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  • Some 795 million people in the world, 10.9 percent of the global population or about one in nine, suffer from hunger.

    Some 795 million people in the world, 10.9 percent of the global population or about one in nine, suffer from hunger. | Photo: FAO

Published 6 June 2015

"Hunger is not a natural phenomenon but a social one, reflecting unequal economic structures," said Brazil's Lula da Silva.

Two Latin American leaders, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet and former Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, highlighted their countries' advances in boosting food security at a United Nations conference in Rome Saturday.

At the opening of the week-long 39th biennial conference of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Bachelet and Lula, along with former Italian president Sergio Mattarella, launched the conference with opening addresses about tackling hunger as a social problem and an issue of political will, pointing to concrete strategies that have helped them advance their countries' food security.

RELATED: Latin America Helps Drop World Hunger by Boosting Food Security

Bachelet emphasized the role of campesinos and women in enhancing food security in Chile, stressing the importance of explicitly supporting these agricultural producers via government policy.

The Global Food Security Index, an an annual index of 109 countries by The Economist measuring food affordability, availability, quality and safety, has recognized Chile as the Latin American leader in food security for four years running.

RELATED: Latin America's Future Tied to Sustainable, Subsistence Farming

Lula discussed Brazil's achievements in tackling hunger during his McDougal memorial lecture, a FAO tradition for more than 50 years honoring one of the founding members of the organization, Australian Frank L. McDougal.

Lula highlighted hunger as a problem of social and economic inequality and called for action on hunger through social protections and inclusion of all levels of society as agents of building food security.

The FAO has pointed to social protection as a crucial and financially viable measure for countries to increase their food security, singling out Brazil's anti-poverty social welfare program known as Bolsa Familia as an effective model in tackling hunger while using less 1 percent of national income.

Brazil cut the proportion of hungry people by one third between 2000-2002 and 2005-2007, according to the FAO. Lula's social policies aimed at aiding the country's poor are considered to be a key factor in Brazil's achievements in hunger reduction.

Italy's Mattarella echoed Bachelet's and Lula's calls for support for agricultural producers, highlighting the global fight against poverty and for universal rights to food and water as essential to building peace.

The FAO conference is being attended by 14 heads of state and over 130 ministers from the organization's 197 member states. In addition to setting the FAO budget and electing the organization's next Director General, the conference will also include presentations of awards to countries making progress in the global fight against hunger.

RELATED: World Food Prices Hit Lowest Point in Six Years, Says FAO

Ahead of the conference, FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva called for a “new and holistic way of thinking and acting” to change world food production in order to ensure the right to food while making food systems sustainable to help mitigate the risks climate change poses to global food security.

"Food for all must be part of the solution to climate change, and agriculture can boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies," Graziano da Silva said. "It's up to us to make that happen."

Graziano da Silva was reelected for a second term as FAO Director General on Saturday.

On Sunday, four Latin American and Caribbean countries – Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Suriname – will be among 15 countries recognized for achieving the Millennium Development Goal of cutting hunger in half in their countries.

The FAO conference is scheduled to run until June 13.

RELATED: Brazil allocates $60 billion for agricultural production

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