Solutions to end world hunger

October 13th, 2020

Currently, 820 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. In the past few years, the number of hungry people has been increasing rather than diminishing. Almost all the hungry people live in low- and middle-income countries.

As governments, donors and organisations mobilise to minimise hunger, one of the most pervasive challenges they face involves information: they need to know how much it will cost to fix the problem, what interventions are most effective in solving it, and how they affect the rest of the economy.

Finding answers to these questions is central to achieving the United Nations commitment to “Zero Hunger” by 2030, the second of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015.

Ceres2030 is a collective initiative aimed at supporting the international effort to end hunger and articulating what role foreign aid donors can play in supporting this effort effectively. Its mission is to provide the donor community with a menu of policy options for directing their investments, backed by the best available evidence and economic models.

Ceres2030 is a partnership between Cornell University, the International Food Research Policy Institute, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development, in a collaboration with multiple global partners including CSIRO.

Dr Mario Herrero, Chief Research Scientist with CSIRO is one of 20 global experts who spearheaded the development of the Ceres2030 initiative, which brings together economic modelling, machine learning, and evidence-based synthesis to help fill a major knowledge gap in the field of agricultural and food policy.

Dr Cecile Godde, Research Scientist with CSIRO, is one of the 84 researchers—economists, crop breeders, information specialists, and scientists—from 25 countries who have worked over the last two years on evidence syntheses, covering critical questions that need to be answered if we are to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of “Zero Hunger” by 2030.

In work published today in Nature Sustainability, Dr Godde and her team have assessed whether research effort on water scarce small-scale farms across low- and middle-income countries is being conducted in the locations that need it most. This work was led by Dr Vincent Ricciardi from the University of British Columbia.

Through geospatial analysis, they estimated that less than 37% of small-scale farms are likely have irrigation in water scarce regions across low- and middle-income countries, compared with 42% of larger-scale farms.

Through a literature synthesis assisted by machine learning, they mapped the existing research for on-farm interventions that improve the incomes or yields of small-scale farmers in water scarce regions. They mapped over 888 on-farm interventions used to combat water scarcity from 560 publications and showed a research bias towards yields rather than livelihoods. They found gaps in evidence for many commonly proposed solutions, including livestock management, digital technology, and solutions to protect natural resources at the farm-level, such as buffer strips.

Their findings can be used to set a funding agenda for research on the geographies that are most at risk to water scarcity and the interventions that most lack evidence.

Other Ceres2030 research teams investigated a suite of solutions for achieving zero hunger. These involve:

  • Enabling employment for the future
  • Reducing food loss
  • Achieving vibrant food systems
  • Developing climate resilient plants
  • Establishing livestock feed solutions
  • Achieving policies for sustainable practices
  • Strengthening farmers organisations

Ceres2030 includes the Nature Research collection of eight evidence syntheses and two front matter pieces published in Nature Research Journals; a report on what it would cost to end hunger, increase incomes, and mitigate climate change; and a policy brief comparing the modelling approach in Ceres2030 to the marginal abatement cost curves approach used by the Centre for Development Research and FAO. This focused collection will be launched in tandem with World Food Day in October 2020. The collection will be presented by the editor-in-chief of Nature Research Journals to the German Development Minister. This will be a moment to recognise a bridge between science and policy and that will, we hope, lead to increased investment for solutions to end hunger.