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Is fight against hunger a matter of security?

Hunger and food insecurity can destabilize whole regions. That dimension is raising new interest in tackling the issue, says Kanayo Nwanze, the new head of the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development.

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Which is more likely to grab and hold attention: third-world hunger or global food security?

Kanayo Nwanze bets the answer is the latter. The Nigerian who recently became president of the United Nations' International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says globalization has made the hunger and rural poverty that always pulled on the heartstrings an international security issue. [Editor's note: The original version gave the wrong nationality for Dr. Nwanze.]

"People now have a clear sense of the linkages between food security and national security," says Dr. Nwanze. That understanding is helping bring questions of hunger and rural development to a broader audience, he says, "as well as to some very high places."

Hunger now can mean increased cross-border and international migration. And the riots that accompanied recent food shortages and price hikes in several parts of the world show how hunger can destabilize governments in regions of critical importance to the international battle against extremism.

That's why issues of rural hunger and food security are increasingly cropping up in venues ranging from the US Congress to the G-8 group of industrialized countries, Nwanze says. It is the emergence of food as an international security issue, Nwanze adds, that raises the odds that the international community will help developing countries come up with sustainable answers to food production challenges.

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