Amid the ongoing global food and nutrition crisis, a new report from The Rockefeller Foundation provides constructive steps forward in leveraging resources to end hunger and build sustainable food security. Anticipate and localize: Leveraging humanitarian funding to create more sustainable food systems recommends a shift in donor approaches to align more closely with solutions that strengthen food system resilience to climate change, conflict, and other shocks. It is the second of four reports issued by The Rockefeller Foundation that will present a unified roadmap for achieving global food and nutrition security.

“If the world does not act now, there will be as many hungry people in 2030 as there were in 2015, a devastating backslide – and one that could accelerate amid the worsening climate crisis,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “The goal of ending hunger once and for all is still achievable, but it requires stakeholders coming together in public-private-philanthropic partnerships behind big bets to scale innovative solutions, including those identified in this report.”While the international community has responded to the global hunger crisis with unprecedented pledges of humanitarian aid, funding gaps still remain. More broadly, there are concerns that humanitarian food assistance, as currently structured and delivered, is not the way to achieve resilient and sustainable food security.

“We have the largest humanitarian appeals, the largest numbers of people who are food insecure and the largest funding gaps in history,” said Carol Bellamy, writer of the report and former Executive Director of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “The numbers force new thinking about how we can both improve the effectiveness of existing aid and also reduce the need for aid through building more sustainable food systems.”

The humanitarian assistance system is comprised of several actors, including the multi-agency United Nations; governments; multilateral development banks; nongovernmental organizations; and private donors. Yet, despite the enormous resources deployed, coordination is weak. Major shortcomings have included a failure to anticipate crisis and invest proactively; a failure to tailor aid to local needs through local partners; and a failure to join the funding “dots.”

“The sliver of funding that went to sustainable solutions demonstrates the most dangerous gap of all: the gap between short-term thinking and long-term solutions,” said Catherine Bertini,  Managing Director, Global Nutrition Security at The Rockefeller Foundation, former Executive Director of the World Food Programme, and 2003 World Food Prize Laureate. “Until we address the underlying issues of the resilience and sustainability of food systems, the need for humanitarian food aid will continue to escalate.”

Report’s Recommendations Break with Funding Orthodoxy

The four key recommendations in the report are as follows:

  • Fund anticipatory action and make smarter investments. The report urges donors to spend 1% of their 2024 budgets on such action, increasing that share by 1% for the next 10 years. Furthermore, investments must be smarter than in the past, helping farmers to rapidly adapt to climate change, including through a focus on regenerative agriculture.
  • Fund localization by increasing the share of funding that goes to local organizations to 25% of their total expenditure over the next five years. This would support the role of local communities as effective first responders. National governments are urged to invest a similar share of their spending on domestic food security in local approaches.
  • Crack funding siloes by establishing United Nations country teams that unify funding and strategies that address humanitarian need, social and economic development, and peace, including in food insecurity hotspots affected by armed conflict.
  • Make the investment case through a campaign to put under-utilized working solutions to the test in a real-time situation of food insecurity.

In addition to the solutions highlighted above, the report calls for weaving three common threads into every policy, program and approach: a gender lens, the meaningful inclusion of those most directly affected by food insecurity, and intensive collaboration.

The report draws on insights of The Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored Convening Group on Funding for Sustainable Food Security.* The Rockefeller Foundation convened nearly two dozen experts in food insecurity and food aid from around the world. Over the course of two months, November through December 2022, they examined how to best mobilize and leverage funding to ensure food security for all.

“Millions of people are in desperate need of food assistance today – and as we deliver this aid, it is critical to invest in systemic change that will build sustainable food security in the longer term,” continued Ms. Bertini. “To solve these interconnected global challenges, governments and organizations must be willing to abandon cherished notions of what works for them in favor of what can work to bring food security to all.”

Anticipate and localize: Leveraging humanitarian funding to create more sustainable food systems is the second of four reports in a series on achieving global food and nutrition security supported by The Rockefeller Foundation. The first report, Defining the Path to Zero Hunger in an Equitable World, was recently published by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and offers a framework to reimagine a hunger-free world.