Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Ending Global Hunger Is Possible

November 02, 2011

This post is part of our coverage of the "world at 7 billion." On October 31, 2011 we hit the 7 billion mark, in regards to world population. What does this mean for critical issues like health and food security globally? Read more posts here.

This week the Earth became home to 7 billion people, leaving many experts to wonder how we will provide for the most basic needs of the next generation of global citizens. That’s especially true given the challenges facing those already here.

Consider that nearly one billion people currently suffer from hunger – roughly one-seventh of the current world population, or three times the population of the United States. Consider also that the global economy remains challenged, and food prices continue to increase, putting millions more at risk of being unable to afford basic food items. 

Now, more than ever, fighting hunger within the world’s most vulnerable populations demands solutions that leverage the best of government, the best of civil society, and, perhaps most important, the best of the private sector. 

Fortunately, an unprecedented consensus about how to attack world hunger has emerged.  And it’s relatively simple: empower small-scale farmers to become active participants in the global economy. 

It’s a compelling idea because, ironically, most of the world’s hungry people are in fact small-scale farmers – primarily women who live and farm on plots of land less than one acre in size.

Beginning in 2009, summits of the G8, G20, and United Nations General Assembly brought together more than 100 governments, as well as leaders from the corporate, foundation, and NGO sectors to begin putting this idea into action.  That year, the United States launched its groundbreaking Feed the Future Initiative, a three-year commitment to enhance the capacity of the world’s small-scale farmers. 

Momentum has continued to build. Corporations, in particular, have increased their efforts, finding opportunities for investments throughout their supply chains that are bringing together the shared values of social and economic returns.

And, at least with small-scale farmers around the world, this idea has shown real potential.

For example, Cargill is part of a five year, $40 million partnership that aims to double the incomes of 200,000 West African cocoa farmers by 2013. Cargill’s goal in the project, managed by the World Cocoa Foundation, is to help small-scale farmers enhance their productivity and improve supply chain efficiency and access to markets.  Alongside the business goals, Cargill has also made significant contributions to training programs for farmers, and to improving educational opportunities for children.

The list goes on. Each year Yum! Brands sponsors a World Hunger Relief week that brings attention to global hunger, increases understanding of the issue, and has raised nearly $85 million to feed school children all over the world.  UPS has partnered with the World Food Program, offering supply chain expertise that improves the efficiency of logistics operations that help provide food to more than 90 million hungry people. 

PepsiCo is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on a training and agricultural production program linking chick pea farmers in Ethiopia with a stable market for their products, part of which are processed to meet the demand for hummus in the EU. And The Haiti Hope Project brings together business, government and civil society partners to provide increased opportunities for 25,000 mango farmers in Haiti. 

The five year, $7.5 million public-private partnership, with financial support from Coca-Cola and the Inter American Development Bank, will double incomes of small-scale farmers involved.  Coca-Cola has also made a global corporate responsibility pledge to return 1 percent of their operating income annually to developing and sustaining communities around the world.

In addition, foundations - like the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - are supporting efforts like the Purchase for Progress program that targets food insecure farmers.  Purchase for Progress is a UN World Food Program initiative that builds the capacity of small-scale farmers so they are able to sell directly to WFP, as well as in other agricultural markets. 

These organizations see value in making a real difference on this issue – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it will make them more sustainable, successful businesses in the long-term.

Initiatives like these show how smart investments and collaborations can make a real difference in addressing hunger.  They’re helping small-scale farmers make a decent living, allowing kids to go to school and grow up healthy, and empowering communities to become important producers and consumers in their own right – spurring economic growth even in the most remote locations.

As Bill Gates has said, "Poor farmers are not a problem to be solved; they are the solution."  At a time when investment needs outstrip available resources, we must continue to build on this collaboration between the public, private and non-profit sectors. 

Ending global hunger has always been possible.  Now we have the shared will and a solution to achieve this noble goal, we must not relent in fighting for it. 

To read more about the work of WFP USA click here.

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