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How do Different Indicators of Household Food Security Compare? - Maxwell &al (2013) - Tufts

With recent food crises at both regional and global levels, and renewed commitments from major donor countries to address chronic hunger, food security is more prominent on the policy agenda today than it has been in the past. This has intensified the search for accurate, rapid, and consistent indicators of food security. Different measures of the access dimension of food insecurity are used interchangeably, without a good idea of which food-security dimensions are captured by which measures, increasing the risk that the number of food-insecure individuals is underestimated. This paper draws on four rounds of data from a panel survey of 300 rural households in northern Ethiopia to compare seven different measures collected across all rounds... 

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Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security

Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security | Food Policy | Scoop.it

When measuring food and nutrition security, focusing on proxy indicators such as food availability, or on selected head count figures such as stunting rates, gives an incomplete picture. Outcome-based global burden of disease (GBD) studies offer an alternative for monitoring the burden of chronic and hidden hunger. Judging by this measure, the international goal of halving global hunger between 1990 and 2015 has already been achieved.

 

Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) that are used as metric in GBD studies can be converted into more easily understood monetary terms. The resulting estimate of the annual cost of global hunger of up to 1.9 trillion international dollars may be better suited to illustrate the magnitude of the remaining problem...

 

It is pertinent to recall why we are concerned about hunger and malnutrition: because of the negative consequences it has for people’s health and well-being. Food and nutrition insecurity is usually defined in terms of what determines hunger... However, to measure hunger... the outcome of food and nutrition insecurity, i.e. the burden of disease that is caused by hunger, should be used...

 

One challenge when trying to measure health outcomes of undernutrition is the multitude of adverse health consequences that can be attributed to hunger, in particular to micronutrient deficiencies... Therefore the question is whether health can be measured in a consistent way across such diverse outcomes. To make the burden imposed by different health outcomes comparable... the World Bank introduced the concept of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)...

 

The WHO used DALYs to quantify the global burden of disease (GBD), for which it reported results at the country level and for a range of health outcomes. Based on these readily available data, DALYs can be used to quantify the global burden of hunger... A more recent GBD study... represents an improvement since it covers more causes and risk factors of poor nutrition... per year more than 160 million DALYs are lost due to hunger, which is more than 6 percent of the total burden of disease...

 

While... using DALYs to measure hunger is a better approach... one challenge for the use of DALYs is their abstractness: what exactly is a “disability-adjusted life year”? ... One way of illustrating the magnitude of the burden of hunger is to express it in money... While there are obvious problems with the monetization of social costs... it offers a coherent framework that permits conducting the kind of broad analyses and comparisons that are needed to guide policy making...

 

Using this approach produces an estimate for the global cost of hunger of Int$1.9 trillion per year, or 2.4 percent of world income. One indication that the global cost of hunger falls indeed into the trillion-dollar range is the estimate for the worldwide cost of undernutrition of US$1.4 trillion to US$2.1 trillion that the FAO gives... using a very different approach...

 

The “cost” of hunger is an opportunity cost, i.e. it provides an estimate for the additional annual national income that society foregoes by not solving undernutrition... One estimate of the costs that would have to be incurred to reach more than 80 percent of the world’s undernourished children with key nutrition interventions suggests this could be as (relatively) little as $10 billion a year, i.e. only one-hundredth of the current cost of hunger...

 

It is interesting to compare the estimate of the number of hungry people with that of the number of DALYs lost due to hunger over time. Judging by the FAO’s indicator, the achievement of MDG 1 is not very likely. However, if the objective was indeed more generally to “reduce hunger by half”, this has already been achieved – if hunger is measured using DALYs... in 1990 the burden of hunger was 320 million DALYs lost, but by 2010 this burden had already shrunk by half to 160 million DALYs lost...

 

The discrepancy in the assessment of the development of global hunger if based on food availability versus actual health outcomes might be surprising, but as... discussed above, food availability is but one determinant of (or input into) hunger, whereas DALYs measure the outcome of hunger that results from all inputs combined. In this case – in the presence of other, uncorrelated inputs into hunger that change over time – an indicator that monitors only one input is bound to show a different development than an indicator that measures the final outcome...

 

Not least in light of the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda... it is important that agreed-upon targets can be operationalized based on indicators that allow precise monitoring of progress… Stakeholders in food and nutrition security need to be aware of the advantages of outcome-based measures like DALYs... those working on GBD studies should pay more attention to undernutrition and to related health risks, and more frequent updates of the GBD or relevant subsets could further increase the usefulness of DALYs...

 

Using DALYs to quantify the burden of hunger has shown that the international efforts to improve global welfare are bearing fruit and that progress in the fight against undernutrition has been more rapid than is generally believed. Still, the problem of global hunger remains unresolved, and its magnitude becomes especially apparent when approximated in more familiar monetary terms. With more detailed, country-level DALYs data becoming available, further research can determine in which countries and for which nutrition-related health outcomes the biggest reductions in the burden of hunger have been achieved – and it can help explain why...

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2014.09.003

 

Audio-slides, 4 min.: http://audioslides.elsevier.com/ViewerSmall.aspx?doi=10.1016/j.gfs.2014.09.003

 

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Has the Green Revolution Really Succeeded? - Columbia U (2015)

Has the Green Revolution Really Succeeded? - Columbia U (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Over the past 50 years, human population has more than doubled, but cereal-crop production has grown even faster. Mechanization, synthetic fertilizers, new high-yield seeds and other advances in intensified agriculture have enabled us not only to keep up, but to actually reduce world hunger... 1960s doomsday scenarios of mass starvation have not materialized... 

 

Quantity does not equal quality... researchers... point out that the plentiful cereals now grown are generally lower in nutrients per unit weight than old-fashioned crops. Farms are producing more bulk for more people; but many are still not getting enough macronutrients such as protein, nor micronutrients such as iron, needed for good health... Calls for more realistic metrics to measure and regulate global food supply.

 

The world’s cereal supply has grown by some 220 percent since around 1965, well outpacing a concurrent 130 percent population increase. This is due largely to intensified cultivation of just three crops:  rice, wheat and maize. In this time, the area planted in the big three increased from about two-thirds of cereal acreage to nearly 80 percent; yields per acre rose sharply as well. The switch came at the expense of other crops, such as barley, oats, rye, millet and sorghum; these collectively declined from a third of planted area to less than 20 percent.

The problem: many of the older crops carried dramatically higher counts of nutrients per calorie. Thus, the amount of cereal each person must consume to fulfill daily dietary requirements has gone up. For instance, the iron content of millet is four times that of rice. Oats carry four times more zinc than does wheat. And so on. As a result, between 1961 and 2011, the protein, zinc and iron contents of the world’s directly consumed cereals declined by 4 percent, 5 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Cereals remain by far the major component of diet in many countries, especially in India and other fast-growing nations. And, despite the huge food supply... some 2 billion to 3 billion people are still undernourished, overweight or deficient in micronutrients. In North America, some 12 percent of women of reproductive age are deficient in iron; in west Africa, the figure is 50 percent. It should be pointed out that this is not all due to lower-nutrient crops; starkly unequal distribution of income and food is a major factor... 

“We need to use land efficiently to produce nutritious food – not just larger quantities of food... The current metrics of agricultural production tell us only the tons or calories per hectare. They just don’t account for nutrition”... more advanced crop metrics that include nutrient content would help promote food systems with mixes of nutritious crops, as well as biofortified crops and better management of soil fertility...

