Blog Post

What Is the Investment Needed to End Chronic Hunger?

In 2019, an estimated 690 million people around the world were undernourished, and nearly 3 billion people were unable to afford healthy diets. The world has the potential to make significant progress in reducing those numbers by 2030 – with the right investments.

This is the conclusion of a new study detailed in Science and Innovations for Food System Transformations. The work used the MIRAGRODEP model, a global, computable general equilibrium model (CGE), to examine six different scenarios and determine their impact on global agrifood systems, undernutrition, access to healthy diets, and the environment. The use of this model provides a holistic look at how different food value chains (production, processing, and distribution) interact with one another, the rest of the global economy, and the environment, as well as how dynamic changes in the global agrifood system both impact and are impacted by these interactions. This integrated perspective helps policymakers and development practitioners gain a clearer understanding of the trade-offs, synergies, and practical actions involved in transforming the global agrifood system to end poverty and hunger and protect the world’s natural resources.

The six modeled scenarios include:

  1. Establishment of a strong food social safety net based on the provision of income transfers to be spent on healthy food products;
  2. Establishment of school feeding programs for children ages 6-11, providing healthy foods 200 days per year;
  3. Redistribution of farm subsidies to prioritize nutritious and low-emission crops;
  4. Taxation of red meats in high- and middle-income countries;
  5. Investment in innovations in irrigation, livestock breeding and practices, and farmer training; and
  6. Reduction of food loss and waste by 25% worldwide.

The study’s authors also examined several collective impacts of these scenarios – the impact of all scenarios excluding the social safety net; the impact of all scenarios including the social safety net; and the impact of all scenarios combined with strong land use governance to reduce land use changes (a key driver of agriculture’s environmental impacts).

The modeled scenarios show that the interventions designed to increase farm productivity and reduce food waste – scenarios 3, 4, and 6, plus all combined scenarios excluding the social safety net and all combined scenarios with fixed land use change - could reduce the number of undernourished people by 314 million by 2030. These same interventions could help 568 million more people be able to afford and access nutritious food by the same year.

Scenarios 1 and 2 – well-targeted social safety nets and school feeding programs – would help policymakers reach vulnerable populations not assisted by the other interventions, according to the model. These programs could help as many as 2.4 billion people afford and have access to more nutritious diets.

The cost of these intervention packages? An estimated 8 percent of global food markets. While substantial, this cost is manageable given the proper planning and political will, the authors argue. The largest portion of this investment would go toward increasing innovation (scenario 5) and social programs (scenarios 1 and 2).

Critically, the use of social safety nets alone would be far too costly and not effective enough to contribute to ending hunger. By investing in various interventions, policymakers can reduce the money spent on social safety nets by over $400 billion by 2030, as well as be better equipped to manage environmental trade-offs to ensure that food security does not come at the cost of biodiversity.

The authors do caution that the MIRAGRODEP model is lacking several key elements: namely, household data from developed countries, information related to soil health, and imperfect market competition. These data should be included in future studies in order to provide a more complete view of the global food system.