Today is World Food Day. There are 967 million people living below the hunger line.
In one of DFID’s splendid new blogs, Howard Taylor, Head of DFID Ethiopia , emphasizes the need for greater agricultural production:
In the long-term, development assistance needs to prioritise agricultural growth and productivty, if we’re to make sure that in years to come everyone, no matter where they live, has enough to eat. In a nutshell, that’s what World Food Day is all about.
Today is a good day to remember Amartya Sen’s book Poverty and Famines, which was written partly about the the Ethiopian famine of 1972-74, and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. It begins with this profound observation:
Starvation is characteristic of some people not having enough to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough to eat. While the latter can be a cause of the former, it is but one of many possible causes.
This is a thought of enormous importance. For most of the 967 million people who are hungry, the problem is NOT that there is not enough food, it is that they are too poor to buy it.
We should be cautious about pursuing a policy focused on increasing food production. Our goal should be to increase the incomes and wealth of those who currently live in hunger and other forms of extreme poverty, so that they can exercise entitlement to the food and other things they need. Increasing agricultural productivity is one way to improve the incomes of the rural poor, but it is not necessarily the best way, and so it may not be the way of reducing hunger.
Update: more here.