How are communities around the world coping with the higher and more volatile food prices? What is the impact on poverty, or on nutritional outcomes? And, how should policymakers respond to such price spikes that can eat away at already-tight budgetary resources?
These are only some of the questions that a key World Bank-IMF report is delving into as it provides an annual assessment on progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as the challenges which developing countries face in achieving them.
Rising food prices, famine in the horn of Africa, climate change, seasonal hunger, uncertainty about the future of the global food system.
World Food Day and Blog action Day are on October 16, and one hopes this day will inspire many ideas and innovations to tackle the World’s food security challenges. One such idea is - ‘small is beautiful’. Duncan Green explains why small farmers are actually beneficial when it comes to agriculture. One obvious reason is “it puts food into circulation and at the same time boosts the income of some of the poorest people on the planet”. Read his post to know more. Also, revisit the post "Seasonal Hunger" on this blog to know about the specific policy actions that can end the occurrence of this cycle.
The Horn of Africa is facing the worst food crisis ever. Over 12 million people, including malnourished children, have been severely affected in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The UN estimates that around $2.5bn is needed for the humanitarian response in the Horn of Africa. Many countries have come to the rescue and funds have started to flow in. The Data blog has a very informative post with charts and figures on the donated funds and distribution so far.
With soaring global food prices and climate change, longer-term solutions are needed to ensure food security. For Africa, irrigation can be a beneficial solution, as explained by Shanta Devarajan in his post ‘Irrigation and Climate Change’. Elsewhere in Europe, ‘food sovereignty’ is viewed as the future of food, and interestingly the developing countries are showing the way. Read this post from Poverty Matters to know more.
Food price spikes happen when stocks are low and when unpredictable events occur. That was the main message of Professor Brian Wright at his Development Economics Lecture at the World Bank on March 11.
Wright, who is Professor & Chair Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, has long followed the markets for storable commodities. He is also an expert in invention incentives, intellectual property rights, the economics of agricultural research and development, and the economics of conservation and innovation of genetic resources.
Today’s food and fuel concerns do not constitute the ‘perfect storm’, Wright said. However, he warned that if several important crop-producing countries have a bad season in the coming year, and if the demand for biofuels rises faster than the rate of production of major grains, we could be in real trouble.
What’s the best fix for this situation? Wright argues it’s keeping food supplies cheap and investing in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), since it will be super-seeds, drought resilient crops, and innovations to boost yields that will turn things around. He also emphasized that, during a crisis, it’s essential to put minimum food needs above animal feed and fuel uses.
The current food crisis—increasing poverty linked to price volatility and high food prices—have put agricultural growth and food production issues back on the development agenda. Is productivity growth the only way to address the short-run challenge (the food crisis) and longer-term needs (meeting increased demand for food)?
Even though today agriculture is the main source of livelihood for 2.5 billion people, including 1.3 billion smallholders and landless workers, public investment in agriculture in developing countries, as well as the share of agricultural expenditure in total government spending, have been gradually declining since the 1980s. Bilateral and multilateral assistance to agriculture, after an increase in the 1970s, also fell starting in the mid-1980s. It is only in recent years that the World Bank and other aid agencies have increased their lending and boosted their investments. But will these investments be effective? This depends on whether they will have a sizeable impact on agricultural productivity.
Rising food prices have once again grabbed everyone’s attention. Prices for some basic foods are nearing the 2008 food crisis levels. In the post ‘Soaring Food Crisis’, Paul Krugman analyzes the data from USDA World supply and demand estimates, and blames the current price spikes on global harvest failures. However, the main question still remains unanswered – is another food crisis afoot? Answers to this and some other concerns are addressed in the latest World Bank Flash and also in the World Food Program’s ‘Rising Food Prices: 10 Questions Answered’ piece.
Should 16 year old Africans vote? Why not… Africa has the youngest and fastest growing population in the world…where more than 20% are between the ages of 15- 24, argues Calestous Juma in an insightful post on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog. Speaking of Africa, in an interesting post, ‘Do informed citizens hold governments accountable? It depends…’ (Governance for Development blog), Stuti Khemani from the World Bank’s Research Group examines the impact of radio access on government accountability in Benin.
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
This profoundly important—and seemingly-simple—definition of food security from the World Food Summit of 1996 actually has four elements:
1. Enough food must be available to meet people’s needs.
2. People must have access to the food that is available under normal circumstances.
3. Volatility in production or prices must not threaten this availability, and
4. The quality of food that people consume must be adequate for their needs.