Pandemic Exposes Long-Standing Problems in the Global Food System

June 7, 2020

In a very short time, the response to the COVID-19 virus pandemic has exposed many of the long-standing structural weaknesses and inequalities of the global food system.  After years of steady progress in reducing the total number of chronically underfed people, the tide has turned backward, due to civil wars, crop failure, climate change, and now most recently—COVID-19.  The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that more than a quarter of a billion people face starvation this year due to the multiple impacts of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is accelerating global hunger in two key ways:  government-imposed lock-downs adversely affect the poor and unemployed families who are running out of money to buy food, even where it is still available. Ironically, due to the weakened demand stemming from a lack of cash, the FAO-monitored food price index has fallen to a 17-month low.  Also, many of these vulnerable families depend on school feeding programs to ensure that their children have access to nutritious food at least once a day. The closure of schools is depriving 370 million children of this critical source of nourishment.

Global food trade has also been disrupted. In Africa, many borders have been closed, consequently transporters cannot move food, resulting in significant food spoilage.  These localized disruptions have resulted in hoarding and have pushed up prices of staples such as rice.  In Senegal, trade restrictions and curfews have adversely affected the food economy, especially the seafood sector upon which the poor depend for livelihoods and sustenance.  Exacerbating the situation, some major grain producing countries exporters are contemplating controls on food exports. Such trade restrictions make a bad situation worse.  Food deficit countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which are suffering from rises in unemployment coupled with drastic reductions in tax and export revenues, now must find ways to feed millions.  International cooperation is desperately needed to assist with food surpluses from other parts of the global community.

While we must mobilize quickly and effectively to deal with the immediate adverse consequences of the pandemic on global hunger, at the same time we also must look to the future and think about how we can address our chronic food problems to be more resilient to future shocks such as drought, flood or plague.  To achieve this, we must invest in agricultural research—better yields, more drought-resistant crops, early warning systems, and sustainable farming.  We must assist small farmers to earn a decent income.  One way to do that is by strengthening local food systems by improving transport, refrigeration and food processing.  Finally, we must improve access to information and finance, so farmers can better navigate future shocks and more reliably produce the food we need.

The global community is more affluent now than ever before.  Our farmers have never produced so much food.  However, food like wealth is unevenly distributed – with devastating and preventable consequences.  In a resource-abundant world, hunger should now be a relic of the past.  Yet it isn’t.

To build a more sustainable and equitable global food system that provides affordable, nutritious and safe food for all, we need strong collaboration between governments, the private sector, academic institutions and intergovernmental bodies.  Together we can help not only those left hungry today and tomorrow by COVID-19, but those who are chronically vulnerable to hunger due to deficits in the global food system.  Now is the time to act to make food insecurity a distant memory.

 

 

Dr. Thoric CederstromAbout the Author: Dr. Thoric Cederström is the Director for Research and Learning for Food Enterprise Solutions which is actively implementing a five-year USAID Feed the Future initiative called Business Drivers for Food Safety.  Previous experience includes: Senior Advisor for Partnerships in Nutrition, World Food Program; Senior Manager for Agriculture in Nutrition, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); various positions with Save the Children, Counterpart International, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the University of Arizona.

 

 

 

The Impact of Global Climate Change on World Hunger

February 27, 2019

When most people think about the effects of climate change, they envisage the polar caps melting. Most do not consider the effects climate change will have on agriculture, and, as a result, world hunger. Here are a few ways in which these changes in climate and temperature may affect the world’s food supply.

Weather Conditions and Temperature Changes

Different continents are experiencing changes in temperature due to climate change. We are to blame for dramatic changes in temperature throughout the centuries and this can clearly be seen when you check out the temperature trends from the 1900’s to today. For example, the average annual temperature in Australia has risen year after year.

The difficulties associated with climate change are not limited to Australia; farmers in developing countries are also finding it difficult to grow food and crops. In areas where the temperature has risen, and rain comes less often, crops begin to fail. As rain seasons become harder to predict, farmers may plant their crops too late or too early. Even if farmers manage to plant their crops on time, they still risk losing their crops due to storms and droughts, things that in earlier days were few and far between. The consequences of failed crops can be disastrous for those already living in poverty.

Market Costs Can Rise

If agricultural production decreases due to climate change, then we can expect the price of food around the world to increase. With less food available to sell, what remains will become more valuable. As food becomes more expensive to produce, farmers and shopkeepers will need to charge a higher price so that they can still make money for themselves to purchase their own food. For some, even in developed countries, the rising cost of food can lead to poverty and world hunger.

