World Hunger 2010
Stalin’s world is still with us
(Globe & Mail) Even today, collective agriculture is the basis for tyrannical power in North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of people starved in the 1990s. And in Belarus, Europe’s last dictatorship, collective farming was never undone, and a former collective farm director, Alexander Lukashenko, runs the country.
Mr. Lukashenko is seeking a fourth consecutive presidential term in December. Controlling the land, he also controls the vote. Eighty years after the collectivization campaign, Stalin’s world remains with us.
World food crisis looms after surge in costs
The United Nations says that people should be prepared to spend more money for food next year, and that the world is on the cusp of another food crisis. Already the cost of imports of key commodities — such as wheat, corn, rice, oilseeds, dairy products, sugar and meats — is close to levels seen during the peak of the 2008 food crisis. The Washington Post/Financial Times (11/17)
Ending Africa’s Hunger Means Listening to Farmers
(IPS) – Africa is hungry – 240 million people are undernourished. Now, for the first-time, small African farmers have been properly consulted on how to solve the problem of feeding sub-Saharan Africa. Their answers appear to directly repudiate a massive international effort to launch an African Green Revolution funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Instead of new hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, family farmers in West Africa said they want to use local seeds, avoid spending precious cash on chemicals and most importantly to direct public agricultural research to meet their needs, according to a multi-media publication released on World Food Day (Oct. 16).
Princess Haya Al Hussein: Putting Food First
A few weeks ago the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) proudly announced the great news that the number of malnourished people in the world had dropped below 1 billion — the first annual decline in 15 years. … except for the occasional rhetorical flourish, most politicians remain out of touch, uncomprehending of life for those living at the brink of starvation. They have failed to put food first in global economic development and aid funding. Yes, promises are made, but often they are not kept. In 2008, the G8 pledged $20 billion in new funds for agriculture. Less than $500 million has actually materialized. It is time politicians made more than promises.
Index finds growing worldwide hunger
One billion people around the world are without enough food on a daily basis, with malnutrition the single biggest cause of hunger worldwide, according to the 2010 Global Hunger Index. The annual report, produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide, found that the number of the world’s hungry has increased in recent years, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as the regions with the most hunger. BBC (10/11)
Food security fears spark calls for futures markets regulation
(Emerging Markets) The FAO’s Committee on Commodity Problems last month put “unexpected price hikes and volatility” on the CFS agenda, pinpointing them as key threats to food security. Some academic experts argue that underlying issues of excessive food dependency and land-grabbing also need to be addressed.
The summer food price spikes were caused by local production shortfalls, most notably in Russia, national policy responses such as export bans, and speculative behaviour on markets, Hallam said. They did not properly reflect market fundamentals.
Food shortages are rooted in crisis around the world
Prolonged crises stemming from war, natural disasters and unresponsive government have resulted in chronic shortages of food that render undernourished some 166 million people in 22 countries, a UN report says. The crises that cause food deficits are so entrenched that traditional means of assistance, such as deliveries of food aid and greater access to markets, are ineffective, according to the Food and Agriculture Operation and the World Food Programme. CBC.ca (Canada)/The Associated Press (10/6) , The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (10/6)
Report: Global hunger goals “decades off track”
A report by Action Aid found global hunger is costing developing countries $450 billion per year. The total number of undernourished people remains higher than before the 2008-2009 economic crisis, according to a report released by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. While the number of undernourished people has fallen from last year, global hunger remains “unacceptably high,” FAO said. BBC (9/14)
Floods wracked Pakistan’s food system
Development planners, government officials and relief agencies are struggling to identify a road map for Pakistan to replace to the massive amount of food-producing capabilities destroyed by recent monsoon flooding. Raging waters destroyed 1 million hectares of agricultural land, existing food supplies, seed banks and millions of chicken and livestock. Planners hope to help Pakistani farmers complete the winter planting season, but it will be years before Pakistan can return to a status as a “food secure” country. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (9/8)
FAO is taking a closer look at rising food prices
Rising food prices are raising tensions across the developing world and have sparked violent confrontations in Mozambique. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has called a meeting Sept. 24 to examine wheat and grain pricing, but has so far refrained from describing the food situation as a “crisis” for fear of triggering a run by financial speculators that could cause more price increases. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (9/7)
Jeffrey Sachs: Saying “Nuts” to Hunger
It is critical that we not confuse the many types of hunger and malnutrition (poor nutrition) around the world. Plumpy’Nut is not a miracle cure for global hunger or for global malnutrition. Plumpy’Nut addresses only one kind of hunger — acute episodes of extreme food deprivation or illness, the kind mainly associated with famines and conflicts. Plumpy’Nut is not designed for the other major kind of hunger, notably chronic hunger due to long-term poor diets. Nor is it designed to fight long-term malnutrition that is due to various kinds of chronic micronutrient deficiencies, such as iron, zinc and vitamin-A deficiencies.