 

http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2015/07/16/has-the-green-revolution-really-succeeded/

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa5766

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"1960s doomsday scenarios of mass starvation have not materialized". Indeed, so the Green Revolution has succeeded in avoiding wide-spread famines and quite likely the death of hundreds of thousands of people. Of course, now that these people were saved from starvation, a next step is necessary to ensure that they and their kids not only not starve, but actually can have access to a balanced and nutritious diet that enables them to have healthy and fulfilled lives... 

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How Consumer Price Subsidies affect Nutrition - Kaushal & Muchomba (2015) - World Development

How Consumer Price Subsidies affect Nutrition - Kaushal & Muchomba (2015) - World Development | Food Policy | Scoop.it

We study the effect of an exogenous increase in food grain subsidy from a program targeting the poor in rural India and find that the increase in income resulting from the subsidy increased consumption of the subsidized grains and certain more expensive sources of nutrition, lowered consumption of coarse grains, the cheaper, yet, unsubsidized staple food, and increased expenditures on nonfood items but had no effect on nutrition in poor households. Estimates of the price effect of the subsidy on nutrition are also negligible; the price subsidy increased consumption of wheat and rice and lowered consumption of coarse grains. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2015.04.006

 

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Africa's Rising Demand for Wheat: Trends, Drivers, and Policy Implications - Mason &al (2015) - Dev Pol Rev

Africa's Rising Demand for Wheat: Trends, Drivers, and Policy Implications - Mason &al (2015) - Dev Pol Rev | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This article analyses trends in wheat consumption and imports in sub-Saharan Africa since 1980, and estimates the economic and demographic determinants of this rising demand for wheat.


Results point to rising incomes, growing populations, and increasing women's labour-force participation as key drivers. Urban wheat-expenditure shares generally exceed rural ones and SSA's demand is met largely by imports and partly through domestic production on large-scale farms. Rising demand may therefore entail few farm–non-farm synergies and minimal prospects to spur broad-based economic development.


The article concludes by discussing policy options for African countries to meet their staple food needs while also promoting pro-poor agricultural growth. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/dpr.12129

 

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Cutting carbon emissions could have indirect effects on hunger - ACS (2015)

Cutting carbon emissions could have indirect effects on hunger - ACS (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

As many of the world’s nations prepare and implement plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions... a new study has found... that efforts to keep global temperatures in check will likely lead to more people going hungry. That risk... doesn’t negate the need for mitigation but highlights the importance of comprehensive policies.

Previous studies have shown that climate change reduces how much food farms can produce, which could lead to more people suffering from hunger. Curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change can help maintain the yields of existing crops. But there might be indirect ways in which cutting emissions could actually put more people at risk of going hungry.

 

For example, some grasses and other vegetation used for biofuels require agricultural land that might otherwise be used for food production. So, increased biofuel consumption could negatively affect the food supply. Also, the high cost of low-emissions technologies such as carbon capture and storage will be borne by consumers, who will then have less money to spend on food...

The researchers used multiple models to determine the effects of strict emissions cuts and found that many more people would be at risk of hunger than if those cuts weren’t in place. The team concludes that governments will have to take measures, such as increasing food aid, as they address climate change.

 

http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2015/acs-presspac-june-10-2015/cutting-carbon-emissions-could-have-indirect-effects-on-hunger.html

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es5051748

 

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Environmental costs of China’s food security - Norse & Ju (2015) - AEE

Environmental costs of China’s food security - Norse & Ju (2015) - AEE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

China’s successful achievement of food security in recent decades has resulted in serious damage to the environment upstream of the agricultural sector, on farm and downstream. The environmental costs of this damage are not only agro-ecosystem function and the long-term sustainability of food production, but also bio-physical including human health with impacts at all levels from the local to the global, and with economic loss estimates ranging from 7 to 10% of China’s agricultural gross domestic product (GDP)... 

 

Since the 1980s most of the environmental costs have been related to the intensification of first grain production stimulated by high nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation subsidies, and then vegetable production and fruit trees, with the overuse and misuse of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and manure being the dominant cause of eutrophication, soil acidification and high greenhouse gas emissions. However, during the last 10 years or so the expansion of intensive livestock production has become a serious cause of direct and indirect air and water pollution and is destined to be the main agricultural threat to China’s environment... Strategy should focus on improving nutrient management to limit nitrogen overuse, which is now the main cause of the economic losses from agriculture’s damage to the environment... 

 

The environmental costs of food production are at least US $32-67 billion and are equivalent to about 3-7% of agricultural GDP. In addition there are direct economic costs of the overused N fertilizers about US $5.5 billion (at wholesale prices). Some of the costs have been reduced by past policies, for example, the costs of soil erosion from cultivated steep slopes have declined over the last 10-30 years because of the Grain for Green programme and China’s extensive afforestation measures. But the largest costs namely those stemming from the overuse and mismanagement of nitrogen in synthetic fertilizers and manure have continued to grow and are projected to get worse... 

 

Although there has been recent progress in reducing the overuse of synthetic N fertilizer on crops this has not compensated for the increasing N losses from the rapidly expanding livestock sector.

There are additional costs that arise from the lost food production because of greater pest attacks and soil acidification... 

 

The largest proportion of this environmental damage (over 80%) arises from the serious N (and secondarily P) mismanagement in the crop and livestock sectors. This mismanagement is not sustainable... Strategy should be drawn up around the identification of environmental pollution hotspots so that technical manpower and capital resources can be allocated efficiently. In the case of N losses these hotspots will vary in scale. In the case of cereals some of the hotspots may be almost provincial in scale... 


The temporal criteria should focus on those measures that can be implemented and have their impact on the time scale of China’s Five Year Plans, for example, the removal of subsidies for synthetic N fertilizer production, and on the expansion of the mechanisation of precision fertilizer placement.

 

Finally, the dominant economic criteria should be the marginal cost of alternative approaches for pollution control. For example, integrated nutrient management (INM) measures to reduce GHG emissions are commonly less expensive than alternative actions in the industrial sector. Similarly, the reduction of N leaching by INM is a cheaper approach to achieving drinking water standards than specialized water treatment.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2015.02.014

 

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Investigating demand for biofortified seeds in developing countries: High-iron pearl millet in India - Birol &al (2015) - JADEE

Investigating demand for biofortified seeds in developing countries: High-iron pearl millet in India - Birol &al (2015) - JADEE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The purpose of this paper is to explore farmer acceptance of a biofortified staple food crop in a developing country prior to its commercialization. The paper focuses on the hypothetical introduction of a high-iron pearl millet variety in Maharashtra, India, where pearl millet is among the most important staple crops.

choice experiment is used to investigate farmer preferences for and trade-offs among various production and consumption attributes of pearl millet. The key pearl millet attributes studied include days it takes pearl millet to mature, color of the roti (flat bread) the grain produces, the presence of high-iron content (nutritional attribute), and the price of the pearl millet seed... 

 

High-iron pearl millet is valued the most by larger households that produce mainly for household consumption and currently have lower quality diets. Households that mainly produce for market sales, on the other hand, derive lower benefits from consumption characteristics such as color and nutrition... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JADEE-02-2014-0008

 

 

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The Big Waste: Why Do We Throw Away So Much Food? - Yale Env 360 (2015)

The Big Waste: Why Do We Throw Away So Much Food? - Yale Env 360 (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

A glaring paradox of the U.S. food system is that while no country produces food as efficiently, no country wastes as much. Every year, 30 to 40 percent of what is grown and raised in the United States is thrown away or rots between farms and kitchens. That’s a startling 133 billion pounds of food – more than enough to feed the 800 million people worldwide who face hunger every day...

