The cost to end world hunger is…
$30 billion per year is needed to end world hunger.
That’s not a lot when you consider that the United States spends $660 billion a year on Defense.
The price of hunger
We know the cost to end world hunger. What’s the cost of neglect?
Three hundred billion dollars is a lot of money, and the U.S. government won’t foot the bill alone. But it’s less than half of 1% of the world’s combined gross domestic products, not an unreasonable sum to invest in ending the misery and degradation of hunger. After all, Congress shelled out $21 billion last year for foreign aid and this week it approved $162 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for fiscal 2009. The U.S. spent $340 billion in 2006 alone on public and private research and development. Directing just one-tenth of that seed money to sustainable, high-yield agriculture in the developing world could trigger a second Green Revolution.
Business has already figured out that rising energy costs, climate change and improving standards of living are going to make food more expensive. Private capital is already buying up farmland and other agricultural investments around the world. (That hot money is also steaming up the commodities market, causing food inflation.) Will governments, particularly ours, try to steer some of that money away from the next speculative bubble and toward addressing the root causes of food insecurity? The next U.S. president can’t merely write checks for emergency food aid (or threaten to investigate commodities traders). He should call on business and private charities, which are among the world’s largest aid donors, to team up to increase the amount of food grown worldwide and its affordability.
In this series of editorials, we have argued that it is in the U.S. national interest both to address the burgeoning hunger crisis and, by improving the impact and visibility of its aid efforts, restore America’s tarnished global image as the humanitarian superpower. It’s also in the interest of U.S. corporations, which have been targeted in the Muslim world and elsewhere, to help the hungry and to be perceived as respectful partners in global development. Overt acts of hostility toward U.S. corporations abroad, such as kidnappings, terrorist attacks on employees and boycotts of iconic American brands such as McDonald’s, have been increasing. And the climate of rising anti-Americanism itself imposes a business risk in many areas of the world. Meanwhile, American companies spend millions trying to improve their images. They can get more for those dollars by joining with government and charities in market-based agricultural development projects that will help the hungry and that also have a chance of becoming profitable. For in the long run, aid and charity are not sustainable; what sustains is profit.
There is already a model that is yielding results: global development alliances sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The agency is working with the Schaffer Global Group on a factory in Mali, with Heinz to help Egyptian tomato farmers and with Coca-Cola on clean water projects in a dozen countries. One pilot project that is smashing stereotypes is a deal between the private charity MercyCorps, USAID and Wal-Mart to help small farming co-ops in Guatemala sell their produce to the much-vilified American chain, now the largest retailer in Guatemala.
Shareholders will insist that such investments make business sense, but they have warmed to public-private partnerships that help solve their problems and earn them PR points at the same time. And many of the problems that companies face doing business in poor countries are, in fact, development problems they can’t solve without government help and charitable funds. Such partnerships are also more cost-effective for taxpayers and appear to produce more lasting results. In short, the model works. Yet the rural development programs to date have been small, scattered and pathetically underfunded. The cash-strapped USAID has invested only about $2 billion since 2001 on such deserving projects (while it must spend $1.5 billion a year on emergency food aid). We should be spending vastly more on famine prevention — now.
The world only needs 30 billion dollars a year to eradicate the scourge of hunger
3 June 2008, Rome – Noting that the time for talk was over and that action was urgently needed, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf today appealed to world leaders for US$30 billion a year to re-launch agriculture and avert future threats of conflicts over food.In an impassioned speech at the opening of the Rome Summit called to de-fuse the current world food crisis, Dr Diouf noted that in 2006 the world spent US$1 200 billion on arms while food wasted in a single country could cost US$100 billion and excess consumption by the world’s obese amounted to US$20 billion.“Against that backdrop, how can we explain to people of good sense and good faith that it was not possible to find US$30 billion a year to enable 862 million hungry people to enjoy the most fundamental of human rights: the right to food and thus the right to life?” Dr Diouf asked.“It is resources of this order of magnitude that would make it possible definitely to lay to rest the specter of conflicts over food that are looming on the horizon,” he added.
Increased production in poor countries
“The structural solution to the problem of food security in the world lies in increasing production and productivity in the low-income, food-deficit countries,” he declared.
This called for “innovative and imaginative solutions”, including “partnership agreements … between countries that have financial resources, management capabilities and technologies and countries that have land, water and human resources”.
The current world food crisis had already had “tragic political and social consequences in different countries” and could further “endanger world peace and security”, Dr Diouf said.
But the crisis was in essence a “chronicle of disaster foretold”, he noted. Despite the World Food Summit’s solemn pledge in 1996 to halve world food hunger by 2015, resources to finance agricultural programmes in developing countries had not only failed to rise but decreased significantly since then.
Some US$24 billion would have been needed to fund an anti-hunger programme prepared for the second World Food Summit held in 2002, Dr Diouf recalled.
“In cooperation with FAO, the developing countries did in fact prepare policies, strategies and programmes that, if they had received appropriate funding, would have assured world food security,” he said.
But, he continued, “today the facts speak for themselves: from 1980 to 2005 aid to agriculture fell from US$8 billion (2004 basis) in 1984 to US$3.4 billion in 2004, representing a reduction in real terms of 58 percent”.
Agriculture’s share of Official Development Assistance (ODA) fell from 17 percent in 1980 to 3 percent in 2006, he also noted.
“Regrettably the international community only reacts when the media beam the distressing spectacle of world suffering into the homes of the wealthy countries,” Dr Diouf commented.
Social, political unrest
The Director-General said he had alerted public opinion as far back as last September to the risks of social and political unrest due to hunger and that in December he had appealed for US$1.7 billion to help overcome the crisis by facilitating the crisis by facilitating farmers’ access to seeds, fertilizer, animal feed and other inputs.
But the appeal had generally fallen on deaf ears, despite broad press coverage and correspondence with Member Nations and financial institutions. “It was only when the destitute and those excluded from the abundant tables of the rich took to the streets to voice their discontent and despair that the first reactions in support of food aid began to emerge,” Dr Diouf said.
“Important today is to realize that the time for talking is long past,” he stressed. “Now is the time for action”.
Today there were 862 million people in the world without adequate access to food, the Director-General said. But the current food crisis went beyond the traditional humanitarian dimension because it also affected developed countries, where it fuelled inflation.
“If we do not urgently take the courageous decisions that are required in the present circumstances, the restrictive measures taken by producing countries to meet the needs of their populations, the impact of climate change and speculation on futures markets will place the world in a dangerous situation,” Dr Diouf warned.
Sustainable and viable global solutions were needed to narrow the gap between supply and demand, he said. Otherwise “whatever the extent of their financial reserves, some countries might not find food to buy”.
The Director-General noted that contradictions and distortions at international policy level had contributed to the current crisis.
“Nobody understands how a carbon market of US$64 billion can be created in the developed countries but that no funds can be found to prevent the annual deforestation of 13 million hectares,” he said.
Food versus fuel
Also incomprehensible was the fact that subsidies worth US$11-12 billion in 2006 were used to divert 100 million tonnes of cereals from human consumption “mostly to satisfy a thirst for fuels for vehicles”.
Inexplicable too was that in a time of globalization there has been no significant investment in the prevention of a long list of major trans-boundary animal diseases, starting with Newcastle and foot-and-mouth diseases.
But the basic contradiction lay in the fact that OECD countries were distorting world markets, spending US$372 billion in 2006 alone to support their agriculture.
“The problem of food insecurity is a political one, “Dr Diouf concluded. “It is a question of priorities in the face of the most fundamental of human needs. And it those choices made by Governments that determine the allocation of resources.”