Stories tagged: food crisis

From Potential to Reality: Innovative solutions to the global hunger crisis

Joachim von Braun, Professor for Economic and Technological Change at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn, outlines how Africa can overcome the global hunger crisis.

Food systems around the world are facing a multi-dimensional crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically disrupted the food supply chain due to bottlenecks in farm labour, processing and transportation. Additionally, the war in Ukraine adds uncertainty to grain supply as Russia and Ukraine account for 20 per cent and 30 per cent of global maize and wheat exports, respectively. Hunger is on the rise in Africa, with issues such as acute climate stress and inflation impacting people’s ability to buy goods.

Urgent and coordinated international action is needed to achieve food security while safeguarding the environment. Policymakers must work to build sustainable and resilient food systems, while also managing the ongoing food crisis. In addition, the development sector needs to invest in scaleable, global innovative solutions driven by scientific expertise to achieve progress and reduce hunger.

From the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit to the G20 and COP27 – with its first-ever Food Systems Pavilion – food systems have remained high on the international agenda and global leaders must continue this momentum. To do so, a number of short- and long-term courses of action for policy and partnerships must be addressed, with innovation at the centre.


Long term strategic priorities for governments 

In the long term, regional and international cooperation can help turn Africa’s agricultural and food systems’ potential into a reality. For example, to secure a regular food supply for affordable and healthy diets while also ensuring sustainable use of resources, policymakers must prioritise investment and policy actions that benefit African society as a whole. 

By investing in and supporting small businesses and making productive use of the African Continental Free Trade Area, entrepreneurship in the region can be fostered. Small-scale businesses need to be supported with improved agricultural finance infrastructures so that they can access investment and microfinance opportunities.

Additionally, investing in skills development programmes should also remain a priority for policymakers in Africa, as supporting young women and men with vocational training and extension services can improve skills for all professions along the value chain. While developing skills is an important aspect of improving economic outcomes and building resilience, much of rural Africa remains disconnected from these opportunities. However, this can be resolved through better rural infrastructure and digital connectivity. 

Moreover, investing in innovations, agricultural research, solar energy supported small-scale irrigation, rural energy, digitalisation and mechanisation of production can help communities recover from global shocks.

Short term actions to improve food security

In the short term, policymakers must focus on a number of main sectors for growth, such as trade, social protection, employment and health. Trade, in particular, is essential to growing economic opportunities in Africa. In particular, supporting international efforts to unblock the grain supply – and compensating those that are indirectly impacted by the blockages – is important to reviving the food supply. Expanding trade finance and advancing intra-African trade by conducting transactions in local currencies can also help manage the food crisis. In addition, improved technology and scientific innovations like data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) policymakers and civil society organisations can also prevent food crises from turning into famines.

Strong social protection systems must also be developed to help vulnerable people cope with the global hunger crisis and external shocks. Better employment opportunities, investments in the health and education of children, and cash transfer programmes are all ways families can be empowered to lift themselves out of poverty. Nutrition programmes that are expanded to school meals, health systems and food fortification can address the growing diet deficiencies among rural and urban populations in Africa.

Looking ahead: Learning from Africa’s successes in food and agriculture

Above all, global cooperation is important in solving some of these challenges, but Africa has made great strides in advancing towards the goals set under both the Malabo Declaration and the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, the progress is fragile and ensuring food security and improved nutrition is still a challenge. There is more to be done to ensure that Africa is on track to achieve Zero Hunger (SDG 2) by 2030.

The Malabo Montpellier Report “Recipes for success” (2021) can serve as a guideline for African policymakers, development partners and the private sector to achieve sustained progress toward resilient food systems. According to the report, food systems transformation in Africa can be achieved by adopting an approach that can close the gaps that are impeding progress toward sustainable growth. Beginning with countries’ development agendas, food systems transformation through innovative solutions must be an integral part of their national vision. 

Placing African innovation at the centre of food systems transformation is key to achieving resilience across the continent and around the world. By implementing smart regulations, nurturing scientific growth and supporting youth with the resources they need, African and international policymakers can optimise conditions to catalyse action across food systems.

 

Photo: UN COP27 Climate Talks, November 2022 (UNFCCC)

Levelling the Playing Field: Seed access for farmers

Anastasia Mbatia, Senior Technical Manager for Agriculture, Farm Africa and author of Quality Declared Seed, unpacks how seed systems can be used to provide farmers with quality inputs, ultimately improving food security and livelihoods. 

