Finding hope in a gloomy view: the state of SDG 2

SDG report picBy Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

On 19th July, the first annual report on the progress of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was launched as part of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016 is designed to set the benchmark for the next 15 years over which the goals will be implemented by evaluating where the world stands now against them.

Although agricultural development will have an impact on every one of the 17 SDGs, it is nowhere more evident than in SDG 2, which aims to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” So where do we currently stand against this goal?

  1. Nearly 800 million people are still hungry

Despite progress made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), more than 790 million people around the world still suffer from hunger. According to the report, at the start of the new millennium 15% of people in the world were undernourished, and by 2015 this proportion was down to 11%. Although this is certainly progress, there is still a long way to go. Experiences from the MDGs indicate that, where countries failed to reach their target for reducing hunger, it was predominantly due to natural or human-induced disasters, and political instability. With a rising global population and a changing climate, resources such as land and water are likely to become increasingly limited, exacerbating these risk factors. This could destabilise progress towards SDG2, particularly in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa where, according to the report, more than 50% of the adult population face moderate or severe levels of food insecurity. [Read more…]

Eight TED talks about the environment

In 2013 we brought you our six favourite TEDx talks about food security, which we followed with 9 more in 2014. This time, to celebrate World Environment Day on June 5th we bring you some of our favourite TED talks about climate change, biodiversity and the environment. We’d love for you to share your favourites and to hear your thoughts about our list on twitter using #TEDenvironment and our handle, @Ag4Impact


  1. Jonathan Drori: Why we’re storing billions of seeds highlights the importance of biodiversity for supporting life, and looks into the Millennium Seed bank where billions of seeds, including non-food plants, are being stored for posterity.



2. Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food takes this idea further, by looking at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that stores millions of specifically food-crop seeds. Cary describes biodiversity is the ‘raw material’ of agriculture and highlights the importance of storing these seeds for “whatever tomorrow may bring”


[Read more…]

Searching for questions: global development issues to prioritise in 2016


Image by Ventrilock from

As 2016 begins many international development issues are threatening to intensify – the crisis in Syria and the thousands of people now refugees, the growing global power of ISIS, and the World Bank’s recently released flagship report, Global Economic Prospects, which predicts a “perfect storm” of financial turmoil coupled with slowing of growth in emerging markets this year. A recent article named the 10 news stories most likely to dominate the news this year as being:

  1. The Syrian refugee crisis
  2. Climate change
  3. Data security
  4. The US presidential election
  5. Regulating drones And self-driving cars
  6. Gun violence
  7. ISIS
  8. Global internet access
  9. Regulating the sharing economy (companies such as Airbnb and Uber)
  10. Online social justice

And while news organisations are looking ahead to the events that will shape the world in 2016, others are focused on how we can prevent and solve some of these global development challenges. 14 Academics and 21 NGOs recently put together a list of the 100 most important development issues and research questions that need to be answered. The list, published in Development Policy Review, has focused on identifying the most relevant and important research questions around the Sustainable Development Goals, set in September 2015, the successor to the Millennium Development Goals. The questions or research themes are divided into nine main themes: [Read more…]

Tracking progress and spending on nutrition

ID-100328810The Global Nutrition Report 2015: Actions and accountability to advance nutrition and sustainable development, has as a key theme the notion of tracking progress on tackling undernutrition as an important factor in holding donors, governments and other institutions to account. The data in the report itself plays a role in monitoring progress. At present, data allowing the monitoring of impact and reach of nutrition-specific interventions is limited. Lack of consensus on data, metrics and methods make monitoring difficult to undertake, analyse and compare, although improvements are being seen in actions to track nutrition.

Approaches to tackling undernutrition need to be multi-sectoral, which makes tracking both nutrition spending and progress towards targets difficult. As the Global Nutrition Report 2015 states, countries make progress when actions from multiple levels converge and reinforce each other in a virtuous circle. Nutrition-sensitive approaches, which seek to both reach a direct nutrition goal as well as address the factors underlying undernutrition, further complicate accurate measurement and monitoring.

Ickes et al (2015) calculated, based on data from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, estimates of nutrition aid received by countries with a high burden of undernutrition as well as investigated the relationship between this funding and nutrition measurements such as national stunting prevalence, stunting burden, and under-five mortality. In 2010, some US$379.4 million was given to nutrition specific projects and programmes and US$1.79 billion was committed to nutrition sensitive spending. The 25 highest burden countries accounted for 85% and 82% of this funding, respectively. The main areas of nutrition-sensitive spending were Reproductive Health Care (30.4%), Food Aid/Food Security Programs (14.1%), Emergency Food Aid (13.2%), and Basic Health Care (5.0%). The amount of nutrition sensitive and total nutrition Official Development Assistance was significantly correlated with stunting prevalence while the total number of stunted children in a country’s population was correlated with the amount of nutrition specific ODA. These results indicate not only the importance of nutrition-related funding in reducing stunting but also the importance of reliable estimates for nutrition spending for planning.

International funding for nutrition has, over the last five years, significantly increased. This rise has stimulated demand for greater accountability in the distribution of resources. As said, tracking nutrition expenditures is made difficult because nutrition spans several Ministries and involves multiple stakeholders. An Oxford Policy Management working paper by Picanyol et al (2015) entitled, Tracking Investments in Nutrition in Africa, reviews the experience of four countries (Tanzania, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Malawi) in tracking nutrition spending using different methods. Authors outline multiple ways in which nutrition spending can be tracked: through budgetary analysis, public expenditure reviews, National health accounts, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) resource mapping tool, the OECD Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC) Credit Reporting System (CRS) online database. The report also introduces suggested desirable characteristics of tracking mechanisms, based on standard principles of good practice in public financial management and aid effectiveness (OECD, 2008; World Bank, 1998): [Read more…]

4 ways to reduce malnutrition


Image courtesy of [rakratchada torsap] at

Tackling undernutrition is, as the full extent of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies becomes apparent, critical for human wellbeing and development. In the past we have tended to focus, with limited success, on ensuring people have enough to eat, on making the world “food secure” and on fighting hunger but now we are beginning to understand that if we are to lead healthy, productive lives, it is also about having enough to eat of the right mix of nutrients. And unlike hunger, often viewed as a more common problem in developing countries, poor nutrition, whether through famine or feasting, can be universal.

