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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

THIS DAY, Vol. 16, No. 5853, Page 39

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How to Prevent Recurring Food Crises.~

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ust truee years after the 2007-2008 food crisis, food prices are again increasing and becoming more volatile amid expanding biofuel production , rising oil prices, US dollar depreciation, export restrictions and panic purchasing, In Indonesia, for example, food inflation rose by 14 percent between March 20!O and March 20 II. The world's poorest consumers, who spend some SO70 percent of their income on food, are bearing the brunt. 'This is also the case in Soutlleast Asia, which has made impressive progress in reducing poverty and hunger but where some 80 million people remain food-insecure. It is often said that poor agricultural producers benefit from higher food prices through higher incomes.

However, this is possible only if theYare net sellers of food and if their input.costs do not also rise. In recent years, fertilizer and transport costs have also been high and volatile. Increasing costs coupled with the uncertainty that accompanies excessive price volatility can reduce fanners' profit margins, distort longterm planning and dampen investment in improved productivity. Decisive action is needed to prevent recurring food crises. Governments in both developed and developing countries, including Indonesia, and international organizations must adopt a comprehensive approach that incorporales seven principal elemenls: Curtailing subsidies and reforming policies, particularly in the United States and Europe, to minimise biofuels' contribution to volatility in international and domestic food markets. One measure would be to reward lower carbon intensities in biofuel production resUlting from the use of feedstock that is more energy-efficient than grain. In the longer run, the costs and benefits of crop-based biofuel production for food secu-

By ShenggeJl Fan rity and environmenlal sustainability need to be carefully evaluated to determine their real contribution to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and transport fuels' carbon intensity. Creating or strengthening social protection to protect the most vulnerable groups, including women and young children, in developing countries - something few countries have done during or since the 2007-2008 crisis. In counnies lacking established safety net programs, governments should begin the development of these programmes immediately, focusing on areas with extreme hunger and drawing on the best practices from other countries . SafelY nets should be gender-sensitive and effectively combined with interventions that increase the productive capacity and improve the health and nutrition of vulnerable households. Improving the transparency, fairness and opermess of international ttade to enhance the efficiency of global agricultural markets: existing export resnictions should be eliminated and countries should refrain from imposing new ones. Hanmful import tariffs and non-tariff barriers should be dismantled. The Doha Round of World Trade Organisation (Wf0) negotiations should be completed to reduce maximum tariff levels and the risk that governments will resort to policies that destabilise world food markets. Exploring the viability of an international humanitarian emergency grain reserve to protect the most vulnerable people during food price crises. Such a reserve should be managed by an experienced global. institution such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and could consist of multiple physical reserves strategically positioned near

N ever-ending Food Scarcity in Nepal's Mountains hnakumari Dangi and her family will pro. bably have to wait another six months before they can get enough to eat. Dangi lives in Jhuphal village in Dolpa, one of Nepal's poorest districts, at an altitude of 2,987 metres on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. The area is ranked one of the worst in the world for food security by the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), due to its inaccessibility and the harsh terrain . According to Deutsche Presse Agentur, the lean season has just begun in Dolpa, where the arid, windswept land only yields one harvest a year, producing enough food for tluee to six months. Government figures say food deficit has tripled in recent years, with most of the increase since a 2009 drought. "What we grow lasts us less than six months,' explains Dangi as her 12-year-old son ploughs the field behind her to plant millet. "We buy rice from

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the Food Corporation and work for the World Food Programme as labourers in exchange for rice.'" The WFP pays each family 4 kilogrammes of rice per day of labour, for digging roads or irrigation canals. But these projec ts donlt run all year around. Food has been scarce as long as Dangi can remember, but has been getting worse recently as snow is falling until later in the year, and the rains during growing season are less abundant. "Rainfall and snowfall patterns in the areas has been changing over the years, worsening the food production scenario;' agriculture extension officer Hemraj Adhikari says. The rains that do arrive with the June monsoons are a mixed blessing. The water the region's meagre crops during the growing season, but make access more difficult for delivery of food while the people wait for harvest time.

major food-importing poor countries. A small reserve sbould be started as a pilot project in order to learn how to improve efficiency and effectiveness before it is scaled up to the optimalleve!. The ASEAN+3 emergency rice reserve, currently under discussion , is an example. Promoting agricultural growth, in particular through improved smallholder productivity. 'This would involve, for example, improving access to seeds, fertiliser, and other inputs, increasing investment in crop breeding and livestock research and enhancing access to mrukets by strengthening

rural infrasbUCture.