The chronic kind of hunger is by far the most prevalent kind of hunger in the world, though it is more hidden and less recognized by the American public.
The Peanut Solution
The product may not look like much — a little foil packet filled with a soft, sticky substance — but its advocates are prone to use the language of magic and wonders. What is Plumpy’nut? Sound it out, and you get the idea: it’s an edible paste made of peanuts, packed with calories and vitamins, that is specially formulated to renourish starving children. Since its widespread introduction five years ago, it has been credited with significantly lowering mortality rates during famines in Africa. Children on a Plumpy’nut regimen add pounds rapidly, often going from a near-death state to relative health in a month. In the world of humanitarian aid, where progress is usually measured in subtle increments of misery, the new product offers a rare satisfaction: swift, visible, fantastic efficacy.
Fears grow over global food supply
(Financial Times) Russia announced a 12-month extension of its grain export ban, raising fears about a return to the food shortages and riots of 2007-08 which spread through developing countries dependent on imports
In Mozambique, where a 30 per cent rise in bread prices triggered riots on Wednesday and Thursday, the government said seven people had been killed and 288 wounded.
Oxfam, a British aid agency, warned that Niger faced disaster due to persistent flooding.
(BBC) Oxfam issued its warning as nearly eight million people, or half the population, are already facing hunger because of failed harvests. Now more than 100,000 people have been left homeless after heavy rains washed away their homes earlier this month, according to the United Nations.
Floods have destroyed crops, and thousands of animals have drowned.
Afghanistan, Africa top world food insecurity ranking
Afghanistan is the country most at risk to face food shortages, while Finland is the least likely, research agency Maplecroft said of a food security risk index compiled with the United Nations World Food Programme. African countries accounted for 36 of the top 50 out of 163 countries ranked in the index most likely to face food security issues. CNN (8/19), AlertNet.org/Reuters (8/18)
A fertile field for BHP
(The Economist) FEEDING the world is a noble ambition. For BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, the profits to be made from enriching the soil are an appetising prospect too. On Tuesday August 17th news emerged that PotashCorp (formerly Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan), itself the world’s largest fertilisers firm, had rejected a $38.6 billion takeover bid from BHP. The mining giant owns Jansen, a deposit of potash (an important fertiliser feedstock) close to PotashCorp’s own mines, and had been intending to invest heavily in potash anyway. But BHP has also been mulling recently how to make best use of a robust balance-sheet, the result of voracious Chinese appetite for metals over the past few years, and of canny management that saw BHP weather the credit crunch and economic downturn better than its competitors.
Grain price rise may fuel Mideast, Europe unrest
(Reuters) – Rising grain prices from Russia’s drought and fires will pressure populations already hit by the financial crisis and could stoke unrest — particularly in the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe.
Wheat prices have risen by nearly 70 percent since June after Russia suffered its worst drought in 130 years and are at their highest since 2008, when the last major food price rally sparked protests and riots in a string of emerging nations.
Drought doubles price of barley in six weeks
European feed barley rises 130 per cent since mid-June in response to the drought affecting Russia and Ukraine, prompting fears of increases in the cost of meat and poultry
Russia grain export ban sparks price fears
(FT) PM says ‘temporary restriction’ needed after severe drought ravages country’s grains crop, sending US wheat prices up almost 80% in a little over one month
(ABC News) Wheat prices spiked Thursday .. as [Russia] confronts grain shortages amidst drought and withering crops, a situation made worse by out-of-control wildfires.
The global ripple effect – other countries possibly hoarding food, grain supplies dwindling, commodities prices rising – is likely to impact a range of food companies and livestock farmers. … flooding in China is also going to cause rice shortages: “This could be just as important a story to the world’s food supply as the wheat shortages.” … There [is] more bad news. Locust swarms are threatening Australia’s crop and heavy rains are putting Canada’s crop at risk as well. But the wheat price spike also reflects the growing power of financial speculators.
