One in eight people worldwide still go to bed hungry every night, and the increased severity of natural disasters like droughts only exacerbates this situation. Humanitarian agencies and development practitioners are increasingly focused on helping the most vulnerable recover from the effect of these shocks by boosting their resilience.
A recent surge in China’s food imports has rekindled concerns about global food demand raised by Brown (1995) and about food self-sufficiency in China. According to UN Comtrade data, China’s trade in food was roughly balanced until 2008 but subsequently moved into deficit, with net imports rising to $38.7 billion in 2013. A key question is whether China will become a massive net food importer like Japan and the Republic of Korea, which rely on world markets for more than 70 percent of grain and soybean demand.
China’s rapid economic growth, at 8.5 percent average annual per capita in purchasing power parity terms since economic reform began in 1978, has dramatically changed Chinese diets. While China’s per capita calorie consumption appears likely to be approaching its peak, the composition of food demand seems likely to continue to change, as consumers shift away from basic staples and towards animal-based products. This shift to greater dietary diversity imposes greater burdens on agricultural resources since animal-based diets require much more agricultural resources than vegetable-based diets.
With Alessandro Olper*
Mass media plays a crucial role in distribution of information and in shaping public policy. Theory shows that information provided by mass media reflects its incentives to provide news to different groups in a society and in turn shape these groups’ influence on policy making.
Has the rise in international food prices since the mid 2000s hurt the poor, or helped them? Until recently, everything we knew about this topic came from simulation analyses rather than survey data. Simulation approaches invariably predict that poverty and food insecurity increases as the result of higher food prices, but there are many reasons why these predictions might not eventuate. On the other hand, standard household surveys yield information only after long lag periods. In light of these constraints, in some of my work I use an indicator of self-assessed food security from the Gallup World Poll (GWP). Since 2005, Gallup has survey men and women in a large number of developing countries and asked them (among other things) whether they have had “any trouble affording sufficient food in the last 12 months?” I take the percentage of respondents who answer yes to this question as a measure of national food insecurity.
Excerpt from Global Monitoring Report 2012.
Undernourishment measures the availability of food to meet people’s basic energy needs. The MDGs call for cutting the proportion of undernourished people in half, but few countries will reach that target by 2015. Rising agricultural production has kept ahead of population growth, but rising food prices and the diversion of food crops to fuel production have reversed the declining rate of undernourishment since 2004–06. The FAO estimates that in 2008 there were 739 million people without adequate daily food intake. More
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 seasonality of poverty and food deprivation is a common feature of rural livelihood in Bangladesh, but it is more marked in the northwest region of Rangpur. The recently launched policy interventions in the region provide a test case of what works and what does not in combating seasonal hunger.
The analysis of Bangladesh’s experience with seasonal hunger vis-à-vis year-round poverty shows a clear distinction between what is observed and what is excluded from placement and evaluation of poverty-mitigation policies, based on official poverty statistics. The key recommendations from this analysis are as follows:
Can a new set of brains bring a new set of solutions to water problems? Water is at the heart of some of the world's most pressing development challenges. For example:
- human development: diarrhea kills more children than AIDS, malaria and TB combined.
- energy security: hydropower is the only renewable energy source currently deployed at scale
- food security: agriculture will face increasingly powerful demands to allocate water to urban, industrial and environmental services.
- urban development: droughts and floods will grow more intense and frequent in cities.
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.
Which comes first in the wake of revolution, bread or freedom?
A Reuters reporter asked about this during the embargoed press briefing last Friday to launch the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development. What she wondered about was the tough choices of what to deal with most urgently in the throes of revolutions like we are seeing in the Middle East and North Africa.
In other words, should policymakers pay urgent attention to, say, food, jobs and the flow of cash or do justice and political change take precedence?