|The Hunger Trap (WFP)|
Do the hungry poor have any other developmental chance, say, by
acquiring skills for self-employment or working for a salary in jobs that do not
demand strenuous physical labour?
Gaining new skills or enhancing existing skills improves the
prospects for increasing incomes whether the skills are in the farm sector or
non-farm sector: skilled labour is paid more than unskilled labour and
additionally, skills make self-employment possible. When small farmers have to
adopt new technology to increase crop productivity, those with some education
will be among the first to do so. Many migrate to cities to escape from rural
poverty; of these, those with some education and skills are likely to have
better chances of improving their economic condition.
Hunger obstructs education
Learning new skills or improving existing skills becomes easier
with basic education. There are clear demonstrations that providing education is
one of the surest ways of relieving poverty. A major multinational study
estimated the private returns to primary and secondary education to be 49
percent and 27 percent, respectively. These investments were valuable for the
society as well as the individuals. They returned 27 percent on primary
education and about 17 percent on secondary education to the society through
increases in productivity. 
But can the hungry poor benefit from education programmes?
Little girls, who must contribute to the struggle to provide food
for the family, do not go to school, and hungry listless children do not learn
well even if they do go to school. Hungry children cannot concentrate and
assimilate knowledge. Thus, hunger robs children of the benefits of education.
It seals their poverty well into adulthood and beyond.
 Tilak, J.B.G. 1989. Education and its relation to economic
growth, poverty and income distribution. World Bank Discussion Paper Number
46. World Bank. Washington D.C.
Hunger denies women empowerment
Seven out of ten of the world's poor are women or girls, so a
focus on women is essentially a focus on the poorest. Moreover, there is strong
evidence that empowering women is the surest way to rapid poverty reduction.
Research has shown that increasing women's education and skills and improving
their nutritional level lead to higher incomes and greater food security for
their households. 
Many countries now have programmes especially geared to the
empowerment of women. These include literacy programmes as well as programmes
for providing skills and training and social group formation. To make use of
these, however, the poor have to invest their time.
The hungry poor cannot afford to invest their time with the hope
of having better future incomes. They put almost all of their household labour
and time into activities that earn their daily bread. Poor women play key roles
in all aspects of food security, food production, and nutritional security. For
example, rural women in Nepal spend between eight and 10 hours per day
supporting agricultural production , collecting fuel, leaf fodder, grass and
water, and processing and cooking food.  The situation is the same or even
worse in the case of rural women in most parts of Africa.
Women from hungry households simply cannot participate in
empowerment programmes. Hunger robs them of their opportunities to move away
 Quisumbing, A.R., L.R.Brown, H.S.Feldstein, L.Haddad and C.Pena 1995.
Women: The Key to Food Security. Food Policy Report. International Food
Policy Research Institute. Washington D.C.
 Kumar, S.K. ibid.