UN Fighting Hunger and Poverty

 October 2004


WFP brings hope in the fight against micronutrient deficiencies in India 1

In normal or critical settings, WFP has the mandated commitment to end hunger. Keeping with its consistent efforts to alleviate hunger and malnutrition, WFP has been actively involved in ICDS, the child development programme of India, since the early 70s. It has been providing nutritious food supplements to the vulnerable and the malnourished during nutritionally critical times in their lives. In India, WFP covers almost 3 million beneficiaries through the ICDS programme.

Tackling micronutrient malnutrition on a sustainable basis is high on the agenda of WFP and Department of Women and Child Development, Government of India. As a result, a National Nutrition Policy was formulated in 1993 followed by a National Plan of Action on Nutrition in 1995. The policy enumerated many measures and mechanisms to address the issues of malnutrition and micronutrient malnutrition including fortification of selected foods
with iodine and iron. WFP decided to take a lead role in supporting and institutionalizing fortification efforts of the government at the national and state levels.

In 1994, WFP started to explore the feasibility of producing locally, a low-cost nutritious supplementary food for the ICDS projects. The result was a product called Indiamix. A ration of 100g of Indiamix provides 80-90% RDA of essential micronutrients in a cost - effective manner. The added advantage of Indiamix is that it is processed from indigenous materials: wheat (75%) and full-fat soya (25%), thus assuring sustainability. Local production of Indiamix benefits local agricultural production, reduces the transport costs for the government, generates employment and its limited cooking time saves fuel and reduces drudgery.

The production of Indiamix started on a modest scale of 1000 MTs a year in 1995 and has peaked up to over 25,000 MTs per year - a tremendous leap indeed. With Indiamix alone, WFP is providing a nutritional safety net to over 1 million beneficiaries per year. WFP has continuously advocated for its expanded use; provided technical support; monitored its outreach and consumption by the beneficiaries. 

Consequent upon the resounding success of Indiamix over the years, Rajasthan became the first state to replicate this initiative for the state-supported projects. With the technical support of WFP, it evolved a local variation of Indiamix called "Rajasthanmix" which is now widely in use in the state.

In a country prone to natural disasters it becomes critical to build up local capacity to produce a fortified blended food that can meet the nutritional requirements of the most vulnerable in times of acute food shortages and other emergency situations. As a pre-cooked, stand-alone food commodity with good shelf-life of 1-3 years, Indiamix is easy to transport and easy to consume.

In recent times, it has been effective in extending relief to the victims of Gujarat earthquake, to the victims of floods and cyclone disaster in Orissa and to the drought stricken people in Rajasthan.

Impressed with its effectiveness, states like Orissa and Gujarat are very keen on replacing the regular local food commodities in ICDS with Indiamix. Gujarat even contributed free wheat for Indiamix production. This helped to bring down the cost of Indiamix substantially, thereby facilitating WFP to expand the outreach of Indiamix to a much larger population affected by natural disasters.

Presently about 12 million ICDS beneficiaries are receiving fortified blended food through the various agencies. However there are still about 16 million ICDS beneficiaries not receiving micronutrient-fortified commodities. In order to give an impetus to the Government of India's commitment to reduce micronutrient malnutrition in the country, WFP, in collaboration with the Government of India, organised a National Conference on the Opportunities and Challenges to Reduce Micronutrient Malnutrition through ICDS in September 2000.

As an outcome of this Conference, advocacy was generated for fortification of supplementary food given in ICDS. Fortification was seen as an efficient tool to address anaemia and vitamin A deficiencies among the infants, children below six years, pregnant women and nursing mothers by many states including Uttar Pradesh,

Madhya Pradesh and Orissa and these states are progressively shifting towards developing the state's capacity to produce Indiamix.

Supporting the states to expand the production and distribution of micronutrient fortified food to the vulnerable groups through the ICDS is an embodiment of WFP's commitment to build up the capacity at the national level to fight against micronutrient malnutrition in a sustainable manner. With the support of CIDA, WFP intends to strengthen local production capacity for Indiamix in 10 of the poorest states in India, starting with Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. WFP would provide technical support, material inputs and adequate training to start a sustainable fortified food production activity in these states.

In three years' time it is expected that WFP support would progressively build up the capacity of 10 poorest states of India including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, to produce about 170,000 MTs of fortified blended food commodity that would provide about 80-90% of the RDA requirements of iron and vitamin A to over 5.7 million ICDS beneficiaries annually. This would help to bridge the gap within the vulnerable groups that have no access to micronutrient-enriched food.

Cost of investing in fortification is well returned. With just under 16USD, one metric ton of blended food commodity can be fortified. This would help 10,000 ICDS beneficiaries to have an access to micronutrient fortified food. This implies that with an investment of less than half-a-dollar per beneficiary per year, 80-90% RDA of vitamin A and iron can be provided. These are the two essential micronutrients that critically impact the quality of life. As the cost of fortification is not prohibitive, the states would be encouraged to absorb the cost of fortification in the state budgets and the WFP support would be phased out.

