Past, present and future: IFPRI’s 2014-2015 Global Food Policy Report

CAeEPQKUQAA9iSc.png largeIn the fourth instalment of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s annual report on food policy, launched on 18th March 2015, authors report on the major developments that have happened at a global, regional and national level in 2014 but also, and for the first time, discuss the challenges to tackling food insecurity we face in the near future.

Looking to the past, the report highlights achievements as well as setbacks. For example, achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015, of 64 countries meeting the MDG of halving the number of hungry people since 1990, of global undernourishment having fallen from 19% to 11% in the past 2 decades, the commitments made at the Second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome to end malnutrition, the African Union committing to end hunger by 2025 and membership in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement continuing to grow.

But 2014 also experienced shocks and disasters such as the largest ever outbreak of Ebola, continuing civil war and conflict in the middle east, extreme weather conditions such as drought in Central America and typhoons and flooding in the Philippines, and continuing distortion of the agricultural markets with the US passing the Farm Bill and the EU implementing the latest Common Agricultural Policy. And ongoing is a lack of food security and adequate nutrition for hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

While disease, conflict and climatic upheaval are expected to intensify over the coming years, this year could be a window of opportunity to mitigate and build resilience to future shocks, and to step up in the fight against hunger and poverty as the Sustainable Development Goals are shaped and come into force and as a new climate agreement is (hopefully) adopted.

IFPRI’s report highlights some key food policy aspects of hunger and malnutrition such as the importance of sanitation, social protection and food safety, which need to be considered in future policy making. The report also discusses the role of middle income countries in combating hunger and the future of small family farmers.

Middle income countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Mexico are growing fast economically but they are also home to almost half of the world’s hungry (363 million people). These countries must be part of any strategy to combat hunger and malnutrition and they also have the resources to make a huge difference as we’ve seen in Brazil. Although the challenges faced in these countries are diverse and nation-specific, the report identifies several shared factors affecting food and nutrition security such as rising inequality, shifting diets, rapid urbanisation and the absence of nutrition-focused policies. The report points to the examples of South Korea and Chile in reducing hunger and malnutrition while promoting inclusive and sustainable growth. As the report states, economic growth is not sufficient alone to tackle hunger and thus suggests that MICs use nutrition-specific and –sensitive interventions and value chain approaches to reshape the food system; reduce inequalities, for example, through providing education to the underprivileged and supporting women in accessing productive resources; improve rural infrastructure, expand effective social safety nets and improve south-south knowledge sharing.

2014 being the UN International Year of Family Farming, the report looks to the role of small family farmers in meeting a country’s agriculture needs as well as how such farmers can become more profitable or when they might need to leave farming for a more economically justifiable pursuit. Agriculture is mainly a family affair with family farms producing some 80% of the world’s food. As such family farmers play a significant role in global food security and nutrition in both providing the food we eat but also because many small-scale farmers are themselves food insecure. [Read more…]

Land use change to increase livestock productivity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

ID-10013909Land use change, while most often associated with the loss of natural habitat, could be a cost-effective method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving threatened species. A new study in Nature entitled, Cheap carbon and biodiversity co-benefits from forest regeneration in a hotspot of endemism, investigated carbon stocks, biodiversity and economic values in the western Andes of Colombia, a threatened ecosystem rich in endemic species where land is predominantly used for cattle farming.

Results of the study found that if farmers were to allow forest to regenerate on their land, foregoing cattle farming, they would match or increase their current incomes through receiving payments for carbon. Under current carbon markets the price per tonne of carbon dioxide trees remove from the atmosphere is $1.99. Farmers’ land would be leased for 30 years and they would be paid for the carbon grown.

Aside from the benefits for climate change mitigation, forest regeneration would also support biodiversity. In their study, researchers found 33 out of the 40 red-list bird species in the area existed in secondary forest, compared to 11 in cattle pastures.

While researchers claim the regeneration of forest on cattle land in this region to be a win-win, for climate change, biodiversity and farmers’ livelihoods, such a study fails to take into account the sustainability of carbon payments through, for example, REDD+, particularly if cattle prices increase on the global market, the growing demand for livestock products and the broader role livestock play in the livelihoods and cultures of communities in the region.

Another study recently published found, through the use of an economic model of global land use, that the intensification of cattle farming in Brazil, through either a tax on cattle from conventional pasture or a subsidy for cattle from semi-intensive pasture, could reduce deforestation and associated greenhouse gas emissions, and double productivity in pasturelands. Cattle ranching in Brazil is thought to be responsible for 75 to 80% of deforestation in the country. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Smarter Food: Does big farming mean bad farming?, The Washington Post

Are Engineered Foods Evil?, Scientific American

FAO study profiles benefits of school feeding programmes linked to family farms, FAO

Golden Rice: Lifesaver?, The New York Times

Solutions for Micronutrient Deficiency, Scientific American

Spread of crop pests threatens global food security as Earth warms, University of Exeter

Global food prices continue to drop, FAO

Study estimates cost for new conservation practice, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Farming and knowledge monocultures are misconceived, SciDev.Net [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Improving Crop Yields in a World of Extreme Weather Events, University of California, Riverside