Washington, and the U.S. as a whole, has taken only minor steps to reduce this enormous waste and its related human and environmental costs. By contrast, Seoul has adopted innovative programs to minimize the amount of food that ends up going to landfills to rot... 

The environmental impact of our wastefulness is extraordinarily high, considering the huge amount of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, and other resources needed to grow and transport food. And when it is dumped in landfills, decaying garbage releases vast amounts of methane. If global food waste were a country, it would rank third in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

The bounty most people in the U.S. enjoy has given rise to a culture of waste. “I think if you really dig down to what’s going on here... it’s that people don’t value their food.”

 

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/the_big_waste_why_do_we_throw_away_so_much_food/2874/

 

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Developing country consumers’ acceptance of biofortified foods: a synthesis - Birol &al (2015) - Food Sec

Developing country consumers’ acceptance of biofortified foods: a synthesis - Birol &al (2015) - Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The success of biofortified staple crops depends on whether they are accepted and consumed by target populations. In the past... several studies were undertaken to understand consumers’ acceptance... measured in terms of their sensory evaluation and economic valuation of biofortified varieties vis-à-vis conventional ones.

 

These studies apply expert sensory panel and hedonic trait analyses methods adopted from food sciences literature, as well as various preference elicitation methods... adopted from experimental economics literature.

 

These studies also test the impact of various levers on consumers’ evaluation and valuation for biofortified foods... (i) nutrition information and the media through which such information is conveyed; (ii) the length and content of nutrition information; (iii) different branding options; (iv) the nature of the branding/certification agency that is endorsing the biofortified staple food; and (v) the nature of the agency that is delivering the biofortified staple food.

 

This paper brings together evidence on consumer acceptance of biofortified crops... across 7 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The results of these studies are expected to aid in the development of biofortified crops that consumers like, as well as in the development of appropriate marketing and consumer awareness or information campaigns to encourage the switch in consumption from traditional staples to biofortified ones...

 

Biofortified foods are liked by target consumers, in some cases even in the absence of information about their nutritional benefits, though information and awareness campaigns often have an important role to play... Each study has generated results that are specific to the crop-country-micronutrient combination, owing to the heterogeneity, especially in culture and individual specific preferences... Therefore it is important to conduct these studies for each crop-country-micronutrient combination so as to be able to generate relevant information for the success of development, delivery and marketing of biofortified foods.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-015-0464-7

 

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De-mystifying family farming: Features, diversity and trends across the globe - Vliet &al (2015) - Global Food Sec

De-mystifying family farming: Features, diversity and trends across the globe - Vliet &al (2015) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Family farms are defined by two criteria: the importance of family labour and the transfer of ownership, land tenure or management to the next generation. Most farms across the globe are family farms, and they vary in size from <1 ha to >10,000 ha.

 

Trends in farm size (small farms getting smaller and large farms getting larger) are not directly related to farm ownership and do not necessarily impact global food security. Rather, both the causes and effects of farm size trends depend on the availability of farm resources and off-farm employment opportunities. Similarly, environmental sustainability, though impacted by agriculture, cannot be linked directly to family ownership or farm size.

 

To address issues related to environment, social conditions and food security, focus should not be on the preservation of family farms but on transformations to strive for environmental, social and economic sustainability of farming in all its shapes and forms... 

 

Development pathways and trends in agriculture differ from region to region depending on varying agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts. Concerns have been raised regarding the impact of current trends on food security, environmental sustainability and rural livelihoods.


We conclude that distinguishing between family farms and non-family farms does not help in explaining trends in (economic) farm size. Also, farm size and intensity do not necessarily impact global food security... Environmental sustainability cannot be directly linked to family farming, nor to farm size or intensity... It is clear that to achieve sustainability in agriculture, all types of farms have to be considered based on their merits...


In developing countries, small farms persist where there are few off-farm employment opportunities, forcing people to stay in agriculture while rural poverty increases... Policies could help the small farms which are under threat of becoming economically unviable to adapt, for instance through cooperation or diversification within or outside agriculture. Supporting unviable farms may encourage too many people to remain in agriculture, stressing the importance of policies to support viable exit strategies.


In conclusion, it is doubtful whether a specific focus on family farming is either necessary or helpful... For the majority of family farms their survival will depend on transformation rather than reservation. Policies need to address the long-term economic viability of farming in all its shapes and forms.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2015.03.001

 

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Is land grabbing always what it is supposed to be? Large-scale land investments in sub-Saharan Africa - Holmén (2015) - Dev Pol Rev

Is land grabbing always what it is supposed to be? Large-scale land investments in sub-Saharan Africa - Holmén (2015) - Dev Pol Rev | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The term ‘land grabbing’ has recently attracted widespread, and sometimes agitated, attention, and its literature grows at exponential speed. At the same time, the concept remains little understood concerning both its meaning, magnitude and consequences and even who the grabbers are.

 

Different attempts to define land grabbing appear to reflect ideological lenses and pre-defined positions rather than a genuine ambition to find out what is actually going on. Based on a comprehensive literature review, this article aims at presenting a more nuanced understanding of this disputed topic and therefore a less biased account of what land-grabbing and/or private investments in land represent... 

 

Governments in Africa are currently facing some harsh realities. Population prospects and low technology use call for massive investments in order to boost agricultural productivity. With insufficient fiscal capacity, and the low propensity of the domestic private sector to invest, it is tempting to hope for external solutions. If these materialise on a grand scale, there is an obvious possibility that the opening of Africa for foreign investors will result in a polarised agrarian structure with ‘islands of growth’, i.e. large-scale modern, well capitalised, mechanised and partly foreign-owned farming with an export orientation, surrounded by a ‘sea of poverty’ i.e. subsistence-oriented, low-tech food staples-oriented smallholders with limited access to credit, markets and extension... 

 

Sub-Saharan Africa still does not seem to be as interesting to foreign land-investors as many want to believe. The sub-continent is not overwhelmed by predatory foreign land grabbers. Instead, governments compete to attract investors. But it will be necessary to avoid investments creating enclaves of advanced agriculture that are detached from local realities... Consequently, there seems to be little need for quick foreign fixes. Instead, most critics of ‘land grabbing’ want to base development on the small farmer, which sounds immediately appealing. However, African governments are well aware that this has been tried before. Such policies became costly and ineffective... Governments do not expect much from the poor, semi-subsistence-oriented smallholder peasants, especially not since many tend to give up on longer-term strategies and concentrate on day-to-day survival.

 

Many critics of land grabbing (GRAIN, Oakland Institute, ViaCampesina) apparently want to preserve smallholder agriculture for its own sake. A pertinent question then is ‘How small?’ With the average size of a family farm around one or two hectares and subdivision of holdings a continuing problem, it is obvious that farm size has to grow and that many smallholders will have to leave agriculture. One should be careful not to romanticise smallholder agriculture. Africa needs development and development is about diversification. In this sense, those who criticise land acquisitions because they lead to concentration and ‘controlling a scale of land which is disproportionate in size in comparison to average holdings in the region’ completely disregard what development is all about.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/dpr.12118

 

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AckerbauHalle's curator insight, April 25, 11:36 PM

Land Grabbing wird in den Medien als extrem problematisch diskutiert, dabei ist es oft schwierig zu definieren, ob es sich um notwendige oder wünschenswerte Investitionen handelt, oder tatsächlich um kritische Übernahmen. 

