February 17, 2017

Guest Commentary: Five Data-Driven Insights for Greater Food Security in 2017

By Craig Burnett, Former Digital Content Editor, Concern Worldwide

Each year the Global Hunger Index (GHI) is calculated to track country-by-country progress toward the global goal of zero hunger. This year’s report contains some great news — the country Myanmar, for example, has made huge strides in addressing malnutrition — but also many sobering stats.With fresh insight into when, where, and why we must act, organizations focused on poverty can refine their strategies in navigating conflict and climate shocks, as they relate to food insecurity. Here are five must-know insights from the GHI released this past fall.


Hunger levels in the developing world have dropped by 29% since 2000 — meaning millions of children are looking forward to better growth and a healthier life than their parents. With better nutrition these children have a higher chance of finishing school, finding decent work, and pulling themselves out of poverty.

A woman measures a drought resistant sorghum plant at a Farmer Field School, where women are learning farming methods that will help them survive a severe drought linked to the El Niño weather cycle. Photo: Panos/Sven Torfinn 2016

In some places, progress has been staggering. In Myanmar, for example, undernourishment has fallen by 75% since 2000!


Along with the success stories comes an unfortunate reality. Improvements are not taking place fast enough, and  too many people are still going hungry. In fact, 50 countries still have serious or alarming hunger levels. What does that statistic really mean? It means parents struggling to feed their babies, communities facing months between harvests with little or no food, and families too weak to earn money or make a long walk to school.

Most of the countries facing alarming hunger levels are in Africa south of the Sahara: Central African Republic, Chad, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. Two more countries in this category are Haiti and Yemen.

Some countries — such as Rwanda, Cambodia, and Myanmar — have made huge strides in tackling hunger since 2000. However, other countries — such as the Central African Republic and Chad — still have alarming levels of hunger, and progress has been much too slow.


Unfortunately, these 50 countries aren’t the whole story. In another 13 countries — including war-torn Syria and South Sudan — there is too little data to be sure of hunger levels. But experts think ten of these nations are a cause for significant concern. These include Burundi, where we know that more than half of children under five are stunted (a condition caused by malnutrition during a child’s early years, which can leave children permanently physically and cognitively underdeveloped).

Every government and organization committed to fighting hunger must do more to gather data on the problem, which can be used to target help in the places that need it most. Data will also reveal where certain groups — such as women, older people or people with disabilities — are particularly hard hit.

Die BaeuerinSesSoeun, 43, collects fertilizer naturally produced from the rice field, in the Takeo Province, of Cambodia. Photo: Welthungerhilfe/Florian Kopp 2007


Thankfully, in countries like Rwanda and Cambodia — where war and political turmoil have faded in recent decades — levels of hunger have dropped sharply. This underlines how violence, along with problems like poverty, inequality, and climate change, traps people in hunger.

We can’t end hunger without tackling these wider issues, so solutions like empowering women and promoting peace have a big role to play in the years ahead, alongside more food-specific approaches such as nutrition supplements, innovative farming techniques, and cutting food waste.


In 2015, the world agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals — which include a promise to end global hunger by 2030. However, hunger levels in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa aren’t falling fast enough to meet this goal.In his contribution to the 2016 Global Hunger Index, Dr. David Nabarro — an expert in public health, nutrition, and development — explained the consequences of failing to tackle hunger.

 “The cost of hunger is measured not only in lost lives but also in unrealized potential for individuals” said Nabarro. “It affects the ability of communities, countries, and regions to meet their own social development goals, and it stunts their economic prosperity.”

Men gather straw on their farm in a rural area near Sokota, Ehtiopia. Photo: Panos/Sven Torfinn 2008

Every year of hunger puts more lives and futures at risk. Hitting the 2030 target is still possible — but we need more effort, more investment, and more ideas. Business as usual is not an option.

As Nabarro says, “how we choose to grow, process, distribute, and consume the food we eat will have a profound effect on people, planet, prosperity, and peace.”

Read the full 2016 Global Hunger Index.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.