Crop productivity in eastern Africa remains far lower than what it could be. Climate change and lack of investment have significant impacts, but seed systems are also majorly preventing farmers from growing to their full potential.  Continue reading

How on Earth Can we Feed Nine Billion? Live Online Chat hosted by Farming First Panelists

The Guardian Sustainable Business hosted a live online discussion this week on how to feed the world’s expanding population, called “Feeding the World: How on Earth Can We Feed 9 Billion People?”

The world’s resources are under more strain than ever before as global demand for water, energy and food increases. It is now crucial that the world adapts to create a more sustainable and secure food system whist using fewer resources.

A number of Farming First spokespeople were on the panel, including Robynne Anderson, the UN representative for the World Farmers Organisation, Santiago del Solar, an agronomist and farmer from the north west of Buenos Aires Province, and Dawn Rittenhouse, director of sustainability at the DuPont Company.

The issues around the global food crisis that were up for discussion were varied, and included food waste, choice editing (where retailers remove products that are harmful to the environment from their shelves), rising obesity and population rates, food production, diminishing resources, and climate change.

With the above challenges in mind, the panel discussion today aimed to focus specifically on:

  1. Changing consumer behaviour: looking at how to shift attitudes so that food is valued and not wasted
  2. Business response: the role of companies in aiding this change in behaviour and what it can do to help create a sustainable food system
  3. Innovative and efficient farming techniques

As the live discussion got under way, panel members were asked the question “why aren’t we feeding the world?”

Louise: Louise Fresco is a professor at the University of Amsterdam, specialising in international development, agriculture and food, replied:

 “Well, we are feeding the world in some sense. In quantitative terms we produce more calories already than are strictly needed for today’s 7 billion. Hunger is not a matter of production but of purchasing power. The areas of chronic hunger are those of failing states (North Korea, Horn of Africa, Great Lakes), or areas of massive natural disaster (Myanmar) or of persistent inequality (rural India)….”

The chat then moved on to discuss the benefits of local food purchasing. In response to a question about the effectiveness of the ‘locavore’ movement (where one eats exclusively local food), Dawn Rittenhouse replied:

“Our belief is that to accomplish food security, many food systems are going to be needed and we won’t be able to rely on any one approach. Locavore is one component and when local food is available then it makes a lot of sense to eat local, but trying to grow everything everywhere isn’t the right approach to accomplishing food security.”

Robynne Anderson added:

“Attachment to food is always an emotive question, and it is also health related with the need for diets that are diverse and healthy. Local food definitely has a role in production and can make the most of seasonal goodness. It is also key to maximize the impact of natural climate and geography. For instance, the efficiency of production of New Zealand lamb, for instance, is well researched and takes advantage of the available rainfall, food and water, that then allows it to be exported around the world.”

On the topic of scaling-up sustainable solutions for agriculture in an effort to create smarter systems to help address the multifaceted challenges of the food crisis, Robynne comments:

“There are very different audiences which may need to be reached. Scaling-up in a farmer context is often best done through farmer organisations and extension services. …Also key are community demonstration sites and risk insurance. Scaling up at a consumer level often requires retailer support or very different communications projects.”

When asked what the panellists would suggest be done to get the best and brightest talent running the farm businesses of the future, Dawn commented:

 “Engagement of youth is so important – this came out a lot in Rio+20 as people were talking about sustainable intensification. We need to provide the tools and the training and the ultimate markets so youth see farming as a viable career option.”

On consumer behaviour and food purchasing, Jan Kees Vis, global director sustainable sourcing development at Unilever in The Netherlands said:

“What Unilever finds in market research is that consumers are interested in topics like sustainability, but their purchasing decisions are not driven by it. Which means that we can and should make it part of our marketing (more for some brands than for others), but it will (most likely) not become a Unique Selling Point for any brand.” 

Finally, participants challenged panellists for some ‘out of box’ ideas to solve the food crisis, apart from technology and ‘consume less’. First, Dawn suggested:

Technology is important- I think that out of the box examples will be how technology can be used to sustainably increase yields and reduce waste. Just the ability to be able to get your product to market and be paid for it can be facilitated by use of technologies like mobile phones, mobile payments, etc.”

Richard Perkins, senior commodities adviser at WWF, added:

“There was a great out of the box solution provided in the comments on the original article. Educate women and girls. This is the best and most humane way to bring down the population side driver. We are getting on top of the global population problem and more control for women over their own fertility will help more, but tackling this head-on in male-dominated societies may not be the best way forward.”

