Sophia Murphy and Alexandra Spieldoch
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 1.2 billion people worldwide live with hunger. This is an increase of more than 100 million people since 2006, and represents a major setback in efforts to halve (and ultimately to eradicate) hunger in the world, an objective that governments committed to in 2000 with the adoption of the UN Millennium Development Goals. This increase in hunger comes at a time of great uncertainty for global ecosystems and for economic structures and institutions. For the first time in three decades, there is strong agreement among policymakers that more investment in agriculture is urgently needed in poor countries to address hunger and poverty, to develop and diversify their economies, and to stop the steady erosion of arable land even as the demand for food continues to grow. The nature of this investment, however, is far more controversial: what kind of agricultural technologies to use; whether to focus on the production of food or commodities; how to cultivate links to local, regional, and international markets—all of this is hotly contested.
This article was included as a chapter in a larger collection of writing entitled "Land Grab? The Race for the World's Farmland" published by the Asia program of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.