“We have a lot of work ahead” – IFPRI’s 2016 Global Food Policy Repot

By Alice Marks

On March 31st the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) published the 2016 Global Food Policy Report. The report highlights the scale of the challenged faced by the global food system, including that 1/3 of people in the world are malnourished, nearly a billion people go to bed hungry each day, and environmental degradation and climate change will only exacerbate these problems by making global food markets increasingly unstable.

In a previous blog series (part 1/part 2) agriculture’s role in underpinning all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was explored. Ahead of the launch of the new report, IFPRI’s director Shenggen Fan explained that to meet the SDG’s by 2030 “We have a lot of work ahead. We must promote and support a new global food system that is efficient, inclusive, climate-smart, sustainable, nutrition- and health-driven, and business-friendly in order to ensure that no one goes to sleep hungry.” Looking through the lens of the global food system, IFPRI’s report highlights several challenges and opportunities to achieving the SDGs, including the changing climate, shifts in diets and food waste, and gender inequality.

Gender inequality

woman credit ifpri

credit: IFPRI, 2016

Women are more vulnerable to food price volatility, climate change, and natural disasters than their male counterparts. The reasons are complex, but in general boil down to a lack of access to resources. For example, try typing “women lack access” into a search engine to see a plethora of issues, including lack of sanitation, safe toilets, clean water, contraception and family planning, business capital, information, education and political participation, to name but a few. [Read more…]

International Women’s Day 2016

iwd.jpgToday is International Women’s Day and this year organisers are asking everyone to #PledgeForParity. Despite the contribution women make to social, economic, cultural and political development, gender parity, whereby men and women are equal in status and pay, has not yet been achieved and is unlikely to be achieved in the near future without significant support. In fact, progress has slowed in many places and where the World Economic forum was predicting that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity, they have now revised this to an estimate that the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2133.

Women are the largest emerging market in the world, account for half of the global labour supply and about 70% of global consumption demand. Failing to achieve gender parity will stunt economic and social development while meeting this goal will bring greater economic prosperity. Global studies have found the following outcomes when women are equal in business and politics:

  • Higher GDP
  • More productivity
  • Better share prices and financial performance
  • Better all-round performance
  • More prosperity

As one study puts it “Greater gender equality in educational and employment opportunities fosters faster, more inclusive growth, not only because women are half of the world’s population but also because they are more likely than men to invest in the human capital of their families”. [Read more…]

Remembering our roots: new books and resources

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Photo by Danilo Rizzuti

Now going for close to four years, this blog began as a platform to allow us to continually update and review the content of One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world? Between the publication of The Doubly Green Revolution and One Billion Hungry, the agricultural development and environmental landscape had changed so much that it was important to find a way to remain relevant in order to help to bring about the changes needed for a food secure world. As such we like to periodically bring you a selection of up-to-date, interesting and thought-provoking books and resources, and here are our picks for early 2016. If you know of any interesting or pertinent books or other materials we’d love to hear your suggestions.

Books

Otsuka, K. and Larson, D.F. (Eds.) 2016. In Pursuit of an African Green Revolution. Views from Rice and Maize Farmers’ Fields. Springer.

This book explores recent experiences in trying to bring about a Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), focussing on rice and maize. Authors find that an African Rice Revolution has already begun in many irrigated areas, using Asian-type modern varieties, chemical fertilizer, and improved management practices. The same technological package significantly increases the productivity and profitability of rice farming in rainfed areas as well. By strengthening extension capacity and providing management training to smallholders, African governments can boost productivity and accelerate the pace of Africa’s Rice Revolution. The story for maize is quite different, however, where most farmers use local varieties, apply little chemical fertilizer, and obtain very low yields, and thus the success of Africa’s Maize Revolution will require a different approach based on hybrid maize, chemical and organic fertilizers, and stall-fed cross-bred cows.

Moseley, W.G., Schnurr, M.A. and Bezner-Kerr, R. (Eds.) 2016. Africa’s Green Revolution: Critical Perspectives on New Agricultural Technologies and Systems. Routledge.

