World Hunger 2011

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AGRA works to achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa through the promotion of rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers.
The Hunger site
UN World Food Program
Governance for a Resilient Food System
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North Koreans Reportedly in Danger of Mass Starvation
(Al Jazeera) In the past few years, North Korea has been hit by floods, droughts, and other natural disasters that have worsened the already fragile food supply. Long-standing political mismanagement has led to depleted food stores, a stagnant economy, and other woes. State-sponsored food rations are down to a 300-calorie serving of rice per day, according to some reports.
16 October
They live in a world of plenty, but one in seven will go hungry today
(the Independent) Enough crops can be grown to feed the planet. But spiralling grain prices, stock market speculation, climate change and corrupt and failing governments have left almost a billion people facing starvation.
Today is World Food Day. It might, if one heeds the words of Ban Ki-moon, be more suitably designated Global Lack of Nutrition Day. For, according to a statement by the Secretary-General of the United Nations this weekend, in a world that can produce enough food to feed everyone, nearly a billion people will go hungry today. And that is one in seven of us.
… a study of worldwide food insecurity by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) [estimates] that a total of 925 million people were undernourished in 2010, two-thirds of whom lived in just seven countries – Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan. The report makes a distinction between those living below subsistence level, and those in countries such as Somalia in “protracted crisis”. About 166 million in such places are starving or undernourished. Rising Food Prices – Nearly One Billion Go to Bed Hungry (YouTube)
Food sovereignty activists meet in Austria
Delegates from several dozen countries met last week in Austria to discuss their experiences in Europe with so-called food sovereignty, an outgrowth of the La Via Campesina movement driven by small-scale farmers and the landless in the developing world, including projects such as trying to limit the influence of agribusiness and organizing community-based agriculture. The Guardian (London)/Poverty Matters blog (8/26)
Study: Unrelenting high food prices trigger unrest
Elevated food prices sparked uprisings across the Middle East and Africa and may be cemented above the level that generally ignites unrest, according to a study from the New England Complex Systems Institute. Researchers predict that food-price levels on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s index will remain at levels that increase the likelihood of disruption to the global social order. The Guardian (London)/Damian Carrington’s Environment Blog (8/25)
African Union pledges drought aid
African Development Bank, alongside African nations and private donors, raise $356m to tackle worsening crisis.
(Al Jazeera) An African donors conference has pledged $356m to help more than 12 million people across the Horn of Africa suffering from the region’s worst drought in 60 years.
The African Development Bank offered $300m while African countries and other private donors raised the rest, the African Union Commission chief Jean Ping announced on Thursday.
The fund-raising conference, which was held in Ethiopia, was the first of its kind by the pan-African body, which has so far pledged only $500,000 of the needed $2.4bn to assist drought victims. AU leaders come under pressure to pledge aid for Horn of Africa
(The Guardian) African Union leaders meeting in Ethiopia are expected to commit $50m to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and neighbouring countries
UN food airlift under way to Somalia
Food is being readied to be airlifted by the UN World Food Programme into famine-stricken Somalia, where more than 3.5 million people are reportedly at risk of starvation brought on by drought in East Africa. UN agencies on Monday requested $1.6 billion from donor countries to assist malnourished people in drought-stricken areas over the next year, $300 million within the next three months, and asked private companies to donate trucks, ships and other logistical aids to speed the delivery of humanitarian assistance. BBC (7/26), The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model)/The Associated Press (7/26)

