FAO Suggests the Best Way to Address Inequality: Alleviate Hunger and Poverty

Apr 02, 2016 05:50 AM EDT | By Mark Jason Alcala

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Sri Lanka Seeks International Assistance to Develop War Ravaged Areas
MALLAVI, SRI LANKA - OCTOBER 25: A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil paddy farmer walks in a field on October 25, 2015 in Mallavi, Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, seeks international assistance ahead of a donor conference for the social and economic development of the war ravaged areas in the country.
(Photo : Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Economic experts have warned the level of inequality in wealth distribution.  In the U.S. for instance, the top 20 percent of U.S. households owns around 84 percent of all wealth. On the other hand, the bottom 40 percent of American households own a minuscule 0.3 percent of the wealth. Yes, you've read it right; that is about a third of 1 percent wealth to be divided by the bottom 40 percent of American according to an article in Scientific American by Nicholas Fitz.

This inequality of wealth distribution, with an elite few hoarding majority of wealth and the rest had to share with what is left, is often cited as one of the main causes of poverty. While the percentage of people living in extreme poverty have steadily declined in the over the years according to an article in OurWorldInData, a lot of people still live below the poverty line effecting their ability to have access to food according to the Hunger Project presented below:

World Hunger

1.       Around 795 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat (1 in 9 people)

2.       98 percent of the undernourished live in developing countries

3.       Breaking it down per region, Asia has 525.6 million undernourished, Sub-Saharan Africa has 214 million and Latin America and the Caribbean have 37 million.

4.       Around 50 percent of hungry people are farmers.

Poverty

1.       Around 896 million in developing countries live on $1.90 a day or less.

2.       As a result, 22,000 children die each day due to conditions of poverty.

3.       Around 70 percent of the world's poorest live in rural areas and depend on agriculture.

Tackling Poverty and Hunger Issues is the Best Way to Address Inequality

How does one even begin to address the wealth gap? According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the solution lies in addressing the most pressing concerns caused by this uneven wealth distribution worldwide which are hunger and poverty.

Speaking on a Special Meeting for Inequality held by the United National Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), FAO Director General Graciano da Silva said, "The most pressing priority in terms of inequality is to help those people that are still living in extreme poverty and suffering from hunger," according to the FAO article in its website.

For poverty and hunger to be effectively addressed, a realistic view point must be adopted in two areas: (1) poor consumers do not have the income to buy the food they need and (2) subsistence farmers may not have the means to produce enough food for their families according to Silva.

Why Farmers in Developing Countries are one of The Poorest

Graziano da Silva points out that policy decisions have a powerful effect on the local situations of inequality. As an example, Silva cites export subsidy schemes, along with intensified food production in the past, which enabled Europe, North and South American countries to easily export foods. Unfortunately, in the same period, developing countries had to decrease investments in their own agriculture due to financial problems.  This resulted in a cheaper price of imported foods compared to locally grown ones by farmers in developing countries.

Graziano de Silva was pleased with the result of the WTO Ministerial Meeting last December, seeing it as a way to reduce the advantage of imported food items. This is because one of the agreements main during the meeting was to eliminate agricultural export subsidies.

In addition, developing countries are allowed to stockpile on public food stocks to act as a buffer for price volatility.

What Governments Can Do

According to Silva, national governments, especially in developing countries where inequality seems to be more pronounced, need to take pro-poor actions. These actions should include giving credit, training, marketing, research, access to land and even support to family farmers and their organizations.

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