Highlighting the historic opportunity to become the "Zero Hunger generation", FAO Director-General José Graziano Da Silva called for additional investments in social protection and rural development at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The expected Addis Ababa Accord on Financing for Development will serve as a roadmap for future investments in development that are people-centered and sustainable and a crucial pillar of the UN's new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"Through the SDGs and the Accord, the world has declared: 'Our goal is to end poverty and hunger,'" da Silva said addressing world leaders, civil society and private sector representatives gathered for the conference plenary.
To achieve this, significant boosts to investment in both social protection and rural development are needed to ensure that every person has adequate access to food all year long, and improve the productivity, incomes and livelihoods of the poor, he added.
"Strengthened social protection is crucial for rapid progress to end hunger and to reach the most vulnerable families," Graziano da Silva said.
Because more than 70 percent of the world´s poor live in the countryside, priority must be given to social protection in rural areas, which usually escapes the attention of traditional social security systems.
Investment in development should also focus on adapting to climate change and support sustainable and inclusive food systems, the FAO Director-General stressed.
Investing for rapid progress
Graziano da Silva's remarks follow the release of a report by FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) that details the investments needed to eradicate world hunger by 2030 - a key aim of the SDGs to be adopted in September.
It's widely understood that eliminating hunger is an essential prerequisite to achieving other development goals relating to health, education and productivity.
To make hunger history by 2013, the UN food agencies estimate that an additional $267 billion per year on average needs to be invested in rural and urban areas, as well as in social protection measures that give poor people access to food and the means to improve their own livelihoods.
This comes down to an average $160 per year per person living in extreme poverty.
Graziano da Silva underlined that this is only a fraction of the costs that malnutrition currently imposes on economies, societies and people.
Despite limited access to credit and insurance in many developing countries, farmers worldwide are the main investors in agriculture and rural areas.
But private investment alone has proven to be insufficient to break entrenched cycles of rural poverty and additional public sector investments are needed to improve rural infrastructure, transport, health and education to unleash the full potential of agricultural communities.
Cash transfers, in turn, will allow poor families to eat more diverse and healthier diets, the report says, thus fighting both extreme hunger and so-called "hidden hunger" resulting from insufficient vitamins, iron and other minerals.
The study holds that, as investments in social protection measures increase, so will people's productivity and earnings, allowing for them to save and invest -- thus setting in motion virtuous cycles that lift the poorest families out of poverty.
"We know what it takes. We know what it costs. We can be the zero hunger generation, paving the way to a sustainable and inclusive future that leaves no one behind," Graziano da Silva concluded.