25 July
Somalia famine: Minister warns of starvation in rebel controlled areas
(The Guardian) Somalia’s deputy prime minister tells FAO meeting that people in areas controlled by Al-Shabaab may starve to death if aid does not reach them in the next few weeks
Ibrahim’s blunt warning came at an emergency summit in Rome organised by France, the current president of the G20, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as the world community seeks to mobilise help to relieve Somalia’s first famine in 18 years. Somalia’s deputy prime minister said the fundamental cause of the famine was the fragility of the state and enduring conflict that has hindered the provision of basic services. He also blamed insurgents who have blocked lifesaving aid.
WFP is working beyond immediate famine needs
A devastating combination of drought, elevated food prices and security concerns has left millions affected by famine across East Africa and immediate action is needed to support humanitarian efforts, World Food Programme official Greg Barrow writes. Beyond immediate assistance, humanitarian organizations are working to promote long-term sustainable solutions that will help residents in drought-prone areas better manage the effects. CNN (7/22)
Antiterror laws could impede US aid for Somalia famine victims
(CSM) Al Shabab, an Islamist group with links to Al Qaeda, controls famine-stricken regions in Somalia. The US is looking for ways to help starving Somalis while not breaking antiterror laws.
UN chief tries to rally world support for Somalia aid
Tens of thousands have already died in Somalia amid the ongoing crisis affecting 11 million people, labeled a famine Wednesday by the United Nations, brought on by conflict, high food prices and drought. Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the world body, is trying to focus world attention on the crisis and raise about $1.6 billion to save the lives of those at risk, the vast majority of whom are women and children. Los Angeles Times (7/22), CBS News/The Associated Press (7/20)
UN: Famine has struck Somalia
United Nations officials cited a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation as behind a decision to declare two Somali regions as famine areas. Drought has triggered famine in Bakool and Lower Shabelle, and more than 3.7 million people are in need of immediate assistance. Bloomberg (7/20), BBC (7/20)
MDG poverty targets look achievable, but hunger remains
While the world is on track to end extreme poverty by 2015 in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals, progress is lagging on meeting the parallel goal of eradicating hunger. The United Nations reports that economic growth in the developing world is expected to pace a reduction in the global poverty rate to less than 15% by 2015 — easily meeting the MDG target of 23%. High food prices, however, combined with limited access to food, continue to hamper efforts to reduce global hunger, according to the world body. The Guardian (London) (7/7)

New UN food chief lays out priorities
Jose Graziano da Silva, newly elected director of the UN food agency, said at a news conference Monday that “volatility is even worse than high prices” when it comes to feeding the nearly 1 billion malnourished people around the world. The world body’s Food and Agriculture Organization “could play an important role to help [poor] countries deal with price volatility,” Graziano said. The Globe and Mail (Toronto)/The Global Exchange blog (6/27), AlertNet/Reuters (6/27)
Annan touts Africa’s role in food security

Africa is the key to providing food security as the world battles rising food prices and increasing poverty, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says. Around 70% of Africans are involved in the agriculture sector, and a food revolution centered on enhancing the production of African farmers would turn Africa into a food-surplus region. The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model)/The Source blog (6/27)
Father of Brazilian food programme to lead FAO
(FT) Election splits membership on north-south lines, highlighting the challenge to bring together developed countries and emerging nations … The new head of the FAO was in charge of Brazil’s Zero Hunger programme, created by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003. The plan, which has been widely praised, reduced hunger in Brazil by half in six years.
Brazilian to take helm of UN food agency
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization on Sunday selected its first new leader in nearly 20 years amid criticism over its response to near-record-high food prices that have driven some 44 million people into poverty since June 2010. Brazil’s former minister of food security, Graziano da Silva, won over Spain’s Miguel Angel Moratinos Cuyaube by a vote of 92-88. Bloomberg (6/26), Reuters (6/26)
17 June
UN Report: Higher Food Prices Here to Stay
(Voice of America) Higher food prices and volatile commodity markets are here to stay. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD].
The report said a good harvest in the coming months “may keep prices below the extreme levels seen earlier this year.” But over the next 10 years, cereal prices could be 20 percent higher and meat prices 30 percent higher than in the last decade.

The New Geopolitics of Food
From the Middle East to Madagascar, high prices are spawning land grabs and ousting dictators. Welcome to the 21st-century food wars.

