The first fruits of WIDER's programme in the theme area of ‘Hunger and Poverty—The Poorest Billion’ initiated in 1985 were presented in August 1986 at a research conference in Helsinki on ‘Food Strategies’. The research was co‐ordinated by WIDER's Research Adviser on this theme, Amartya Sen, now Lamont University Professor at Harvard University. The focus of the research project was on identifying ‘what feasible opportunities exist’ for changing a situation where inordinately large numbers of people go hungry.
A common background to many of the papers presented at the conference was provided by an approach that sees famine and hunger as arising not primarily from a lack of availability of food but from failure of entitlement to food. Another key focus of the conference was on the public intervention issue, namely, how does a country with a low per capita income reach high levels of physical quality of life in terms of literacy rates, life expectancy, and infant mortality. Besides the country studies, other issues addressed in the research include strategies of famine prevention, international interdependence, gender inequalities, the role of food production, and the functions of an active press.
The conference papers have been brought together in three volumes, edited by Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, of which this is the third. In addition to editing these three volumes, Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen have themselves written a separate monograph entitled Hunger and Public Action (Oxford University Press, 1989), which closely relates to the themes and concerns of this book.