Hunger and poverty increase in the world

Despite considerable efforts to reduce poverty in the world in the past few decades, millions of people around the world are still pre-occupied with survival and hunger is realty in their everyday lives. According to Shah (2011), the number of people suffering from poverty globally has almost doubled since 1820. Today, according to recent statistics released by World Hunger Education Service (2011), approximately 40% of the world’s population is living on less than $2 per day and about 14 % live on less than one dollar in a day. The most unfortunate consequence of widespread poverty is that more than 900 million people in the world cannot afford adequate food. In Albania, for example, more than a third of children under the age of 14 years do work. They clean clothes, engage in the running of drugs, picking of crops and in begging (Shah, 2011). In Pakistan, labourers sell their kidneys to transplant clinics in order to pay debts. In Niger, one of the countries worst hit by poverty, aid workers reported that families were feeding their starving children with leaves and grass in 2005 after the food had been destroyed by droughts and locusts. These are just a few examples to provide a hint of human anguish as a result of poverty and hunger.

According to Das (2006) presence of hunger does not simply depend on the non-availability of food. Rather, it generally depends on faulty economic, social and political systems which lead to or fail to eradicate poverty within nations. Das further explains that poverty and hunger are both sides of the same coin and thus, they are synonymous. It is difficult to enumerate which of the two stands first. Thus, eradication of hunger goes hand in hand with the eradication of poverty. In view of this, this paper seeks to examine the main causes of poverty and hunger in the world. Further, it looks at some of the possible solutions that would result in eradication of poverty and hunger in the affected areas in the world.

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Causes of poverty and hunger

The major causes of poverty and hunger in the world are varied. One of these as Ayco, (2008) notes is lack of access to land by some sections of the world population. Also explains that agricultural producers are the real food producers in the world. But they are the real victims of poverty since they have limited access to land and food. Most of the land in many affluent nations are owned by landlords who are not the real producers. The real producers are poor people who are paid wages by the land, who take away the lion share of the produce. This is so even in the most democratic countries and land tiller norms are not yet to be accepted and practised. Tillers are yet to attain their right to land and to produce. According to Ayco, numerous studies have demonstrated that producers all over the world live in poverty mainly due to lack of commitment by governments to provide land to the landless poor. In India for example, land reforms have been superfluously carried out, which has not benefited the landless at all. The faulty laws of this nation protect the rights of non-producers and ‘parasites’ in retaining their rights on land and according to Ayco, this situation is the same in almost all Asian and African countries. This problem has been worsened by a lack of political will by national governments to implement pro-poor land reforms measures, thus creating a continuous cycle of hunger and poverty for marginal groups of the society. Apart from lack of access to land, they are denied access to essential production resources such as seeds, water and other inputs which are crucial factors for food sovereignty.

Illiteracy is also a major cause of poverty and hunger in the world. Many studies have shown that poverty is both a cause and effect of illiteracy in masses. As Das, 2006)points out, the largest section of people living in remote areas in less developed countries either are unable or despise taking their children in schools, lest they are unfit to earn their livelihood by their own labour. The system of education supported by the majority of the least developed countries does not support the poor to earn their livelihoods. According to Das, 2006), “these countries adopt totally an inapplicable culture that teaches how to become a ‘parasite’ and how to extract more from the society by depriving others.” Most remarkable, the systems of education in most developing countries give minimal attention to skills related to physical labour. Further, among other limitations, the expenses to higher educations in these nations are often too high for the poor to afford. In addition, the environment at home for a poor family is not conducive for a child to learn. In short, the present education system in most developing countries is helping the privileged class and neglecting the underprivileged and the poor. This enhances poverty instead of eradicating it.

Another cause of poverty is the presence of backward production systems in some countries, where the production of food is carried out for the sake of profit and not consumption. Consequently, consumer protection is not safeguarded in such systems (Mooney et al, 2006). Foodstuffs are exported to other countries to secure more profits, ignoring the interests of distressed local consumers who even in extreme cases do not find food in spite of having the power to purchase.

