RALEIGH, North Carolina — Amidst rapid economic growth, Asia remains home to 67 percent of the world’s hungry. When food prices increase, it forces the poor to spend a significant portion of their money on food, leaving little finances for school, health and other necessities. “Food Security Challenges in Asia,” a working paper by the Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank, draws four challenges for policymakers on food security.
Revitalize growth in agricultural productivity while addressing the impacts of climate change on agriculture.
Climate change is already having measurable impacts on agriculture and will continue to be the biggest threat to food security for the next 10-20 years. Countries with large amounts of farmland must adapt by mitigating greenhouse gases and using improved technology, among other measures. However, funding for such systems can be scarce.
Ensure that Asia’s 350 million small farmers have opportunities to compete and thrive in modern food value chains.
Asia’s small farms occupy only about 40 percent of the total farm area but they produce a much larger share of the region’s staple crops. One of the largest donors to agricultural sustainability for small farm holders in Asia is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Approximately 75 percent of the world’s poorest people get their food, and sometimes their income, by farming small plots of land about the size of a football field.
While governments have either given up on these small farms or turned their attention to other issues, the Gates Foundation strives to reduce hunger and poverty over the long-term by helping farmers increase production in a sustainable way and sell more crops.
Address malnutrition in preschool children.
An estimated 30 percent of children under the age of five in Asia-Pacific are underweight. Children affected by malnutrition have a higher risk of failing to reach their lifelong physical and mental potential, thus not being able to fully contribute to their households and communities.
According to Food Security Challenges in Asia, the economic costs of undernutrition in terms of lost national productivity are estimated to range from 2-3 percent of GDP in some countries. Aid may be more productive if greater attention is given to the political dimensions of food security when providing economic policy advice to Asian government.
At a time when food prices are increasing and food security is decreasing, it is crucial that countries offer efficient and politically acceptable policies that protect the poor while giving farmers better price incentives.
– Haley Sklut
Sources: Asian Development Bank, Gates Foundation
Photo: Asia Society