Food and nutrition security

Food and nutrition security

Food and nutrition security


Food and nutrition security is about ensuring that everybody is able to access sufficient, affordable and nutritious food. Through its support, the EU seeks to build resilience to food crises and help countries ensure that no one is left hungry. In particular, fighting under-nutrition is vital to give the world's poorest children a chance to lead healthier lives, learn better and improve their future income opportunities.


/europeaid/file/we-can-overcome-undernutrition_enWe can overcome undernutrition


Worldwide, one person in eight goes hungry every day — mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and in south Asia. Hunger is not necessarily caused by the unavailability of food, but often by its cost, which can be prohibitive for poor households, or by its quality. Soaring food prices in recent years have posed additional threats to food security.

Fighting hunger is a priority enshrined in the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG 1). In addition, the international community, through the World Health Assembly, has committed to reducing stunting in children under 5 years of age by 2025. The EU will contribute significantly to this goal.

Undernutrition in figures

Rates of undernutrition have declined from 18.6 % to 12.5% of the global population between 1990 and 2012. In particular, since 2010 the number of people exposed to hunger has diminished. It is estimated that 55 million people improved their food security in 2012.

Notwithstanding this positive trend, progress in tackling hunger and achieving global food and nutrition security is slow, and the MDG 1 target of halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people suffering from hunger is off track.

Currently, there are still 870 million people who do not have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, particularly among the most vulnerable in fragile countries. Hunger and undernutrition affect not just the individual; they also impose a serious economic burden on communities and the sustainable development of countries as a whole. Food and nutrition security are therefore a key priority of EU development cooperation.

Tackling the root causes for the long term

The 2010 EU policy framework on food security establishes food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture firmly among the EU's key priorities for development cooperation in the years ahead. It prioritises support to those countries that have the biggest difficulties in meeting MDG 1.

The policy supports developing countries in addressing food security challenges in a comprehensive manner. It sets out policy lines and proposes priority actions across the four internationally recognised pillars of food security, agreed at the 1996 World Food Summit:

  • increasing availability of food;
  • improving access to food;
  • improving nutritional adequacy of food intake;
  • enhancing crisis prevention and management.

The EU pursues action at both the national and the regional level. This approach recognises that long-term objectives to eradicate hunger and undernutrition will only be met through nationally owned and developed poverty reduction strategies.

A multifaceted strategy

Initiatives in a number of areas must combine in order to address the food and nutrition challenge successfully:

  • The path to eradicating poverty, hunger and undernutrition lies in an agriculture that is both more inclusive and sustainable. By 2050, eight of the estimated nine billion people in the world will live in developing or emerging countries. Demand for food is likely to grow by at least 70 %. If the world is to eradicate poverty and hunger, agricultural production will need to be boosted, especially in countries where the population is likely to grow the most and where the potential to scale up production is the greatest.
  • Food and nutrition security also requires investments beyond agriculture, as increasing agricultural production does not always put food into the mouths of the hungry. There is also a need to improve employment and income-earning opportunities and to establish flexible safety net mechanisms that will ensure access to sufficient food and address the needs of the most vulnerable groups. Better income-earning opportunities will help make food more affordable for a larger number of people.
  • Ensuring greater food production and availability alone is not enough: this process must go hand in hand with ensuring access to affordable, safe and nutritious food. Undernutrition is the principal cause of death for more than 3.1 million children each year. The international community is determined to tackle the problem, and the EU has taken on a prominent role in this respect. It has pledged to help reduce stunting in 7 million children under 5 by 2025 and to mobilise € 3.5 billion between 2014 and 2020 to contribute to this goal. In order to produce a significant impact, interventions aiming to reduce child under-nutrition should address its multiple causes by targeting various sectors simultaneously.
  • It is essential to help households and communities strengthen their ability to withstand, or recover from, stresses and shocks such as droughts or natural disasters, and to drive inclusive and sustainable growth in order to help ease dependence on crisis management. The EU has extensive experience in responding to crisis and tackling the root causes of weak development and its  2012 Communication on building resilience and fostering a more effective EU approach in dealing with food security crises outlines a wide range of activities aimed at strenghtening resilience.
  •  The EU is the biggest development actor in food and nutrition security, providing substantial financial and political support. It cooperates with partner countries as well as other major donors around the world and contributes to international processes in order to move the food and nutrition security agenda forward.

As a follow-up to the food security policy framework adopted in 2010, the EU has prepared an implementation plan jointly with Member States. The objective of this plan is to deliver on commitments and enhance coherence, complementarity and coordination within and between the external assistance programmes of the EU and those of its member states.

Food security is a key policy area in which the EU's commitment on policy coherence for development applies. In line with this commitment, the EU seeks to ensure that its internal policies on agriculture, fisheries  and trade, for example, do not run counter to its development cooperation policies and efforts.

The EU provides substantial funding in support of interventions improving food and nutrition security for some of the world’s poorest communities.

For the period 2007-13, the EU’s aid in support of food and nutrition security in developing countries is mainly financed through two types of instrument:

  • Geographical instruments support the implementation of sectoral policy at the national, regional and continental level. The European Development Fund backs activities in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the Development Cooperation Instrument provides funding for measures in Asia, Latin America and South Africa, and the European Neigbourhood & Partnership Instrument focuses on initiatives in the EU’s neighbouring regions.
  • A thematic programme – i.e. a funding mechanism dedicated to a specific topic rather than a particular region – complements the activities undertaken through the geographical approach. The Food Security Thematic Programme supports actions to improve food security for the poorest and most vulnerable at the global, regional and national level.

In addition, between 2009 and 2012, the Food Facility provided €1 billion to improve agricultural productivity and food supply in the 49 countries most affected by soaring food prices in 2007/2008. Through this initiative, the EU has helped to improve the lives of more than 59 million people. In 2013, the EU was awarded the Food and Agriculture Organization’s inaugural Jacques Diouf award in recognition of its pioneering work on the EU Food Facility.

Further funding is available from other EU sources and through other aid modalities, which notably include budget support.



 Rural development, Food security and nutrition

Selected results achieved with EU support through projects and programmes completed between mid-2014 and mid-2015 in the frame of the 2010 EU Contribution to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

CGIAR is a global research partnership dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources and ecosystem services. Its research is carried out by 15 CGIAR centres in close collaboration with hundreds of partners, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, development organizations and the private sector.

The project was implemented by eight of the fifteen international agricultural research centres members of the CGIAR: Bioversity International, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), World Agroforestry centre (ICRAF), Africa Rice Centre (WARDA), International Water Management Institute (IWMI). The main results of the project were:

  • 125 000 metric tons of stress-tolerant rice varieties seeds were produced and distributed in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, benefitting 0.5 million farmers on an estimated 2.50 million hectares.
  • 23 000 farmers in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi were trained in the selection of legume crops at farm level as well as in the adaptation of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) options. The yield of vegetables increased by 500 kilogram per hectare when using ISFM.
  • In India and Myanmar 38 000 farmers (14 000 women and 24 000 men) were educated to improve the selection of varieties of legumes so as to enhance legume productivity. The aim was to develop farmers' technical and management skills and practices and to strengthen the relation between the farmers’ community and agricultural research institutes.
  • 5 900 farmers (2 500 women and 3 400 men) benefitted from the small ruminant value chains developed by the project as platforms for reducing poverty and increasing food security in dryland areas in India and Mozambique.

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