Robynne Anderson continued on the theme of education for women and added:

“… Richard’s point regarding integrating women farmers in Africa into the solutions, it couldn’t be more important and thanks for raising it. World Farmers Organisation has many members who are female farmers in Africa. In working with them, I have been struck by the extent to which the solutions start on their small farms. Really it means breaking the poverty cycle. They need access to productive resources like the ability to own land; better knowledge sharing; and inputs such as tools and seeds to grow a crop….”

In the closing ten minutes of the discussion, panel members were invited to share a short comment on what they consider to be the most urgent steps for the next ten years.

Santiago del Solar contributed his first-hand experience as a farmer:

As far as I can see, agriculture is getting better, if we measure the impact of pesticide uses 20 years ago vs. the ones that we use today, or the soil erosion I saw when I was a kid, just to mention few examples. Of course we can do things better, but we are trying and learning. New tools like no till or biotech are helping a lot.”

In closing, Robynne Anderson outlined her five most urgent priorities:

  1. “address access to productive resources for women farmers
  2.  encourage young people into farming and improve intergenerational transfer
  3.  tackle post harvest losses and food waste
  4.  recognize and support a diversity of farming systems
  5.  increase the power of farmers in the food chain”

Finally, Dawn Rittenhouse closed with:

“Thanks for the opportunity to participate in this discussion…it has been great to read all the thoughts from the wide ranging conversation.
Food security is one of the most important issues that we need to tackle as a society and it will require that we find solutions for all the challenges along the value chain- from enhancing output from farms, educating youth so they want to choose farming as a career to reducing waste and improving the nutritional value of food. We look forward to being part of the solution.”

To view the full discussion click here.

The World Bank Open Forum on Food

At the World Bank Open Forum on Food, an expert panel addressed the issue of how to solve the global food crisis in front of an audience of about 120 guests… and streamed live to hundreds more viewers.

FANRPAN CEO and Farming First spokesperson Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda took part in one of the panel sessions, which included with Calestous Juma, of Harvard University, David Beckman from Bread for the World, World Bank Vice-President Inger Andersen.
Focusing on the solutions to the problem of rising and volatile food prices, the panel discussed the possible paths to relieving poverty and food insecurity.
Dr Sibanda spoke of the role of the private sector in helping to develop local agribusiness. She cited a case where treadle pumps were distributed to farmers, but that there were no local artisans to repair the equipment and make them affordable. The private sector, she said, have the opportunity to get involved to help communities be able to produce tools locally, and offer the services to repair and renew the tools.
On empowering farmers, Calestous Juma said that farmers need two things. Firstly, they need to be encouraged to organise themselves into enterprises, and be supported in this endeavour, and secondly, an expansion in technical training is needed to ensure farmers are up to speed with modern farming techniques.
David Beckmann emphasised that while these types of panel sessions can talk about the technological solutions, we need to make a commitment to get this done. In the US, he said, there are proposals for cuts that would harm the poor all around the world. This is not just technical problem, he said, it is a matter of mobilising commitment.
Much of the online debate accompanying the panel discussion revealed that people’s greatest concerns were with support for smallholder farmers. Dr Sibanda addressed the issues of access and affordability of inputs for smallholders. Malawi, she said, is one example where we saw uptake of hybrid seeds when subsidies were introduced. The subsidies were for 2kg of seed per farmer. Farmers who were producing yields of 500kg per hectare were later seeing yields of 3 tonnes per hectare. Through the introduction of the new seeds, an improved network of suppliers was built up, and on top of their subsidy, farmers then sought to buy additional supplies of seed of their own.
Dr Sibanda’s final plea was to put farmers first in efforts to deal with food crisis. She said that today in Africa, farmers do not have the food to feed themselves let alone their communities. The first port of call is to enable farmers to come out of poverty. Assisting farmers to feed themselves is the first step to the farmers being able to feed others.

FANRPAN CEO and Farming First spokesperson Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda took part in one of the panel sessions, which included with Calestous Juma, of Harvard University, David Beckman from Bread for the World, World Bank Vice-President Inger Andersen.

Focusing on the solutions to the problem of rising and volatile food prices, the panel discussed the possible paths to relieving poverty and food insecurity.

