“[T]he latest calculations show that U.S. ethanol policies have increased the food bills of poor food-importing countries by more than $9 billion (Â£5.6 billion) since 2006,” Olivier De Schutter, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog. He asks, “But where to next? Should we disavow biofuels altogether?” He writes, “The new starting point should be to put food security first,” noting, “Globally, 25 percent of land is already degraded, and the remaining productive areas are subject to ever-greater competition from industrial and urban uses.”
Food Security and Nutrition
India’s National Food Security Bill, “expected to be discussed in Parliament later this year, … holds out hope of addressing some of the nation’s most persistent and pervasive problems,” Ashwin Parulkar, a research scholar at the Centre for Equity Studies, writes in the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog. “Unfortunately, in my view, the draft in its current form will be a major let down,” he states and provides some background on the bill. “Lawmakers have drafted this legislation but it appears that the bill will do little to tackle the critical areas of India’s hunger crisis so widely acknowledged by this country’s own policymakers,” he writes.
The following blog posts were published Tuesday in recognition of World Food Day, observed annually on October 16.
“Nothing could be more appropriate than the World Food Day focus on cooperatives this year,” because “[t]he collective power of cooperatives can enable better access to market, better returns, better access to inputs and services, and a better support network for smallholder farmers,” leading to “[h]igher returns” which allow farmers to “better provide for the nutrition, education and health of their families,” Mark Bowman, managing director of SABMiller, writes in an AllAfrica.com opinion piece. Africa is “at the center of the global challenge of food security,” “because one in three of the world’s hungry live on the continent” and “because Africa has the potential not only to feed its own people but also to become a more significant food exporter,” he says. Smallholder farmers are essential to meet this “challenge and potential,” Bowman notes, but he adds they are “cut off” by location or lack of funding from new products and technologies, efficient transport, and information.
In this episode of CNN’s “Amanpour,” correspondent Christiane Amanpour talks with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, about childhood stunting, which “threatens 180 million children below the age of five all over the world.” According to the show’s summary, “[m]illions of children around the world are threatened with death, lowered I.Q. and deformities by [the] life-altering condition — one that can be avoided simply by eating enough nutrients.” “It’s probably the least understood, most under-appreciated development issue, human issue, perhaps in the world,” Lake says in the video (Burke/Krever, 10/16).
“The international community is gathering in Italy for World Food Day on Tuesday with a round of U.N.-hosted talks on how to keep global food prices in check and help prevent future commodity market crises,” the Bangkok Post reports. “The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is holding a week-long meeting of the Committee on World Food Security, which is made up of U.N. officials, farming experts, and civil society representatives,” the newspaper notes (10/16). The theme of this year’s World Food Day is “Agricultural Cooperatives — Key to Feeding the World” to coincide with the International Year of Cooperatives, according to an FAO press release.
Noting “[a]round 170 million children under the age of five are stunted” globally, actor and UNICEF ambassador Mia Farrow writes in a CNN opinion piece, “For too long, stunting has been a silent crisis — a personal tragedy for each family,” but “the suffering of some 170 million children constitutes a global catastrophe that calls for an urgent response.” Traveling with UNICEF for more than a decade, Farrow says, “Wherever there is poverty, it is the children who pay the highest price.” She continues, “At this moment, one million children throughout the Sahel region of Africa are at risk of dying.” Farrow highlights progress made in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake “caus[ed] hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries” in the country and writes, “There is more work to do, but we can see that even in challenging circumstances it is possible to work together to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable children, pregnant women, and mothers have access to food and drinkable water.” She concludes, “In the name of some 170 million children, let’s pull together and end the obscenity of hunger and stunting” (10/16).
U.N. SG Says Eliminating Discrimination, Providing Nutrition, Health Care Will Help Women Care For Families
“Highlighting the role in women in producing much of the world’s food and caring for the environment, [U.N.] Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his message marking the International Day of Rural Women, [Monday] said that eliminating discrimination that prevents rural women from realizing their full potential is crucial to ending global hunger and poverty,” the U.N. News Centre reports (10/15). “In his message, Ban said rural women typically live without the guarantee of basic nutrition, health services, and necessities such as clean water and sanitation,” UPI writes. “When food and nutrition security are improved, rural women have more opportunities to find decent work and provide for the education and health of their children,” Ban said, according to UPI (10/15). VOA News reports on an initiative launched recently by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), and U.N. Women, which aims “to speed economic empowerment and gender equality of rural women,” according to the news service (DeCapua, 10/15).
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).
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).