Around the world, nearly 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger. This means that one out of every 9 people walking this earth will go to bed hungry most nights. Most of them live in the developing world, where about 13.5 percent of the population is food insecure.
Food insecurity is hardest on children. Nearly half of all kids who die before the age of five—3.1 million of them—perish due to undernutrition, and those who survive are frequently marked for life. Their brains and bodies do not develop properly, they have difficulties learning, and they are more likely to be sick.
Hunger is a result of poverty, but it also causes poverty. When sufficient food and nutrition are not accessible, escape from poverty becomes increasingly challenging. Hunger exists because many countries lack social safety nets; because in many countries women, although they do much of the farming, do not have as much access as men to training, credit or land. Conflict, poor management of land and natural resources, displacement of small farmers by natural disasters; and financial and economic crises that eliminate jobs at the lowest levels, all contribute to creating conditions that push the poorest into hunger.
To break this vicious cycle, the United States founded the Feed the Future Initiative, which aims to reduce global hunger, poverty, and undernutrition by focusing on smallholder farmers (particularly women), increasing investments in agriculture and supporting country-owned plans for improving food security and nutrition while generating opportunities for economic growth and trade.
So for example, in 2013, the US helped over 7 million smallholder farmers improve their yields and incomes by helping them access new tools and technologies. In Zambia, we helped smallholder farmers access improved seeds and fertilizers through private sector providers, helping the country achieve its largest-ever maize harvest.
In Bangladesh, over 3 million smallholder farmers increased their rice yields by as much as 20 percent with improved seed, fertilizer and farm management practices provided through Feed the Future.
In Senegal, Feed the Future’s efforts helped drive down rice imports to the country by 20 percent from 2008-2011 and supported farmers in producing 50,000 metric tons of rice worth $13 million, surpassing the amount necessary to meet the annual consumption needs of more than 400,000 Senegalese. And in Tanzania, Feed the Future’s work with smallholder farmers helped them increase potato yields by 60 percent, resulting in a 298 percent increase in profits per hectare.
The United States is committed to achieving global food security and supporting sustainable agricultural production through Feed the Future.