Agriculture is Dying Out

As farming becomes more expensive and difficult, , agriculture is becoming a tradition no longer practiced. The temperature carries a lot of blame for this; with farmers no longer able to work out the best time to grow crops, they are giving up in search of other ways to bring income to their family.
Increasing temperatures are problematic for those who farm livestock, as well. Higher temperatures make it harder for animals to live; if farmers cannot provide enough fresh water to keep their livestock hydrated, they can become diseased or die of dehydration. Droughts are a big deal for all farmers. Unfortunately, as climate change increases the number of droughts, developing countries suffer the most.

Women and Children Are Most at Risk

Many women in developing countries do not get put through education. This means they are at a greater risk of going hungry, as their livelihoods often depend on physical tasks such as farming or selling foods at the market. Those with a higher education will be better off, even as temperature changes happen around the world. This is because those with a better education often have a better understanding of the world and know how to rebuild in the case of severe droughts or storms.

Those with a better education are usually in higher paying jobs, meaning that they are more financially prepared for a change in climate. This means even if disaster was to strike, they have the means to source food from elsewhere, without having to rely on the land. Furthermore, women often breastfeed their children, especially in developing countries and therefore require a stable diet with adequate calories to provide enough milk. If they are not getting this, they are more likely to become ill and unable to supply milk to their children.

Understanding climate change and the disastrous impact it can have worldwide is one way in which we can begin to change. Helping those in developing countries to build barns to protect their livestock from heat is just one simple way to limit world hunger. Ensuring every country has fresh, running water will also help when temperature rises cause problems.

About the Author: William is a climate/weather enthusiast who takes a great interest in topics related to both climate change and weather. He graduated with a degree in chemistry from the University of Dallas. He is currently retired and lives with his family in Dallas, TX.

*This is an independent article and does not necessarily reflect the views of WHES.

How urban agriculture can improve food security in US cities

During the partial federal shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019, news reports showed furloughed government workers standing in line for donated meals. These images were reminders that for an estimated one out of eight Americans, food insecurity is a near-term risk.

U.S. Global Nutrition Investments: The Lynchpin for Achieving Broader Health and Development Goals

Efforts to improve nutrition are among the most transformative and cost-effective interventions in global health and food security. Affecting one in three people globally, malnutrition is inherently intertwined with other pressing health and development challenges. As the single largest donor to global nutrition efforts, the United States plays a critical role in addressing malnutrition and advocating greater global support. Uganda, as a focal country of U.S. nutrition, health, food security, and agriculture initiatives, provides a specific lens through which to assess U.S. support and global opportunities for advancing nutrition. The CSIS Global Health Policy Center and the CSIS Global Food Security Project are co-hosting this event to launch their report from a recent research trip to the country and discuss the future of nutrition as a priority within U.S. development assistance policy.

Opening Remarks

Kimberly Flowers
Director, Global Food Security Project & Humanitarian Agenda

Panel Discussion

Alma Crumm Golden
Deputy Assistant Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Robert Mwadime
Chief of Party, USAID Integrated Community and Nutrition Activity (ICAN)
Meera Shekar
Global Lead, Health, Nutrition & Population, World Bank

Moderator

Sara M. Allinder
Deputy Director & Senior Fellow, Global Health Policy Center, CSIS
This event is made possible through the generous support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
For more information, or to register, please visit: https://www.csis.org/node/47407
Event will be webcast

Towards a Food Secure Future: Lessons from CIFSRF and beyond

Join IDRC and Global Affairs Canada in celebrating the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund’s (CIFSRF) achievements at the event “Towards a Food Secure Future: Lessons from CIFSRF and beyond.”

Over the course of nine years, CIFSRF aimed to improve food security and nutrition with applied, collaborative, results-oriented research to inform development practice. Implemented by IDRC and Global Affairs Canada, this CA$124 million fund supported 39 projects in 24 countries.

This event will showcase CIFSRF’s extensive innovations that range from:

  • new livestock vaccines;
  • nanotechnology;
  • improved fisheries,
  • aquaculture and home-gardens;
  • climate-resistant seed varieties;
  • low-cost machinery to reduce women’s drudgery; and
  • fortified salt and oil.

High-level experts and experienced stakeholders will explore how CIFSRF’s results can inform and help to improve our global food systems, including the role of women and girls in enacting change. Farmers and emerging Southern researchers will also offer their perspective on how CIFSRF has impacted their lives.

For more information, or to register, click here.