WFP has advocated for and energised the governments at the central and state level to fortify the supplementary food in the ICDS programme with the micronutrients. This indeed is a major initiative of WFP in India to fulfill its mandated commitment to end the hidden hunger.


UNDP-Supported MATURE Initiative For Urban Renewal 2

The Mission for Application of Technology to Urban Renewal and Engineering (MATURE), a sub-programme of the Government of India and United Nations Development Programme (GOI-UNDP) was implemented in five cities/towns of the country.

The MATURE initiative was aimed at designing and supporting innovative demonstration projects in a number of cities across India. Some of these projects were limited to a particular settlement within a city and others were aimed to generate a citywide plan for action including proposals for bankable infrastructure projects. The initiative helped in facilitating networks and partnerships between the communities, the local government authorities and elected bodies, the corporate sector and the civil society. The activities under the project were designed to enable and propagate a sustainable environment with technologically appropriate infrastructure development, with a special focus on disadvantaged groups or urban residents.

The areas for technology and design interventions identified for the demonstration projects were: I) Digitized Information Collation, Storage and Retrieval Systems, (ii) Study of Hydrology and Modeling, (iii) Water Supply and Sanitation, (iv) Drainage (v) Land Management, (vi) Solid Waste Management, (vii) Construction Management and Technology, (viii) Transportation, (ix) Conservation Engineering, (x) Landscaping, (xi) Culture and tradition, and (xii) Energy.

The project implementation has brought about a close networking of the stakeholders at the city level. In cities such as Calicut, the corporate sector and financial institutions have also been involved in deliberations on the Integrated urban renewal Plan. Project specific and location/area specific technologies have been evolved and adopted by the implementing partners.


FAO's Initiatives Against Hunger & Poverty 3

FAO has embarked on a number of interrelated initiatives and programmes over the past few years to address problems of hunger and food insecurity.

The Rome Declaration on World Food Security which, together with the World Food Summit Plan of Action summarizes the conclusions of the 1996 World Food Summit, provides, in its first two paragraphs, the starting point and framework for all subsequent anti-hunger initiatives taken by the Organization. They read as follows:

We, the Heads of State and Government, or our representatives, gathered at the World Food Summit at the invitation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, reaffirm the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.

We pledge our political will and our common and national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015.

Responsibility for achieving the goal of the Summit rests on states, but the Summit also called for multilateral institutions, including FAO, to help and support states in their efforts. The Organization's efforts are guided by its Constitution which envisaged that it should take actions which contribute towards "ensuring humanity's freedom from hunger". The document which best describes FAO's response to the Summit _ which it refers to as a "new point of reference" - is the Strategic Framework for FAO: 2000-2015 approved by the Conference in November 1999 after extensive consultation. The Strategic Framework "provides the authoritative framework for the Organization's future programmes, which will be developed through successive Medium-term Plans and Programmes of Work and Budget". The first element in the Strategic Framework is entitled "Contributing to the eradication of food insecurity and rural poverty".

To a certain extent FAO anticipated the Summit's focus on practical action towards ending hunger by launching the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) in late 1994. The SPFS aimed to show that it was possible for low-income food-deficit countries to make important advances in food security by stimulating the performance of small-scale farmers. Given that hunger was heavily concentrated in rural areas amongst small-scale farmers, any improvements in their productivity or incomes would not only result in immediate gains in household food security but also generate increased agricultural output which would contribute to greater national food security. The initial focus of the SPFS was on inducing simple low-cost technology changes which lay well within the reach of resource-poor farmers. When a country decided to embark on the SPFS, it was encouraged to move straight into practical action, using participative processes to design and implement pilot programmes. From the outset, the intent was that the SPFS would, after a period of piloting, be expanded to a national scale, with a strong focus on policy and institutional reform.

One of the most immediate consequences of the Plan of Action was the creation of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) as an interagency response to the recognized need for better monitoring of the nature and extent of food insecurity, to enable the improved design and targeting of policies on the food insecure.

Strategic Thinking on Hunger Reduction

The Rome Plan of Action had acknowledged the need to tackle problems of food insecurity through a large number of mutually supportive actions if the goal of the Summit was to be achieved. After the 1996 Summit, there was considerable debate in the international community and within FAO itself as to how to translate the commitment to halve the number of chronically undernourished persons in the world by 2015 into feasible programmes and projects. The sharpened focus which emerged from this debate was most clearly articulated in the technical background documents for the World Food Summit: five years later, published under the title of Mobilizing the political will and resources to banish world hunger.

