More than 1 billion people are hungry. Why is the number going up?

According to new projections from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there are now more than 1.02 billion people in the world who are hungry, more than ever before. In other words, one sixth of humanity is going hungry every day.

For the last few decades, FAO's biennial estimate of the number of hungry people has waxed and waned. But it's always stayed right around 800 million. This recent jump is significant. And it's not poor harvests that have led to this global disaster, but instead the world economic crisis that has caused food prices to rocket 50 to 80 percent in some regions of the world. 

While the urban poor may be especially hard hit as unemployment globally rises, many of the world's poorest and hungriest people, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), are small farmers in developing nations. These people, says IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze, "have the potential not only to meet their own needs but to boost food security and catalyse broader economic growth."

 But these farmers can't do it alone. They need governments and development agencies to give more support to key investments in agriculture-including support for organic and agro-ecological methods of farming that not only can increase yields, but also mitigate climate change (Check out Worldwatch's new report on land use and GHG mitigation). "For most developing countries there is little doubt that investing in smallholder agriculture," says Nwanze, "is the most sustainable safety net, particularly during a time of global economic crisis."