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The Politics of Hunger: Nourishing the Planet


Worldwatch Releases Issues Paper for State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet

Washington, D.C.
Considerable progress has been made in reducing hunger and boosting food security in recent decades, yet more people are hungry today than were even alive a century ago, according to a newly released issues paper that represents the first major output of Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project.

The paper, “Agricultural Innovation for Food Security and Poverty Reduction in the 21st Century: Issues for Africa and the World,” is a guidance document for the forthcoming 2011 edition of Worldwatch’s flagship report, State of the World. Authored by project collaborator Ecoagriculture Partners, the paper identifies three challenges that are central to the global conversation on hunger reduction and that need to be addressed:

    • Unify the food security, climate change, and ecosystem protection agendas.
    • Rise above conflicting perspectives on the causes and solutions to hunger.
    • Empower farmers and communities to feed themselves.

“Historically, there has been a major disconnect between policymakers focused on hunger reduction and the newer voices mobilizing around ecosystem conservation and climate mitigation and adaptation,” says issues paper co-author Sara Scherr, President and CEO of Ecoagriculture Partners. “Yet in the midst of all this conflict, a rapidly growing set of individuals and institutions has been exploring innovations for reconciling these objectives—for developing landscape mosaics that overcome these challenges simultaneously.”

Technical and institutional innovations to boost smallholder productivity, gain market access, and restore natural resources are transforming agriculture in ways that can ensure food security, mitigate climate change, and conserve critical ecosystem services, including watershed protection, pollination, and pest and disease control. Such innovations are often hidden, however, as entrepreneurial farmers get overlooked by national and international government leaders and funders.


“Success” stories that have been identified, meanwhile, are too often not scaled up (or out) sufficiently to eliminate hunger and food insecurity. “Scaling up” has too often been approached by increasing the number of people involved, rather than by mobilizing similar successful, smaller-scale initiatives more broadly.

“Despite these obstacles, agricultural innovation is taking place in the fields of Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, and elsewhere across Africa to overcome the blight of global hunger,” says Nourishing the Planet co-director Danielle Nierenberg. “In order to feed the 1.02 billion people who go to bed hungry each night, change-makers must overcome the policy challenges that have plagued this issue for generations and embrace the innovations that have proven most effective to date.”

The issues paper is being shared with all authors and reviewers of State of the World 2011 as an inspiration for their writing and to serve as a common starting point for discussion on what sorts of political, social, and technological innovations can reduce hunger. Dozens of authors—including farmers, activists, academics, and journalists—will contribute to State of the World 2011, collectively challenging the global food community to find win-win-win solutions that can better feed sub-Saharan Africa. 

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society. For more information, visit

About the Nourishing the Planet Project: Nourishing the Planet seeks to highlight innovations that can reduce hunger, improve environmental and agricultural sustainability, improve the lives of women and girls, and be both economically feasible and scalable for farmers and the donor/investment community. The project will culminate in the release of State of the World 2011, the 28th edition of Worldwatch Institute’s flagship annual, with a focus on hunger.


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