Ending rural hunger

2016 Update: Progress Toward SDG 2

Editor's note:

This is a related report from The Ending Rural Hunger project, a tool to review and follow-up on Sustainable Development Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security, and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

A full year has passed since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the members of the United Nations. The second of these goals calls for ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture in all countries—all by 2030. Given the ambition of these targets, it was clear when the SDGs were launched that business-as-usual would not be enough to meet the goals—we need to change course and significantly accelerate progress. Today, in late 2016, is there any evidence that such a transformation is under way? In brief the answer is no, based on the most recent available data.

This note provides an update of where the world stands on the path toward ending rural hunger by 2030. The upshot is that prevalence of undernourishment and malnutrition in the developing world is falling, but not nearly fast enough to achieve the hunger SDG targets. Though some countries have seen important increases in agricultural productivity, many others are being left behind, with cereal yields languishing below 2,000 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha) and little evidence of improvements. Meanwhile developed countries have not significantly reformed their own remaining agricultural trade and subsidy policies which distort global markets, nor have they delivered needed increases in development assistance: The total amount of aid for food and nutrition security (FNS) is flat. To be sure, there are a number of individual success stories at the country level, some of which are discussed below. These demonstrate that real transformations are possible.

Shortly after the SDGs were announced, in October 2015, we released the Ending Rural Hunger report and accompanying dataset, an analytic tool designed to help governments, firms, philanthropies, and other stakeholders identify priorities, efficiently allocate resources and ultimately track progress toward achieving the hunger SDG. We focus specifically on the issue of rural hunger in developing countries because approximately three quarters of the world’s hungry people live in rural areas, a large share on smallholder family farms which depend on agriculture for their income. The constraints to ending hunger in developed countries and in urban areas, while also important areas of concern, are significantly different from the constraints to ending rural hunger in developing countries.

The revised, updated and expanded 2016 Ending Rural Hunger dataset is now available at, where users can see for themselves the state of rural hunger across 153 developing countries as well as how the policies and resources of 29 developed countries rate toward ending rural hunger. Below we draw on newly released data for a subset of indicators included in the dataset in order to assess the latest evidence on advances and setbacks. Challenges in FNS data quality and lagged availability make it difficult to draw any decisive conclusions, especially when many indicators are so far only available as of 2014 (see Box 1 below). Nonetheless, available data suggest we are still not on track.

The pivotal question is how to change course—how to achieve the transformations that realize the ambition of the FNS goals. The next 12 months will be a critical period for governments to put in place the needed policies and resources. A series of multilateral financing rounds and summits related to FNS will take place in 2017, so the final section of this note suggests where to look for evidence that we are moving beyond business as usual.

Download the full report »