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Becoming the Zero Hunger generation: Achieving food security for all


Farmers in MadagascarIncreasing agricultural productivity, especially on small and family farms, is key to ensuring food security. Photo: UNDP Madagascar

As we approach the UN Sustainable Development Summit, when world leaders will come together to adopt a new global development agenda, it is critically important that we keep what is at stake firmly in sight.

A central issue like hunger, which is a long standing development priority, remains an everyday battle for almost 795 million people worldwide. While this figure is 216 million less than in 1990-92, according to UN statistics, hunger kills more people every year than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined.

In the words of José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, “The near-achievement of the Millennium Development Goals hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime. We must be the Zero Hunger generation. That goal should be mainstreamed into all policy interventions and at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda to be established this year.”

So where do we stand if food security is destined to be a critical component of poverty eradication and sustainable development? The right to food is a basic human right addressed in the second of the 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes a target to end hunger by 2030.

Achieving the target will require an additional US$267 billion annually over the next 15 years. Given this looming prospect, a question that springs to mind is: how will this to be achieved? As part of the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund) mission, we are working to understand how best to tackle this multi-faceted issue.

For example, the SDG Fund works to enhance food security and nutrition in Bolivia and El Salvador, where rural residents are benefiting from our work to strengthen local farm production systems. In addition, we engage women and smallholder farmers in our cross-cutting efforts to build more integrated responses to development challenges. We recognize that several factors must also play a role in achieving the hunger target, namely:

  • Increasing agricultural productivity, especially by small and family farmers, helps improve food security;
  • Inclusive economic growth leads to important gains on hunger and poverty reduction;
  • The expansion of social protection systems contributes directly to the reduction of hunger and malnutrition.

Going forward, the goal of ending hunger requires more than words; it requires collective actions, including efforts to double global food production, reduce waste and experiment with food alternatives. With the realization that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to improve food security, the SDG Fund coordinates with a range of public and private stakeholders as well as UN agencies to pilot innovative joint programmes in the field.

In the fight against hunger, we need to create food systems that offer better nutritional outcomes and ones that are fundamentally more sustainable – i.e. that require less land, less water and that are more resilient to climate change.

Feeding the world’s growing population is unlikely to be achieved through the efforts of governments and international organizations alone. We need to enlist everyone’s support if we are to ensure food security and adequate nutrition on a global scale – and truly become the Zero Hunger generation.


A longer version of this post was published on Inter Press Service.

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