The key to China’s success was the economic reforms in 1978 that dismantled its system of agricultural collectives, known as production teams, and replaced them with family farms.
In each village, the land was allocated among families, giving them long-term leases on their piece of land. The move harnessed the energy and ingenuity of China’s rural population, raising the grain harvest by half from 1977 to 1986.
With its fast-expanding economy raising incomes, with population growth slowing, and with the grain harvest climbing, China eradicated most of its hunger in less than a decade—in fact, it eradicated more hunger in a shorter period of time than any country in history.
While hunger has been disappearing in China, it has been spreading throughout much of the developing world, notably sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Indian subcontinent.
As a result, the number of people in developing countries who are hungry has increased from a recent historical low of 800 million in 1996 to over 1 billion today.
Part of this recent rise can be attributed to higher food prices and the global economic crisis.
In the absence of strong leadership, the number of hungry people in the world will rise even further, with children suffering the most.