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We Can End Hunger: 10 Ways to Feed the World

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We can end hunger in our generation. As the leader of the World Food Program, I seek to inspire a new generation of hunger advocates. But first, the view from the frontlines of hunger.

There are 925 million hungry people in the world today. Most of them are women and children; women who go to sleep each night not knowing how they will feed their hungry children the next day.

My personal awakening of the devastating power of hunger happened in 1986. I was feeding my newly-born first child and on TV, saw an Ethiopian mother with a child the same age as my own crying out weakly for food. The mother had no milk in her breasts and she had no food for herself. There can't be anything more painful than not being able to answer your own child's call for food.

What struck me at the time was that there was enough food in the world. During the food crisis in 2008, there was enough food for everyone yet a silent tsunami threw more than 115 million into abject hunger.

Many nations have defeated hunger. It doesn't require some scientific breakthrough, people simply need access to an adequate amount of nutritious food.

Food is good business. When nations solve that problem it fuels their economy. It creates jobs and opportunity.

I've seen a revolution in the way that hunger is approached. As recently released numbers show, the number of hungry in the world is going down for the first time in 15 years.
We can't have peace and stability without food security. When people don't have food, they only have three options. They migrate, revolt, or die. These options are unacceptable. We must be driven with a common purpose towards finding a solution.

Here are 10 new approaches -- permanent solutions to ensuring all people throughout the world have enough nutritious food.

1. Humanitarian Action

We have the tools to respond with appropriate action in a humanitarian setting. When people are hit by disasters, we must save lives, providing food and work to get people back on their feet. In a place like Darfur, where there is no food, we bring in the food. In a place like Haiti, where some food markets have been restored, but people have no cash, we bring in vouchers.

2. The power of school meals

When you provide food in schools, attendance skyrockets. If girls stay in school, they marry later and have smaller families.

A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister of Cape Verde and I celebrated his government taking over feeding school children. He told me 35 years ago, people considered Cape Verde virtually hopeless.

After investing in its biggest asset -- its people -- it's on track to meet every Millennium Development Goal.

3. Safety Nets

When disaster strikes or a food crisis hits, 80 percent of the world has no backup plan or safety net. But Brazil has gotten it right. They are linking small farmers to schools. People get cash transfers if their children get good grades, go to health clinics and get immunized.
Brazil is beating hunger faster than any other nation on earth. And they estimate that this costs them less than 1 percent of their GDP.

4. Connecting farmers to markets

Connecting farmers to markets lifts them out of poverty.

I was in Gulu, Uganda, the stronghold of the Lord's Resistance Army, to see a new warehouse that WFP built. It's a place that has been dependant on food aid for 20 years. Here, I saw a great business model. Small farmers bring in their corn -- moist and dirty -- that would normally bring them $100 a ton. It's cleaned, dried and stored and they can sell it for $400 a ton. The farmers pay $40 a ton for the service and the warehouse is sustainable.

WFP's Purchase for Progress program leverages the power of our purchase by helping small farmers improve the quality of produce, connect to markets and reduce post-harvest waste.

5. First 1000 Days

Science has irrefutably proven that when children under two don't receive proper nutrition, they suffer permanent damage. When children are malnourished, their earning power later in life can decrease by as much as 50 percent and up to 11 percent of a nation's GDP can be lost. We have the burden of knowledge to act.

WFP is working with private sector partners and others to create special nutritional products geared to meet the needs of these children.

6. Empowering Women

Feed a women and you feed the world.

Women produce 50 percent of the food in the world, yet they get little support. With training, yields can rise up to 22 percent. When food is put in the hands of women, children will eat.

In refugee camps and elsewhere, we make sure women get vouchers. We are working to ensure women can safely cook, and don't put themselves in harm's way gathering firewood by providing safe, efficient stoves and teaching women to create fuel briquettes made out of organic waste.

7. Technology Revolution

Technology can revolutionize the battle against hunger. In Syria, refugees from Iraq who were previously seen as a burden to the local community now receive a WFP voucher on their cell phone that they can redeem in local shops. The storekeepers love it. It saves money, preserves beneficiaries' dignity and is fast and easy to use.

8. Building Resiliency

The number of natural disasters is rising exponentially. WFP is working with communities to ensure food security by building resiliency through reclaiming of land, planting of trees and providing irrigation.

In Timbuktu in the early 1990s, WFP worked with the community to plant 40,000 trees, blocking the encroaching desert. I went there recently. The rice fields now protected by these trees are the only area not swallowed by the desert. The yield is so great that their only request was for a machine to pack and sell the rice.

9. Power of Individuals and Partners

I'm often asked, "Isn't fighting hunger overwhelming?" My answer: "Not really. We just need to fill a cup and feed a hungry child, one cup and one child at a time."

Five days after the earthquake struck in Haiti, we had raised nearly $5 million from individuals and companies. Zynga, the biggest online social gaming company, helped us raise $1.5 million for Haiti and exposed our life-saving work to millions of new people by incorporating one of our nutritional products into their game, Farmville. Free Rice is another online game -- it's raised enough money to feed 4.2 million people for a day. With these tools we are feeding one child one cup at a time.

WFP-private sector partnerships bring in vitally needed funds and critical expertise. TNT, a worldwide leader in shipping and logistics, has helped us get more efficiency in our warehousing and trucking operations. DSM, the great nutrition company, has helped us with fortification in our products. We've also linked up with Unilever, Kraft, and Heinz on Project Laser Beam in Bangladesh to provide special nutrition to the youngest and most vulnerable.

10. "Not on My Watch"

Not until a nation's leader says, "No child will die under my watch. I will put the right policies in place to make sure we defeat hunger" will hunger be defeated.

Twenty years ago, China was WFP's biggest project. Today, they contribute to WFP, as does Brazil and other nations. When the Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika was sworn in as head of the African Union this year he reminded us that food security is possible in our lifetime and challenged 'Africa to feed Africans'." That type of leadership is mobilizing Africa and changing the face of hunger in the world.

Hunger numbers are going down. But it's still 925 million too many. We are at a critical point where we can harness the power of partnerships, technology, political will and individual commitment to end hunger.