Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Food & Hunger

Why the G7 can be a launchpad for ending hunger

Flickr: Kurman Communications, Inc.

The Group of 7, or G7, is meeting May 26-27 to discuss a range of globally pressing issues. 

How to promote economic growth, how to stop cybercrime, how to keep Britain within the EU--these are some of the issues that will be explored. 

An issue that the Global Poverty Project and its partners are pushing to the top of the agenda is hunger and nutrition. 

Last year G7 members committed to lifting 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition, but details remained vague. So this year is all about fastening clear timelines and measures to this goal so that it can be achieved. 

There are currently around 793 million people around the world who are undernourished. 

Undernutrition: When a person does not get enough nutrients because they are not eating enough, because the food they are eating is not sufficiently nutrient-rich, or because they are excreting nutrients more quickly than they can be replaced. When a person is undernourished their body does not get the nutrients needed to stay healthy, fully develop, or resist diseases. Undernourishment can also happen if illness prevents a person from using the nutrients from the food they do eat.

The FAO estimates that providing enough food for these people would require $267 billion USD annually.

The politics of food are complex. Any investment made towards ending hunger has to target a series of areas along supply chains and throughout communities.  

As my colleage Caroline Dollman wrote, "Along with securing the financial commitments, here are four key riddles that need to be solved:

1. Nutrition: Tackling hunger is not just about ensuring people have something to eat, it’s about making a balanced diet of nutritious food available year-round. That’s the sort of diet that enables people to work hard and learn fast. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly half of all under-5 child deaths, and the lack of access to nutritious food from the start of the pregnancy until the second birthday can lead to irreversible cognitive and physical damage. The G7 needs to address this hidden hunger, and adopt an integrated approach to agriculture, health and water and sanitation to tackle malnutrition. It’s especially important to reach women and children with solutions to improve nutrition; a focus on things such as breastfeeding, food fortification and new research can improve the next generation’s access to essential micronutrients.

2. Smallholder farmers: Smallholder farmers have a crucial role in ensuring nutritious food is accessible to everyone, especially in rural areas. At the same time they are often affected by hunger and poverty. It is estimated that more than half of the people living in extreme poverty (800 million) work in agriculture. Supporting and enabling smallholder farmers has a multiplier effect in increasing access to locally produced food in their communities and improving economic opportunities.

3. Hunger and Malnutrition in fragile contexts: Aid and food assistance needs to be focused on reaching the most vulnerable. We welcome the focus by the G7 on food security and nutrition in conflicts and crisis, but it needs to be ensured that food assistance is not jeopardising the livelihoods of small farmers and traders by distorting markets (a truckload of free rice sacks can sometimes mean that the local potato seller across the road has no customers for her produce, and then goes out of business). This can be achieved through ensuring that food assistance goes beyond merely handing out food aid, instead providing vouchers and cash transfers where it is more efficient to do so, and when it is more likely to incentivise local production.

4. Climate change and hunger: The effects of climate change are making it harder for millions of farmers to produce food, and this means that climate change and hunger aren’t separate issues at all. Soil degradation, increased natural disasters, and water scarcity are affecting some of the most vulnerable farming communities, and the G7 needs to ensure that its plan enables these farmers to continue to provide for their communities. By assisting smallholder farmers to farm in a sustainable and ecological way, it results in these communities becoming more able to get out - and stay out - of extreme poverty.

The G7 countries will not be able to handle the problem of hunger and nutrition alone, but they can provide essential leadership. 

The G7 countries represent more than 70% of global net worth, yet only have a fraction of the total global population. The economic clout of the G7 is outsized and it's this leverage that can spur other countries to act in accordance. When G7 countries embrace a cause, it has the potential to receive broad support. 

Plus, #ZeroHunger is already a global priority, enshrined in The Global Goals, the framework for global development until 2030. 

The world already produces enough food to feed everyone in the world, but enormous amounts are squandered because of bad distribution. Simple adjustments, like reforming how aid is delivered, can vastly improve nutritional outcomes. 

For example, the US is in the process of passing the Global Food Security Act, which would significantly improve food security by making simple adjustments like helping mothers and children get the nutrients they need in the first 1,000 days after a pregnancy.  

The best part about the GFSA is that it was driven by global citizens like you. More than 85,000 global citizens signed a petition calling for the bill to be passed and leaders of the bill even came to speak at the 2015 Global Citizen Festival. 

This type of grassroots advocacy can be carried over to the G7 in the weeks ahead. By raising awareness of what's at stake and pressuring leaders to refresh their commitments to ending world hunger, global citizens can help shape outcomes. 

Unless concrete objectives are made, the goal of lifting 500 million people out of hunger will remain just that: a goal.