Floods From Pakistan to North Korea Strain Aid as Global Food Costs Soar
(Bloomberg) At least 1.8 million people urgently need food supplies in Pakistan after the deadliest floods in 80 years, according to the United Nations World Food Programme [crops across the nation were damaged. Five percent of the nation’s rice crop has been damaged, the Rice Exporters Association said.] In North Korea, rains triggered landslides that blocked railways, destroyed homes and buried crops, piling on hardship for a country that already needs aid to feed its 24 million people. … China’s worst floods in more than a decade may cut production of rice and pork in the largest producer. Rice output may fall 5 percent to 7 percent, Li Qiang, managing director at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co., said this week. … The surge in wheat prices may fuel another food crisis as early as the fourth quarter this year, as millers seek cheaper substitutes for livestock feeds, sending prices of corn higher, and dragging with it the cost of soybeans, said Franciscus Welirang, chairman of the Flour Mills Association in Indonesia, Asia’s biggest importer of wheat.
Cleo Paskal advises that the Hari piece is based on a much longer one by Frederick Kaufman, The Food Bubble: How Wall Street starved millions and got away with it in the July issue of Harper’s.
Johann Hari: How Goldman gambled on starvation
Speculators set up a casino where the chips were the stomachs of millions. What does it say about our system that we can so casually inflict so much pain?
Until deregulation, the price for food was set by the forces of supply and demand for food itself. (This was already deeply imperfect: it left a billion people hungry.) But after deregulation, it was no longer just a market in food. It became, at the same time, a market in food contracts based on theoretical future crops – and the speculators drove the price through the roof.
Here’s how it happened. In 2006, financial speculators like Goldmans pulled out of the collapsing US real estate market. They reckoned food prices would stay steady or rise while the rest of the economy tanked, so they switched their funds there. Suddenly, the world’s frightened investors stampeded on to this ground.
So while the supply and demand of food stayed pretty much the same, the supply and demand for derivatives based on food massively rose – which meant the all-rolled-into-one price shot up, and the starvation began.
Algae trials test ‘wonder food’ status of spirulina
(SciDev.Net) A blue-green algae rich in protein could help curb global malnutrition if a US$1.7 million cultivation project in Chad — due to end in December — proves successful.
Dubbed a “miracle food” this cyanobacterium — known as spirulina — has been eaten around the world for centuries.
Analyses by industry and university laboratories reveal that almost 70 per cent of its dry weight is protein. It also has a small environmental footprint, needs little water, and can be cultivated in salty conditions harmful to other crops.
Surging food prices make many staples unaffordable
Families from Pakistan to Argentina to Congo are being battered by surging food prices that are dragging more people into poverty, fuelling political tensions and forcing some to give up eating meat, fruit and even tomatoes.
Scraping to afford the next meal is still a grim daily reality in the developing world even though the global food crisis that dominated headlines in 2008 quickly faded in the U.S. and other rich countries.
With food costing up to 70 per cent of family income in the poorest countries, rising prices are squeezing household budgets and threatening to worsen malnutrition, while inflation stays moderate in the United States and Europe. Compounding the problem in many countries: prices hardly fell from their peaks in 2008, when global food prices jumped in part due to a smaller U.S. wheat harvest and demand for crops to use in biofuels.
Chinese see salvation in spuds
China has turned to an unlikely tool in hopes to prevent famine, alleviate poverty and make the most of its dwindling arable land resources: the potato. Facing a population boom that will require it to produce 100 million additional tons of food every year by 2030, China has ramped up research and training in the cultivation of the potato — a food resource that produces more calories per acre and requires less water to grow than rice. The Washington Post (5/31)
UNCTAD 2010 Technology and Innovation Report – Enhancing Food Security in Africa Through Science, Technology and Innovation focuses on the challenges of improving agricultural performance in Africa and the role of technology and innovation in raising agricultural production and incomes of all farmers, including smallholder farms. The report argues that the main challenge is to strengthen the innovation capabilities of African agricultural systems as a means of addressing poverty, improving food security and achieving broader economic growth and development. More highlights
Wal-Mart Gives $2 Billion to Fight Hunger
The Wal-Mart Corporation announced plans on Wednesday to contribute $2 billion in cash and food to the nation’s food banks, one of the largest corporate gifts on record.
Over the next five years, the giant retail company will distribute some 1.1 billion pounds of food to food banks and provide $250 million to help those organizations buy refrigerated trucks, improve storage and develop better logistics.