 

(Foreign Policy Magazine May/June 2011) Welcome to the new food economics of 2011: Prices are climbing, but the impact is not at all being felt equally. For Americans, who spend less than one-tenth of their income in the supermarket, the soaring food prices we’ve seen so far this year are an annoyance, not a calamity. But for the planet’s poorest 2 billion people, who spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food, these soaring prices may mean going from two meals a day to one. Those who are barely hanging on to the lower rungs of the global economic ladder risk losing their grip entirely. This can contribute — and it has — to revolutions and upheaval. … Get ready, farmers and foreign ministers alike, for a new era in which world food scarcity increasingly shapes global politics. How Food Explains the World — From China’s strategic pork reserve to a future where insects are the new white meat, 10 reasons we really are what we eat.

11 May
Nearly one-third of all food lost to waste, inefficiency
Approximately one-third of all the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted annually, according to a report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. A combined 1.3 billion tons of food is lost due to inefficiencies in production and processing, and wasted by being thrown away — some 222 million tons of which is lost or wasted in rich countries, an amount roughly equal to all the food produced in sub-Saharan Africa. CNNMoney.com (5/11)
4 May
Can the World Feed 10 Billion People?
With an exploding global population — and Africa’s numbers set to triple — the world’s experts are falling over themselves arguing how to feed the masses. Why do they have it so wrong?
(Foreign Policy) The world’s demographers this week increased their estimates of the world’s population through the coming century. We are now on track to hit 10 billion people by 2100. Today, humanity produces enough food to feed everyone but, because of the way we distribute it, there are still a billion hungry. One doesn’t need to be a frothing Malthusian to worry about how we’ll all get to eat tomorrow. Current predictions place most of the world’s people in Asia, the highest levels of consumption in Europe and North America, and the highest population growth rates in Africa — where the population could triple over the next 90 years. … It turns out that if you’re keen to make the world’s poorest people better off, it’s smarter to invest in their farms and workplaces than to send them packing to the cities. In its 2008 World Development Report, the World Bank found that, indeed, investment in peasants was among the most efficient and effective ways of raising people out of poverty and hunger.
27 April
How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis
Don’t blame American appetites, rising oil prices, or genetically modified crops for rising food prices. Wall Street’s at fault for the spiraling cost of food.
(Foreign Policy) It took the brilliant minds of Goldman Sachs to realize the simple truth that nothing is more valuable than our daily bread. And where there’s value, there’s money to be made. In 1991, Goldman bankers, led by their prescient president Gary Cohn, came up with a new kind of investment product, a derivative that tracked 24 raw materials, from precious metals and energy to coffee, cocoa, cattle, corn, hogs, soy, and wheat. They weighted the investment value of each element, blended and commingled the parts into sums, then reduced what had been a complicated collection of real things into a mathematical formula that could be expressed as a single manifestation, to be known henceforth as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI).
14 April
World Bank chief warns on food threat
Soaring prices have created a ‘toxic brew of real pain contributing to social unrest’, says Robert Zoellick, urging action by the Group of 20 as 44m people are said to have have fallen into extreme poverty
21 March
Global Water for Food Conference May 1-4 will explore food security solutions
International experts will explore potential solutions for growing more food with limited water to feed the world’s expanding population during the third annual global Water for Food Conference May 1-4 in Lincoln, Neb.
14 March
World at risk of another food crisis, UN body says
(arabianbusiness.com) Surging global prices of basic foodstuffs raise the risk that the food crisis of 2007-2008 in developing countries will be repeated, the head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said on Monday.
A jump in oil prices and the fast recent drawdown in global stocks of cereals could herald a supply crisis, FAO director general Jacques Diouf told Reuters in an interview during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.
