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Asia Society / IRRI task force outlines strategy to combat hunger in Asia

New York, USA - The number of people suffering from chronic hunger reached a record one billion globally in 2009, with Asia accounting for approximately two-thirds of the world’s hungry.

In response, the Asia Society and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have released an action plan to address food insecurity in Asia, with an emphasis on rice, the region’s staple.

The Task Force’s report, Never an Empty Bowl: Sustaining Food Security in Asia, outlines a strategy focused on three key areas:

  1. raising and sustaining the productivity of rice farmers, including improving resilience of crops to climate change;
  2. increasing investments by countries and donor organizations in rural development, with the agricultural sector as the priority; and
  3. bringing food safety net programs up to scale at the national level with investments that target better health, nutrition and formal education programs.

The report calls for the creation of innovative public-private partnership arrangements, as well as partnerships involving different levels of government, civil society organizations, and donor organizations, in areas from crop technology to the provision of school feeding programs to help bring about sustainable food security throughout Asia.

The Task Force is co-chaired by India’s leading agricultural scientist, M.S. Swaminathan, and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, and directed by Suzanne DiMaggio, Director of Policy Studies at the Asia Society.

“Poverty remains the single biggest factor contributing to food insecurity in Asia,” said Task Force co-Chair M.S. Swaminathan. “Two-thirds of the world’s 1.4 billion poor people surviving on less than $1.25 per day live in Asia. They spend half of their income on purchasing food, mainly rice. For the extreme poor having access to adequate food is often too costly. A ‘pro-poor growth and pro-women strategy’ is the only sustainable route out of hunger and poverty. Raising agricultural productivity is central to achieving overall economic development that reaches the poor.”

“The rising costs of energy, human-induced environment and land degradation, water scarcity, and extreme weather events all present challenges, some of which have been on the agenda for decades, others of which are new,” said Task Force co-Chair Dan Glickman. “As Asia’s population continues to grow and to urbanize at unprecedented rates, food insecurity in the region could worsen unless action is taken now. The bottom line is that Asia must grow more food using less land, water, and labor, while overcoming new challenges from climate change.”