These papers argued that, contrary to conventional thinking at the time, hunger is often as much a cause as an effect of poverty and that programmes to reduce chronic hunger could, therefore, play an important role in the reduction of poverty, especially extreme poverty. They claimed that it makes economic sense to get rid of hunger and that success would open the way to sustainable economic growth which otherwise, in most developing economies, would be unattainable as long as a large part of the population was effectively excluded from participating in development processes because of hunger. Eradicating hunger is, therefore, not simply a moral imperative, as recognized in international human rights legislation, but is also justified on economic grounds. There may also be significant benefits in terms of global security and stability.

It was against this background that the case was made for a twin-track approach to inclusive hunger reduction which combines longer-term actions to improving food security, including investment in improving the performance of small-scale farmers and in rural development more generally, with shorter-term targeted measures to broaden immediate access to adequate food in support of the poorest people in the world who are unable to produce or buy enough food to eat adequately.

This line of thinking was taken up in the joint publication, prepared by IFAD, World Food Programme and FAO for the March 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, entitled Reducing Poverty and Hunger: the critical role of financing for food, agriculture and rural development.

This paper made the point that the two main tracks towards reducing hunger and poverty could be mutually supportive. Reduced hunger would enable rural people to work more effectively, contributing to expanded agricultural production, some of which would find a growing market in response to incremental demand created by food safety nets. An eventual reduction in support to agriculture in OECD countries would also be reflected in stronger local demand for foodstuffs in developing countries as well as greater export opportunities, thereby acting as an additional stimulus to growth.

It is in this context that FAO has been expanding not only its support for small-farmers, especially through the SPFS, but also giving greater emphasis to direct and immediate nutrition interventions in the context of social safety nets, as well as to training in international trade negotiating skills and support for the harmonization of trade policies through Regional Programmes for Food Security (RPFS).

The World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl) provided an occasion for nations to take stock of progress made since 1996 towards the achievement of the WFS goal of halving the number of chronically undernourished persons in the world by 2015 and to reaffirm their commitment to achieving this objective. The Summit focused attention on the interrelated issues of political will and resources mobilization and led to the Declaration of the World Food Summit: five years later, which was subtitled International Alliance against Hunger.

During the WFS:fyl, FAO unveiled the first draft of the Anti-Hunger Programme (AHP) at a side event. The AHP was intended to sharpen the focus on the generic steps that countries would need to take to achieve the Summit goal by 2015 and to provide a rough estimate of the incremental public resources which would need to be mobilized globally to meet the costs. A second draft of the AHP was submitted by FAO to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in September 2002.

The AHP is neither an FAO programme nor a call for additional resources for FAO. It is simply an attempt by the Organization to identify the main ingredients of action which would be needed to bring about a rapid reduction in the incidence of hunger, in line with the Plan of Action of the WFS and the twin-track approach advocated in the WFS:fyl technical background documents, and to establish the approximate costs. The AHP, however, acknowledges that progress in reducing the incidence of chronic hunger has been disappointingly slow since 1996. It argues that the achievement of the Summit goal will only be possible if there is a massive and concerted effort by all stakeholders - those governments which committed themselves at the Summit as well as various parts of civil society, including some from beyond the anti-hunger constituency in view of the close linkages among key development goals. Hence it calls for the creation of an International Alliance against Hunger (IAAH).

Subsequent to the WFS:fyl, the Organization has moved forward in promoting the concept of the IAAH. It has also sought to align its assistance to 

countries and regional organizations with the strategic thinking endorsed by the Summit and articulated in the AHP as well as with changes taking place internationally in the planning of development assistance in the context of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP). It is also working closely with its members on issues relating to the Right to Food and to efficient and fair participation in international trade.

International Alliance against Hunger has been adopted as the theme for World Food Day 2003, following discussions between the Rome-based food agencies (FAO, WFP, IFAD and IPGRI) and representatives of international NGOs

The IAAH is expected to have the following aims:

* strengthen national and global commitment and action to end hunger;

* facilitate dialogue on the most effective measures to be taken to reduce hunger;

* amplify and add value to the contributions and capacities of Alliance members;

* promote the emergence of mutually supportive action involving governments and other stakeholders in the fight against hunger.

The IAAH is also expected to encourage the emergence of analogous alliances at national level, bringing together representatives of government, civil society and donors to approach hunger eradication in a concerted and vigorous way.

The Organization is also intensifying its assistance to countries in updating their policies and strategies for agriculture and food security towards achieving the goals of the WFS by 2015. Policy advice is anchored on a draft Concept Note on the Initiative to Review and Update National Agricultural, Rural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies. Amongst the stated objectives of FAO's assistance are to incorporate food security objectives into country/regional processes such as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and Regional Integration Agreements, and to facilitate resource allocation towards hunger reduction, with particular focus on the needs of poor farmers and other disadvantaged groups. It is intended that the updated strategies will provide a framework for FAO's future assistance at national and regional levels.