North Africa food security is under threat
The longer the political crisis in Libya goes on, the greater the risk to food security in North Africa because of the region’s dependency on cereal imports, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. “In Libya, the situation may lead to a sudden disruption of imports and the collapse of the internal distribution system,” said a UN official. Reuters (3/11)
8 March
Sustainable Farming Can Feed the World?
(NYT Opinionator) The oldest and most common dig against organic agriculture is that it cannot feed the world’s citizens; this, however, is a supposition, not a fact. And industrial agriculture isn’t working perfectly, either: the global food price index is at a record high, and our agricultural system is wreaking havoc with the health not only of humans but of the earth. There are around a billion undernourished people; we can also thank the current system for the billion who are overweight or obese.
Yet there is good news: increasing numbers of scientists, policy panels and experts (not hippies!) are suggesting that agricultural practices pretty close to organic — perhaps best called “sustainable” — can feed more poor people sooner, begin to repair the damage caused by industrial production and, in the long term, become the norm.
Report: Agroecology and the right to food
The Special Rapporteur presented his new report “Agro-ecology and the right to food” before the UN Human Rights Council. Based on an extensive review of recent scientific literature, the report demonstrates that agroecology, if sufficiently supported, can double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty. Download report (.pdf)
Eco-farming could double food output of poor countries, says UN
(The Guardian) Report cites insect-trapping plants in Kenya and Bangladesh’s use of ducks in paddy fields, and resulting rise in crop yields
4 March
Global food prices continue to spike
As global food prices continue their surge into record territory, observers fear a corresponding spike in global unrest, particularly in developing countries. Prices rose 2.2% in February over the prior month’s record highs, and volatility in oil markets could push prices even higher in March, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The New York Times (free registration)/Greenwire (3/3), The Wall Street Journal (3/4), CBC.ca (Canada) (3/4)
21 February
Governments eye food market interventions
Commodities traders expect governments across Africa and Asia to play bigger roles in global food markets in efforts to stave off popular unrest like that currently being seen throughout the Middle East. Some might boost stockpiles and subsidies, while others might impose curbs on trade, to counteract higher costs for wheat, sugar and dairy products that last month took the UN World Food Price Index to a record high. Bloomberg (2/21)
17 February
To end the food crisis, the G20 must keep a promise
(FT) Rising prices for commodities are once again haunting the world economy with soaring food and energy prices posing severe economic, political and social risks in developing countries, writes Jeffrey Sachs
World Bank reports “dangerous” rises in prices of food
Some 44 million people worldwide have become impoverished since June as a result of rising prices for basic foods, according to the World Bank. Robert Zoellick, the bank’s president, said the “dangerous levels” of food costs have been aggravating factors in the unrest throughout the Middle East, while some observers believe revolts could spread to Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. BBC (2/15), AlertNet/Reuters (2/15), The Christian Science Monitor (2/15)
WFP reports soaring food costs
The UN World Food Programme bought 22% more food in 2010, but the amount it spent for food staples, especially grains, increased 30%. This differential points to the financial stresses involved in millions of the world’s poor at a time of rising prices. The Wall Street Journal (2/9)
UN, Ethiopia seek funds for emergency food aid
Ethiopian and United Nations officials launched a joint appeal to help provide emergency food aid for 2.8 million Ethiopians during 2011. Officials are asking donors for $227 million to fund food programs for the next six months. AlertNet/Reuters (2/7)

 

 

Hunger and food security: Is Africa selling the farm?
(CSM) Foreign investors see Africa as a breadbasket. Done well, investment could help with African hunger but create food security for the rest of the world.
The cover of the Feb. 7, 2011 issue of The Christian Science Monitor weekly magazine, Ethiopian farmer Eshete Eneyew threshes corn in Abay, north of Addis Ababa in 2009.

