On March 23, 2017, The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released the 2017 Global Food Policy Report. The Report provides an analysis of food policy around the world, and its impact on reducing hunger and poverty. In this 6th annual report, IFPRI emphasizes the challenges and opportunities resulting from rapid urbanization.
By 2050, researchers expect 66% of the global population to live in cities. This represents an additional 900 million urban citizens in China, India and Nigeria alone! Unfortunately, rapid urbanization and population growth is expected to put pressure on the global food system while contributing to undernutrition through the lack of access to water, sanitation and health services.
The good news, according to the report, is that policymakers are paying attention. Over the past decade, the global community has built momentum through a variety of initiatives. In a 2016 survey of 1,300 individuals across 100 countries, 46% believed hunger and undernutrition CAN be eliminated by 2025 in their own countries. In fact, the United Nations has declared 2016 – 2025 the Decade of Action on Nutrition. By reducing hunger and malnutrition, we can make progress on not just the Sustainable Development Goal focused on hunger, but also goals to improve education, health, female empowerment, and reduce poverty and inequality.
According to the report, one of the keys to ending hunger and poverty in both rural and urban areas is to enhance urban and rural linkages. When rural and urban linkages are strong, rural farmers benefit from a large and stable supply for their products, while urban residents benefit from access to fresh and affordable produce.
To ensure that the food produced by rural farmers can feed not only rural communities but also urban city centers, the report states that we must invest in productive infrastructure, from transportation to financial services. For example, farmers need access to facilities and financial resources to promote resiliency in the face of climate change and market shocks. This could mean anything from cold storage sites to access to credit and insurance.
The report also notes that a major problem arising from rapid urbanization and population growth is the stress put on land and water systems. Carefully designed policies are needed to protect the environment from deforestation and land degradation while supporting farmers and surrounding communities. Both rural and urban communities must find sustainable solutions to ensure everyone has access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities.
In addition, rapid urbanization can cause economic and social dislocations. The report emphasizes the importance of social and economic programs that foster inclusive and sustainable growth. Policies that help small farmers increase productivity, by providing access to greater resources and training, are particularly helpful. Programs that empower farmers to diversify their incomes streams by participating in non-farm businesses also promote economic resiliency. Programs that integrate education, nutrition and health benefit children and adults alike.
Finally, the report emphasizes the importance of local democracy. By empowering communities to make development policies that address their specific strengths and needs, we have a better chance of ending hunger and malnutrition for everyone.
The past decades have seen incredible progress in the efforts to end hunger and malnutrition. Globally, hunger rates have fallen from 19% in 1990 to 11% in 2016. For the first time in history, the number of people living on less than $1.90 per day, the current benchmark for extreme poverty, has fallen below 10%. Despite these hopeful statistics, there is still much work to be done to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and truly end hunger and malnutrition around the world.