Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: hunger and malnutrition in developing countries

Updated 8 May 2015

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-hunger-and-malnutrition-in-developing-countries Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


There is enough food in the world to go around but almost a billion people go hungry every day and a further billion people are undernourished – not getting enough of the vitamins and minerals they need to live healthy and productive lives.

By 2050 the world will have another 2 billion mouths to feed. Changing consumption patterns, climate change and growing numbers of shocks, such as drought, price rises and conflict, are increasing the risk of hunger in many places in the world.

Without enough to eat, people in developing countries can’t even begin to work their way out of poverty. For children especially, being hungry or malnourished means they can die from common infections or suffer poor health in the long run – limiting their ability to learn in school, work or progress. 165 million children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition.

We must respond to these challenges in a sustainable way, making sure food is fairly distributed, helping people access nutritious diets and avoiding damage to the environment that would put future generations at risk.


By 2015, we will:

  • help more than 6 million of the world’s poorest people from going hungry in times of shortage, with small cash transfers that allow them to buy the food they need when harvests are poor, and to invest in tools, seeds and livestock when times are good

  • help 20 million pregnant women and young children at risk of malnutrition, directly through the provision of vitamin supplements and nutrient-rich foods as well as indirectly through nutrition education

  • help deal with the causes of malnutrition by improving sanitation or helping to raise the status of women

  • make sure another 4 million people have enough food throughout the year by helping with agricultural production, processing and marketing food, providing water, sanitation and hygiene services, training and improving natural resource management

  • work with the international community to respond to emergencies which cause hunger when they occur - more information about this is in our policy on helping developing countries deal with humanitarian emergencies

  • help farmers in Africa and Asia to grow more of the food their communities need, with seeds, tools and technical training to improve their production, income and nutrition

  • work with other countries, businesses and aid agencies to encourage greater investment in farming, helping smallholders to expand their production with more resources (such as fertiliser) and better techniques (like inter-cropping, which involves growing 2 or more crops next to each other, tree planting and techniques which conserve the quality of soil), and helping them to sell their produce more widely (including exporting their goods internationally)

  • invest in agricultural research and innovation to find the best solution to malnutrition in different countries, including helping scientists develop more nutritious or more disaster-resilient crops


We have committed to helping reduce hunger around the world as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of targets agreed at the United Nations in 2000. Target 1C of the MDGs aims to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2015.

While some local progress has been made, this target is unlikely to be met around the world. Rising food prices - fuelled by growing populations, extreme weather and the global financial crisis - meant hunger levels spiked in 2009.

The UK government’s approach prioritises food and nutrition security - this means ensuring that all people have enough nutritious food for a productive healthy life, not just responding when there are hunger emergencies.

The UK renewed its commitment to reducing malnutrition in particular by joining the global ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ movement of 33 developing countries.

The Prime Minister has also led an international effort to meet the World Health Organisation’s target of a 40% reduction in the number of children who are stunted due to malnutrition by 2025.

Appendix 1: improving nutrition for mothers and children in poor countries

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Malnutrition increases the risk of infection, can lead to stunting and can cause mothers to give birth to underweight babies, passing on ill-effects to the next generation. Almost one in three of the world’s poorest children cannot reach their full potential due to undernutrition and a third of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition.

Our position paper on nutrition ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ and the 2012 update ‘An Update of the Neglected Crisis of Undernutrition: Evidence for Action’ explain our policies and approach. We focus on the ‘first 1000 days’, from the beginning of pregnancy to the child’s second birthday – after this period, the damage done by malnutrition is usually irreversible. We support both direct nutrition programmes, such as providing dietary supplements and education and indirect programmes, such as helping farmers to grow nutritionally enriched crops.

Appendix 2: improving agricultural productivity in developing countries

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Some 90% of the world’s poor depend on agriculture, forestry and fisheries for their livelihoods. Growth in agriculture helps raise other standards, including education, maternal health and providing more direct incomes to women, who tend to invest it in their families and communities. This is why DFID invests in agricultural productivity.

Cash transfer programmes

We support the poorest through small transfers of cash which prevent them having to sell livestock and other assets in crises and helps them invest in tools and benefits for their community, like water points and classrooms. For example, in Ethiopia, UK aid is supporting the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) which gives cash and food to nearly eight million of the very poorest people and aims to strengthen their livelihoods more broadly through public works, access to credit and linking producers to markets.