One of the leading elements of the Organization's assistance to countries in meeting their WFS commitments is the Special Programme for Food Security. In order to respond to the findings and recommendations of the independent external evaluation (2001-2002) and to align the programme with the evolving thinking on food security strategies, the Organization, following the guidance of the SPFS Oversight Panel, has made significant adjustments to the SPFS. These are set out in The Special Programme for Food Security _ Responding to New Challenges, released in February 2003.

This paper recognizes that a growing number of developing countries are expressing their determination to achieve the WFS goal and are looking to FAO and its partners for assistance which goes well beyond that sought when countries engaged themselves in SPFS pilot operations. It proposes that countries committed to reducing hunger should be encouraged to embark on nationwide multi-component National Food Security Projects or Programmes (NFSP) which would include all or most elements recommended in the AHP and could be funded by a variety of national and international sources. In line with the AHP and IAAH concepts, these national programmes would be supported by a national alliance of interested parties built, where possible, on existing groups including, in Africa, representatives of the NEPAD partners. It notes that the Organization would encourage national ownership and confine itself to a subsidiary, gap-filling role.

The paper also points to FAO's role in assisting regional economic groupings in formulating food security programmes which focus on the supra-national dimensions of food security, especially agricultural trade facilitation, harmonization of agricultural policies and regional support to national food security efforts. It is in this context that FAO, together with other partners, has assisted the NEPAD Secretariat in developing the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) recognizing that "until the incidence of hunger is brought down and the import bill reduced by raising the output of farm products which the region can produce with comparative advantage, it will be difficult to achieve the high rates of economic growth to which NEPAD aspires".

The CAADP focuses on four main pillars:

H extending the area under sustainable land management and reliable water control systems;

H improving rural infrastructure and trade-related capacities for market access;

H increasing food supply and reducing hunger;

H agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption.

A companion document, incorporating fisheries, forestry and livestock components into the CAADP, is currently under preparation.

The CAADP thus reflects many of the elements of the AHP and builds, to a considerable extent, on the experience of the SPFS in the Region. FAO assistance to countries in up-scaling their food security programmes can be seen as a significant contribution by the Organization to the design and implementation of country-led programmes for implementation of the CAADP.

While the WFS Declaration explicitly acknowledged the concept of the human right to adequate food, further work has been required to translate this into operational terms. FAO is currently providing the secretariat for the Intergovernmental Working Group for the elaboration of a set of voluntary guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security (IGWG). Once adopted, the Guidelines are expected to enable member countries to create the legal basis for attaining inclusive food security and establish clear lines of accountability for this.

Follow-up by FAO to the WFS and the WFS:fyl has focussed on supporting countries' efforts to translate WFS concepts into national level action. Work on the right to food, the SPFS and support to national rural development and food security strategies and policies can be considered as enabling mechanisms to this end. The IAAH and AHP address the international dimension, while the regional framework is supported through the CAADP as well as by Regional Programmes for Food Security.

All of FAO's actions towards cutting the incidence of hunger are intended to be linked into UN system-wide activities aimed at supporting national efforts towards the achievement of the full set of Millennium Development Goals. FAO is a member of several of the task forces set-up by the Secretary-General to advise on measures to be taken to achieve the MDGs, including, in particular, the Hunger Task Force. At the national level, the Organization aims to ensure that its policy and strategy work feeds into and becomes part of national Poverty Reduction Strategies.

Concluding Note

What is evident from the above is that the World Food Summit process has been instrumental in sharpening thinking within the Organization on strategies for tackling the problem of chronic hunger in an inclusive manner and having these reflected in its programmes.

The case for a concerted effort to reduce hunger has been strengthened by four significant arguments which appear to be gaining acceptance amongst policy-makers:

* firstly, that hunger is not merely a consequence of poverty but also contributes to the perpetuation of poverty;

* secondly, that getting rid of hunger is not simply a moral imperative but also makes economic sense, with benefits for poor and rich alike: it may also contribute to global security;

* thirdly, that the means exist to eradicate hunger, following a twin-track approach which combines measures to improve the performance of small-scale farming with actions to broaden food access;

* fourthly, that the WFS goal for 2015 remains attainable, but will require a joint, well orchestrated effort by all parties which are committed to its achievement.

FAO can reasonably claim that there is a large degree of consistency and mutual reinforcement between the content of its advocacy work, its policy advice and its projects and programmes in support of food security.

What is important is to move forward as quickly as possible with practical measures to reduce hunger on a scale commensurate with the magnitude of the food insecurity problem. Above all this means ensuring that those countries which are fully committed to achieving the WFS goal are able to mobilize the resources required for this both domestically and from donor sources, jointly committed to the achievement of the MDGs.