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New Report on Reducing Hunger

Sep 21, 2010
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Asia Society/IRRI Task Force Outlines Strategy to Combat Hunger in Asia

For media inquiries, feel free to contact Asia Society's press office at [email protected] or 212-327-9295.

Full text of the report is available at: AsiaSociety.org/FoodSecurity

(New York, September 27, 2010) -- 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) today 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.”

Policy Experts

Known as the “Father of the Green Revolution in India,” Dr. Swaminathan is credited with developing high-yielding varieties of wheat in India that saved millions from starvation in the 1960s and 1970s, an achievement which earned him the first World Food Prize in 1987.

As the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1995 to 2001, Mr. Glickman made significant contributions to advancing nutrition and modernized food safety regulations in the United States.

Ms. DiMaggio, an expert on sustainable development policy, leads the Society’s initiatives on water and food security in Asia.

Task Force Co-Chairs
Dan Glickman, Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Institute; Former United States Secretary of Agriculture
M.S. Swaminathan, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, India; Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation

Project Director
Suzanne DiMaggio, Director of Policy Studies, Asia Society

Task Force Members
Vishakha N. Desai
, President, Asia Society
Henrietta H. Fore, Chairman and CEO, Holsman International; Former Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); Former Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance
Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP); Former Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
Jikun Huang, Founder and Director, Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director General and Regional Representative, Asia and the Pacific, Food and Agriculture Organization
N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman of the Board, Chief Mentor, and Co-Founder, Infosys
Ong Keng Yong, Ambassador-at-Large, Singapore; Former Secretary-General of ASEAN
Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation
Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, Vice President, Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank
Josette Sheeran, Executive Director, World Food Program; Former Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Vichai Sriprasert, President, Riceland International (Thailand)
James D. Wolfensohn, Chairperson and CEO, Wolfensohn and Company; Former President, World Bank
Robert Zeigler, Director General, International Rice Research Institute

Principal Advisor
C. Peter Timmer, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Development Studies, Emeritus, Harvard University

Photo: Women farmers hand-threshing rice in Cambodia. (Harry Nesbitt/IRRI)