How much money would it take to end world hunger?

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Already living in a drought-stricken community in Guatemala, Juana Gutiérrez and her family faced worsening hunger as a result of not being able to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. "We fight to see, to have something to eat because of the poverty that is true of the Dry Corridor for a long time due to the drought." Photo: Oxfam/Valerie Caamaño

We need billions to end extreme hunger. But we need to transform our food systems to reach Zero Hunger.

When tech entrepreneur Elon Musk challenged the United Nations last year to show him a $6 billion plan that would end world hunger, he got in return a proposal that would save 42 million people in 43 countries from starvation.

Since Musk’s challenge, the hunger crisis has worsened—increasing the number of people in need, and driving up costs. Extreme hunger has more than doubled in the world’s worst climate hotspots, and about 1 in 10 people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger—meaning they do not consume enough food to maintain a normal, active lifestyle.

At Oxfam, we’ve been focused on food and hunger since our founding. So we’re going to explain what money could accomplish, step by step: How close are we to Zero Hunger; how much money could help achieve it; and what money can’t solve, including what else we must do if we are serious about ending world hunger.

How close are we to ending world hunger?

Seven years after world leaders committed to end hunger by 2030, the crisis is heading in the wrong direction. The UN reports that 150 million more people are affected by hunger since the start of the global pandemic. That means as many as 828 million people experienced hunger in 2021—more than three times the size of the US population.

There are two main dimensions of the crisis:

  • Some people suffer from extreme hunger—meaning their lack of adequate food puts their lives and livelihoods at risk. Many fled their homes due to conflict, the effects of climate change, and lost income as a result of economic lockdowns during the pandemic.

  • Others suffer from chronic hunger. This includes mostly women farmers that work small plots of land. Many lack access to finance as well as other support to improve their farming practices and are now increasingly unable to grow enough food because of extreme weather events.

"It is abysmal that with all the technology in agriculture and harvesting techniques today we are still talking about famine in the 21st century,” said Mohanna Ahmed Ali Eljabaly from the Yemen Family Care Association. “This is not about one country or one continent, and hunger never only has one cause. This is about the injustice of the whole of humanity.”

How much money could help end world hunger?

Current estimates suggest that as of this year, we need donor governments to invest around $37 billion every year until 2030 to tackle both extreme and chronic hunger.

Let’s start with extreme hunger. We need about $23 billion just this year to meet the needs of people facing starvation and acute malnutrition.

  • These resources—primarily for cash and food assistance—represent almost half of what is needed to meet the world’s overall humanitarian needs.

  • But world leaders never fully fund what is needed every year. In 2021, they contributed only 46 percent toward the total cost of global humanitarian needs.

So how much more money would it take to address chronic hunger? According to Ceres2030, an initiative led by foundations, universities, and scientists working to find solutions to hunger, donor governments would need to invest an additional $14 billion on average in foreign aid every year until 2030 to end hunger sustainably.

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Graphic: Emily Eberly
  • That means roughly doubling the amount of foreign aid from wealthy governments for food security and nutrition each year.

  • That additional investment is equal to about 1 percent of what the world spends annually on military and arms projects.

Low- and middle-income countries also have a role to play. According to Ceres, these governments would need to raise revenue to spend on average around $19 billion every year until 2030 toward ending hunger.

What money can’t do to help end world hunger—and what else must be done

To end world hunger, we need to recognize why people are hungry at a time when we have enough food globally to feed 10 billion people.

  • No amount of money can end war, stop the effects of the climate crisis on food production, or take away the power that giant corporations have over agricultural trade—all of which make ending hunger that much harder.

  • In fact, the food system itself is a driver of the climate crisis—responsible for almost 1/3 of total carbon emissions.

That’s why we need to transform our food systems if we’re serious about ending world hunger. That starts with supporting local food production and thriving local food systems while pushing giant corporations that dominate global food markets to do right by people and the planet.

  • Food entrepreneurs from Asia to Latin America have their own vision to grow healthy food in their local communities. Women and youth need tools to help grow, process, and distribute food in a fair and sustainable manner.

  • Large global food and beverage companies wield incredible power over the livelihoods of women, workers, and farmers who sustain their operations. They must provide equal pay and treatment for women, mitigate the effects of the climate crisis on food production, and move away from business models that prioritize short-term profit over human and planetary well-being.

  • Smallholder farmers produce 1/3 of the world’s food but are struggling to adapt to the climate crisis. Many are adopting climate-resilient agriculture practices, increasing their productivity, and organizing as a collective to take advantage of market opportunities to improve their incomes.

  • More than 50 percent of the world’s smallholder farmers are women. We need to secure their rights to land, raise their voice in decision-making spaces on the land issues that affect them, and strengthen leadership for women’s land rights.

Conclusion

Ending world hunger is the best investment money can buy. By making clear financial commitments to address extreme and chronic hunger, world leaders can bring us closer to Zero Hunger in the years and decades ahead. But money is only part of the equation—and we need to transform food systems to ensure food security for all.

Every time you sit down to a meal or go shopping for food, you have the chance to help build thriving local food systems—one critical piece to achieving Zero Hunger. That’s why Oxfam started the Eat for Good initiative to help people like you shop and eat more sustainably.

Download our special Eat for Good recipe e-book today to gain access to a one-of-a-kind collection of recipes from incredible chefs, artists, and activists that support Oxfam's mission to fight inequality to end poverty and injustice. Each aligns with a specific Eat for Good principle—save food, shop seasonal, eat less meat, support farmers and farm producers, and cook smart.

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Do your part to build thriving local food systems

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Thank you for your interest in eating and shopping sustainably this holiday season. We're excited to keep you informed about ways you can partner with us to fight inequality to end poverty and injustice.

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