World

Ending Hunger and Malnutrition: The Role of Public-Private Partnerships

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Introduction

Food security and adequate nutrition are a matter of life or death. They are integral to a wide range of development goals, as preconditions for sustainable, social, economic and human development.
However, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO, 2017), 800 million people still suffer from hunger and more than two billion from malnutrition (micronutrient deficiencies or forms of overnourishment), with Africa as the continent with the highest levels of vulnerability. Globally, 159 million children under five are stunted, with no access to adequate nutrition.

This is due to a number of factors. Despite some recent dynamism of local and regional food markets, agriculture in low-income countries is hampered by serious weaknesses, including inadequate policies and lack of political will, poor rural infrastructure, low farm productivity, poor organisation of the private sector and regulation of markets, low product quality management capabilities (causing public health risks and losses of economic opportunities), inadequate and inefficient financing, and worsening climatic conditions.

As a result, supply falls short of meeting demand, in both volume and quality, with many smallholder farmers stuck in subsistence livelihoods.
Moreover rapid population growth and climate change increase development challenges and competition for natural resources, with widespread market failures, such as global value chain (VC) inefficiencies and huge levels of food waste, making it difficult to improve food security in many parts of the world.

For decades, global agricultural systems have focused on growing more food, particularly staple crops, to address hunger in poor countries and increase incomes in exporting countries.
Such approach, however, has not ensured that everyone has access to food, nor that such food is nutritious. Greater reliance on a small number of staples has led to increasing concerns about human diets being energy-rich but nutrient-poor.
Ensuring access to safe and nutritious food is difficult when food systems only focus on major crops that may fail in harsh environments and worsening climates.
Indeed, supporting food security and agriculture is only part of the solution in tackling malnutrition, that is a daily global emergency. Malnutrition causes severe, long term human and economic consequences, with children in particular not benefiting from the nutrients they need to develop their full potential.

Even though the world has made progress (for instance with the number of stunted children fallen by more than a third since 1990), we are still far from achieving the objectives of ending hunger and eliminating all forms of malnutrition by 2030, as well as reducing stunting by 40% by 2025, that are integral part of the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This paper explores the role of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in reaching SDG number 2 (SDG 2): “ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture”. Section 2 summarises the current knowledge about PPPs in development cooperation and particularly in the efforts for SDG 2. Section 3 illustrates the key issues around PPPs drawing on concrete experiences from the ground, identifying opportunities, challenges and lessons learnt, with a focus on Africa and the sectors related to SDG 2. Section 4 offers concluding remarks on the responsibilities of governments, civil society, and companies, suggesting some concrete steps for PPPs to significantly contribute to SDG 2.