Another cause of poverty is insufficient earnings in various sectors of an economy (Das, 2006). This takes place where there is a lack of scope for massive employment of people. The profit-oriented economic sector ignores the basic aspect of the employment of the people. It does not allow them to earn sufficiently to be able to meet their basic needs, including the need for food. As such, unemployment can be termed as a major cause of poverty and hunger. Ecological devastation and lack of access to valuable natural resources are also major causes of poverty and hunger. Some nations benefit from vast forests and fertile soils owing to their geographical locations while others lack such natural bounty. As Ahmed, et al, (2007) points out, climate affects agriculture and rate of diseases infection and thus, ‘it can give or take away’. Abrupt changes in weather upend farmers all over the world but in some nations, one bad harvest spells a disaster to millions of families. In Ethiopia for example, farmers depend on two rainy seasons, a short one on February and a longer one in summer. When ocean temperatures across the horn of Africa become cooler than usual, livestock collapses, crops shrivel and people die of hunger. Such a situation led to the death of approximately 1 million people between 1984 and 1985 in Ethiopia and in the neighbouring countries. Several years of later poor rains plunged Ethiopia leading to a crisis in 2002, which also left a lot of people died, (Ahmed, et al, (2007).

Whitman (2008) proposes that overpopulation is also major cause of poverty and hunger in the world. Whitman notes that, though fertility rates have been constantly dropping worldwide, they remain high in the poorest countries, especially in the rural areas. World bank statistics project that human population in low- and middle-income countries will more than double between 1930 and 2030 and will be about seven times more than that of high-income countries. Since developing countries have a high population of young people (a third under the age of 15), they experience momentum as the large number of them reach childbearing age. The key point is, more people usually means smaller slices of pie; the higher the population, the greater the divisor in per capita income. As well, the rapid growth of population may also stretch local resources beyond their ‘human carrying capacity.’ Eventually, overpopulation leads to increased poverty and more people suffer from hunger (Whitman, 2008).

Bad governance is also a major cause of poverty and hunger. A Chinese philosopher, Confucius (as cited in Whitman, 2008)) once said that “in a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of and in a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” Thus as Confucius argued, political leadership affects the distribution of wealth. In order for a country to prosper, it must protect the powerful from bullying the less powerful, protect property rights and create an equal opportunity for all of its citizens. In most poor countries, leaders fail their constituents by mismanaging economic resources and putting personal gain before public gain. The situation worsens when governments tolerate or incite civil or international conflict.

Various researches have found a strong relationship between armed conflict and poverty. Chronic conflict in poorest countries contributes to chronic instability and in turn, causes poverty. Investing in weaponry hijacks funds at both individual and national levels that could be used in improving the quality of life of citizens. For example, Eritrea (which ranks 157 out of 177 on the UN HDI) spends more than 19% of its gross domestic products on military while on the other hand, it spends, 3.1% on health and 4.1% on education, (Perusek, 2006). Once conflict breaks in such a country, it robs families of breadwinners, leaves orphans, destroys infrastructures such as roads and bridges and may uproot a significant section of a population. As well as conflicts compel people to move to escape the insecure situation to other places, where they become refugees or IDPs, (Perusek, 2006). Such people forsake the support of networks of their homes and thus, they are rendered poor and usually suffer from poverty and hunger.

In some poor nations, hunger is not caused by lack of food, but lack of access to it. This condition is generated by some complex of factors. Whitman (2008) points out that apart from the poor being unable to purchase food, many agricultural food products cannot flow well within and between countries due to high tariffs or poor infrastructure and transport systems. “Farmers barely eking out a living out a living cannot move beyond subsistent farming because poorly defined property rights preclude their use of the land as collateral for credit-a critical need for small scale farmers everywhere, especially women farmers,” (Whitman, 2008) Many nations are not able to sell their surplus food since their systems for ensuring food safety are poor.

