The Senate on Thursday passed 64-35 the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, otherwise known as the farm bill, which “funds agriculture, farm and nutrition programs over the next five years,” The Hill’s “Floor Action Blog” reports. “The vote on the bill (S 3240) came immediately after the chamber finished a two-day marathon on consideration of 73 amendments to it,” the blog notes (Strauss, 6/21). On Wednesday, “[t]he Senate voted to continue food aid to North Korea, shooting down an amendment ending that aid and also approving a different one in support of it,” the blog reports in a separate article. According to the blog, “First, the Senate voted on an amendment by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) that was essentially a counter to an amendment by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to cut off U.S. food aid to North Korea. The Kerry-Lugar amendment was approved in a vote of 59 to 40, and Kyl’s amendment failed 43 to 56” (Strauss, 6/20).
Environment and Climate Change
In a video message addressing the Rio+20 summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “announced a ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ to rid the world of malnutrition,” Bloomberg News reports. “‘In a world of plenty, no one, not a single person, should go hungry,’ Ban said. ‘I invite you all to join me in working for a future without hunger,'” the news agency notes. “Ending hunger would boost economic growth, reduce poverty and help protect the environment, as well as foster peace and stability, Ban said,” Bloomberg writes, adding that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 13 percent of the world’s population, or 900 million people, suffer from hunger. Barbara Stocking, CEO of Oxfam, said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg, “This is the first big idea on food to come out of the Rio+20 debacle. … But it is in total contrast to the lack of any action in the summit conclusions” (Ruitenburg, 6/22).
“Journalists, policy experts, bloggers (including myself) and World Food Programme staff joined in a robust discussion last week about the current hunger situation in Africa’s Sahel region, including its causes and what can be done moving forward,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, noting, “In the Google+ hangout, streamed on YouTube, Denise Brown, the World Food Programme’s country director for Niger, logged on from the capital, Niamey, to report precisely what is happening in the region and how people are faring in the wake of no rains, failed crops, and increased food prices.” She continues, “One of the primary points that Brown emphasized was about early warning systems and data propelled early intervention,” and concludes, “The state of the hunger crisis in the Sahel dictates that aid must happen now. But those who are working in the region, like Brown, understand that to prevent another food shortage next year ideas to combat another hunger season have to be employed” (6/8).
“Tens of thousands of people uprooted or trapped by conflict in northern Mali are going without enough food, leading to a spike in cases of children suffering from malnutrition, medical aid groups say,” AlertNet reports. “The situation in northern Mali is also being compounded by a wider food and nutrition crisis across the Sahel region of West Africa, where the United Nations estimates that 18 million people are facing hunger due to a combination of drought, failed crops, insect swarms, and high food prices,” the news service writes. “Aid workers warn that living conditions in Mali’s troubled north will worsen unless security improves, enabling better access for humanitarian groups, and donors provide more funding for relief operations,” AlertNet notes, adding that charity groups working in the region say mothers and children are being affected most by malnutrition (Fominyen, 6/28).
The European Commission (E.C.) on Monday “announced an increase in funding to the Sahel by 40 million euros [$50.5 million] as the food crisis is set to peak in the coming weeks putting 18 million people at risk from hunger,” the Guardian reports, noting that the new money brings the total amount from the E.U. to 337 million euros, or $425 million (Tran, 6/18). The E.C. made the announcement at a donor meeting in Brussels, where international representatives sought to mobilize aid, according to VOA News (Palus, 6/18). “Aid agency Oxfam urged donors at the meeting to fill a ‘massive funding gap’ to fight hunger in the Sahel,” Reuters writes (Ebbs, 6/18).
“Fighting global hunger has traditionally been a bipartisan effort that has united administrations and congresses without regard to party. The Farm Bill developed by the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee continues that trend,” Dan Glickman, former U.S. agriculture secretary, and Richard Leach, president and CEO of World Food Program USA, write in a Politico opinion piece. They say the bill “provides more flexibility to draw on food aid stocks” when the U.S. responds to natural disasters or conflict situations; “increases efficiency by reducing costs linked with monetization — the practice of selling U.S. food aid commodities on foreign markets to generate cash for development programs”; “promotes enhanced nutrition, increasing the nutritional quality of food aid”; and “fosters greater coordination among U.S. programs and agencies,” allowing for short-term food aid responses to be linked with longer-term development objectives. The authors conclude, “Though additional steps still need to be taken to comprehensively address hunger, this Farm Bill enhances U.S. leadership in the fight against hunger and makes an important statement about Americaâ€™s values” (6/14).
African Sahel Faces Food Insecurity Despite Record Increase In Cereal Production; New Partnership To Address Food Supply In Middle East, North Africa
“According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) quarterly forecast of agricultural production and food,” the world is expected to see a record increase in cereal production in 2012, “[b]ut despite the positive global trends, countries in Africa’s Sahel region continue to face serious challenges to food security due to locally high food prices and civil strife, FAO said in a news release,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “Humanitarian organizations estimate that there are currently some 18 million people facing food insecurity in Africa’s Sahel region, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and the northern regions of Cameroon and Nigeria,” the news service notes (6/13).
“Agriculture faces dual challenges: becoming more sustainable on a dwindling resource base while having to feed an increasing number of people,” Paul Polman, CEO of consumer goods company Unilever, and David Servitje, CEO of baking company Group Bimbo, who serve as co-chairs of the G20’s B-20 Food Security Task Force, write in a Washington Post opinion piece, adding, “To provide food and nutrition security in the coming decades will require a major and sustained effort by all stakeholders, including business.” They continue, “The good news is that food security is firmly on the political agenda of the Group of Eight, the Group of 20 and at this week’s U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). And business has been invited to contribute.”
With “the highest level of chronic malnutrition after Afghanistan, affecting 60 percent of under fives,” Yemen is facing levels of acute malnutrition that are equal to or worse than those in Africa’s Horn or Sahel, UNICEF’s Yemen representative Geert Cappelaere said on Friday in London, AlertNet reports. “If you don’t do anything about these incredible high levels of malnutrition, in the short term you may have more and more children dying. In the long term, the cost of inaction for a country like Yemen may be up to $1.5 billion a year,” he said. According to AlertNet, “The figure comes from a World Bank estimate that the cost of failing to address malnutrition could be 2-3 percent of a country’s GDP.” Cappelaere “said that in some areas it had almost nothing to do with access to food, but rather to lack of access to drinking water or sanitation. He said bringing down malnutrition levels would require integrated investment in water, sanitation, nutrition, education, and health,” the news service writes (Batha, 6/15).
“The new U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which is derived from a Presidential Policy Directive, builds on numerous accomplishments of U.S.-Africa policy to strengthen democratic institutions, promote regional peace and security, engage with young African leaders, and promote development, trade, and investment,” a White House fact sheet, titled “Obama Administration Accomplishments In Sub-Saharan Africa,” states. The fact sheet contains information on the Feed the Future initiative, the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. Government’s responses to humanitarian crises and disasters, as well as other programs and engagements (6/14).