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Systems, food security and human health - Springer - Friel & Ford (2015) - Food Sec

Systems, food security and human health - Springer - Friel & Ford (2015) - Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Food security is not just a food policy issue. What, when, where and how much people eat is influenced by a complex mix of factors at the societal and individual levels. These influences operate both directly through the food system and indirectly through political, economic, social, and cultural pathways – peoples’ dietary behaviours are a response to the broader daily living conditions in which they are born, live, learn, work and age. In this paper we propose that to address food insecurity and diet-related death and disease, policy must tackle the systemic problems that generate poor nutrition in all its forms, and reflect how our food systems are making people sick. This has implications for economic, agriculture, food, social and health policy at the global, regional, national and local levels... 

 

The accumulating international evidence highlights that the empowerment of all social groups and nations to achieve food security is influenced by conditions of everyday life – those daily social experiences; physical environments; financial resources, and material living conditions. Promoting food security also means tackling some of the fundamental political, economic and cultural influences on people’s living conditions and their local food environments.

 

Traditionally, societies have looked predominantly to the health sector to deal with its concerns about food and nutrition and diet-related health. Technical and medical solutions such as disease control and medical care are, without doubt, necessary for diseases of malnutrition but they are insufficient. Action is needed throughout the whole food system, in trade and investment arrangements; in matters of environment, income and place. Food security is therefore an issue that cuts across many policy domains including economic, social, environmental and food policies.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-015-0433-1

 

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The impact of grain self-sufficiency regime on regional welfare and agricultural productivity in China - Selim (2015) - Ag Econ

The impact of grain self-sufficiency regime on regional welfare and agricultural productivity in China - Selim (2015) - Ag Econ | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The nineties’ agricultural reforms in China that were aimed at deregulating the agricultural market eventually resulted in a huge drop in agricultural production and a high rate of inflation in agricultural input prices; this apparently motivated the government to introduce the grain self-sufficiency regime in 1998.


We examine how and to what extent this reform affected the productivity and welfare of grain farmers in China at the regional level. We find that the price regulations that destroyed the incentive to exert more effort adversely affected the growth in agricultural productivity but contributed to the growth in farmers’ welfare.


Although the price regulations resulted in short-term improvement in welfare across all the regions, in the long run such regulations can potentially result in larger drop in agricultural production because of its negative impact on the incentives to produce more.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/agec.12156

 

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How to Write the World’s To-Do List - New Yorker (2015)

How to Write the World’s To-Do List - New Yorker (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

In 2000, the United Nations... established a series of eight goals to help the world’s poorest people. The Millennium Development Goals, as they were known, were an attempt to address the most basic requirements of human life: reducing the child-mortality rate by two-thirds, reversing the course of the AIDS epidemic, vastly increasing the number of people with regular access to safe drinking water. Other targets sought to move closer to a world without poverty or hunger, in which common diseases have been defeated – a world with universal primary education, gender equality, improved maternal health, and environmental sustainability.

Taken together, the M.D.G.s, which were meant to be completed by the end of this year, can be regarded as the largest collective promise that the world’s governments have ever made to their citizens... Depending upon how one interprets the words in the goals, progress has been mixed. We have not been able to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty, for example, or to lower maternal mortality by two-thirds. And while improved drinking water has been extended to more than 2.6 billion people since 1990... more than six hundred and fifty million still lack access to safe water, and nearly a billion people have no sanitation facilities at all. Inequality has deepened between men and women, between rich and poor, and between much of the developed world and the poorest countries, particularly in Africa.

Yet goals are often a combination of guesswork and dreams. And it has become too easy to make the mistake of thinking... that we ought not to have bothered. There has never been more prosperity, possibility, or promise for a higher proportion of the Earth’s population than there is today. Fewer than half as many people live in complete poverty... as did twenty-five years ago. And although we did not reach the goal of reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds, there is no country... where infant or child mortality is higher than it was before... Between 1990 and 2013, vaccination rates rose dramatically, and mortality rates for children under five declined by forty-nine per cent... Today... a child born in one of the world’s poorest nations is likely to live longer than the richest Americans lived a century ago.

Nonetheless, as the M.D.G. deadline approaches, many people have been left behind. At least a billion people go to bed hungry each night. Millions of women are treated nearly as slaves, and a horrifying number still die in childbirth.

This September, the U.N. will meet to ratify a much broader set of targets – this time called the Sustainable Development Goals... Officially, there are seventeen new goals – and the environment... will receive much-needed attention. But with scores of countries participating in consultations, there are now hundreds of targets, sub-targets, and ancillary targets within the over-all goals. Whether one supported the M.D.G.s or not, it is hard to deny that they provided a focal point – and some sense of shame – for governments and N.G.O.s attempting to eradicate poverty. It will be nearly impossible to focus on the S.D.G.s in the same way because... many seem so broad that they will be easy to ignore.

“Having 1,400 targets is like having none at all, and so governments need to make some hard choices, deciding which targets will offer the greatest returns on investment,’’ Bjørn Lomborg... has written... He argues that the U.N. is diluting its power by attempting to eliminate all problems. He is undoubtedly correct. Costs in the S.D.G. plan rarely seem to be linked to benefits. “Of course, economics alone should not determine the world’s top development aims over the next decade and a half... But ignoring costs doesn’t make difficult choices disappear; it makes them less clear.”

Lomborg is often criticized for his focus on economic calculations – which, he has written, indicate that it would be less effective in the next twenty years to spend money on preventing climate change than on universal education, expanding trade opportunities, or cutting back on indoor pollution caused by poor stoves. In effect... feel-good categories such as those in the S.D.G.s will only create the equivalent of a series of ice-bucket challenges, referring to the millions of showy dollars that were raised last year to address A.L.S. – a terrible disease, but one that afflicts relatively few people.

 

For years, we have had tools such as the disability-adjusted life year (DALY), which was created in the early nineteen-nineties, by the World Bank, and has come to serve as the standard measure for assessing the burden of a disease. In the past, the impact of any illness – the common cold, cancer, and everything in between – was usually evaluated on the basis of how likely it was to kill you. But life without good health also carries enormous costs for individuals, families, and societies. The DALY combines years of potential life lost owing to premature death with years of productive life lost to disability.

That sort of principle, which associates benefits with costs, ought to be applied to massive investments in human development. Unfortunately, we need to choose which terrible blights we need to prevent and which we do not. People hate thinking that way (and they hate those who write about it). Nobody wants to put dollar values on a disease, a treatment, a life, an ocean, or the future of a country. But feel-good virtue alone rarely succeeds, and, if the Millennium Development Goals have demonstrated anything, it is that this planet and the people who live so tenuously on it will survive only if we spend our money on programs that work.

 

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/how-to-write-the-worlds-to-do-list

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"That sort of principle, which associates benefits with costs, ought to be applied to massive investments in human development. Unfortunately, we need to choose which terrible blights we need to prevent and which we do not. People hate thinking that way... Nobody wants to put dollar values on a disease, a treatment, a life, an ocean, or the future of a country. But feel-good virtue alone rarely succeeds... this planet and the people who live so tenuously on it will survive only if we spend our money on programs that work."

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"That sort of principle, which associates benefits with costs, ought to be applied to massive investments in human development. Unfortunately, we need to choose which terrible blights we need to prevent and which we do not. People hate thinking that way... Nobody wants to put dollar values on a disease, a treatment, a life, an ocean, or the future of a country. But feel-good virtue alone rarely succeeds... this planet and the people who live so tenuously on it will survive only if we spend our money on programs that work."