Dr Sibanda spoke of the role of the private sector in helping to develop local agribusiness. She cited a case where treadle pumps were distributed to farmers, but that there were no local artisans to repair the equipment and make them affordable. The private sector, she said, have the opportunity to get involved to help communities be able to produce tools locally, and offer the services to repair and renew the tools.

On empowering farmers, Calestous Juma said that farmers need two things. Firstly, they need to be encouraged to organise themselves into enterprises, and be supported in this endeavour, and secondly, an expansion in technical training is needed to ensure farmers are up to speed with modern farming techniques.

David Beckmann emphasised that while these types of panel sessions can talk about the technological solutions, we need to make a commitment to get this done. In the US, he said, there are proposals for cuts that would harm the poor all around the world. This is not just technical problem, he said, it is a matter of mobilising commitment.

Much of the online debate accompanying the panel discussion revealed that people’s greatest concerns were with support for smallholder farmers. Dr Sibanda addressed the issues of access and affordability of inputs for smallholders. Malawi, she said, is one example where we saw uptake of hybrid seeds when subsidies were introduced. The subsidies were for 2kg of seed per farmer. Farmers who were producing yields of 500kg per hectare were later seeing yields of 3 tonnes per hectare. Through the introduction of the new seeds, an improved network of suppliers was built up, and on top of their subsidy, farmers then sought to buy additional supplies of seed of their own.

Dr Sibanda’s final plea was to put farmers first in efforts to deal with food crisis. She said that today in Africa, farmers do not have the food to feed themselves let alone their communities. The first port of call is to enable farmers to come out of poverty. Assisting farmers to feed themselves is the first step to the farmers being able to feed others.

Farming First Launches New Guide to Food Security Initiatives Ahead of G8 Summit

Download Farming First’s Guide to Food Security Initiatives

foodsecurity_guideFood security is an immediate and future priority for all countries worldwide. Since the food crisis erupted in 2008, a large number of global and regional food security initiatives have been launched or strengthened in response. While these developments are welcome, improving policy and implementation coherence is essential to ensure programmes have the desired impacts.

As we move towards action on these food security policies, Farming First urges policymakers to:

  1. promote a clear joint focus on a common goal for food security at the global level through policy and operational coherence
  2. encourage increased transparency on how much of pledged funding has been committed and to what types of programmes
  3. engage a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that efforts are coordinated, clear, collaborative and ultimately successful.

map_final_smallReturning farmers to the centre of policy decisions is fundamental to sustainable development. Governments, businesses, scientists and civil society groups must focus attention on the source of our food security. Women farmers should become specially targeted recipients because of their vital roles in the agricultural workforce,
household food procurement and preparation, and family unit support.

Productivity levels in most developing countries have to be raised exponentially while considering environmental sustainability. Policies encouraging investment in developing countries’ agricultural sectors should be supported.

Governments should invest in their agricultural sectors and devise long-term agricultural development strategies supporting the development of local agricultural markets and farmers’ ability to answer market demands.

Local production should also be stimulated by providing farmers with the technology, the knowledge and the adequate financial services they need.

New UK Government Report on Food Security for 2030

defraA new report issued by the UK’s Department for Enviroment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) outlines how the UK government intends to address future food security. According to the Guardian, the ‘Food 2030’ report takes the most comprehensive approach to agriculture policy since the Second World War.

The UK food industry is worth £80 billion and employs 3.6 million people. Driven by the triple threat of a growing population, the threat of climate change and a vulnerable supply of natural resources, the new policy by Defra outlines what the UK government perceives to be priority actions for the future, including:

  • increasing the amount of food grown in Britain
  • reducing the impact of agriculture upon the environment
  • reducing agricultural emissions by the equivalent of 3 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020
  • reviewing the impacts of UK consumption on agricultural economies in the rest of the world
  • addressing the issue of waste through reuse, recycling or energy generation
  • informing consumers about healthy, sustainable food choices.

The policy also spells out plans to double its investment in agricultural research to £80 million by 2013, with a focus on helping farmers in developing nations.  Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State of Defra, said:

By turning research into practical ideas, and by learning from what the best are doing, we can achieve a lot more. Science will also tell us when nature is under strain.

‘Food 2030’ seeks to improve the UK food industry from production to distribution, providing better resources to farmers, whilst using natural resources sustainably to help the global food industry.  Benn said:

We need to increase food production to feed a growing world population – there’ll be another 2-3 billion people in 40 years.

The Financial Times reports that plans detailing how these changes will be effectuated, including any necessary new legislation, will be released in the coming months.