This book examines the dominant neoliberal agenda for agricultural development and hunger alleviation in Africa. Authors review the history of African agricultural and food security policy in the post-colonial period, across a range of geographical contexts, in order to contextualise the productionist approach embedded in the much heralded New Green Revolution for Africa. This strategy, supported by a range of international agencies, promotes the use of hybrid seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides to boost crop production. This approach is underpinned by a new and unprecedented level of public–private partnerships as donors actively work to promote the private sector and build links between African farmers, input suppliers, agro-dealers, agro-processors, and retailers. The chapters in this volume raise serious questions about its effectiveness as a strategy for increasing food production and alleviating poverty across the continent.

Brautigam, D. 2016. Will Africa Feed China? OUP USA

Over the past decade, China’s meteoric rise on the continent has raised a drumbeat of alarm. China has 9 percent of the world’s arable land, 6 percent of its water, and over 20 percent of its people. Africa’s savannahs and river basins host the planet’s largest expanses of underutilized land and water. Few topics are as controversial and emotionally charged as the belief that the Chinese government is aggressively buying up huge tracts of prime African land to grow food to ship back to China. In Will Africa Feed China?, Deborah Brautigam, one of the world’s leading experts on China and Africa, probes the myths and realities behind the media headlines. Her careful research challenges the conventional wisdom; as she shows, Chinese farming investments are in fact surprisingly limited, and land acquisitions modest. Defying expectations, China actually exports more food to Africa than it imports. But is this picture likely to change?

Lumumba-Kasongo, T. (Ed.) 2015. Land Reforms and Natural Resource Conflicts in Africa: New Development Paradigms in the Era of Global Liberalization. Routledge.

This book is a critical examination of the place and role of land in Africa, the role of land in political formation and national identification, and the land as an economic resource within both national economic development and liberal globalization. Colonial and post-colonial conflicts have been rooted in four related claims: the struggle over scarce resources, especially access to land resources; abundance of natural resources mismanaged or appropriated by both the states, local power systems and multinationals; weak or absent articulated land tenure policies, leading to speculation or hybrid policy framework; and the imperatives of the global liberalization based on the free market principles to regulate the land question and mineral appropriation issue. The actualization of these combined claims have led to conflicts among ethnic groups or between them and governments. This book is not only about conflicts, but also about local policy achievements that have been produced on the land question. It provides a critical understanding of the forces and claims related to land tenure systems, as part of the state policy and its system of governance. [Read more…]

6 indirect approaches to improving nutrition – part two

ID-100164411Malnutrition is pervasive, far-reaching and complex. Because of this both the immediate impacts as well as the underlying causes must be addressed simultaneously if malnutrition rates are to be reduced, warranting the need for both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive approaches. In part one of this article we discussed the roles agriculture, livestock production and resilience building can have in improving people’s nutrition. More productive and diverse farming and reduced vulnerability to environmental and other risks can boost household nutrition. In part two we look at how gender inequality, marginalisation from society, poverty and climate change pose both threats to nutrition and how, as a result, we can fight malnutrition through building gender equality, providing social protection and mitigating climate change.

  1. Gender

The theme for this year’s Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security was “Empowering Our Women, Securing Our Food, Improving Our Nutrition,” and without question, women are central to producing food in the fields and putting food on the table for their families. In some African countries, 90% of women are engaged in agricultural and related activities. Yet these women often lack secure land rights and access to machinery, markets, inputs and technologies that could increase their harvest and their and their family’s nutrition. Additionally, proper nourishment “empowers people to live and take on new opportunities”, giving people the energy and vitality to innovate and be even more productive.

An article in the Guardian further explains why gender is critical for nutrition. Women play important roles within a family, in agriculture and in their community. Their links between work, home and society mean investing in women has knock-on effects, in particular for nutrition, given that they are often the providers of food. Gender inequality reduces a woman’s power in making decisions and in bringing about change, and should be tackled in society and governance. And there is evidence that investing in women can bring about advances in development. A study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) found that half of the reduction in hunger between 1970 and 1995 could be attributed to improvements in women’s societal status. Additionally improvements in women’s access to education (which accounted for 45% of gains in food security) was nearly as significant as increased food availability (26%) and health advances (19%) put together.

But gender is not just about women. It is also important to educate men on, for example, “the right kind of food, doing home gardening, rearing cows, poultry farming, using safe water, building sanitary latrines and hygiene”. Men and boys have a central role in improving nutrition and in bringing about gender equality. The Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) have developed a way of creating dialogue about the importance of valuing women and girls in agriculture and communities through theatre, and through a travelling company are engaging with elders and men.