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Africa needs streamlined regulation to support the deployment of GM crops - Atkinson &al (2015) - Trends Biotechnol

Africa needs streamlined regulation to support the deployment of GM crops - Atkinson &al (2015) - Trends Biotechnol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Future food security in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) requires enhancement of its crop production. Transgenic crops with a poverty focus can enhance harvests and are available for staples such as cooking bananas and plantains. One constraint is optimisation of national biosafety processes to support rapid and safe uptake of such beneficial crops. 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tibtech.2015.06.005

 

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Think Twice Before Ordering Your Next Steak: The Grave Consequences of Meat Consumption - AlphaGalileo (2015)

Think Twice Before Ordering Your Next Steak: The Grave Consequences of Meat Consumption - AlphaGalileo (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

High consumption of livestock products could have serious consequences for people and the environment... the demand for livestock-based foods has soared over the last few decades... if left unchecked, worldwide meat consumption and production could lead to species loss, climate risks, poverty, and even social breakdown as large meat-producing companies continue to displace small-scale farmers.

“Over the coming years livestock product consumption could soar as more people become wealthier... A vital role for science is to inform and help consumers to switch to healthier non-livestock related diets.” As incomes continue to rise and urbanization continues to occur, meat consumption will continue to grow at an alarming rate... a “diet-altering awareness” is needed to placate both environmental and individual health concerns... 

“An important general lesson from this article is that the livestock sector has such deep and wide-ranging environmental and social impacts that the topic of shifting diets… should rank as one of the leading focal themes for sustainability policy.” Ultimately, efforts to moderate meat and dairy consumption must be made, or there could be grave consequences for the sustainability of both people and the planet in the not-so distant future.

 

http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=154524&CultureCode=en

 

What all of this adds up to is a paradox for sustainability science. One the one hand, the generic evidence of joint social and ecological degradation linked to meat and dairy production is overwhelming. On the other, there is huge structural resistance among the food corporations, the retailing outlets, and the regulators against addressing the connected approaches to information, moral guidance, price incentives, and health gains, linked to interfering with personal dietary behavior...  Sustainability science is understandably cautious about taking on an advocacy role for justifiable fear of creating antagonism, particularly where deep-rooted habitual behavior is concerned, and where social identity is cherished. 
What is at stake here is a deep conundrum. Diet is a function of habit, of social identity, of the history of personal relationships, and of the subtle manipulation of the advertising and food-linked industries over personal choices. What is particularly pernicious is the manner in which this manipulation is so pervasive and persuasive that it shapes values, behavior, and self-esteem... In the context of these “dark forces,” efforts to raise diet-altering awareness over the wider social and ecological repercussions of livestock production... for the most part have landed on stony social and moral ground. This conundrum is underscored by the tendency of researchers of global change not to change their own eating (and indeed air traveling) habits, so few provide the illumination of role models for colleagues and students. Ingrained cultural habits die hard and lead to political headaches. The smoking controversy took 45 years (initiated by massive denial lobbying and science brokering by the tobacco industry) to reach the stage where regulations were put in place to require smokers to inhale out of doors and further away from public buildings. Attempts to provide healthy food in schools failed completely to overcome huge parental resistance to create the conditions for more healthy food to be served in school cafeterias... The ultimate challenge of sustainability science is to grapple with these “dark forces” of interconnected self-replicating power and influence by bringing their moral and ecological dangers into the day-to-day public consciousness... sustainability science practitioners will have to learn to work with opinion formers, faith communities, educational leaders, and young people's role models slowly and purposefully to begin a process of moral reappraisal across the emerging citizenry of the planet...  

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00139157.2015.1025644

 

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Is the world running out of food? - Economist (2015)

Is the world running out of food? - Economist (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Is the world running out of food? - Not in the short term. Stocks of grain and other foods are high, with another bumper harvest due in the northern hemisphere this year. Food prices have been dropping in real terms since a spike in 2011. The number of hungry people has been falling too, by 167 million in the past decade, chiefly thanks to progress in China and India. Yet that leaves nearly 800m, a third of which are in Africa...

But international bodies... are worried about the coming decades. The world’s population will exceed nine billion in 2050, with most of the growth in developing countries... The number of hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa will rise by a third... Food production will need to increase by 70%... Many trends are negative: new crop diseases, urbanisation, desertification, salinisation and soil erosion, which outstrips renewal even in developed countries.

That does not mean disaster is looming. Agricultural productivity is often shockingly low in “traditional” farming practices. That leaves plenty of room for improvement... Climate change will indeed hurt some farmers but helps others... GM crops (such as drought-resistant rice, heat-resistant maize or blight-resistant wheat) have huge potential.

Technology is only part of the solution. The food chain lacks resilience to other forms of disruption too, from political strife to consumer panics. Scandals about pollution (real or imagined)... can send food flying off the shelves. A new report by... the London insurance market, highlights the need for more innovation in helping farmers and food manufacturers deal with weather and other potential risks...  
 

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/06/economist-explains-13

 

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Revised hunger estimates accelerate apparent progress towards the MDG hunger target - Butler (2015) - Global Food Sec

Revised hunger estimates accelerate apparent progress towards the MDG hunger target - Butler (2015) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

In 2012, the Food and Agricultural Organization released new measures of hunger data... These revised estimates of global hunger were not only lower for recent years than previously reported, but also significantly higher for 1990. Both changes have implications for the attainability of the Millennium Development Goal target... making it appear much more within reach. Implications are discussed... 


The global community... has for several decades measured and tracked world hunger. Hunger is most commonly defined as energy insufficiency (measured in kilocalories) rather than micronutrient insufficiency (e.g. of iron, zinc, Vitamin A or even essential amino acids). 

 

It is in the interest of the global community that these data be as accurate, consistent, reproducible, transparent and scientifically defendable as possible. Such estimates will enable policy makers not only to know the magnitude of the challenge of hunger, but also to accurately monitor short and long-term progress. In turn, the achievement of these goals would allow more accurate preparation of budgets, including for agricultural research and development, food relief programs and to pay for the infrastructure and to promote the social policies needed to reduce hunger and thus improve world health. Hunger measures also provide valuable “snapshots” of global development progress...

 

However... the accurate measurement of hunger... is fraught with difficulty. National cultures and external political forces may also influence hunger data, which can be misrepresented both deliberately and inadvertently. Errors are plausible because populations, including nations, can at times have collective motivations to both overstate and understate data. Overstatement of success in reducing hunger might gain international prestige, minimize embarrassment, or even be viewed as promoting national security. Understatement of success (overstatement of hunger) might help gain concessional loans or grants, in order to attempt to reduce hunger, poverty, or both... Finally... inaccuracies are still plausible, due to inadequate resources... 

 

Because these issues continually affect national data relevant to hunger estimates, the global aggregation of these data is also problematic...


There are issues other than data that are also relevant. For example, what energy intake is sufficient to not be counted as hungry? ... Should this intake only account for baseline energy expenditure, or include a buffer to compensate for the energy demand from infections... Should such minimum intake measures vary with energy demand, due for example to take account of differences in physical exertion to obtain necessities such as water or fuel, variations in climate such as from harsh winters, or the exertion due to living in hilly terrain?

 

Or, might a “catch-all” metric for hunger be developed that relies on anthropometry, such as age-standardised measures and distributions of height and perhaps weight and performance? ... Alas, it is not this simple. Most obviously, body metrics at any given age are not only a function of the factors mentioned. They also rely, substantially, on micronutrients. For example, a child may have ingested and absorbed ample calories over her lifetime, but still be stunted due to profound iodine or zinc deficiency. Furthermore, such measures, though certainly of value, would not solely be of hunger, at least not as most people conceptualize it.


