions on food security.

Do we Frame Hunger correctly?

The central concern expressed by the ‘Framing Hunger’ communication is that, although State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 explicitly says that economic growth is necessary, but not sufficient to accelerate the reduction of hunger and malnutrition, it does not fully explain the gaps in development at regional level that might have a negative impact on ensuring food security at country level.

While some developed countries have started recovering after the global financial crisis that started in 2007-2008, most developing countries are still being hit hard, especially due to the precautionary measures taken by outside trade partners. With a slow developing economy, high unemployment rates, especially amongst the youth, African countries (of which some are rich in natural resources) see themselves in the position of needing to adapt existing economic models to current market conditions.

Take Ghana, one of the richest in Africa in oil, gas and mineral resources, as an example: Ghana has done a great job in ensuring food security by both protecting its resources and adapting to a new agricultural model even amidst an economic crisis. The government has encouraged farmers’ cooperatives and invested massively in  agriculture and participatory development, investing also on education and agricultural education. This lead to 87% fewer undernourished people in the past 20 years.

This is just one example that the ‘Framing Hunger‘ communication gives on why economic growth is not sufficient to ensure food security. After being hit by the financial crisis as all other African countries, Ghana has decided to better use its internal resources and to revert to a participatory agricultural development approach in order to become food secure.

A call for accurate hunger data

SmallPlanet.org shows how FAO data on Hungerare made to look "pretty"

SmallPlanet.org shows how FAO data on Hunger are relative

In the 2011-2012 period, the FAO methodology for estimating the prevalence of undernourishment underwent a major review as many had previously said that the data was inaccurate.

The first report made public by FAO using the new methodology was the ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012‘ showing a more appropriate model to describe the habitual dietary energy consumption in the population and the improved parameters it now uses. With this new model, FAO showed new numbers of undernourished people, which might show we are getting one step close for achieving the MDG 1.C.

Unfortunately, as always, people have criticized FAO stating that its numbers might give the impression that there are fewer hungry people in the world.

Although the MDGs were set as part of the Millennium Declaration in 2000, food security statistics go back way longer. While people say that they’re happy that 38 countries already met the MDG 1.C of cutting hunger in half, we should better know what the starting point is.

FAO has always supported great initiatives on global food security. By welcoming constructive criticism on its activities, stakeholders can join FAO’s efforts to end hunger. The efforts that FAO puts in the fight for a food secure world are always linked to those of regional stakeholders such as the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) or the African Union (AU).

However, whether we consider the 1990’s 1 billion hungry or the 1980’s 850 million hungry people as a starting point in order fight to end hunger, the point we reached today (878 million undernourished people) is still unacceptable.

5 thoughts on “Framing Hunger: constructive criticism and accurate data

  1. Pingback: Opening Young Minds to Africa’s Agriculture – How the 6th AASW connects the dots | LEARN SHARE CHANGE

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