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Ending Hunger by 2030: Policies and Costs

The number of undernourished people around the world rose from 653 million in 2015 to 690 million in 2019. According to a recent policy brief produced for the Food Systems Summit, more than over 840 million people could suffer from by 2030, putting Sustainable Development Goal 2 – the eradication of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 – in serious jeopardy.  

Getting back on track will require strong political commitment, policy reform, and an optimized portfolio of investments, say the brief’s authors. For OECD donors, this will mean doubling their current investments, adding an average of $14 billion to their annual spending of $12 billion on agriculture, food security, and nutrition.

Obviously this high price tag requires careful planning to gain political buy-in and ensure effectiveness. Central to success is identifying interventions and programs that are both cost-effective and high-impact. The brief examines recent projections from two costing methodologies: the marginal abatement cost curves (MACC) approach and the computable general equilibrium (CGE) modelling approach. Taken together, these approaches can help researchers more accurately identify policies to spur investments and advance progress in ending hunger.

The MACC approach highlights the need to prioritize a mix of investments and programs with the potential to significantly reduce hunger and malnutrition; this mix should front-load investments with high long-term impacts. By focusing on a range of investments and programs, policymakers can increase populations’ resilience to shocks and contribute to other development goals as well, such as increasing the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers.

Investments with high potential for long-term development and hunger reduction include agricultural research and development, extension services, digital agricultural information systems, female literacy, regional trade integration through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, and climate-smart agriculture practices. A sound mixture of investments can also include scaling up existing social protection and nutrition programs. Ethiopia’s PSNP provides one example of an effective social safety net program that could be scaled up and reproduced in other developing countries.

The CERES2030 project has used the CGE modelling approach in recent years to investigate the cost of ending hunger, doubling incomes for smallholder producers, and protecting the climate. The project’s findings echo the need for rapid movement on ending hunger. Any delay will only increase the total cost.

The CGE model’s projections match those of the MACC approach in calling for $14 billion more from OECD donors per year; however, the CERES findings also call for additional investments of $19 billion on average from low- and middle-income partner countries. This additional spending will help lift around 420 million people out of hunger, as well as doubling incomes for 545 million smallholder producers and limiting greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

The brief also highlights important lessons learned from low- and middle-income countries that have made significant progress toward reaching SDG2. The most of these is the need to target investments toward sustainable agricultural productivity growth and overall poverty reduction.

The Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030 remains within reach. However, as this new research shows, it will come with a high price tag and require concerted efforts from donor countries and low-income countries alike.