Promoting public-private sector partnerships

We support challenge funds, where private sector partners agree to match DFID funds to pilot innovative investments in agriculture. This means more money for aid but at less cost to the British tax payer.

In Bangladesh, for example, our partnership, through the Katalyst programme, has generated 183,000 jobs in five years by helping poor farmers sell their produce.

Resilience to climate change

Agriculture and smallholder farmers will be one of the groups most seriously affected by climate change. We will work to help them become more resilient to global changes. More on our work on climate change can be found here.

Appendix 3: working with international partners to reduce hunger and malnutrition in developing countries

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security

Along with other G8 members, the UK is part of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The New Alliance, set up under the US Presidency in 2012, aims to improve food security, farming and agribusiness across Africa in order to help pull 50 million people out of chronic poverty over 10 years. In its first year, more than 50 companies agreed to invest $3 billion in agriculture in Africa and to sign up to a new code of responsible investment.

The New Alliance will:

  • help to reform the investment system to benefit the agricultural sector and stimulate investment in agriculture
  • help more farmers access markets by, for example, linking smallholder farmers to markets by improving rural roads
  • extend insurance services to smallholder farmers to help protect them from future droughts, crop failures or other catastrophes
  • increase access to innovative technology for smallholder farmers

The UK also supports the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP), a multidonor fund set up to help ensure that the global commitments on food and hunger made by the G20 in 2009 are delivered in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

More information on the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition - Progress report

Appendix 4: researching the best ways to reduce hunger and malnutrition in developing countries

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Research is needed to find out how to feed an estimated world population of nine billion by 2050 while at the same time preventing poor nutrition.

DFID supports the global partnership on food security research, CGIAR. Researching new ways to deal with hunger and malnutrition represents good value for money; every £1 spent by CGIAR produces £9 worth of additional benefits, such as increased yields for producers.

We support other research that improves information and analysis of food and nutrition insecurity, so that we know who and where the food insecure are and why they are food insecure. This will enable us to design appropriate programmes that truly respond to their needs. An example of this type of research is the ‘Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility’ Oxfam project, which DFID funds.

We also fund research projects into ways to change food and diets to improve nutrition, such as:

  • 24,000 families in Uganda and Mozambique have increased their intake of vitamin A through new strains of sweet potato through the Harvest Plus programme. This programme helped an estimated 75,000 new households directly – and 225,000 households indirectly as families share their crops with neighbours.

  • In South Asia the development of Scuba Rice - rice plants which become dormant if fully submerged in water – has helped farmers increase resilience to the effects of floods. Scuba rice was developed by the International Rice Research Institute.

DFID works to get agricultural innovation into use

A key challenge to reducing hunger and malnutrition is ensuring that knowledge, technology and innovations that have been identified as effective reach those who need them. Translating research outputs into useful products and then ensuring that they reach those who need them is key.

DFID is funding programmes to tackle these twin challenges. For example, DFID is funding a £9.34 million programme to develop new wheat varieties resistant to wheat rust. The programme identifies genes that provide wheat with resistance to rust. Once these genes are identified they are used to breed new varieties of wheat that are resistant to multiple forms of wheat rust. So far, 27 rust resistant varieties have been developed by scientists using biotechnology and released for planting by farmers in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan helping to safeguard wheat supply. Such initiatives require international collaboration and UK scientists have a strong track record of contributing to agricultural research.

Agricultural Technologies Catalyst

Building on this track record, DFID has committed £10 million to support a new Catalyst fund which will support the development and deployment of new agriculture technology in developing countries using UK agricultural technology sector expertise. The Catalyst Fund forms part of the UK Agricultural Technologies (Agri-Tech) Strategy, developed by BIS, Defra and DFID in partnership with the UK agricultural technologies sector.

The Agri-Tech Catalyst aims to stimulate the development and adoption of new technologies to help increase agricultural productivity in the UK, emerging markets and developing countries and thereby contribute to global food security.


Innovation is also about getting existing technologies into use in more effective ways. To tackle some of the biggest problems in agricultural development, DFID supports AgResults: a pioneering programme that aims at getting technologies into use at scale, as well as developing new ones.

Through the use of a range of financial mechanisms, new innovative techniques and technologies are encouraged into the market place in developing countries. The traditional approach lowers the cost of agricultural products through the use of subsidies. The financial innovation consists in rewarding product adoption after this has happened. Market actors find the best approach to stimulate farmers to use innovative products. Consumers in developing countries have access to more and better quality food.