Never an Empty Bowl: Sustaining Food Security in Asia

Asia already accounts for the majority of the world’s hungry. And the future is overshadowed by looming challenges: population growth, dwindling land and water for agriculture, rising energy costs, and the effects of climate change. In response, Asia Society and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) developed Never an Empty Bowl: Sustaining Food Security in Asia, a September 2010 report that advances a comprehensive plan of action to address food insecurity and poverty in the region.

Based on a pragmatic approach to public policy and the best science, with substantial input from key players in the field, Never an Empty Bowl outlines a food security strategy built on three pillars:

  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
  3. Bringing food safety net programs up to scale at the national level with investments that target better health, nutrition, and formal education programs

To help bring about food security for Asia, the report calls for creating innovative public-private partnerships, as well as ventures involving government, civil society, and donor organizations. The report also recommends establishing a coordinating center for food security activities in Asia, which would document long-run food security challenges and identify appropriate responses.

The report reflects extensive input from the Asia Society/IRRI Task Force on Food Security and Sustainability in Asia, which was chaired by former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and M.S. Swaminathan, a leading Indian agricultural scientist who is considered the father of India’s Green Revolution.