An end to extreme poverty is at the top of the global agenda now like perhaps never before. Echoing similar calls by President Obama and World Bank President Jim Kim, last week the UN Secretary General's High Level Panel (HLP) report called for ours to be the first generation to end extreme $1.25 per day poverty by 2030.
This vision was unthinkable even ten years ago. In many parts of the world, not just in China and India but also in Sub-Saharan Africa, the most rapid progress in poverty reduction has happened within the last decade. Countries like Ghana and Ethiopia, for example, have made enormous strides in reducing poverty and improving the quality of life of their citizens.
Here's the conundrum though: despite the overall great gains in reducing income poverty, one of the worst manifestations of extreme poverty - hunger and food insecurity - have remained a stubborn challenge. There are still 870 million people worldwide who do not have enough to eat. As the HLP report points out, poverty is the main cause of hunger. But clearly, ending hunger needs its own targeted battle plan. And we don't have much room for delay.
This week's Nutrition for Growth Summit ahead of the G8 is a real opportunity to take forward the lessons we have learned about how to break the cycle of hunger and poverty, and to push for a world where there is both enough food to feed a growing population, and enough equity to ensure that food is reaching and nourishing the poorest among us.
Agricultural investments help reduce poverty much more than investments in any other sector, and the world's smallholder farmers need solutions now. They are three-quarters of the world's poorest people, living off small plots of land. They increasingly have to grow more food with less land and water, and do so sustainably. When farmers have more food and income, they can provide for their family's health and education, and invest in their own futures. But the fact that worldwide we have 165 million stunted children, who are physically and developmentally impaired for a lifetime just because of lack of nutrition, shows that too many families still cannot access the basics.
This is why the HLP post 2015 agenda has appropriately put a clear focus on both food security and nutrition. In its illustrative goals, it calls for an end to hunger and for equitable access to sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious food. It recognizes the need to sustainably increase agricultural productivity, with a special focus on the needs of smallholder farmers.
Given that much food that is harvested is wasted, it also calls for concrete and measurable ways to reduce food waste. And it pushes for measurable reductions in stunting, wasting and anemia for all children under age five, pointing out that $1 invested in reducing stunting can return up to $44.5 through increased future earnings potential for the child.
The reality is that the solutions we need already exist. Scientific innovation now allows for many ways to sustainably grow more food at a lower cost. We need new, bold and creative ways to both scale these up and put these solutions in the hands of the smallholder farmers who most need them.
Leaders in developing countries are increasingly making the kinds of investments that transform economies, driving the development agenda themselves. And there is clear recognition and partnership from donor nations for the need for investment in agriculture, food security and nutrition, which are so basic to healthier and more productive communities and economies.
The HLP report has provided a simple, measurable and outcome-oriented path forward. As countries begin to negotiate the post-2015 goals, it's important to retain these measurable goals that commit governments, multilateral institutions, private actors and civil society to define and be held accountable for results. Given the broad vision of the HLP report and the momentum and energy catalyzed by the Nutrition for Growth summit and the G8, the prospect of a world finally free of both extreme poverty and hunger is real.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction to coincide with the UK government's summit on addressing nutrition and hunger in developing countries, set to take place in London on June 8. To see all the posts in the series, click here. For more information on InterAction, click here. And follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #Nutrition4Growth.