African policy to end hunger silent on climate risk

By Baraka Rateng’

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

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People digging an artificial pond to alleviate drought in Ethiopia. Photo credit@ UNDP Ethiopia

The African Union’s Malabo Declaration adopted in 2014 to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025 underestimated the risk that climate change will pose, a report says.

The declaration failed to consider investing in Africa’s scientific capacity to combat climate threats, according to the report, which was produced by the UK-based Agriculture for Impact, and launched in Rwanda this month (14 June).

“Food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart”, says Gordon Conway, director of Agriculture for Impact and chair of the Montpellier Panel, which is made up of African and European experts in fields such as agriculture and global development, in a statement.

“It is important that African governments have a voice in the international discussions and commitments on climate change.”

Ousmane Badiane, International Food Policy Research Institute

[Read more…]

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What we’ve been reading this week

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

Feeding the cities

Growing Food for Growing Cities: Achieving Inclusive Growth, Chicago council

Future of food : shaping the global food system to deliver improved nutrition and health, World Bank

Why urban agriculture isn’t a panacea for Africa’s food crisis, The Conversation

Guest Commentary – How Access to Long-Established Technology Can Help Feed Growing Cities, Chicago Council

Growth opportunities and growing pains in a changing global food system, AgriPulse

Growing Food for Growing Cities: Engaging the Private Sector, Chicago Council

Climate change 

A new start for European foreign policy, E3G

Could global warming’s top culprit help crops? Eurekalert [Read more…]

Managing food price volatility

ID-100192674Food price volatility is a serious threat to food security, economic development and political stability, and one that has been driving sober debate in how such unexpected and unpredictable shocks can be mitigated in the future. Now a new policy brief, Managing food price volatility: policy options to support healthy diets and nutrition in the context of uncertainty, explores policy options that have the potential to both foresee price volatility or market uncertainty and moderate its impact on food and nutrition security. Interventions identified include short-term and long-term strategies that aim to protect the immediate food needs of society while also facilitating the development of more steady and stable food markets and prices.

The report was launched on the 16th March at an event held at the Houses of Parliament by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition and the APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development. Chair of the Global Panel and former President of Ghana, John A. Kufuor, was quoted as saying, “We are confident that policymakers could make better use of tools which help predict prices and manage price volatility. Together we can deliver timely and effective policy actions”. Panel member, Emmy Simmons, who is also a Board Member of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa/Agree praised the report for its focus on the short- and long-term as well as its recommendation to learn lessons from government efforts to minimise price volatility and its effects on the food intake of poorer households.

The food crisis of 2008 was a wake-up call to the severe impacts of rapidly fluctuating food prices and since then many have tried to address this issue. On the one hand, food prices must be stabilised to some degree so as to make them more predictable while on the other governments must ensure citizens have access to enough healthy food despite the challenges the world’s food system faces – from declining crop production to a dwindling natural resource base to climate change to urban expansion. Price volatility can be especially detrimental to food security for the poorest households who can spend as much as 75% of their total income on food. And both declines, which can reduce household incomes, as well as price rises, which reduce how much food a family can purchase, can impact food and nutrition security. [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…]

Human Development Report 2014 – Resilience and Vulnerability

cq5dam.web.221.289At Agriculture for Impact we talk a lot about resilience and in particular how farms and rural economies can become more resilient to shocks and stresses like climate change, pests and diseases and food price fluctuations. In the new UNDP Human Development Report 2014 released recently, the concept of resilience in terms of individuals, communities and of global political systems is explored. As the report states, “resilience is about ensuring that state, community and global institutions work to empower and protect people”.

In particular the report highlights the precariousness with which we view advances in human development, improvements in peoples’ welfare and the state of the environment and global governance. Corruption, environmental and humanitarian crises, crime, changing leadership, negligence of key sectors such as health and civil unrest can all spell disaster for progress made in tackling poverty, malnutrition, food insecurity, environmental degradation and poor health. As the report states achievements in human development should not only be measured in terms of the gains made but in how secure these gains are or how likely they are to be lost when under pressure. Key then for this report is exploring the vulnerability of current progress and of future human development being sustained. The report also emphasises how human vulnerability, in this case taken as the erosion of people’s capabilities and choices, prevents human development.

