Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ban Ki-moon's solution to save the world

In January, to cite one example, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for $77 million to help provide food for more than 2.5 million people pushed over the edge by rising prices. He drew attention to an alarming fact: The average Afghan household now spends about 45 percent of its income on food, up from 11 percent in 2006.

This is the new face of hunger, increasingly affecting communities that had previously been protected. Inevitably, it is the "bottom billion" who are hit hardest: people living on one dollar a day or less. When people are that poor, and inflation erodes their meager earnings, they generally do one of two things: They buy less food, or they buy cheaper, less nutritious food. The result is the same -- more hunger and less chance of a healthy future. The U.N. World Food Program is seeing families that previously could afford a diverse, nutritious diet dropping to one staple and cutting their meals from three to two or one a day...

Last, we must boost agricultural production. World Bank President Robert Zoellick has rightly noted that there is no reason Africa can't experience a "green revolution" of the sort that transformed Southeast Asia in previous decades. U.N. agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development are working with the African Union and others to do just this, introducing vital science and technologies that offer permanent solutions for hunger.

Simply improving market efficiency can have a huge effect. Roughly a third of the world's food shortages could be alleviated to a significant degree by improving local agricultural distribution networks and helping to better connect small farmers to markets.

The cost of food: Facts and figures

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