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Literatur zur Politischen Ökonomie
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Food Insecurity (2009)
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Economic crises – impacts and lessons learned
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Even before the food and economic crises, hunger was on the rise. The World Food Summit target of reducing the number of undernourished people by half to no more than
420 million by 2015 will not be reached if the trends that prevailed before those crises continue.

FAO estimates that 1.02 billion people are undernourished worldwide in 2009. This represents more hungry people than at any time since 1970 and a worsening of the unsatisfactory trends that were present even before the economic crisis. The increase in food insecurity is not a result of poor crop harvests but because high domestic food prices, lower incomes and increasing unemployment have reduced access to food by the poor. In other words, any benefits from falling world cereal prices have been more than offset by the global economic downturn.

In trying to cope with the burden of consecutive food and economic crises, poor people reduce their dietary diversity and spending on essential items such as education and health care. These coping mechanisms were strained during the food crisis, and the poor will now be forced to draw on their meagre assets even more deeply, creating poverty traps and negatively affecting longer-term food security. Infant mortality will increase, with girls being more affected than boys.

A healthy agriculture sector can provide an economic and employment buffer in times of crisis, especially in poorer countries. However, past experience of economic crises suggests that investment in agriculture may soon decline. This must be avoided so that agriculture can play its role as an engine of growth and poverty reduction and act as the longer-term pillar of the twin-track approach to fighting hunger. Indeed, increased investment in agriculture during the 1970s and 1980s helped reduce the number of undernourished. Due attention must also be given to developing the rural non-farm sector in parallel with agriculture, which is another key pathway out of poverty and food insecurity.

Safety-net interventions should address the immediate impact on the vulnerable while also providing sustainable solutions to the underlying problems. As the shorter-term pillar of the twin-track approach, safety nets must enable recipients to become more credit-worthy and more able to access modern inputs and adopt new technologies, thus allowing them to graduate from the safety-net programme. To achieve these goals, safety nets should be well integrated with broader social assistance programmes. The urban poor, in particular, will need help, as they were hurt severely by the food crisis and are now most likely to suffer unemployment because of the economic crisis.

The fact that hunger was increasing even before the food and economic crises suggests that present solutions are insufficient and that a right-to-food approach has an important role to play in eradicating food insecurity. To lift themselves out of hunger, the food-insecure need control over resources, access to opportunities, and improved governance at the international, national and local levels.

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