Vulnerability appears to be on the increase due to continued environmental degradation, climate change and instability in financial systems. Perhaps this is contributing to the rate of progress in human development falling significantly since 2008. Globalisation increases connectivity around the world which can increase resilience but also introduce vulnerability across broader areas. If one system faces collapse its interconnectedness puts other systems at risk while national abilities to address shocks and stresses become more tied to global rules. A global system seeking to build resilience, however, can be supportive of actions at a local scale.

To understand the causes of vulnerability the report asks why certain people do better in the face of adversity than others and what enabling environment helps people become less vulnerable and thus more resilient. Typically we think of women, children and the elderly as being more vulnerable whether in terms of personal safety, health or economic freedom but what type of interventions can lessen this vulnerability? Responsive policy mechanisms, institutions and social norms that diminish vulnerability and structures that support human choice and empowerment could be included in these. For the most vulnerable groups in society, targeted and sustained interventions are needed as is addressing inequality. [Read more…]

Nutrition for Growth – one year on

nutrition for growthThe 2nd of June marked the one year anniversary of the Nutrition for Growth summit in London hosted by the UK Department for International Development, the Brazilian government and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. During the summit, over $4.1 billion was pledged to nutrition programmes until 2020, a financial commitment unprecedented and one that put nutrition in the spotlight. On the 2nd of June, an event hosted by the School of African and Oriental Studies entitled, Nutrition for Growth – one year on, reported progress made since the summit.

Nutrition has been gaining momentum on the international stage over the last few years: from the Lancet series on Maternal and Child Health in 2008, to the Scaling Up Nutrition movement begun in 2010, to the World Health Assembly targets on nutrition agreed in 2012. Dialogue at an international level about how to integrate nutrition in decision making is happening, in part spurred by the cost of malnutrition to the global economy. Ahead of the summit, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation announced that the cost of lost productivity and healthcare due to malnutrition could be as much as 5% of global GDP, or $500 per person. In November this year the Second International Conference on Nutrition will take place in Barcelona and ongoing discussions around the post-2015 development goals will likely feature nutrition in some way. Proposed goals and targets on Sustainable Development for the Post-2015 Development Agenda were released recently by the UN and include targets to reduce both stunting and wasting.

Countries, governments and donors are also making progress in tackling nutrition. In May, Canada hosted a summit on maternal, new-born and child health, with nutrition a key theme, and pledged $3.5bn between 2015 and 2020. DFID have launched nine new projects to increase spending to tackle malnutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries, including a £36 million nutrition programme in Ethiopia that will reach 3.5 million children. [Read more…]

Nutrition-sensitive agriculture: a collection of case studies

ID-10025468A new report recently released by the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition, entitled, The Nutrition Sensitivity of Agriculture and Food Policies, investigates, through eight country case studies, current understanding of effective nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food policies, and the development of food-based solutions that help countries to scale up nutrition.

Recognition of the links between agriculture and nutrition is growing, and both countries and institutions are working towards making agricultural policies more nutrition sensitive. The report discusses the work of Brazil, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Thailand to make agriculture, a sector important for both economic development and livelihoods in many developing countries, more able to address issues of nutrition insecurity, gender inequality and resilience.

The links between agriculture and nutrition are complex, and not well understood. In particular our knowledge of how agricultural programmes or policies can impact nutritional outcomes and consumption patterns have only recently begun to be investigated. As agricultural systems become more complex and global in nature, the links to nutrition, experienced at an individual or household level, become harder to understand and manage. What is understood is that the current food systems are not well designed to provide nutrition security and, for those countries suffering a high burden of malnutrition, guidance and practical advice in making nutrition-sensitive policy decisions and measuring their impact is needed.

Addressing nutrition requires a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approach, which, through agriculture, attempts to reduce unintended consequences of agricultural policies on consumer welfare while maximising positive nutrition outcomes. The report states that food and nutrition security are a product of both dietary diversity and quality, as well as being able to access sufficient calories. As the country case studies show many countries are now thinking about the links between agriculture and food and nutrition security and are committing to achieving positive nutrition outcomes, although rarely across the whole sector or with any formal measurement of impact. Nutrition outcomes can also be seen as secondary to sector-specific objectives, particularly worrisome if this leads to negative consequences for nutrition. [Read more…]