As we mark World Food Day, here’s a sobering thought: Too many people are hungry.
One in nine people suffer from chronic hunger, more than 1 billion people are undernourished, and 3.1 million children die every year due to hunger and malnutrition. This is a huge drain on development--when people are hungry and malnourished, they are less able to improve their livelihoods; adequately care for their families; live full and healthy lives and lift themselves out of poverty.
The problem is set to intensify in the future, as the population grows, climate change affects how we produce our food and the natural resources that help feed the world are stretched even further. We aren’t feeding the world as well as we should be in 2014. How can we do better in the future, when the world will need to feed and nourish 9 billion people in 2050?
Agriculture and Rural Development
As we mark World Food Day, here’s a sobering thought: Too many people are hungry.
The world has made impressive progress against hunger in the past few decades – mostly due to the hard work of poor people themselves. They are the most important stakeholders: Who could be more invested in the struggle against hunger than a young woman with a hectare of land to farm and two children to feed?
The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) 2014 tells us that the hunger target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—cutting in half the proportion of undernourished people—is within reach. Even better, the evidence shows that the world is making progress rapidly enough to end hunger by 2030. Setting and achieving a goal to end hunger and malnutrition in the post-MDG, post-2015 era can bring an end to widespread chronic hunger, which affects more than 800 million people today.
Ending hunger is important for the present and the future. It is far better to prevent a crisis than to respond after it has occurred.
Ironically, people living with hunger are, by and large, the very same people the world needs to feed a growing population. Smallholder farmers often face structural barriers to food security—for example, they lack access to basic infrastructure, such as roads to get crops to the market, storage facilities, electricity, and irrigation. They lack access to credit and land. Helping them increase their incomes and build assets, strengthening safety nets, and focusing on health and education outcomes will help build their resilience to shocks that are beyond their control, such as climate change-related weather events.
Delivering food and nutrition security in the face of climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our generation. So it’s encouraging to see influential stakeholders around the world taking action today at the Climate Summit. From the private sector’s efforts to put a price on carbon, to the energy sector’s focus on lowering emissions, key stakeholders are realizing that inaction is not an option.
But one sector has yet to get its act together. Climate action may be gaining momentum, but the agriculture sector is largely stuck in ‘business as usual’ mode. Unlike other areas of the economy, it hasn’t made any big, transformational moves towards climate resilience or reducing emissions. We are missing our “electric car”.
Hardly a week goes by without my hearing the statement, “It’s not the What; it’s the How.” On the reform of energy subsidies in the Middle East and North Africa, for instance, the discussion is focused not on whether subsidies should be reformed (everyone agrees they should be), but on how the reform should be carried out. Similar points are made about business regulations,education, agriculture, or health. I confess to having written similar things myself. And there is no shortage of such proposals on this blog.
Reforms are needed because there is a policy or institutional arrangement in place that has become counterproductive. But before suggesting how to reform it, we should ask why that policy exists at all, why it has persisted for so long, and why it hasn’t been reformed until now. For these policies didn’t come about by accident. Nor have they remained because somebody forgot to change them. And they are unlikely to be reformed just because a policymaker happens to read a book, article or blog post entitled “How to reform…”
No, this blog post isn’t about what you think. It actually is about birds and bees. Mostly the latter, actually.
The dramatic decline in honeybee populations has received wide media coverage, and not just because it imperils honey production. Agricultural production is also at risk, due to the important role bees play as pollinators. In fact, the value of the services they and other insects provide for the main global food crops has been estimated to amount to $209 billion a year, or 9.5 percent of the value of total global agricultural food production.
Food Safety is becoming a priority in Zambia. The government is revising its food safety strategy and preparing new legislation to improve and modernize food safety governance. In the private sector, a number of food enterprises are upgrading their food safety practices to stay on par with their peers abroad and cater to increasingly demanding consumers.
These improvements are timely and appropriate. While the extent of foodborne risks in Zambia isn’t fully known, recurrent cholera and typhoid outbreaks as well as the fact that 60 percent of the population suffers from diarrhea suggest that foodborne pathogens, poor hygiene and sanitation and other food safety risks are having a negative impact. Anecdotal information supports this point. In conversations with partners in Zambia, over a cup of coffee or dinner, I asked what they thought could cause diarrhea? Most of them responded that it was probably something they ate. They complained that while diarrhea was not a “big deal,” and that “their stomachs were used to bacteria,” it reduced productivity because they had to take sick days away from work. Aside from causing a high death rate among children and the elderly, these diseases place a significant burden on straining public health services, reduce the productivity of the working population and constrain development. Furthermore, the economic and human costs of these diseases are huge.
Rift Valley Fever, which can infect both humans and animals, has long plagued East Africa. And climate change, in combination with urbanization, population growth, and travel, can increase conditions that are favorable for this disease and many others.
Temperature, humidity, and rainfall will be affected by climate change –and each can influence the way that disease develops and spreads. Mosquitoes, for example, thrive in warm, humid climates. As climate change alters the geography of these conditions, the number and range of mosquitoes will also change, spreading the diseases that they carry, and exposing populations that have never before seen them. But this is not just true for mosquitoes – ticks, midges, and other vectors that carry disease also stand to have greater impact with climate change. The impact will be felt—with increasing intensity– by both humans and animals. Of the nearly 340 diseases that have been identified in humans since 1940, ¾ are zoonotic, passing directly from animal species to humans.
There’s been a lot of talk about food riots in the wake of the international food price hikes in 2007. Given the deaths and injuries caused by many of these episodes, this attention is fully justified. It is quite likely that we will experience more food riots in the foreseeable future—that is, if the world continues to have high and volatile food prices. We cannot expect food riots to disappear in a world in which unpredictable weather is on the rise; panic trade interventions are a relatively easy option for troubled governments under pressure; and food-related humanitarian disasters continue to occur.
In today’s world, food price shocks have repeatedly led to spontaneous—typically urban—sociopolitical instability. Yet, not all violent episodes are spontaneous: for example, long-term and growing competition over land and water are also known to cause unrest. If we add poverty and rampant disparities, preexisting grievances, and lack of adequate social safety nets, we end up with a mix that closely links food insecurity and conflict. The list of these types of violent episodes is certainly long: you can find examples in countries such as Argentina, Cameroon, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Tunisia showcased in May’s Food Price Watch.
“Accounting” may not be a word that gets many pulses racing. But what if I told you that a new kind of accounting — called natural capital accounting — could revolutionize the way the world’s nations assess and value their economies?
Currently, gross domestic product (GDP) is the most widely used indicator of a country’s economic status. But while this number places a value on all the goods and services produced by that economy, it doesn’t account for its “natural capital” — the ecosystems and the services they provide, from carbon sequestration to freshwater regulation to pollination.
In September, the world’s top scientists said the human influence on climate was clear. Last month, they warned of increased risks of a rapidly warming planet to our economies, environment, food supply, and global security. Today, the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes what we need to do about it.
The report, focused on mitigation, says that global greenhouse gas emissions were rising faster in the last decade than in the previously three, despite reduction efforts. Without additional mitigation efforts, we could see a temperature rise of 3.7 to 4.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times by the end of this century. The IPCC says we can still limit that increase to 2 degrees, but that will require substantial technological, economic, institutional, and behavioral change.
Let’s translate the numbers. For every degree rise, that equates to more risk, especially for the poor and most vulnerable.