Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died April 5, may be remembered for corruption and mismanagement, but his “positive legacy” is his creation of “an agriculture-led boom in Malawi, one that pointed a way for Africa to overcome its chronic hunger, food insecurity, and periodic extreme famines,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. Despite “resistance” from the donor community, under Mutharika, “Malawi used its own paltry budget revenues to introduce a tiny [agricultural] subsidy program for the world’s poorest people, and lo and behold, production doubled within one harvest season. Malawi began to produce enough grain for itself year after year, and even became a food donor when famine struck the region. Life expectancy began to rise, and is estimated to be around 55 years for the period 2010-15,” he says.
Food Security and Nutrition
“USAID and MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have signed a memorandum of understanding [MOU] to increase cooperation on the topic of food security in Africa,” Globes reports. “The agreement is part of USAID’s ‘Feed the Future’ initiative” and will allow “for closer cooperation on the issue of food security in four countries: Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda,” the news service writes (Dagoni, 4/19). The MOU is “the first of its kind, according to MASHAV head Daniel Carmon, though he stressed that ‘this MOU is not the start of the relationship; it’s the continuing and the strengthening of the relationship,’” according to the Jerusalem Post. “The assistance will include help with food production and crop cycles, as well as addressing environmental issues that go beyond the agricultural sector, Carmon said,” the newspaper notes (Krieger, 4/19).
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Amanda Glassman, the director of global health policy and a research fellow at the center, examines the connection between smallholder farming, agricultural productivity and nutrition. She writes, “For some time now, the food security movement has been stating that improving the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers improves nutritional status.” Glassman cites a statement delivered by G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting Chairs after a meeting in Washington, D.C., last week, which states, “Donor and partner government investments in agricultural development have proven to be one of the most effective means to promote broad-based economic growth, especially when they are nutrition-sensitive and target smallholder farmers and women.” She writes, “Are investments in agricultural development directed to small farmers ‘proven’ to improve nutritional status? I don’t think so,” and asks, “What is the G8 talking about?” (4/18).
U.S. Suspends $13M In Aid To Mali Following Coup; U.N. Security Council Expresses Concern Over Humanitarian Crisis In Mali, Sahel Region
“The United States is suspending at least $13 million of its roughly $140 million in annual aid to Mali following last month’s coup in the West African nation, the State Department said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports, noting the “suspension affects U.S. assistance for Mali’s ministry of health, public school construction and the government’s efforts to boost agricultural production.” According to the news agency, “U.S. law bars aid ‘to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.’” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said, “These are worthwhile programs that are now suspended because that aid goes directly to the government of Mali,” Reuters notes (4/5). France and the European Union also immediately suspended all but essential humanitarian aid to the country, according to the Associated Press/USA Today.
“Over-consumption in rich countries and rapid population growth in the poorest both need to be tackled to put society on a sustainable path,” according to a report by an expert group convened by the Royal Society, BBC News reports (Black, 4/25). The report “concludes that tackling global inequality is central to solving the problem of too many people exploiting dwindling natural resources,” the Independent writes (Connor, 4/26). “‘Population and consumption should no longer be regarded as separate issues,’ said Sir John Sulston, chair of the international working group that prepared the study,” according to the Financial Times (Cookson, 4/26). “Firm recommendations include giving all women access to family planning, moving beyond [gross domestic product (GDP)] as the yardstick of economic health and reducing food waste,” BBC notes.
“Global food prices again rose in the first quarter [of 2012] on the back of higher oil prices, putting millions of people at risk of not having enough to eat,” according to a report released Wednesday by the World Bank, Agence France-Presse reports (4/25). The index showed the cost of food rose eight percent between December 2011 and March 2012 after four months of decline at the end of last year, Reuters notes, adding, “Even after the latest rise, food prices remain one percent below a year ago and six percent below the February 2011 historical peak, the World Bank said” (4/25). According to the Los Angeles Times, “In Africa, prices are especially steep due to the continent’s dependence on imports as well as trade restrictions between nations, hoarding, civil unrest and bad weather” (Hsu, 4/25). “The World Bank said it was hard to predict whether the surge in prices this year would lead to a new global food crisis since there is no mechanism to identify the onset of a global food crisis,” Reuters writes (4/25). A World Bank Group press release describes how the organization “is helping to put food first” (4/25).
U.S. Government Made ‘Strong Progress’ In Fight Against World Hunger, But Much Remains To Be Done, Report Says
According to the 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development, released by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Thursday, “[t]he U.S. government risks losing the gains it has made in fighting world hunger unless it maintains its effort of the last three years in improving global agricultural practices and food security,” Reuters reports. The council’s “Global Agricultural Development Initiative evaluated the U.S. government and agencies for their leadership in global agricultural development,” and “examined the impact the efforts from Washington had in Ethiopia, Ghana and Bangladesh,” the news service writes.
Tjada McKenna, deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future, and Jonathan Shrier, acting special representative for global food security and deputy coordinator for diplomacy for Feed the Future, examine efforts to end global hunger through a “whole-of-government approach” in this article on the initiative’s webpage. McKenna and Shrier highlight efforts in Haiti, Guatemala, Senegal, Uganda, Ghana, and Bangladesh, noting “all are supported through a range of different U.S. Government organizations under Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.” They continue, “Together — and with the help of our development partners from universities, the research community, multilaterals, the private sector, and the NGO community — we are working to break the cycle of poverty and food insecurity that has led millions in the developing world to lives of chronic hunger and undernutrition” (4/26).
A coalition of “[a]id agencies said on Monday they are facing a multi-million dollar funding shortage to deal with a food crisis in the Sahel,” News24 reports. “Action Against Hunger, Oxfam, Save the Children, and World Vision said they have raised only $52 million of $250 million needed to provide emergency assistance to six million people in the region,” the news service writes, adding that the groups “have called for a donor pledging conference to rally wealthy governments and donors” (4/23). They also “are calling on G8 leaders to consider the Sahel crisis at their summit next month,” according to VOA News.
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Blog,” Connie Veillette, director of CGD’s rethinking U.S. foreign assistance initiative, comments on a draft farm bill released by Congress last week, which she writes “includes some promising fixes to the notoriously inefficient U.S. food aid system.” She continues, “Kudos are definitely in order for a draft bill that advances ideas around improving food aid effectiveness,” including “the reauthorization of local and regional purchase (LRP) to buy food closer to emergencies.” Veillette writes, “I would prefer the nature of the food emergency to determine whether U.S. commodities or LRP is used rather than some formula that makes more sense for Washington politics than for global hunger,” and concludes, “I commend the [Senate Agriculture] Committee for taking a serious look at improving food aid efficiencies and hope that this marks the start of a productive process of policy reform” (4/24).