The Killer Facts behind the GROW campaign

I’m a big fan of killer facts in campaigning – they summarize the issue and stick in the minds of policy makers and activists alike. So here’s a selection from yesterday’s launch of the GROW campaign, many of them ground out by ace number-crunching colleague Richard King:

Extent of the problem

· The poorest people spend up to 80 percent of their weekly income on food. The average person in the UK spends a tenth of this at 8 Grow logopercent.

· New Oxfam research forecasts the price of staple cereals such as maize will increase by between 120 and 180 percent by 2030. Up to half of this increase will be due to climate change. [see report here]

· By 2050 demand for food is set to rise by 70% but growth in agricultural yields has almost halved since 1990 and is set to decline even further in the next decade.

· Every week in India, people spend more than twice the proportion of their income on food than we do in the UK; as a proportion of their income Indian people pay the equivalent of £10 for a litre of milk and £6 for a kilo of rice.

· In the Philippines, people pay more than four times the proportion of their income on foods than we do in the UK. 

Investment in agriculture

African small farmers· Only 7% of overseas aid is spent on agriculture, down from more than 20% in 1983.

· Since 1990 India more than doubled the size of its economy, but the number of hungry people increased by 65 million – because economic growth excluded the poor and social protection schemes failed to reach them. Today 1 in 4 of the world’s hungry people lives in India. [more on India and hunger here]

Climate change

· Climate change is already costing $50 billion a year in higher food prices as rising temperatures have reduced yields of key crops. Prices are set to increase even more as temperatures are projected to increase more quickly over the coming decades. [more here]

· Climate change is expected to increase the price of maize by more than 85% by 2030.

· 12 million more children under the age of five will go hungry by 2050 due to climate change – more than the combined under five populations of the UK, France and Germany. [source IFPRI]


· In the last 10 years private companies and foreign governments have bought up to 80 million hectares of land across the developing world – an area more than twice the size of Germany – often over the heads of the poor communities who rely on it for food. [more here]

· Three companies, Cargill, Bunge and Archer Daniels Midland, control nearly 90% of global grain trading between them.


· Providing women farmers with equal rights to the land and agricultural support could feed up to 150 million additional people.

· Hunger fell by one-third in Brazil between 2000 and 2007 thanks to the government’s Zero Hunger campaign, which provided support for small farmers and cash for poor mothers to purchase food.

· In 12 years to 2010, the Vietnamese government halved the number of hungry people in the country by investing in agriculture and land reform. Previously a rice importer, Viet Nam is now the second biggest exporter in the world and the poverty rate has plummeted, from 58 per cent in 1993 to 18 per cent in 2006.

You can join the GROW campaign here.

And here’s a short video on hunger in India

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2 Responses to “The Killer Facts behind the GROW campaign”
  1. milford bateman

    Excellent campaign and desperately needed. But you will have to work hard to counter the still ongoing offensive being mounted against the type of public investment into agriculture you refer to, and which has paid such huge pro-poor dividends in Vietnam, Brazil, South Korea, China and elsewhere. Coincidentally, also just released this week is an ADB publication (Nguyen, B. and R. Vogel. Rural and microfinance in the Lower Mekong Region: Policies, Institutions, and Market Outcomes. Mandaluyong City, Philippines: Asian Development Bank, 2011), which essentially argues that Vietnam should actually abandon its extensive public investment into the agriculture sector, and return to 1980s style market-driven ‘full cost recovery’ agricultural credit models. There is little or no discussion of the huge agricultural success achieved in Vietnam with its own subsidised rural credit model, just an underlying lament that the private sector is not involved enough in providing this rural credit, and that the government is far too involved in the process; ergo, the government must therefore be making a complete hash of it. Vietnam’s huge progress is actually praised at various points, but it is in the context of an argument that this relies on subsidies – a.k.a. public investment – which, of course, sensible economic policy dictates must always be phased out no matter what.

    Vietnam’s rural sector progress is actually compared with that of Cambodia and LAO PDR, two countries that do not appear to most people to have made anywhere near the same progress as Vietnam in terms of agricultural output, diversification, reaping economies of scale, developing supportive infrastructure, food security, exports, etc, etc. But since these two countries (particularly Cambodia) HAVE made progress in what really counts here – adhering to free market policy orthodoxy – the authors conclude that in many ways this means that their agricultural credit model is therefore superior to Vietnam’s. Interestingly, the authors also do not comment upon the obvious over-indebtedness that is arising in Cambodia’s rural financial sector, attested to by the many recent reports in Cambodian media and elsewhere that a serious Andhra Pradesh-style problem is brewing.

    So I totally support the aims and objectives of GROW, but you really do have an uphill task here.

    Duncan: Thanks Milford, if it ain’t uphill, it ain’t worth doing……..

  2. Ash S

    Duncan your statement: “New Oxfam research forecasts the price of staple cereals such as maize will increase by between 120 and 180 percent by 2030.” picks deliberately the worst case figure, in the most likely scenario (climate change with some adaptation) according to the model price rises are between a few percent and 40% as far as I can see by 2030. And considering according to the same model GDP per capita in Africa rises between 60% and 107% over the same period, it’s not good but it doesn’t seem to be a catastrophe. Also considering this explicitly doesn’t take into account potential technological developments which are quite promising in areas such as GM, I’d say you risk being accused of cherry picking figures for political and fundraising reasons. Of course you could be accused of much worse, e.g. by the Rational Optimist:

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