Those investments yielded good returns: Despite staggering global population growth, from 2.5 billion in 1945 to 7 billion today, food availability per person has risen by more than 40 percent.
The problem is that hunger still persists on a vast scale; so, our focus must now shift to ensuring universal access to adequate food. This should be a top priority for governments and a goal embraced by citizens everywhere.
Breaking the vicious cycle of hunger and malnutrition requires complementing the focus on agriculture and rural development (more than 70 percent of the food-insecure population lives in rural areas of developing countries) with investment in other social and productive programs, including modest, but predictable, financial transfers to the poorest families. With the right policies in place, the incremental food demand created by these transfers, as well as by school meals programs and nutrition supplements for mothers and infants, could create opportunities for small-scale farmers to expand their output and improve their livelihoods.
In June last year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Zero Hunger Challenge at the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference. The FAO has accepted this challenge and is formally setting its sights on hunger eradication.
I look forward with confidence to a progressive expansion in the number of member governments that commit themselves to moving as quickly as possible toward ending hunger and malnutrition within their borders — and to helping other countries to achieve the same goal.
It is never the wrong moment for the world to set its sights on ending hunger, once and for all. Now is the time.
Jose Graziano da Silva is director-general of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.
Copyright: Project Syndicate