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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

THISDAY, Vol. 15, No. 5748, Page 41


South Sudan Flood Security Improves


he nwnber of people in need of food assistane<; in southern Sudan has decreased markedly though prospects for food security lmgely depend on the post-referendwn period and the number of people retwning to the South, a United Nations report said. An assessment by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Food Progr.!llllIle (WFP) warned that recent gains in food security, especially in states bordering on northern Sudan, such as Upper Nile and Unity, could be reversed by . increasing food prices and any

escalation of localized conflict. "The overall food security situation improved marlredly in 2010 compared to the previous year largely because of the favourable rains," said WFP Regional Director for Sudan





absolutely no reason for complacency now. More than a million people will still need food assistance and the situation could swiftly deteriorate at this critical time." Crop growing conditions were generally good in 20 10, the report said. Rainfall staned on time in most locations and rainfall levels were normal to above normal and generally

well distributed. Despite some localised dry spells and fl oods, 20 10 cereal crop projuction is estimated at 695 000 tons, nearly 30 percent higher than 2009. This estimate leaves an overall cereal deficit in 20 11 of about 291 000 tonnes to be covered by commercial imports and food .."istance. "However, with a forecast of about 400 000 people returning to vote the estimated deficit may increase up to 340 000 tonnes, said FAO economist Mario Zappacosta. "Returnees are expected to further increase the pressure on local food market supplies."

The report said that in the best-case scenario of a peaceful referendum process in the South, the number of people receiving emergency food assistance would rise gradually this year and was expected to peak at 1.4 million during the start of the lean season from March until August. Prospects for future food security depended highly on how the referendwn that started from 9 January and the postreferendum periods evolve, according to the report. "Recent gains could· easily be reversed due to the following risk factors: increasing

food prices due to reduced trade flows and increased demand from returnees, a potential escalation oflncalized conflicts in the border areas, and potential increases of ethnic and inter-tribal tensions," FAO/WFP said. In the event of reduced trade, increased demand, high food prices and increased insecurity in the post-referendum period, the number of people receiving emergency food assistance out of the WI I projected total population of 9.16 million in southern Sudan could reach 2.7 million at the start of the annual lean or hunger season when

the previous harvest runs out. The FAOIWFP mission estimated that 890 000 peOple were currently severely food insecure in the South and 2.4 million were moderately food insecure. It said with uncertainties over the referendwn the supply of grains from northern Sudan and to a ~esser extent from Uganda and Kenya was expected to decline substantially. Grain stocks were declining in some border areas, leading to increased prices, which would also come under pressure from large nwnbers of retwnees. So far, more than 120,000 people have returned since October and up to 250,000 are expected to have arrived by early February.

Impact Aflatoxins Spread in Kenya Assessed


nternational and. Kenyan experts are meetmg With



donors, and various food and health-related organiza.

tions to share results from recent research on the prevalence of aflatoxin contamination in maize. The study is part of a larger project that seeks to increase understanding of the effects of aflatoxins on people's health and livelihoods, and to identify




reduce contamination of food and feed. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project in Kenya is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) with partners from ACDINOCA, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARl). . Aflatoxin is a naturally OCCUlting carcinogenic byproduct of fungi that colonize certain crops. including maize, the main dietary staple of Kenvans. Contamination stm1s in ti1e field and is exa..:erbatetl when crops are damaged by drought or insect infestation. or \\ihen produce comes into con[act with soil and is not properly dried. ConlmnitlJtioll. is often unavoidable, and many African countries. incluLling Kenya, do not regularh' test maize for atlaro"Tns. l~ading to the sale" and consumption of contanlinated and SlISpect grain. "in milll)' developing: countrie:.;. widespread subsistence Imll1ing sy~[em~.lack of in-ig.llion, and inauequate dl)'ing and ~torage hlcilities impede th~ prcH::ntion and detection 01 anatoxin in crops:' said Clare Namxl. U'''j'Rl Senior Research fellnw and project leader. "Consequently, niany people me chronical!y exposed to aflato«ins in their food and are al ri ... k of sei'ious health problems." Acute exposure to high levels of atlatoxins can result ill liver failure and rapid death. Chronic exposure. in bolh humans and animals, exacerbates infectious diseases and can lead to cancer,liver cirrhosis, weakened immune systems, and stunted growth in children. To determine the extent of aflatoxin contamination in maize, researchers from CIMMYT and KARl have been collecting samples along the entire value chain in eastern and s.outh western Kenya-

from farmers' fields at harvest time, postharvest storage sites at the farm, and traders at markets and posho mills. The study is finding that aflatoxin contamination is more widespread than previously thought, occurring in both eastern and south western sites. In eastern study sites, 31 percent of samples collected from farmers' fields in February 20 10 had aflatoxin levels greater than 10 parts per billion (ppb), the maximwn level allowed by the Ke'1yan government, as well '" the United Nations World Food Programme, in maize that is intended for human consumption. In south western sites, 40 percent of samples from farm· ers' fields in the same period had aflatoxin levels above the legal limit of 10 ppb. Contamination levels were higher in.the maize stored by farmers after the. harvest. Thirty -eight percent of san1pies from farmers' stores in eastern Kenya and 60 percent from south western Kenya. all collected between February and lViay 201 n, had aflatoxin amounts greater than 10 ppb. Contamination levels varied from 0 to 1700 ppb in eastern Kenya and from to 600 ppb in south western sites_ Contaminatioll levels vary cohsiderably between fannel:S and villages, as well as between regions. Level... in ca~tern Kenya region ranged from 0 10 1400 ppb, while in south western siles. concentrations ranged from 0 to 700 ppb. The smdy is also tl.ndin~ differenCes ill contaminatioll Ieve\<:; fmm season to &ason; there was litHe or no contamination Il1 sample~s taken from farmers' fields in south westem siles in ~OO9 _10 shallJ contntst to 201.0. Idclltifying the Ciluses for thi~ vruiation Ytrill be verv important 10 identifying strategies to reduce cont,lmination and tarl!et m'eas or seasons at higher risk. In samples collected from markets between February and May of 2010, average levels of contamination were high in eastern areas, where maximum aflatoxin amounts were 163 times greater than the level safe for consumption. Almost IO percent of all south western maize samples were also unfit for human consumption. Based on informal interviews, the study found evidence of little or no testing for aflatoxin in Kenyan markets, although the government has recently stepped up testing in high risk areas.


