Ending Hunger: The Role of Agriculture

June 1, 2008

A spike in global food prices has increased hunger. A prolonged period of higher prices threatens to stall or reverse progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Of the 862 million poor people around the world who are chronically hungry, 75 percent live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their earnings. Increasing agricultural productivity in poor countries is critical to reducing hunger. It increases food supply, which lowers food prices.

Poor people benefit the most because they spend a much greater share of their income on food. Increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers also raises their incomes, improving their ability to cope.

Over the last twenty years, donors have been partners in a progressive decline in support for agriculture and rural development. A substantial increase in funding for agriculture is needed but aid by itself won’t be enough. Reforming trade distorting policies in rich countries is also necessary. In addition, developing countries themselves have to provide supportive policies, along with additional investments, for donor resources to be effective.

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