The paradoxical nature of Asia’s current food situation makes it doubly challenging to create effective and long-term strategies for alleviating poverty and malnutrition in the region. On the one hand, life has improved for many Asians, with significant gains made in the past 30 years in per capita income and calorie consumption, leading many increasingly affluent Asians to diversify their diets and create an explosion in the demand for livestock products, fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, and feedgrains. On the other hand, some 800 million Asians still live in poverty and 90 million preschool children remain malnourished.
The vast majority of those who are hungry still rely, directly or indirectly, on the agricultural sector for both food and their livelihoods, a dependency that places enormous pressure on natural resources. Further agricultural growth is needed to complete the economic transformation of rural Asia, but it must be more equitable and environmentally sustainable than it has been in the past. It must also capitalize on changing food consumption patterns in the region and on a growing global demand for diverse products.
Investment in infrastructure and in marketing and distribution systems will provide significant benefits to those who depend on agriculture. However, a reliance on market forces alone may mean that many poorer regions and poor people are likely to be left behind. IFPRI has responded to the challenge by working to develop viable strategies in five key areas: making growth pro-poor, revitalizing agricultural research and technology dissemination, managing land and water scarcity and degradation, managing globalization, and building good governance and social capital.