FAO Launches Anti-hunger Petition
ROME, May 12 (Bernama) — Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Tuesday unveiled a major online petition calling on people to get angry at the fact that around a billion people suffer from hunger.
The 1billionhungry project” uses strong images to illustrate hunger at its worst. Bold language and typography grab attention saying that enough is enough.
Legal fight over Plumpy’nut, the hunger wonder-product
Should a revolutionary humanitarian food product be protected by commercial patent, when lifting restrictions might save millions of starving children?
(BBC) That is the moral conundrum at the heart of a bitter transatlantic legal dispute.
On one side are the French inventors of Plumpy’nut, a peanut paste which in the last five years has transformed treatment of acute malnutrition in Africa.
Nutriset, the Normandy-based company, says the patent is needed to safeguard production of Plumpy’nut in the developing world, and to stop the market being swamped by cheap US surpluses.
And on the other side are two American not-for-profit organisations that have filed a suit at a Washington DC federal court to have the patent overturned.
10 February 2010
Climate change set to reduce crop yield in Africa
Climate change will reduce production of five staple crops in Sub-Saharan Africa – maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut and cassava – by a mean of between 8 and 22%. And in all cases except cassava there’s a 5% chance that yields could drop by more than 27%. That’s according to researchers in the US who looked at historical data on crop production and weather.
One in three people in Sub-Saharan Africa is chronically hungry and national economies in the region are strongly dependent on agriculture.
2 February 2010
New investments in agriculture likely to fail without sharp focus on small-scale ‘mixed’ farmers
Smallholder farmers who feed much of the world today and are key to future global food security remain neglected by aid and policies
(Eureka) A new paper published today in Science warns that billions of dollars promised to fund programs to boost small-scale agriculture in developing countries are unlikely to succeed in feeding the world’s increasing populations. This is due not only to increasing populations and changing environments, but also to little “intellectual commitment” to the ubiquitous small-scale “mixed” farmers who raise both crops and animals and are the source of much of today’s food supplies and economic development.
Smallholder mixed farmers, particularly in Africa and Asia, have been overlooked by donors and policymakers because they typically cultivate small plots of land, where they grow modest amounts of staple crops such as rice and maize while also tending a few cows, goats or chickens. Yet collectively these farmers are feeding most of the world’s one billion poor people and they are the key to any efforts to intensify production in the developing world, according to the paper.
The analysis reports that small farms that combine crop and livestock production supply much of food staples of developing countries—41 percent of maize, 86 percent of rice and 74 percent of millet—and most of the meat and dairy products consumed in these regions as well. These so-called “mixed systems” can be models of efficient farming, with livestock providing the draft power to till the land and leftover crop residues serving as feed for animals. Moreover, the eggs, milk and meat from livestock routinely serve as important sources of regular household income, of high-quality protein, as well as a buffer against failed harvest
11 June 2009
Ethiopian scientist named 2009 Laureate
Gebisa Ejeta of Purdue University developed drought- and weed-resitant sorghum, enhancing food supply in sub-Saharan Africa
Dr. Gebisa Ejeta of Ethiopia has been named winner of the $250,000 World Food Prize for his monumental contributions in the production of sorghum, one of the world’s five principal cereal grains, which have dramatically enhanced the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.
20 February 2009
Newly Poor Swell Lines at Food Banks
Demand at food banks across the country increased by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year, according to a survey by Feeding America, which distributes more than two billion pounds of food every year. And instead of their usual drop in customers after the holidays, many pantries in upscale suburbs this year are seeing the opposite.
26 January 2009
Jeffrey Sachs: A breakthrough against hunger
Our response to the world food crisis is sadly inadequate – but we are proposing a new initiative to help
Today’s world hunger crisis is unprecedentedly severe and requires urgent measures. Nearly 1 billion people are trapped in chronic hunger – perhaps 100 million more than two years ago. With Spain’s leadership and United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s partnership, several donor governments are proposing to pool their financial resources so that the world’s poorest farmers can grow more food and escape the poverty trap.
The benefits of some donor help can be remarkable. Peasant farmers in Africa, Haiti, and other impoverished regions currently plant their crops without the benefit of high-yield seed varieties and fertilisers. The result is a grain yield (for example, maize) that is roughly one-third less than what could be achieved with better farm inputs. African farmers produce roughly one ton of grain per hectare, compared with more than four tons per hectare in China, where farmers use fertilisers heavily.