  1. Social protection

Social protection aims to reduce people’s vulnerability and is delivered through a variety of mechanisms: weather-indexed insurance, public works programmes, emergency food aid, buffer stock management, agricultural input subsidies, conditional cash transfers and employment guarantee schemes. Devereux (2015), in a study of the links between social protection programmes and enhanced entitlements to food, comes to the conclusions that principles of social justice need to be introduced to the design and delivery of social protection programmes and that a comprehensive approach is needed that combines interventions around stabilising as well as increasing income and/or food production. [Read more…]

Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security

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By Katy Wilson

This Friday (30th October) marks the 6th annual Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS). This year the day will be commemorated in Kampala, Uganda, where, at the 15th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit in 2010 it was first declared. Since then the day has been commemorated in Malawi, Ethiopia, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2014 at the 23rd session of the AU summit, African Heads of State committed to ending hunger by 2025 and reducing stunting to 10% in the same period. This commitment is one of seven forming the Malabo Declaration. ADFNS provides an opportunity to reaffirm this goal and report on progress that has been made in reaching this commitment, among other objectives. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation 2015 State of Food Insecurity in the World report asserts that, as projected for 2014-2016, the prevalence of undernourishment in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be 23.2%%, down from 23.8% between 2012-2014.

The main aim of ADFNS is to bring together a range of stakeholders to intensify pressure to tackle food and nutrition security challenges in Africa, motivate financial commitments and bring greater awareness to the progress being made on the continent and the barriers still being faced. Additionally the day serves as a platform to facilitate sharing of experiences and knowledge, support for learning and measurement of progress.

The key objectives of ADFNS are:

  • To increase awareness of the importance of investing in the value-chains for nutritious foods and agricultural commodities in Africa and the benefits of doing so for social and economic development;
  • To facilitate a discussion between a variety of high-level national stakeholders as well as other governmental, not-for-profit and private sector actors such as farmers’ organisations, private businesses and academic and research institutions. With the hopes that the diverse points of view and cooperation will help shape an action plan to end hunger and malnutrition;
  • To share new technologies and best practices for empowering women;
  • To build women farmers’ awareness of market opportunities for local and indigenous foods and their role in diversifying diets and boosting food and nutrition security;
  • To promote the production and consumption of high quality, nutritious foods such as those fortified with micronutrients, or diverse nutrient dense vegetables and fruits as well animal source foods.

This year, the 6th ADFNS is centring on the theme of women, following the announcement made at the 24th Ordinary Session of the AU Summit that 2015 is the Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063. As has long been known, women are key to ending hunger and malnutrition, contributing a significant proportion of farm labour and household care. [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.

Report: Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050, EurekAlert

For Monsanto, a Season of Woes, The Wall Street Journal

GM crops: Vital for food security? Or overestimated potential?, The Independent

How genetic engineering can fight disease, reduce insecticide use and enhance food security: Pamela Ronald speaks at TED2015, TED

Is Monsanto on the side of science?, New Internationalist

China Seeks to Develop Global Seed Power, The Wall Street Journal

Discovery of heat-tolerant beans could save ‘meat of the poor’ from global warming, EurekAlert

Study Links Widely Used Pesticides to Antibiotic Resistance, Civil Eats

Genetically Modified Crop Industry Continues to Expand, Worldwatch Institute

World Health Organization: GM-Crop Herbicide a Probable Carcinogen, Food Tank

Achieve Global Food Security by Investing in Universities, Global Food for Thought

The GM crops debate moves to Africa – and it’s just as noisy, The Independent

Can ‘down to earth’ innovations keep hunger at bay in the Sahel?, Thomson Reuters Foundation [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.

Can greater transparency help people hold big corporations to account? Some new tools that may help, From Poverty to Power

S&T Committee Urges Change to EU Rules for GM Crops, ISAAA

New Project Announced – Global Food Security by the Numbers, Global Food for Thought

Public procurement in Africa benefitting family farmers and schools, FAO

Eight Ways Monsanto Fails at Sustainable Agriculture, Union of Concerned Scientists

Biodiversity or GMOs: Will The Future of Nutrition Be in Women’s Hands or Under Corporate Control?, Institute of Science in Society

Will Food Sovereignty Starve the Poor and Punish the Planet?, Independent Science News

Limits Sought on GMO Corn as Pest Resistance Grows, The Wall Street Journal

Farmers Put Down the Plow for More Productive Soil, The New York Times [Read more…]