CHRONIC hunger is often caused by inequality and not by lack of food, Michael D Higgins said.
He was speaking in Malawi yesterday, a country of 12 million people, 85pc of whom depend on subsistence farming.
"That the source of this hunger is not a lack of food, but of an endemic poverty created by injustice and inequality, remains ones of the greatest global challenges we face in the 21st Century," Mr Higgins said.
He said it "represents one of the greatest ethical failures of the current systems of global governance".
The President was delivering a keynote speech to 800 students in Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources - and used Ireland's experience with famine to provide hope for the future.
"The terrible vulnerability of hunger is something that reaches deep into the Irish psyche," said Mr Higgins.
"Our national history remains shadowed by that dark chapter that was the Irish famine - an Gorta Mor or the Great Hunger in our native language."
The main theme of his speech was food insecurity and the President said he was hopeful that world hunger could be eradicated within a single generation.
"Mahatma Gandhi once observed that the earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need but not for every man's greed," he added.
The President leaves Malawi for South Africa today, for the third leg of his official State visit to Africa.