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Report Recommends New Approaches For Fighting World Hunger

A new report from the Worldwatch Institute, a research organization, recommends focusing on new approaches to address world hunger, Nature’s blog “The Great Beyond” reports.

According to the report, “previous approaches to feeding the world’s population have ‘not really worked’ since around 925 million people globally still go hungry everyday,” the blog reports (Gilbert, 1/13). The State of the World 2011 report said, “[a]griculture as we know it today is in trouble,” Agence France-Presse writes, adding that it “said there had to be a revolution in investment in food and water to reverse a ‘frightening’ long-term depletion of stocks.”

“The industry accounts for one trillion dollars of the global economy but also 70 percent of water withdrawals and 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, much of that from developing countries. The institute said small farmers who dominate the industry would be the key to maintaining food supplies for the world’s estimated one billion hungry people,” AFP reports (1/13).

“The authors suggest that instead of producing more food to meet the world’s growing population needs, a more effective way to address food security issues and climate change would be to encourage self-sufficiency and waste reduction, in wealthier and poorer nations alike,” according to the Guardian. “If we shift just some of our attention away from production to consumption issues and reducing food waste, we might actually get quite a big bang for our buck, because that ground has been neglected,” said Brian Halweil, co-director of the Worldwatch Insitute’s Nourishing the Planet project. “The majority of incentives that governments give to farmers are still tied to the production mindset. The farmers are rewarded for sheer production quantity, with very little guidance for the quality they produce and the impact of their farming practices on the environment and on human health and nutrition … It is necessary to change these incentives,” Halweil said (Prakash, 1/13).

“Drawing from the world’s leading agricultural experts and from hundreds of innovations that are already working on the ground, the report outlines 15 proven, environmentally sustainable prescriptions” that address some of the issues raised by Halweil, a Worldwatch Institute press release states. “Serving locally raised crops to school children, for example, has proven to be an effective hunger- and poverty-reducing strategy in many African nations … Moreover, ‘roughly 40 percent of the food currently produced worldwide is wasted before it is consumed, creating large opportunities for farmers and households to save both money and resources by reducing this waste,'” said Halweil (1/12).

There are some other signs of change, AFP notes. “The remarkable news is that after years of neglect, governments are reinvesting in agriculture and giving priority to small-scale producers,” the report said. “They are recognizing the important role of women, infrastructure, safety nets, and local markets,” it added. “All this holds great potential for eradicating hunger” (1/13). Worldwatch’s “Nourishing the Planet” blog has a video clip of the report launch event (1/13).  

‘No Cause For Alarm’ Over Food Prices At The Moment, FAO Official Says 

“In general, the supply/demand situation of food grains has become very tight at the moment but enough stocks means there is no cause for alarm at the moment,” Hiroyuki Konuma, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) assistant director-general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, said on Friday, in an interview with Reuters.

“The rises in wheat and crude oil prices are among the key areas of concern but they are still below their peaks hit in 2008, while prices of rice, a staple food, have fallen sharply,” the news service writes. “We still maintain sufficient stocks which is about 25 percent of annual production. As long as there are sufficient stocks, that means the world has enough food still to feed to the people,” Konuma said. He also “said if the present situation surrounding production, oil prices and occurences of natural disasters continued, food prices may remain at the same level, but not necessarily higher,” Reuters reports. “There could be additional external factors that may cause a potential further increase in prices, but it’s premature to say,” he said responding to a question about the FAO’s food price index for January (Mogi, 1/14).

Government, U.N. Working To Address Possible Famine In Kenya

A government-led team initiated an assessment of Kenya’s famine situation on Thursday following the death of at least five people from hunger, the Daily Nation reports. “The team toured Sololo, Chelbi, Moyale and Garissa districts in Eastern and North Eastern provinces, the pastoral areas hard hit by the ravaging drought,” the publication reports.

The Cabinet “outlined several measures to tackle the looming famine … [and it] formed a Food Security Committee to work out details of the additional food requirements, especially for the vulnerable members of the population,” the Daily Nation writes. “Relief organisations including the Kenya Red Cross Society and some MPs have asked President Kibaki to declare the famine a national disaster” (1/13).

The U.N. News Centre also reports that U.N. agencies and partners “are helping the Kenyan Government respond to food and water shortages that have hit several parts of the country as a result of a prolonged dry spell, which has been particularly severe in arid areas inhabited by nomadic livestock keepers.”

“Assistance to the affected communities in the northern, eastern, north-eastern and coastal areas of the East African country include delivery of water, food aid and supplementary feeding for children, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs” (1/13).

VOA News reports on the famine concerns in the country. “As Kenya begins its annual dry season, there are mounting fears of crop failure and a shortage of food for residents in the dry regions of the eastern and northeastern provinces. … Recently, Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development warned that over 150,000 camels, 6 million cattle and 16 million goats were at risk as a result of the drought conditions,” the news service writes.

“Some feel the government intervention, however, may not be enough. The Red Cross Society of Kenya is expected to launch an appeal for emergency assistance by the end of the week and has urged the government to declare a national disaster. The humanitarian group worries that dying pastures will force northern residents into even more unstable areas” (1/13).

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