Failed Food Summit and rising hunger

Share this article Share this article
published Published on Nov 18, 2009   modified Modified on Nov 18, 2009

The three-day World Summit on Food Security (WSFS) that opened in Rome, Italy on 16 November, 2009 has ended with serious differences among participants. Among those expressing dissatisfaction with the final declaration was no less a person than Jacques Diouf, the head of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Diouf criticised the declaration for not including exact targets to reduce hunger.

There is no mention of a deadline for the total eradication of world hunger in the Food Security Summit declaration. The summit has rejected the UN's call to commit $44bn (£26bn) annually for agricultural development in developing nations, for which it has been criticised by Oxfam. (For more details see the links below)

Earlier, the World Food Programme (WFP), which is facing a funding shortfall with donor governments hit by the financial crisis, had appealed for contributions from individuals world over to combat hunger. The WFP expects to feed around 100 million people this year in 72 different countries.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) last week called for a day-long, global hunger strike in solidarity with the planet’s one billion people who do not have enough to eat, a few days ahead of the World Summit on Food Security. An online anti-hunger petition,, was also launched.

The summit was held this year because the developing countries are facing exorbitantly high prices particularly in food and the number of people suffering from hunger has crossed the 1.02 billion mark. The global economic crisis has badly affected the creation of new jobs and poverty is on the rise.

In India inflation during October, 2009 more than doubled to 1.34 percent, as compared to 0.5 percent a month earlier, mostly due to the rising cost of essential food items despite the government coming out with a comprehensive inflation data on a monthly basis with 1993-94 as the base year. Annual food inflation, based on wholesale prices, moved up to 13.68% for the week ended October 31 from 13.39% for the week before. This certainly has affected the food intake of the poor. According to the latest UNICEF report titled Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition, India has the largest number of stunted children below the age of five in the world. It also has one of the highest numbers of underweight children, below the age of five in the world.  

The background paper of WSFS 2009 titled Feeding the World, Eradicating Hunger predicts that by 2050, the world’s population would reach 9.1 billion, 34 percent higher than today. In order to meet the demand of the growing urban population, food production (net of food used for liquid biofuels) must rise by 70 percent. Therefore, investment in agricultural R&D has been called for. It is predicted that net imports of cereals by developing countries will more than double from 135 million tonnes in 2008/09 to 300 million tonnes in 2050.  

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation expects that globally 90 percent (80 percent in developing countries) of the growth in crop production will have to come from intensification, in particular higher yields and increased cropping intensity. Only 10 percent (20 percent in developing countries) would come from expansion of arable land.

The key challenges identified by the WSFS 2009 are:
• To eradicate hunger from the earth. Not only to ensure sufficient food production to feed a world population that will grow by 50 percent and reach 9 billion by 2050, but also find ways to guarantee that everyone has access to the food they need for an active and healthy life.

• To put in place a more coherent and effective system of governance of food security at both national and international levels.

• To make sure developing countries have a fair chance of competing in world commodity markets and that agricultural support policies do not unfairly distort international trade.

• To find ways to ensure that farmers in both developed and developing countries can earn incomes comparable to those of secondary and tertiary sector workers in their respective countries.

• To mobilize substantial additional public and private sector investments in agriculture and rural infrastructure and ensure farmers’ access to modern inputs to boost food production and productivity in the developing world, particularly in low-income and food-deficit countries.

• Considering that 30 or more countries are currently experiencing food emergencies, to agree more effective mechanisms for early reaction to food crises.

• To ensure that countries are prepared to adapt to climate change and mitigate negative effects.

Further readings:

Summit disappoints UN food chief, BBC, 16 November, 2009,

On eve of food security summit, Ban to fast in solidarity with world’s hungry
The United Nations, 13 November, 2009,

Hunger SOS to a billion, The Telegraph, 15 November, 2009,

World Summit on Food Security, 16-18 November, 2009, Rome, Italy,

Feeding the World, Eradicating Hunger, WSFS 2009/INF/2,

UN agency calls for global day-long fast as symbol of war on hunger, The United Nations, 12 November, 2009,

Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition: A survival and development priority, UNICEF (2009),


Write Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Video Archives


share on Facebook
Read Later

Contact Form

Please enter security code