The year 2011 was marked by significant changes in terms of agriculture and global food security that have since the recent food crises, become priorities on the international agenda. Thus, for the first time, in June 2011, the G20 presided by France, organized a summit of ministers of agriculture on the problem of agricultural price volatility, which helped put forward ideas and important advances on the question. As such, we recommend you read the recent report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which analyses global food policies in 20111
. Among the most important achievements, IFPRI points out that agriculture is increasingly considered as an “important element of several interdependent systems”, with a recognition of its close links with food security, health, nutrition, development and energy. But despite an increase in initiatives to link these issues, the domains of agriculture and world food remain too fragmented. To the extent that the establishment of true governance is an essential prerequisite to the sustainable improvement of food security, let us hope, that with IFPRI, the upcoming G8 and G20 summits will “increase the attention that they have already focused on global food security” and beyond this, make the decisions for improving international governance.
Momagri Editorial board
The year 2011 highlighted ongoing challenges to global food security, from food price volatility, extreme weather shocks, and famine to unrest and conflicts. On the policy front, major developments at the global and national levels both offered grounds for encouragement and pointed to areas where further action is needed.
First, the good news: after many years of neglect, agriculture and food security are back on the development and political agendas. Both China and India continued to expand their spending on food security and agricultural production. Some 20 African countries have adopted national agricultural and food security investment plans in which they will devote 10 percent of their national budget to agriculture to achieve agricultural growth of 6 percent a year. […]
More broadly, agriculture was increasingly seen as part of a larger context. It is becoming clear that agriculture contributes not just to food production, but also to human nutrition and health—conditions that in turn can affect agricultural productivity and overall economic growth. Agriculture is also an important element in a number of other interlocking systems. It has strong ties to water, land, and energy, which are, like agriculture itself, under increasing pressure. And many of the events of 2011 underlined how food security— that is, availability of and access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life—is linked to other notions of security. These include economic security (related to employment, incomes, and gender), sociopolitical security (related to inequality, governance, and conflicts), and environmental security (related to natural resources). […]
Food Price Levels and Volatility
Global food prices rose during the first half of 2011 and fell during the second half of the year. The food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which measures monthly change in the international prices of a basket of food commodities, reached a record high in February but moved steadily downward from June to December, ending lower for the year. Still, food price volatility remained high in 2011. […]
What do rising or volatile food prices mean for the poor? Higher food prices cut into the budgets of poor consumers but could raise the incomes of poor producers if they produce more than they consume. Volatile food prices, however, harm both consumers and producers by increasing uncertainty and making it difficult for households to budget for food consumption and to plan for production. […]
Shifts in food prices stimulated new policies and initiatives during the year. […] The G20 ministers of agriculture came together to design an action plan to reduce price volatility, regulate commodity markets, and promote long-term agricultural productivity. Toward the end of the year, the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, Japan, and South Korea (altogether known as ASEAN+3) established an emergency rice reserve to help ensure long-term food security in the region. […]
The Food and agriculture Nexus
In an increasingly interlinked global environment, policymakers have begun to more overtly recognize the links between agriculture and nutrition, health, water, and energy.
The agriculture, nutrition, and health nexus came to prominence in early 2011 with an international conference “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health” in New Delhi, organized by IFPRI and its 2020 Vision Initiative. This conference inspired and supported a range of new initiatives, including the launch of a major research program called “Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health” by the CGIAR. Several development agencies— USAID, with its Feed the Future Initiative, and the United Kingdom Department for International Development—also began to design or redesign their programs to better tap the links among agriculture, nutrition, and health. […]
Despite progress, more can be done to maximize the opportunities presented by the links among agriculture and other sectors. One barrier to collaboration between agriculture and other development fields is a lack of common metrics for measuring the impact of agricultural interventions on other development outcomes such as health, nutrition, and natural resources. And more research is needed to identify viable opportunities for strengthening linkages across sectors and achieving win–win outcomes. […]
Outlook for 2012 and opportunities for Action
Overall, 2011 and the years immediately preceding it have revealed serious weaknesses facing the global food system—lack of ability to respond to volatile food prices, extreme weather, and inadequate response to food emergencies were among the most visible. But chronic, long-term problems such as food and nutrition insecurity also point to areas where the food system can do better. We also face uncertainties. It is not yet clear whether the global economic slowdown will worsen or be reversed. Addressing all of these issues in a resource-scarce world will require keeping agriculture and food security issues high on the global agenda in 2012 and beyond. […]
Participants in the major international events of 2012 need to keep the spotlight on food policy issues. The G8 summit in the United States in May and the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, in June could reinforce those groups’ earlier emphasis on global food security and ensure that previous financial commitments are honored. It is important that discussions and decisions at the Rio+20 conference on the green economy and sustainable development not neglect the poor, who need better access to food, jobs, and natural resources, as well as a secure social protection system. […]
We must find new ways to exploit the links between agriculture and other sectors, including health, nutrition, water, and energy. […] Because agriculture is at the nexus of all of these areas, we need to leverage it for broad development outcomes. At the same time, it will be important to set up a global system to measure, track, and monitor the impacts among agriculture, food and nutrition security, energy, and natural resources.