Until recently, national hunger estimates have been substantially derived from the aggregation of reported “food balance sheet data”. These reflect national food production, adjusted for data for national food imports and export. These data are also problematic... Given the complexity of these issues it is understandable that periodic adjustments in the methodology used to measure global hunger have occurred and that such changes are likely to continue... 


Changes in the methodology of measuring hunger can affect not only measures for recent years, but may also alter the estimates of data that are more distant. Furthermore, changes to the estimates of world hunger for years long passed may not just have historical interest; they may also affect the magnitude of hunger targets that are still in the future, particularly if, as is the case, data are significantly revised for the period 1990-1992... In recent decades there have been three major global hunger targets, set in 1974, 1996 and 2000...

 

Changing the definition of the MDG food target only five years before the target date at the end of 2015 seems likely to have risked widespread criticism... In 2010, the Committee on World Food Security asked FAO to review its methodology for estimating undernourishment, including to incorporate analysis of the increasing number of household surveys. As a result, SOFI 2011 provided no updated data and none for years more recent than 2008. SOFI 2011 did, however, provide a table of world hunger data... These data were higher for the earlier part of the period from 1990 to 2008 and lower for the later years of this interval than earlier stated, but did not include the time following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.


SOFI 2012 released the first estimates based on the revised method. These were updated in SOFI 2013 and 2014. The revised data show a substantially different pattern to that in SOFI reports before 2011... Of great relevance to the WFS and MDG targets the number for 1991 (1015.3 million) was over 20% higher than the nadir reported for this year, which was 830 million in SOFI 1999...

 

The main purpose of this paper is not to document the minutiae of FAO hunger data for their own sake, nor to critique the new hunger methodology (which may well be an improvement, though time will tell), but to explain, first, how the transformation of the 1996 WFS hunger target to MDG 1c made for a more attainable goal, and secondly, how the revised data since 2010 has made both the MDG and 1996 WFS hunger targets seem even more within reach...

 

The new methodology... most important is an adjustment for global food waste, resulting in the addition of over 100 million people hungry for each data point from 1990 to 1992 until 2009. Other modifications discussed include revised population data (e.g. for Bangladesh and China as far back to 1990) and different assumptions about the annual average energy intake cutoff, below which people are regarded as energy deficient. As time progresses, this component has become more important. In 1990 this adjustment added 12 million but by 2009 it causes a subtraction of 66 million people to the global total.

 

The revised energy assumptions have been criticized... Many people who are financially poor require a higher energy intake than those with more income, because they disproportionately rely on physical labor for subsistence. Even if they are not formally employed they also often require more energy for routine physical tasks such as fetching water and firewood. Many financially poor people living in hilly areas have limited access to forms of transport that do not depend on human exertion. As mentioned above, many have ill-health such as fevers and acute or chronic diarrhea, which also increase energy demand and can disproportionately harbor parasites (e.g. hookworm) and bacterial infections that rob nutrients and energy, even if they are ingested...

 

The FAO and the broader community that promotes development may at times have conflicting motivations. A key goal of the constitution of the FAO is to “ensure humanity’s freedom from hunger”. To do this, it must alert and motivate policy makers and national leaders to the size and needed reduction of the state of hunger in the world. While speculative, it is plausible that such concern creates an incentive to not understate the degree of hunger... 


The redefinition of hunger used by the FAO since 2011 has made progress towards the MDG target appear better than was the case in the years leading to 2011. This progress has been widely reported, even celebrated. The official UN website currently states that “the hunger reduction target should be almost met by 2015”. There are two reasons for this apparent success. The first is better understood; it is the re-definition of hunger since SOFI 2011, which has led to a downward trend in the number of hungry, particularly since 2005. The second reason is the elevation, by 21% (117 million people) of the numerator for hunger for the important baseline period 1990-1992... 


In 2000, even though the 1996 WFS target was seen by then as too difficult, the new Millennium triggered renewed optimism and a suite of development targets... Then, as 2015 neared, interest in the MDGs returned. It was widely reported that much progress had been made with many key goals and targets close to being met, including MDG target 1a. However... MDG target 1c still seemed beyond reach. The apparent paradox of success with income (MDG target 1a) but failure with food, the other main objective indicator of poverty, received little attention... The two way revision in the estimates of the absolute number who are hungry, both in 1990 and more recently, has led to a substantial narrowing in the gap between the current number of hungry and MDG target 1c. This is heartening to the global community concerned with promoting development, presumably including to the FAO. 


This apparent success should not be accepted completely without criticism. At the least, the second reason here given (i.e. the increase in the baseline measure) needs to be clearly acknowledged. Despite the numerous forms of uncertainty described in this paper, one firm conclusion can be drawn. This is that, without the revision of the data reported in recent FAO reports, the MDG hunger target would now be well beyond reach.

 

The international development community concerned with improving human nutritional status is currently developing a new set of nutritional development targets to be captured in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It would be of value to have broad discussion and agreement within this community about the selection of the starting point for hunger in the baseline year (whether 2015 or earlier). Similarly, it could be argued that “moving the goal posts” mid-stream, which is one interpretation of the events described in this paper should be avoided... 

 

Looking ahead, numerous problems are apparent for global food security and hunger, such as persistent yield gaps, climate change, high and rising inequality, the high price of energy (despite its recent fall, which may not be long sustained) and the need to continue to convert non-agricultural ecosystems to ones that produce food and fiber... Given this context, the agricultural science community should continue their efforts to be responsive, transparent and critical.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2015.04.002


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Effects of food price inflation on infant and child mortality in developing countries - Lee &al (2015) - EJHE

Effects of food price inflation on infant and child mortality in developing countries - Lee &al (2015) - EJHE | Food Policy | Scoop.it

After a historic low level in the early 2000s, global food prices surged upwards to bring about the global food crisis of 2008. High and increasing food prices can generate an immediate threat to the security of a household’s food supply, thereby undermining population health... This paper employs a panel dataset covering 95 developing countries for the period 2001-2011 to make a comprehensive assessment of the effects of food price inflation on child health as measured in terms of infant mortality rate and child mortality rate.

 

Focusing on any departure of health indicators from their respective trends, we find that rising food prices have a significant detrimental effect on nourishment and consequently lead to higher levels of both infant and child mortality in developing countries, and especially in least developed countries (LDCs)... There should be increased efforts by both LDC governments and the international community to alleviate the detrimental link between food price inflation and undernourishment and also the link between undernourishment and infant mortality... 

 

High and increasing food prices can generate an immediate threat to the security of a household’s food supply, thereby undermining population health, retarding human development, and lowering labor productivity for the economy in the long term. Understanding the effect of a food crisis on nutrition and health is therefore critical for the development of public policies and social programs to help the vulnerable groups of individuals, households, and countries alike... 

 

Government health expenditure per capita has a negative relationship with infant and child mortality. The results also show that infant mortality in both LDCs and other developing countries may decrease with improved sanitation facilities. Thus, governments’ strong commitment to public health as evidenced by increasing health expenditure and improving sanitation facilities is crucial in improving child health in developing countries... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10198-015-0697-6

 

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Agricultural Technology Choice and Transport - Ali &al (2015) - SSRN

Agricultural Technology Choice and Transport - Ali &al (2015) - SSRN | Food Policy | Scoop.it

This paper addresses an old and recurring theme in development economics: the slow adoption of new technologies by farmers in many developing countries. The paper explores... the link between market access and the incentives to adopt a new technology...