 

Social Forum slams Africa land-grab
(The Peninsula) A rush to buy up land in cash-starved Africa and other developing countries amid a growing global food crisis was one of the main focuses among dozens of workshops and debates held on the second day of the Forum.
At a discussion entitled: “Do not touch my land, it’s my life” Oxfam and the NGO Enda denounced landgrabbing by “foreign groups, Europeans, Asians” as well as “wealthy Africans.”
Senegalese Lamine Ndiaye with Oxfam mentioned “the case of a Libyan company which acquired 200,000 hectares in Mali, a private British company buying land in Tanzania” and other examples in Senegal, Ghana, Mozambique
and Ethiopia.
Revolution: From Food Aid to Food Assistance – Innovations in Overcoming Hunger
Global food prices at record high
The monthly food price index published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization rose last month by 3.4%, the seventh consecutive month of increases. The figure, 231 points, is the highest since the world body began monitoring prices in 1990, and reflects higher prices worldwide for cereal, sugar and vegetable oils. The Wall Street Journal (2/3)
25 January
Era of low-cost food is over, study warns
(FT) The era of cheap food is at an end, with the real prices of key crops set to rise 50-100 per cent during the next 40 years, according to a UK government report
Emerging nations scramble to counter soaring food costs
Governments throughout the developing world are implementing a variety of measures — such as price caps, export bans and new rules designed to soften commodities speculation — in a bid to curb rising costs for food. The head of the UN World Food Programme said Monday that countries that fail to address surges in food and fuel prices risk not only economic, but political, instability. The Wall Street Journal (1/25) , Bloomberg (1/24)
How speculation undermines food security
Speculation in international agricultural markets could lead to drastic swings in the prices of food that, in turn, could lead to riots like those seen in 30 countries in 2008, according to several dozen world agriculture ministers. “We don’t want to accept this speculation on agricultural commodities, which undoubtedly enriches a lot of people but which impoverishes the rest of the planet,” said French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire. Bloomberg (1/23) , BBC (1/24)
Sarkozy Calls for G-20 to Regulate Commodities, Price Swings
(Bloomberg) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy said regulation of commodity markets will be a priority as he leads the Group of 20 nations this year, and inaction may cause food rioting in the world’s poorest countries.
Some commodity markets lack safeguards to limit price spikes and “price manipulation,” Sarkozy said at a press briefing in Paris today. France’s head of state said he asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to help study the role of derivatives in commodity-price swings.
10 January
(FP) Recent events are driving other issues higher on the [G20] agenda; if food riots keep breaking out, for example, that issue might dwarf others by the time the G20 leaders convene in Paris later this year. World Bank president Robert Zoellick has been beating the drum in the past few weeks about the need for the G-20 to put food prices at the top of its agenda.
8 January
G20 to tackle food prices as countries reassure
(Reuters) – The world’s biggest economies are working to find ways to bring down soaring food prices, a G20 official said on Friday, as top exporter Thailand vowed to keep rice supply steady and avert a repeat of the 2008 food crisis.
Global food prices hit a record high last month, outstripping the levels that sparked riots in several countries in 2008, and key grains could rise further, the United Nations’ food agency said this week.
Policymakers are concerned that, if unchecked, rising food prices could stoke inflation, protectionism and unrest.
7 January
PLAYING GOD ON A LIMITED BUDGET: The Challenge of Deciding Who to Feed
(Spiegel) The United Nations’ World Food Program tries to stop the poorest of the poor from going hungry. But its budget has dwindled during the crisis as donor countries focus on their own economic problems. Aid workers face the unpleasant task of deciding who gets food — and who doesn’t.
Africa looks to become food secure
The agriculture development plans of 18 African countries underwent a review and overhaul in 2010 as part of the African Union’s bid to make the continent more food self-sufficient. More than 60% of the continent’s population live in rural areas and rely on farming for their food and income. IRINNews.org (1/6)
UNFAO food price index rises sharply
The wholesale costs of farm commodities surged last month beyond levels of the 2007-08 food crisis, prompting the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to warn of “food price shock” worldwide. The prices, which have led to problems and riots in the past, are expected to remain high all year. The New York Times (1/5) , The Washington Post/Financial Times (1/5)

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