Feeding the world’s growing population requires targeted investments to unleash the productive potential of millions living in rural areas, where nearly 80 per cent of the world’s poor are found, said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
"It is a hard task, but it can be effectively done through a combination of investment in social protection, and targeted pro-poor investment in productive activities,” he said, speaking at an event on finance for food, held on the sidelines of the World Food Day ceremony at Expo Milan.
Social protection transfers, he said, can provide incomes and food to improve the nutrition of the poor and undernourished.
The FAO Director-General especially underlined the importance of investment in agricultural research and extension, rural infrastructure, education and natural resource management for breaking cycles of rural poverty.
Unfortunately, “In regions where hunger and extreme poverty are most widespread – South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – investments in agriculture have not kept up,” he said, adding that farmers remain the greatest source of investment in agriculture around the world.
"We need to help smallholder family farmers in more than 500 million farms worldwide to invest in their future,” the FAO Director General stressed.
FAO has estimated that agricultural production will have to increase by around 60 percent by 2050 to feed the planet. “The additional investments required for this must reach a broader perspective, as we need to fulfil the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.
This week, FAO published its annual State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA)report, which focuses on the potential of social protection schemes - such as cash transfers, school feeding and public works - to help vulnerable people move out of extreme poverty and hunger and to improve their children's health, education and life chances.
But the report also underlined that social protection alone is not enough to eradicate hunger and rural poverty and further public and private investments are needed to increase agricultural productivity, rural development and growth.