Agriculture, Food Security, Nutrition and the Millennium Development Goals

by Joachim von Braun, M. S. Swaminathan, and Mark W. Rosegrant

In 2000, the member states of the United Nations committed themselves to creating a "more peaceful, prosperous and just world," to "free[ing] our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty," to making "the right to development a reality for everyone," and to ridding "the entire human race from want."

Are these just more well-meaning words?

Perhaps this time they will make a difference, because the joint declaration also set out eight goals—the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)--and each goal has specific, measurable targets that should be met by 2015. These goals aim to make definite improvements in the lives of the world’s poor people, judged, in most cases, against their situation in 1990. The need for accomplishing these goals is immense. Today, 1.1 billion people live on less than one US dollar per day (the internationally recognized poverty threshold)--430 million in South Asia, 325 million in Sub-Saharan Africa, 260 million in East Asia and the Pacific, and 55 million in Latin America. Too many children live lives characterized by hunger and illness, and all too often succumb to early death. Moreover, another 1.6 billion people live on between one and two dollars per day, often sliding temporarily below the one dollar per day threshold. To enable all these people to live in dignity, the eight goals to achieve by 2015 are:


  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

These goals are all indispensable and they require complex, coordinated action. But with such an enormous yet essential mandate at hand, how best can we proceed to 2015?

Joachim von Braun is the director general of IFPRI.
M. S. Swaminathan is the chairman of the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, the co-coordinator of the Millennium Project's Task Force on Hunger, and president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.
Mark W. Rosegrant is the director of IFPRI's Environment and Production Technology Division.