Despite significant progress in recent decades, an estimated 842 million people, or about one in eight of the people in the world, still suffer from chronic hunger. Since 1979, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has recognized World Food Day each year on Oct. 16 to draw attention to what it calls the world’s greatest solvable problem and explore some of the underlying causes of hunger.
The World Food Day website offers a good overview of this longstanding problem and the many hurdles in the way of food security. As FAO stresses, actual food production is only one challenge and reduced poverty, along with better roads and food storage systems, and better jobs and access to finance in rural areas – where so many of the world’s hungry live – are also key. The theme of this year’s World Food Day is sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition, in recognition of the important role of biodiversity and smallholder farmers in advancing long-term food security.
OPIC, which is a part of the U.S. Feed the Future global hunger and food security initiative, has long supported projects that address food security both indirectly by extending rural infrastructure and access to finance, and in a more direct way, by improving access to clean water and agricultural yields.
While the problem of hunger is massive, even small investments can make a significant difference. For example, a $2 million OPIC loan to Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management (FAIM), is helping improve crop yields in Rwanda, where diseased plants and old seedlings had contributed to a serious decline in the country’s production of food staples such as bananas and pineapples. FAIM, which was started by a Tennessee horticulturist, provides healthy, virus-free plant cultures and provides advice on plant care and improved agronomy practices to local Rwandan farmers. Its virus-free banana demonstration plots have the potential to produce 10 times more per hectare than similar crops in Rwanda, and there is hope that the healthy plants and cultivation techniques that are being shared with the community will not only help farmers increase their incomes, but also produce more food locally and potentially help improve nutrition in the community.