• L-R: Executive Direc~r, Equinox Resources, Mr. Kekclli OU1zu, Head, Lagos OjJice, SllImktrd, Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mr. Agboola Afoillyan, Managmg Du-ecloriCEO, Mr. Oh/lllill Euuko, wilh ojJiciols of SON, Mr. Ekok£me Preye. and Mr. Aball Dalliel at Ille presenlllnon of MANCAP (ISO) certificate 2010 to Equinox Resollrces ill Lagos

Study Seeks Rethink on Causes of Food Crisis


new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (lFPRI) challenges previous analyses of the food price crisis of 2007-08. Using recently available data, Reflections on the Global Food Crisis identifies the key causes of the price surge, its consequences for the world's. POOT people, and the implications for future polil...'ies. According to IFPRI. the repm1 atttihl7tes the crisi; to ~I combination or increased energy COSts. growing demand for biofuels, Jeprecimion of the U.S. dollar. and trade shocks related to expOil reslrjction~, panic purch<'lses. and unfavorable weatht:r. Cuntnuy to many earlier hypotheses. it \\'a5 not primm-ily caused by increased demand in rising economies such as China ancl India, by falling aglicultural· yields or food stocks, nor by future marke~ s~culation.

This study comes amid renewed volatility in and concern about food prices. Since June, the price of wheat has increased by 60 peR'ent and maize by 50 percent. "Future food price crises can be prevented;' said Shenggen Fan, Director Deneral of IFPRI and report co-author. To avert a recurrence, the report recommends: " making trade in agri· cultural commodities more

free yet more secure; addressing climate change, resource degradation, and other long-term threats to agricultural plUductivity; • scaling up social safety nets in potentially food-insecllfe countries; and encouraging agricultural production in at least some of the countries nov.' hemily dependent on food import::.. "\\-'ithout these key refon1l'~.. it is onlv it matter of rintc before another food plice cri ... i~ hib," said Fan. The report finds Ulat increased demand for meat products in China and India did not trigger the crisis, although China's demand for oil and Otht!f non-food commodities played a role. "On China and fndia, the evidence is no\~'" unequivocal: they weren't buying up the world's grains," noted Derek Headey, IFPRI research fellow and report co-author. The authors find that financial market speculation' may have }:!ayed some role. but not a dominant one. However, they' contend that export restrictions and panic purchases turned a critical situation into a fullblown crisis. This was espeCially true of rice but also applied to wheat and maize. "Rice is a particularly small market internationally, so the shocks were large relative to

the volume traded:' explained Headey. "But somewhat more surprisingly. we also found iarge surges in tor U.S. wheat and maize exports in late 2lXJ7." LOWer .vrain stocks were an outcome the clisis more than a cau~e a.lthough buffer stod~.., could still be U11 import::l.I1l merln~ of preveminp fUJ1ht'r cri:>cs. ilccorJing to the report. h recommends the.- estahli:,;l-


melit <.~nd u:'>~ of ~trmei!i,-, !!r,:in

resent.::. to J('al with Lhwllulli-

emer!!enClc:-, anJ 10 ~il1oo{h out v;l!atilit\. "In rime" like these. v-.hen food pri.:c~ are rising but qocb arc high. countrie~ like India anLi China should rdense £rain to calm markets:' said L,n. E~tilllates of the Illlillber


people who were" push\!d mtl) Illillnutrition by rh;ing food prices in 200~7 \ <U)': from around 75 million to 133 mil-

lion. The greatc"st consumption losses fell on women and girb. Countlies were pmticlliarly vuinerabJe to rising pri(:es when these coincided with existing problems such as COllflict, drought, or poor economic poliCies, the report find,_ However. other countries were protected by strengthening cur': rene ie" a diversified food base. and a limited dependence on food imports. While the effects of the crisis were varied. a number of countries in Africa. Asia, anu Latin America were



"Poor people face a perpetual food cri~i<' Hcadey stressed, "and thi~ .situation pushed millions more into hun!!er." h;vcstments th~H raise H!!ricultural productivity in de~el­ oping countries r~main the b~:.-.[ means of improving the food security of ponr people

in both rLiral and urb . Ul artas, -.ays {he report. Biofuds. it be made mor~ 'foOtI fl~icndly" by minillliLin~ the diversion of fooJ LTOpS <.lIld by invol\'ing smallholJer t~tnn:rs in their PI\);ldd~;. ~.hould


Thl: report



donors to honor their timmcial plcdge& despite the global

cl'onomic downturn. 'To their credit. many aid Janor... have said' th..::y would increa:-.e agricultural aid:' ~aid

Fan. "In ~(x)9, the G-8 nalions made US$20 hillion in com· mitments to food security and agriculture. They need to keep their promises." The Inlernational Food Policy Resear~h Institute (IFPRl) seeks sustainable solutions lor t!nding hunger ond poverty. IFPRI is one of 15 centers supported by the on Consultative Group International Agricultura Research. an alliance of f: governments, private found. tions, and international a I regional organisations.