Solutions to poverty and hunger in the world

There are numerous different approaches to alleviation of poverty and hunger in the world, depending on the causes. To start with, in order to ensure food sovereignty, the producers of land must become the owners of instruments of food production, (Smith, 2003). To achieve this, the poor, the poor landless have to be rehabilitated with land, with convectional apparatuses for production. They should be assisted to own land on which to produce and laws should be formed to protect their ownership rights. In less developed countries, food production is largely labour oriented and therefore, the labourers must be inspired in order to produce to enhance increment in food production. Further, national governments have a duty to guarantee every individual nutritious, healthy and safe food, which they will get in abundance and at a reasonable price that they can afford, (Whitman 2008). As well, governments must ensure that they get the food to the nearest place convenient to all people. They have a duty to enhance purchasing power for the poor families by ensuring sufficient earning for each of them. They should ensure that the prices of basic foods such as corns, wheat, rice, fish, egg, milk and vegetables are not raised beyond control price.

Third, the education system in all countries should be structured in a way that it is not “class-based” but profession-based. It should give up priorities of class benefits and status domination and should enhance equality of status at all standards of education. This will require the privileged class children who are imparted with preferential education to be brought at par with the children from poor families at all levels of education. The education system should be instrumental in minimizing the social distance between the rich and the poor and should not widen the gap between the educated and uneducated. According to Das (2006), schools from the poor provide education of very law standard than it is imparted to the children of high class. More resources should be made available for the schools of the poor.

According to Zhuang (2010), more productive agriculture is necessary in order to fuel economic growth which is required to alleviate poverty, which should target in food-insecure sections of populations, especially those living in rural areas. According to Zhuang, agricultural research is the key to adopting and developing crop varieties that can be produced efficiently in areas with low rainfall. Also, agricultural research helps to increase crop and livestock yields, which is essential in the process of alleviation of hunger and poverty. The US government has taken necessary steps by giving additional steps to international agricultural research. As World Bank (2003), explains, food security cannot be attained by just producing more food. There is a need to complement investments in agriculture with social safety nets and programs which address poverty and hunger among the most vulnerable sections of the society. For example, in many developing countries, women play the central role in food production and household nutrition and thus, necessary gender aspects should be incorporated in food security program planning and implementation.

The poor countries need to open markets in which to sell their products. Enhancement of trade can highly boost living standards and create new opportunities among the least developed nations, (Whitman, 2008). Increased market access for agricultural products, elimination of export restrictions and science-based trade rules among nations will help to raise food security for the whole world population. On top of all that, there is a widespread need for the development of legal and regulatory systems, along with greater investments in infrastructure. Finally, provision of Food aid remains an important remedy to poverty and hunger especially when addressed to meet specific food shortages in lowest income countries that experience natural or conflict-related disruptions of food supplies or who simply cannot afford commercial food imports, (Whitman, 2008). Food aid is a unique resource for addressing emergency food needs, addressing hunger and nutrition problems, supporting development programs and directly feeding vulnerable groups in the society.  Developed nations and NGOs add more efforts and increase their effectiveness in food aid and food programs especially targeting the least developed countries whose citizens are starving.


In conclusion, poverty remains prevalent in the world, despite vast efforts to eradicate. The number of people in the world languishing in poverty and dying off from hunger every year is increasing, instead of reducing. As demonstrated in this discussion, the causes of poverty and hunger in the world are varied. They include lack of commitment by governments to provide land to the landless poor; Illiteracy among the poor; the presence of backward production systems, insufficient earnings in various sectors of an economy; Ecological devastation and lack of access to valuable natural resources; overpopulation; poor governance and but lack of access to food. As well, there are a variety of choices of possible solutions to poverty and hunger, depending on the causes. Some of the possible solutions are; strategies to enable the producers of land to become the owners of instruments of food production; material support by national governments by ensuring that all citizens have to access nutritious, healthy and safe food; enhancement of equality in education systems; enhancing more productive agricultural practices; provision of social safety nets and programs which address poverty and hunger among the most vulnerable sections of the society; enhancement of domestic and international trade and provision of food aid by NGOs and developed nations to least developed countries.




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