By Stéphane Hallegatte, Mook Bangalore, and Francis Samson Nkoka
Malawi is no stranger to significant flooding. In January 2012, floods affected more than 10,000 people and caused US$3 million worth of damage to households and infrastructure. But this year’s floods are much larger in magnitude, even unprecedented.
Beginning in early January, heavy rains triggered significant flooding in the southern and eastern districts of the country. The districts which experienced the largest impacts include Nsanje and Chikwawa in the south and Phalombe and Zomba in the east. So far, the flooding has affected more than 600,000 people, displaced over 170,000, and damaged agricultural crops covering more than 60,000 hectares.
While aggregate numbers and economic cost indicate the seriousness of the event, it is critical to look at exactly who is affected in the country. We have found that the poorest are on the front line.
The halving of world oil prices over the last six months raises questions about the implications for food prices and the welfare of poor people.
Do lower oil prices mean lower food prices? To a certain extent. But for low-energy cropping systems common in most developing countries, and in areas where food is not transported far, the impact will be dampened. For large oil exporters, however, food prices may increase. In general, lower oil prices should lower the cost of moving food from producers to consumers and reduce on-farm fuel and fertilizer costs. But a countervailing factor is that cheap oil may also induce people to drive more, and as fuel ethanol mandates link biofuel use to overall fuel use, ethanol use and the volume of maize used to produce it would also go up. In countries where oil is a large share of exports, real exchange rates may depreciate, which will disproportionately increase the price of traded goods like grains relative to other prices.
Is the downturn in agriculture commodity prices necessarily bad for farmers who produce food? A major downturn in commodity prices would not be great for farm incomes, and high crop yields would be needed to help dampen the effect on farm profits. Lower fertilizer and transport costs may help mitigate any negative impacts.
How long will oil prices remain low? While there is no certainty in forecasts, current estimates suggest fuel prices will remain low for 2015, increasingly slightly in 2016. There are three main drivers of the oil price decline which are structural: Significant increases in US shale oil production, receding concerns of oil supply disruptions in the Middle East, and a change in OPEC policy to maintain rather than cut production.
Take a look back at some of the most popular stories you may have missed in 2014:
1. Raising More Fish to Meet Rising Demand
- natural capital
- food security
- Climate Change
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- East Asia and Pacific
Women make up almost half the world's labor force and perform most of its unpaid care work, for children, the elderly, and the disabled. They also earn less and own less than men — especially land and housing. And they face enormous constraints in the world of work — from laws that prevent them from opening bank accounts to social norms that push them into lower-paying, less secure jobs.
As a result women are more vulnerable to poverty than men.
Foreign access rarely receives good press. Although over half of the world’s exclusive economic zones are subject to some form of foreign fishing arrangement, there is a perception that industrialized nations are "giving with one hand while taking away with the other." Criticism abounds regarding the role that foreign fleets play in overexploiting coastal state fish stocks, in engaging in illegal and unreported activity, in contributing to conflicts with small-scale fisheries and in generally undermining domestic fishing interests in vulnerable developing economies.
When I got that quote by the French philosopher tattooed on my arm, I wasn’t thinking about world poverty. I wasn’t thinking about the environment or peace or conflict or starvation or social justice. In fact, aside from puzzling over which recycling bin my coffee cup goes in, I didn’t think about much outside of my own world. Like so many others, I have plenty of my own problems to worry about, let alone ending world poverty. It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives. That daily crush of details — getting to work on time or paying the bills — can swallow up years. But if everyone only focused on what’s happening in their own world, then nothing would ever get better.
In a recent blog post, Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima highlights a critical issue all of us working in international development must address: How can we reduce the extreme inequality between the haves and the have-nots around the world? Oxfam’s launch of the Even it Up campaign takes the organization’s research findings on inequality another step further by offering policy solutions to help tackle this growing problem.
Oxfam’s report offers new evidence of an ever-widening gap between the rich and poor that threatens to undermine poverty eradication, examines the causes of the inequality crisis, and proposes concrete solutions to overcome it.
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?
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.