“About 1.6 million Malawians will need food aid before this year’s harvest, an eightfold increase from last year, because of poor crops and rising prices, the United Nations World Food Programme [WFP] said,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Latham, 9/7). The agency “warned that 15 out of 28 districts were affected by a deteriorating situation, owing to prolonged dry spells in the country,” Sapa/DPA/Times Live writes, adding, “The cost of food is seeing rapid inflation, pushing basic items out of the reach of many Malawians” (9/7). “Malawi will use 25,000 metric tons of stored corn to provide relief, while the U.S. will give food worth $7.8 million, according to [an emailed] statement,” Bloomberg writes, adding, “The U.K. will donate $4.7 million in funding, it said. The first phase of the aid operation will target 200,000 people, WFP said” (9/7).
Environment and Climate Change
“Severe droughts, rising grain prices and food shortages — the latest headlines are an urgent call for action,” and “it is time to step up our response,” Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. On September 13, the EBRD and FAO will convene the Private Sector for Food Security Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, “the largest and most important gathering of companies and decision-makers in agribusiness from the Caspian and Black seas to the Mediterranean … [to] discuss the key role of the private sector in feeding the world,” they note. “The simple truth is that the world needs more food, and that means more production,” they state, adding, “The private sector can be the main engine of such growth.”
“World food prices stabilized in August at levels close to those reached in the food crisis of 2008,” according to the most recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index, Reuters reports. “FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva called for international action to calm markets but also said the August price index, which remained unchanged from July, provided some cause for optimism,” according to the news agency. “‘Although we should remain vigilant, current prices do not justify talk of a world food crisis. But the international community can and should move to calm markets further,’ Graziano da Silva said in a statement,” Reuters writes (Hornby, 9/6).
In the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, David Lane, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, discusses his recent trip to Niger, where more than three million people are food insecure and suffer from malnutrition. “I had expected the trip would leave me feeling depressed and hopeless,” but “by the time I left Niger, I was filled with optimism and confidence in the multilateral assistance and development operations at work on the ground. Amongst their efforts, I saw the components needed to break Niger’s relentless cycle of hunger and malnutrition,” he writes. “I was impressed by how well the different U.N. organizations, … as well as their NGO partner organizations are coordinating their work,” Lane states, concluding, “Emergency and development assistance are both vital to a relief effort, and can be even more effective when integrated” (9/5).
“World leaders must take swift, coordinated action to ensure that food price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe that could hurt tens of millions of people in coming months, the United Nations’ food agencies said in a statement on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. “It said leaders must tackle both the immediate issue of high food prices, as well as the long-term issue of how food is produced and consumed at a time of rising population, demand and climate change,” the news agency writes (9/4).
Global Food Prices Rise 10% In July; World Bank President Says Increase Threatens Health Of Millions
“The World Bank said Thursday that drought in the U.S. and Eastern Europe crop centers sent global food prices soaring by 10 percent last month, raising a food security threat to the world’s poorest people,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/30). “From June to July, corn and wheat prices rose by 25 percent each, soybean prices by 17 percent, and only rice prices went down, by four percent, the World Bank said,” according to Reuters, which adds, “Overall, the World Bank’s Food Price Index, which tracks the price of internationally traded food commodities, was six percent higher than in July of last year, and one percent over the previous peak of February 2011” (8/30).
“The top United Nations relief official said [.pdf] today that humanitarian efforts to alleviate the devastating food crisis affecting Mali have begun to yield results, but warned that much still remains to be done and the situation could worsen without continued donor support,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/30). Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos “on Thursday called for more resources in Mali to save children from severe malnutrition,” Agence France-Presse reports. The widespread food crisis in the Sahel region is compounded in Mali by a militant insurgency in the north of the country, according to the news agency. “The food crisis, which follows a drought in 2011, has affected 4.6 million people in Mali alone,” and “[a]lmost 150,000 children across Mali have been treated for acute malnutrition … this year,” the news agency writes (8/30).
At the opening ceremony of World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “launched a framework that will help combat food insecurity by providing methods to better manage water resources in agriculture and reduce waste,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The initiative, entitled ‘Coping with water scarcity: An action framework for agriculture and food security’ [.pdf], seeks to encourage practices that will improve water management, such as modernizing irrigation schemes, recycling and re-using wastewater, implementing mechanisms to reduce water pollution, and storing rainwater at farms to reduce drought-related risks, among others,” the news service notes.
World Leaders, Scientists Gather In Stockholm For World Water Week; Researchers Warn Overconsumption Draining World's Water Supply
Some 2,500 officials, policymakers and scientists will gather this week at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) for the largest annual meeting on water development issues as the international community recognizes World Water Week, observed August 26-31, VOA News reports. According to the news service, this year’s theme is “water and food security” (DeCapua, 8/24). “Global leaders assembled … at the opening session of the 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm called for substantial increases in public and private sector investment to reduce losses of food in the supply chain, enhance water efficiency in agriculture and curb consumer waste,” according to an SIWI press release (8/27).
“Farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly taking up small-scale irrigation schemes as drought threatens the security of food supplies, a report by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said,” Reuters reports. “Small-scale irrigation technology, such as motorized pumps and hosing to access groundwater, could cost a sub-Saharan African smallholder $250 or more but could improve crop yields by between 75 and 275 percent, the report said,” Reuters adds. “If there is more investment in small-scale irrigation, it means food supply in those countries is more secure. It won’t replace the need for staple cereal crops, but it gives farmers more insurance against a food crisis,” said Colin Chartres, IWMI director general, according to the news service. “We are going to have to come up with ways of making water go much further if we are going to grow 70 percent more food by 2050 on about 10 percent less water than we use today,” he added, Reuters notes (Chestney, 8/24).