Maps reveal ‘hidden hunger’ that stifles development, SciDev.Net

Africa can follow Brazil’s lead in battle to eradicate hunger, says Lula, The Guardian

 Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security, The High Level Panel of Experts of Food Security and Nutrition

FACT SHEET: Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa, The White House

Women’s Empowerment in Kenya, A Global Village

World hunger reduction: Missed goals and incomplete strategies, Policy Pennings

U.S. Approves a Label for Meat From Animals Fed a Diet Free of Gene-Modified Products, The New York Times

Europe should rethink its stance on GM crops, Nature

GM crops won’t help African farmers, The Guardian

The True Deservers of a Food Prize, The New York Times

First Ever Report on Global School Feeding Launched in US, Home Grown School Feeding

Non-GM farming in Europe ‘outperforms’ GM farming in US, Public Service Europe

Food Security Strategy Group, The Aspen Institute

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Food Security To Be At Centre Of Africa Development Agenda, World Food Programme

Vilsack Outlines Vision for Agricultural Solutions to Environmental Challenges, USDA

Nigeria, Brazil Partner On Food Production, Agricultural Technology Transfer, Ventures

Chart of the week: Africa’s growth / human development lag, Financial Times

Cutting Food Loss and Waste will Benefit People and the Environment, Says New Study on World Environment Day, UNEP

A Plea for Agricultural Innovation, Calestous Juma, Belfer Center

Bill Gates visits ICRISAT, ICRISAT

Population growth erodes sustainable energy gains – UN report, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Agricultural Productivity Will Rise to the Challenge, IEEE Spectrum

Chocolate Makers Fight for Farmers’ Loyalty, The Wall Street Journal

In Europe, Monsanto Backing Away From GMO Crops, The Huffington Post

Can market solutions unlock Africa’s agricultural potential?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

How We Can Eat Our Landscapes, Thinking Country

UN panel calls for end to extreme poverty by 2030 in roadmap for world’s top challenges, The Washington Post

Good news from the front lines of hunger, Ertharin Cousins

Commentary – Hay Festival 2013: Roger Thurow looks at the effects of famine, Global Food for Thought

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Let’s tackle inequality head on for development after the MDGs, The Guardian

USAID, AfDB, Government of Sweden Announce Agriculture Fast Track, USAID

Forests and food security: back on the global agenda, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The ‘superwheat’ that boosts crops by 30%: Creation of new grain hailed as biggest advance in farming in a generation, The Daily Mail

Managing food price instability: Critical assessment of the dominant doctrine, Galtier, F. 2013

Adesina’s Brazil visit, agricultural transformation agenda and the farmers, Peoples Daily

High-tech: The best solution to take farming to the next level, The Citizen

Food aid for the 21st century (Opinion), Chicago Tribune

What will it take for policymakers to act on climate change?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Cambridge-based scientists develop ‘superwheat’, BBC News

Addressing hunger, malnutrition and climate change with our eyes open: the future of the Millennium Development Goals

dublin-conference-logo-140x85“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of history’s cliff”. This was a sentence uttered by former vice-president of the US, Al Gore at the recent Hunger Nutrition Climate Justice conference in Dublin in reference to the impact of climate change on global food security, poverty, inequality and resource scarcity. Thinking about this statement, one might think it means we are blindly stumbling towards our inevitable demise but it is not because we are blind to the challenges we face nor to the solutions rather it is our unresponsiveness in addressing them which Al Gore was referring to.

While the former vice-president often delivers a rousing speech around the dangers of climate change, his speech this time was targeted to a broader development agenda. We are not only witnessing extreme levels of hunger, malnutrition and widespread poverty but any progress we have made towards eradicating these injustices will be lost if we ignore climate change. Climate change is expected to lower grain yields and raise crop prices across the developing world, leading to a 20-percent rise in child malnutrition. Already undernutrition contributes to the deaths of 2.6 million children under five each year.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established as a result of the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, are 8 goals which aim to address a wide range of development issues from hunger and poverty to HIV/AIDS, health and education. The eight goals are around:

  • Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,
  • Achieving universal primary education,
  • Promoting gender equality and empowering women,
  • Reducing child mortality rates,
  • Improving maternal health,
  • Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases,
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability, and
  • Developing a global partnership for development.

Each goal is divided into specific targets. For example the first goal has three targets:

  • Target 1A: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day
  • Target 1B: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
  • Target 1C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

As we approach the 2015 deadline set for these goals, experts, policymakers and global leaders are looking back to individual county’s success in reaching these goals as well as forward to what a new set of development goals might look like. Progress, in general, has been mixed, with some countries such as Brazil already achieving a number of the goals while others, such as Benin, not on track to meet any. China and India have been particularly successful, the former reducing poverty from 452 million people to 278 million. Over the same period, however, sub-Saharan Africa has reduced poverty by only 1%. Characterising the region as a whole though masks differences between individual countries. Ghana may be the only country who looks likely to reach the goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015 but 14 African countries look likely to reach target 1A and 12 to reach target 1C. This progress, however, is, as Al gore said, at risk if we fail to address wider environmental crises such as climate change. [Read more…]