 

The paper... uses spatially disaggregated agricultural production data... for Nigeria. The model is used to estimate the impact of transport costs on crop production, the adoption of modern technologies, and the differential impact on returns of modern versus traditional farmers... 


Road survey data are combined with geographic information road network data to generate the most thorough and accurate road network available. With these data and the Highway Development Management Model, minimum travel costs from each location to the market are computed...

 

Transportation costs are critical in determining technology choices, with a greater responsiveness among farmers who adopt modern technologies, and at times a perverse (negative) response to lower transport costs among those who employ more traditional techniques... The constraints to the adoption of modern technologies and access to markets are interconnected, and so should be targeted jointly.

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2607772

 

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World hunger falls to under 800 million, eradication is next goal - FAO (2015)

World hunger falls to under 800 million, eradication is next goal - FAO (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The number of hungry people in the world has dropped to 795 million – 216 million fewer than in 1990-92 – or around one person out of every nine, according to the latest edition of the annual UN hunger report. In the developing regions, the prevalence of undernourishment - which measures the proportion of people who are unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life – has declined to 12.9 percent of the population, down from 23.3 percent a quarter of a century ago...

A majority – 72 out of 129 – of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin. In addition, 29 countries have met the more ambitious goal laid out at the World Food Summit in 1996, when governments committed to halving the absolute number of undernourished people by 2015.

"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime. We must be the Zero Hunger generation. That goal should be mainstreamed into all policy interventions and at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda to be established this year," said FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva.

"If we truly wish to create a world free from poverty and hunger, then we must make it a priority to invest in the rural areas of developing countries where most of the world's poorest and hungriest people live," said IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze. "We must work to create a transformation in our rural communities so they provide decent jobs, decent conditions and decent opportunities. We must invest in rural areas so that our nations can have balanced growth and so that the three billion people who live in rural areas can fulfil their potential."

"Men, women and children need nutritious food every day to have any chance of a free and prosperous future. Healthy bodies and minds are fundamental to both individual and economic growth, and that growth must be inclusive for us to make hunger history," said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.


Progress towards fully achieving the 2015 food security targets was hampered in recent years by challenging global economic conditions.
Extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife have all impeded progress – 24 African countries currently face food crises, twice as many as in 1990; around one of every five of the world's undernourished lives in crisis environments characterized by weak governance and acute vulnerability to death and disease.

 

SOFI 2015 notes that over the past 30 years crises have evolved from catastrophic, short-term, acute and highly visible events to protracted situations, due to a combination of factors, especially natural disasters and conflicts, with climate change, financial and price crises frequently among the exacerbating factors.

 

Hunger rates in countries enduring protracted crises are more than three times higher than elsewhere. In 2012 some 366 million people were living in this kind situation – of whom 129 million were undernourished – 19 percent of all food-insecure people on the planet.
Yet, alongside these challenges, the world population has grown by 1.9 billion since 1990, making reductions of the number of hungry people all the more striking, the report says.


Large reductions in hunger were achieved in East Asia and very fast progress was posted in Latin America and the Caribbean, southeast and central Asia, as well as some parts of Africa, showing that inclusive economic growth, agricultural investments and social protection, along with political stability makes the elimination of hunger possible.  Above all, the political will to make hunger eradication a paramount development objective has fostered progress.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world – at 23.2 percent, or almost one in every four people. However, African nations that invested more in improving agricultural productivity and basic infrastructure also achieved their MDG hunger target, notably in West Africa... 

 

In southern Asia, the prevalence of undernourishment has declined modestly, to 15.7 percent from 23.9 percent, but much greater progress was made in reducing underweight among young children.
Severe food insecurity is close to being eradicated in North Africa, with the prevalence of undernourishment below 5 percent, while dietary quality is of growing concern in the region, where there is a rising prevalence of overweight and obesity... 

 

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to improve food security, the SOFI report outlines several factors that played a critical role in achieving the hunger target.

 

First, improved agricultural productivity, especially by small and family farmers, leads to important gains in hunger and poverty reduction... 

 

Second, while economic growth is always beneficial, not least because it expands the fiscal revenue base necessary to fund social transfers and other assistance programmes, it needs to be inclusive to help reduce hunger. Inclusive growth provides a proven avenue for those with fewer assets and skills in boosting their incomes, and providing them the resilience they need to weather natural and man-made shocks. Raising the productivity of family farmers is an effective way out of poverty and hunger.

 

Third, the expansion of social protection – often cash transfers to vulnerable households, but also food vouchers, health insurance or school meal programs, perhaps linked to guaranteed procurement contracts with local farmers – correlated strongly with progress in hunger reduction and in assuring that all members of society have the healthy nutrition to pursue productive lives.

 

Some 150 million people worldwide are prevented from falling into extreme poverty thanks to social protection, according to SOFI – but more than two-thirds of the world's poor still do not have access to regular and predictable forms of social support. Transfers help households manage risk and mitigate shocks that would otherwise leave them trapped in poverty and hunger. 

 

http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/288229/icode/

 

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Global food security & adaptation under crop yield volatility - Fuss &al (2015) - TFSC

Global food security & adaptation under crop yield volatility - Fuss &al (2015) - TFSC | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Climate change projections raise concerns about future food security and needs for adaptation. While a variety of studies quantify and analyze climate change impacts at the level of crop yields, it has been recognized that changes in yield variability may have even more important effects on food security. In addition, large-scale analysis is typically based on different scenarios rather than providing aid to determine decisions that are robust across these scenarios.

 

We develop a stochastic version of a global... model integrating the agricultural, bio-energy and forestry sectors in order to examine food security under crop yield variability... 

 

Food security requires overproduction to meet minimum food supply constraints. This does not only lead to higher prices, but also to larger cropped areas associated with an increase in GHG emissions and pressure on biodiversity, as more natural areas are converted to agriculture. Trade liberalization and enhanced irrigation are both found to be promising adaptation channels for food supply stabilization.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2015.03.019

 

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Have we achieved the millennium development goals? BMJ (2015)

As the deadline for the millennium development goals approaches, experts... take stock of the successes, failures, and oversights, and look ahead to the next phase -- the sustainable development goals. The millennium development goals are eight aspirational targets set by the United Nations (UN) in New York in September 2000... 


The progress made towards some of the goals has been remarkable... For example, child mortality has effectively halved worldwide, from 90 per 1,000 births in 1990 to 46 in 2013, equivalent to 17,000 fewer children dying each day. Furthermore, HIV prevention and treatment is now a reality and there have been huge improvements in education. In other areas, however, few inroads have been made... newborn death rates remain stubbornly static, while gender empowerment, and undernutrition lag behind for complex, interconnected reasons... 

 

With shortfalls in so many areas, the UN has developed 17 new sustainable developmental goals... with ambitious targets for 2030... The three targets of greatest importance remain women's education and empowerment, poverty, and warfare... 

 

http://www.bmj.com/company/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/MDGs-2015.pdf

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h1755

 

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Improving nutrition security through agriculture: an analytical framework based on national food balance sheets to estimate nutritional adequacy of food supplies - Arsenault &al (2015) - Food Sec

Improving nutrition security through agriculture: an analytical framework based on national food balance sheets to estimate nutritional adequacy of food supplies - Arsenault &al (2015) - Food Sec | Food Policy | Scoop.it

An analytical framework is described for assessing the nutritional adequacy of national food supplies and the potential for addressing micronutrient gaps by increased crop production and crop diversity. The micronutrient contents of national food supplies of three countries (Bangladesh, Senegal, and Cameroon) were estimated using data from national food balance sheets. Population-adjusted nutrient requirements and identified nutrient short-falls, defined as not meeting the requirements of at least 80 % of the population, were also estimated.

