On the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Tokyo on Thursday, Japan and South Korea each pledged an additional $30 million over three years for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), established in 2010 to help improve food security in low-income countries, Reuters reports (10/12). U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner “stated that the United States is prepared to contribute an additional $1 to GAFSP for every $2 contributed by other donors, up to a total U.S. contribution of $475 million, … and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation indicated its intent to double its commitment,” a World Bank press release states, adding, “The U.S. will also include the pledges made earlier this year — from Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom — in this challenge, bringing total financial commitments to GAFSP to date to $1.3 billion” (12/11). “U.S. President Barack Obama ‘took the view that the durable solutions to crisis of chronic hunger had to be … more than just delivering food aid. It had to be about promoting sustainable economic growth in agriculture,’ Geithner said,” according to the China Post (10/13).
Environment and Climate Change
IRIN reports on how the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “us[ed] a new set of indicators in its annual report, ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World,’ prepared jointly with the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.” According to the news service, “The report revises the number of hungry down to 870 million people, saying the number used after the 2007-2008 food price spike — one billion — was inaccurate because of a lack of updated country data and faulty methodology.” While the new methodology takes into account factors such as food distribution and undernourishment, the report authors acknowledge limitations in the new data because it is based on national surveys, which “are not readily available or of uncertain quality,” according to IRIN. “Still, the new methodology does not capture the short-term effects of food price surges or other economic shocks,” the news service writes, adding, “FAO says it is working to develop a wider set of indicators to capture a better sense of the quality of food people have access to as well as other dimensions of food security” (10/11).
“Our global food security challenges are daunting: food price spikes and increasing food prices look set to continue unabated, around one billion are suffering from chronic hunger, and we must feed a growing population in the face of a wide range of adverse factors, including climate change,” but “I believe there is reason for optimism,” Sir Gordon Conway, professor of international development and agricultural impact at Imperial College London, writes in the Huffington Post U.K. “Impact” blog. “Yes we can feed the world, but only if we accept that agricultural development is the best route to achieving sustainable economic growth in developing countries, and achieve an agriculture that is highly productive, stable, resilient and equitable,” he continues, adding, “I believe there are four interconnected routes to achieving a food secure world: innovation, markets, people and political leadership.”
“African countries are most at risk of social unrest and famine stemming from food shortages and rising prices, according to risk advisory firm Maplecroft,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The news service writes, “Africa accounts for 39 of the 59 most at-risk countries in Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index and has nine of the 11 nations in the ‘extreme risk’ category, the Bath, England-based company said in a statement today” (Almeida, 10/9). “Despite strong economic growth, food security remains an issue of primary importance for Africa, according to a new study by [the] risk analysis company …, which classifies 75 percent of the continent’s countries at ‘high’ or ‘extreme risk,'” according to the statement (10/1). “African countries at ‘extreme risk’ include Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Comoros, and Sierra Leone, according to Maplecroft,” Bloomberg notes (10/9).
The U.N. “revised down the number of the world’s hungry on Tuesday to just under 870 million but slammed the figure as ‘unacceptable’ and warned that the fight against hunger was slowing down,” Agence France-Presse reports. The report, launched by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) along with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), “said the number of hungry was down from one billion 20 years ago,” according to AFP (Milasin, 10/9). “That is better news than we have had in the past, but it still means that one person in every eight goes hungry. That is unacceptable, especially when we live in a world of plenty,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, Reuters notes. The new figures are based on revised calculation methods and new data, according to the news service (Hornby, 10/9).
Two U.N. experts have called for the creation of a “global fund to promote the creation of social safety nets for the most vulnerable people in poor countries,” the Guardian reports. Based on estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO), Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur for food, and Magdalena Sepulveda, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the creation of a $60 billion fund — with $20 billion funded by rich countries — “would have two functions: to help the 48 least developed countries (LDCs) put in place a ‘social protection floor’; and to serve as a reinsurance provider to step in if a state’s social protection system was overwhelmed by an unexpected event such as extreme drought or flooding,” the newspaper writes.
“Achieving the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the prevalence of hunger in the world by 2015 is still within reach, but a strong, sustained acceleration of efforts is needed,” U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva writes in a Reuters opinion piece. He notes a new report from the Rome food agencies shows the “global number of chronically hungry people has declined by 130 million since 1990, falling from a little over one billion people to 868 million — 852 million of them in developing countries.”
“This month, President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative received a $1 billion pledge from U.S. organizations to address the root causes of hunger and poverty,” Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) writes in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, noting, “This pledge came on the heels of a $4 billion pledge by more than 60 companies from Africa and other continents.” He continues, “As co-chairman of the Congressional Ethiopia Caucus and the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus, I commend these pledges and look forward to working with the administration as they are implemented.” However, he adds, “[t]hese are short-term fixes … to the long-term issues of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition facing millions.”
“Global food prices rose by 1.4 percent in September after holding steady for two months as cereals, meat and dairy prices climbed, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization [FAO] said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports (10/4). “[T]he FAO Food Price Index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, rose to an average of 216 points in September after remaining stable at 213 points in August, the FAO said in its monthly update,” according to Reuters (Hornby, 10/4). “Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the FAO, said that food prices were likely to remain high and volatility could increase,” BBC News writes (10/4). Bloomberg Businessweek notes “[t]he U.S. State Department estimates that surging food prices triggered more than 60 riots worldwide from 2007 to 2009” (Ruitenberg, 10/4). “Despite the rise in food prices, the United States Mission to the U.N. Agencies in Rome released a statement on Thursday saying it had agreed with other countries that a meeting of the emergency Rapid Response Forum under the G20 agriculture body [Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS)] was not necessary at the moment,” Reuters states (10/4).
USAID’s “IMPACTblog” features a “video of the week” from the State Department’s Feed the Future initiative. In the three-minute video, “[n]arrator Matt Damon discusses U.S. efforts to turn the tide against global hunger and increase agricultural production around the world through Feed the Future,” according to the blog (10/1). The video features comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and examples of efforts to increase food production and access in Malawi, Cambodia, and Honduras (9/25).