In 2008, when The Lancet published their Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition, global policymakers began to take notice and the Scaling-Up Nutrition movement was born. Today this momentum is continuing and the new Sustainable Development Goals focus more on nutrition and non-communicable diseases than the Millennium Development Goals did. We are also learning more and more about what can be done to lessen the burden of malnutrition. Here we discuss four approaches, all of which will be needed for malnutrition to significantly decline: the scaling up of successful and cost-effective direct interventions; prioritisation of the first 1,000 day window in a child’s existence; the development of food systems that deliver enough healthy food and prioritise human health; and coordination and collaboration across government sectors to put nutrition at the heart of relevant policies and programmes.

Scale-up direct interventions where they work

Nutrition, while impacted by agricultural productivity, poverty and income, is unlikely to be improved through more general programmes aimed at bringing about economic and social development. Income growth alone will not reduce rates of malnutrition, and so we need direct interventions to tackle malnutrition. Things such as vitamin, mineral and micronutrient supplementation; delayed cord clamping after birth, kangaroo mother care, early initiation of breastfeeding, promotion of dietary diversity, fortifying staple foods, cash transfer programmes, community-based nutrition education, and school feeding programmes. [Read more…]

Healthy Food for a Healthy World- Working towards nutrients security

By Stephanie Brittain

More than 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger and two billion suffer from nutrient deficiency. One in four children is stunted and one in two is malnourished. At the same time, 1.9 billion people are overweight, of which 600 million are obese. This is the current state of global nutrition; unbalanced and unequal.

healthly food for a healthy worldIn recognition of this, the Chicago Council held the London launch of their latest report “Healthy Food for a healthy World: Leveraging Agriculture and Food Security to Improve Global Nutrition” on the 2nd of June 2015.  A distinguished panel discussed the key issues that are raised in the report, including Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Chair, High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, Montpellier Panel member Lindiwe Sibanda, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Catherine Bertini, Distinguished Fellow, Global Agriculture and Food, The Chicago Council and Jeff Waage, Technical Advisor and host of the Secretariat of the Global Panel of Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. [Read more…]

International Women’s Day 2015

internationalwomensday_topObserved since the early 1900s, International Women’s Day (yesterday) arose from the campaigning of women in a time of rapid industrialisation and social change for equal rights, most notably the right to vote. As a result of a 1910 conference in Copenhagen, attended by over 100 women from 17 countries, a day to celebrate, to inspire and to shed light on gender inequality, International Women’s Day, was born. Although it began with just a handful of countries, IWD is now recognised as an official holiday in countries around the world such as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Laos, Nepal, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia, celebrated in a variety of ways.

This years also marks the 20th anniversary of the 59th Commission on the Status of Women at the UN, which presents achievements on women’s rights, the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women and 15 years since the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was adopted. This is also the year in which the post-2015 development goals will be agreed.

Although in the 100 or so years since IWD began we have seen a significant change in women’s role in society, from more women in the boardroom to female prime ministers and astronauts, the battle for true equality is not yet won. Around the world women are more likely to be victims of violence, to have poorer health and lower levels of education.

Work to be done

A post on Duncan Green’s blog From Power to Poverty highlights some key lessons from Oxfam’s work on gender. The most interesting lesson being that it is not just about projects and policy advocacy but to achieve true equality we need to challenge social norms that underpin identity and injustice”. A recent report by the Gender and Development Network, Turning promises into progress: Gender equality and rights for women and girls – lessons learnt and actions needed, supports the importance of tackling the underlying causes of gender equality, and that failure to do so, in part due to “insufficient political will” has hampered real progress in the last 20 years. The report details extensive recommendations for rectifying this in several areas of work such as Violence against women and girls; Sexual and reproductive health rights; Women’s participation and influence in decision-making; Education; and Women’s economic empowerment and equality. Overarching recommendations include such things as:

  • Prioritising and funding interventions to tackle structural barriers to gender equality such as institutional and governmental discrimination, unequal access to resources and exclusion from decision-making.
  • Greater funding for women’s rights organisations.
  • Investment in promoting positive social norms.
  • Reformation of economic policies to explicitly include gender equality.

Overall the report states that we need to mainstream gender across institutions and governments, hold them accountable for their policies and actions, protect women’s rights agendas in the face of multiple growing and emerging global threats and ensure women are part of the decision-making process.

Similarly a guest commentary on The Chicago Council’s on Global Affairs blog, Catching Up on Gender and Nutrition, states that, “the recipe for women’s empowerment and gender equity is…complicated because it must overcome pervasive, seemingly intractable social norms”. The post also mentions Bread for the World Institute’s 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish … We Can End Hunger, which discusses how to build women’s bargaining power, aim for a more equitable sharing of unpaid work and achieve greater representation of women in structures of power such as government.

Although there is much work to do, as these posts and reports highlight, working towards gender equality will produce many positives for women and men, boosting productivity, improving health and nutrition and perhaps bringing a fairer, more balanced society. International Women’s Day is not just a day to reflect on the challenges and the barriers women and girls face but to share inspirational stories, to celebrate wins and to show support. Read women’s stories and hear about the events that took place yesterday here.