 

Linear programming models were used to determine a mix of crops that could meet the gaps the deficits of several nutrients while minimizing the use of additional agricultural land. Out of eight micronutrients included in the present analysis, six were identified as inadequate in Bangladesh and Senegal (vitamins A and C, riboflavin, folate, calcium, and zinc) and three were inadequate in Cameroon (vitamin A, calcium, and zinc). Adequacy of vitamins A and C could be met by increasing production of a few crops that are particularly dense in these nutrients (e.g., carrots or guava), which would necessitate only a small addition of agricultural land. Folate adequacy could be improved with increased production of legumes and green leafy vegetables, but with a greater requirement for agricultural land.

 

Some micronutrient gaps, however, would probably have to be met by other means, such as enhanced livestock production, food fortification, biofortification, or imports. Despite the limitations of agriculture to meet the entire nutrient needs of a population, agricultural policy should consider the potential to improve nutrient adequacy with the crops currently available and by crop diversification...

 

Bangladesh’s food supply is the most inadequate of the three countries studied; and the estimated prevalence of adequate intakes based on its food supply is <1 % for vitamin A, folate, and calcium. This indicates that the food supply does not meet the needs of nearly the entire population... Bangladesh had the least diversity in major sources of energy in the food supply and this reliance on one staple crop, rice, contributes to its low levels of micronutrient adequacy...

 

The analyses did not consider the effect of replacement of current crop production. If the amount of land is fixed, diversification or additional amounts of current crops will have to displace existing crops that may displace nutrients. In our analyses, we simply assumed that additional crop production would take place on additional land... it is clear that if a very large amount of additional land area would be needed to obtain nutritional adequacy, as is the case for Bangladesh, diversification would require a drastic change in the agricultural sector...

 

Some nutrient requirements can be met with additional crop production... However, other nutrients will need additional approaches to achieve adequacy... such as food imports, large-scale food fortification, biofortification, or greater production of animal-source foods... In addition, agricultural policy will need to consider appropriate means to incentivize additional production and consumption of the foods that are promoted, particularly if the crop is not currently produced or consumed in large amounts in the country. Despite the limitations of agriculture in meeting all of the nutrient needs in certain populations, agricultural policy making should at least consider the potential to improve nutrient adequacy with available crops or crop diversification... Greater focus on the feasibility of increasing production of specific crops, such as pulses and green leafy vegetables, which provide multiple nutrients, is also warranted

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-015-0452-y

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"In our analyses, we simply assumed that additional crop production would take place on additional land... it is clear that if a very large amount of additional land area would be needed to obtain nutritional adequacy, as is the case for Bangladesh, diversification would require a drastic change in the agricultural sector." >> So much for the populist Let-them-eat-cake argument (or rather Let-them-eat-carrots) that poor people who lack micronutrients should simply (cultivate somewhere themselves and then) eat more fruit and veggies. This might work out out for a few of them who have not only access to a bit of land but also to the necessary input and who have enough time to spare to cultivate a home garden, and the better for them, but it is probably not a general solution. 

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A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development - NYT (2015)

A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development - NYT (2015) | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The average citizen of Nepal consumes about 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a year. Cambodians make do with 160. Bangladeshis are better off, consuming, on average, 260. Then there is the fridge in your kitchen. A typical 20-cubic-foot refrigerator – Energy Star-certified, to fit our environmentally conscious times – runs through 300 to 600 kilowatt-hours a year. 

American diplomats are upset that dozens of countries – including Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh – have flocked to join China’s new infrastructure investment bank, a potential rival to the World Bank and other financial institutions backed by the United States. The reason for the defiance is not hard to find: The West’s environmental priorities are blocking their access to energy.

A typical American consumes, on average, about 13,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. The citizens of poor countries... may not aspire to that level of use, which includes a great deal of waste. But they would appreciate assistance from developed nations, and the financial institutions they control, to build up the kind of energy infrastructure that could deliver the comfort and abundance that Americans and Europeans enjoy. Too often, the United States and its allies have said no.

The United States relies on coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear power for about 95 percent of its electricity... “Yet we place major restrictions on financing all four of these sources of power overseas”... “Most societies will not follow low-energy, low-development paths, regardless of whether they work or not to protect the environment.” If billions of impoverished humans are not offered a shot at genuine development, the environment will not be saved. And that requires not just help in financing low-carbon energy sources, but also a lot of new energy, period. Offering a solar panel for every thatched roof is not going to cut it...

Changing the conversation will not be easy. Our world... expected to reach 11 billion by the end of the century... will require an entirely different environmental paradigm... The “eco-modernists” propose economic development as an indispensable precondition to preserving the environment. Achieving it requires... a strategy to shrink humanity’s footprint by using nature more intensively... To mitigate climate change, spare nature and address global poverty requires nothing less, they argue, than “intensifying many human activities – particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry and settlement – so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world.”


This new framework favors a very different set of policies than those now in vogue. Eating the bounty of small-scale, local farming, for example, may be fine for denizens of Berkeley and Brooklyn. But using it to feed a world of nine billion people would consume every acre of the world’s surface. Big Agriculture, using synthetic fertilizers and modern production techniques, could feed many more people using much less land and water.

As the manifesto notes, as much as three-quarters of all deforestation globally occurred before the Industrial Revolution, when humanity was supposedly in harmony with Mother Nature. Over the last half century, the amount of land required for growing crops and animal feed per average person declined by half.

Development would allow people in the world’s poorest countries to move into cities – as they did decades ago in rich nations – and get better educations and jobs. Urban living would accelerate demographic transitions, lowering infant mortality rates and allowing fertility rates to decline, taking further pressure off the planet. “By understanding and promoting these emergent processes, humans have the opportunity to re-wild and re-green the Earth...

This, whether we like it or not, would require lots of energy. Windmills or biofuels would put large swaths of the earth’s surface in the service of energy production, so they have only limited usefulness. Solar panels and nuclear plants, by contrast, could eventually provide carbon-free energy on a very large scale.

The new strategy, of course, presents big challenges. Notably, it requires improving the safety of nuclear reactors and bringing down their price. Solar energy at scale requires new energy storage technologies... Until they are developed, poor countries will require access to other forms of energy — including hydroelectric power from dams, natural gas, perhaps even coal... 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/15/business/an-environmentalist-call-to-look-past-sustainable-development.html

 

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Expo Milano 2015: European Commission launches scientific debate on how to feed the planet - EU (2015)

The European Commission has launched an online consultation on how science and innovation can help the EU ensuring safe, nutritious, sufficient and sustainable food globally. The discussion is linked to the theme of this year's Universal Exhibition (Expo Milano 2015) "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", which aims to go beyond cultural activities and open a real political debate on global food security and sustainability...  


The consultation will underpin the debate on a future research agenda to help tackle global food and nutrition security challenges. It will focus on the areas where the EU's research efforts can have the strongest impact, such as how to improve public health through nutrition, increase food safety and quality, reduce food loss and waste, make rural development more sustainable, increase agricultural yields through sustainable intensification, as well as how to better understand food markets and increase access to food for people around the world.

 

The consultation is available online for input by all interested stakeholders until 1 September. The results of the consultation will be published on 15 October, ahead of World Food Day, and will contribute to shape the EU's legacy for Expo 2015. They will complement the scientific programme taking place at the EU's Expo Pavillion, which will bring together experts and decision makers from around the world. 

 

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4761_en.htm

 

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