Investment by national governments in climate change adaptation and mitigation using the full potential that agriculture offers. Adaptation involves improved land management, adjusted planting dates and the introduction of new, climate-hardy crop varieties. Mitigation includes improvements in energy efficiency, crop yields and carbon storage. Recent research suggests that US$7 billion per year will be needed to raise calorie consumption enough to offset the negative effects of climate change on the health and well' being of children.

Most of these investments also make good economic sense even in the absence of climate change, Establishing an international working group to monitor the world food situation and trigger action to prevent or dampen excessive price volatility. 'This group would bring together key institutions such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, International Food Policy Research Institute, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, UN Conference

on Trade and Development, World Bank, WFP and wro. The group would scrutinise not only food production, con· sumption (including for biofu· els), trade, stqcks, prices and policies, but also energy and input prices and financial mar· ket specUlation. Some of these proposals have been made before, but each outbreak of volatility in world food markets makes them more urgent. Now is the time to act to prevent a replay of the last food price crisis.

·Fan is the Director General of I nlerllatWnal Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRl).

NVEJtlNCOun PLANu~. ·

oL-R: Chief Operating Officer, International Health Management Services Lid (IHMS), Dr,Chidi Ukandu, and Chief Mark£ting Officer, Mr. Wole Olomojobi and Head Information Technology, Mr. Remi-ogunsola~ allhe media presentation alld lallll ch of IHM!1 Relail Health Plan~ in Lagos ...recenlly PHOTO: Etop Uklltl

Food h)security Looms in Africa

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droUght in the Hom of Africa, niggered by the same La Nina episode that caused massive flooding in Australia last year, is plunging millions of pastoralists closer to food insecurity. According to the New York Times, parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and eastern Uganda are most affected. The UN. World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 8.4 million people are in need of food aid in the region, according fo spokesman David Orr. Thousands oflivestock have already died in Kenya and Ethiopia from animal diseases associated with the drought. The severity this year will depend on the rainy season between March and May. "It is too early JO say yet, although the general view is [the rains] look like being quite poor in certain parts of Somalia and Ethiopia ," said Orr. "Combined with conflict and rising food prices in Somalia, this could be particularly serious in that country.1I The WFP is continuing its

normal operations ·of providing a food basket of ce_reIlls to the regions but is underfunded by 56 per cent for the April to September period, Orr said. In a country such as Ethiopia - whose economy is expected to grow at 9 per cent this year according to the Economist Intelligence Unit and lags just behind China and illdia at 8.1 per cent per year in the period between 20 II and 2015, according to the IMF -there are concerns the La Nina episode could hamper growth in the short tenn. Droughts are not new to the region . A massive one between 2008 and 2009 left 23 million people hungry and millions of livestock dead. And before that, droughts have taught pastoralists to become nomads, moving with their hardy animals in search of bener grazing land. But recent droughts are affecting a population that is increasingly vulnerable to climate threats. Reduction in livestock holdings due to more frequent droughts, coupled with a population that is growing at 25 per cent per year

over the past 40 years, has decreased the amount of protein and milk avai lable to the average fami ly, There is greater competition for land from agriculture and urbanisation. And global climate change studies have suggested the region will become drier in the future. Meanwhile, the local governments are doing linle to protect pastoralist livelihoods in the long tenn. "The Hom of Africa has lived with drought for the past 100 years and has to live with it for the next however many years," said a senior agriculture expert with an international agency who spoke on the condition of anonymity (Q maintain his relationship wi th the Ethiopian government. "Drought isn't like a tsunami or an earthquake; it is just part of life." In pastoralist areas where cow and camel herders prize their animals above other forms ' of wealth, livestock deaths can doom livelihoods . The Ethiopian government is aware of the tlueat to pastoralists but is doing jittle other than deploying food aid to the

affected regi ons, said tho expelt. The drought has no! been well publicised in tho nation. Unlike more in s (antan eou~ natural disasters such as earthquakes, drought progresse, slowly like a drumbeat. Ther< is an apex, usually around the ninth month when the numbers of cattle dying rises dras· ticall y. The numbers depend on how poor the rainfall is, ana meteorologists have so far pre· dicted below-average rainfal l for 201 I in eastern parts of the Hom. Predictions of the curre111 drought depend on ocean tern· peratures. A La Nina episode caused by cooling ocean sur· face temperatures. began in the central Pacific Ocean in July 20 10. Temperantres lowered by 15 to 1.6 degrees Celsius changing ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns. In historical cenns, this episode has been among the strongest in a cenrury, according to the World Meteorological Agency, The system unleashed massive flooding in Australja and Southeast Asia. ill East Africa. it caused a dry spell between October and December 20 I0 It was the driest shon rain season in 30 years


THISDAY, 03 MAY, 2011  

Food Insecurity Looms in Africa

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