From the worst drought
in four decades threatening famine across the Horn of Africa to extreme heat in South Asia, the war in Ukraine and the unequal pace of pandemic recovery, global food systems are under extraordinary pressure.
It wasn’t that long ago that Internet connectivity faded the moment one left a populated area like a city or big town – “no service” was the take-away message back then. But thanks to 3G, 4G and now 5G mobile technology, coupled with widespread installation of cellular towers in rural areas region-wide, that little message shows up much less frequently.
When I first met Dr. Roland Bunch, I have to be honest—he scared me. As one of the most well-respected leaders on agronomy and resilient land management, he offers extremely prescient predictions on how famines take root when soils fail—and also has an admirably clear-eyed view of what we need to do better.
You probably use wild species far more often than you realise. For many people, especially in more developed economies, the use of wild species sounds like something quite removed from their everyday lives – something perhaps more relevant to other people, in other countries.
This September, the White House will convene a conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health
. Leading up to the conference, the White House is organizing several virtual listening sessions
across America to hear firsthand from people impacted by food insecurity and to collect ideas about how to end hunger and hunger-related diseases and disparities.
Lawrence Akena was born 32 years ago with microcephaly. Because of his neurological condition, he didn't go to school or benefit from skills training.
Johnny, living in the United States (US), goes to his school and gets free breakfast and lunch there. There may not be enough food for dinner at home. But he knows that he can get fed at school. Sadly, however, after the pandemic, schools were closed, which meant no breakfast and no lunch for him.
This is what happens when you starve. With no food, the body’s metabolism slows down to preserve energy for vital organs. Hungry and weak, people often become fatigued, irritable and confused.
The immune system loses strength. As they starve, people—especially children—are likelier to fall sick or die from diseases they may have otherwise resisted. Cholera, respiratory infections, malaria, dengue, and diphtheria kill more people in famines than starvation itself.
Developing countries – in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America and in the Middle East - are facing a combination of crises that are unprecedented in recent times. Over the last three years they have had to face the COVID-19 crisis, the food crisis, the energy crisis, the climate change crisis, the debt crisis and, on top of all this, a global recession. The crises have overlapped, and each has added to the problems created by the previous ones.
While Africa is yet to fully recover from the socio-economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict poses another major threat to the global economy with many African countries being directly affected.
India is being asked by the US government
and the IMF
to reconsider its decision to suspend wheat exports. Their cited concern is that export restrictions will exacerbate food shortages amidst Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But the argument does not stand ground technically or morally.
The COVID pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on Africa’s sovereign debt situation. Currently, 22 countries are either in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine last February has triggered multiple crises in several fronts: the deaths of thousands of civilians, the destruction of heavily populated cities, the rise in military spending in Europe, a projected decline in development assistance to the world’s poorer nations; the demolition of schools and health-care facilities — and now the threat of hunger and starvation.
Growing up in Samoya Village of Bungoma County in the Western part of Kenya, Elvis Wanjala has fond childhood memories of the rainy season, chasing and catching black-bellied winged termites in the rain.
Amidst a backdrop of rising food insecurity worldwide and a global food supply chain crisis, many countries are attempting to increase the level of food self-production. One improved input for farming which is receiving renewed attention is improved seed. The two most populous countries in the world, China and India, have recently made ground-breaking moves to improve their competitive position by developing new seeds which will improve their food production and increase resilience to climate change. So far, in 2022, new regulations on using biotechnology (genetic modification and gene editing
) have been put in place by both countries to ultimately allow smallholder farmers to benefit from these new seeds.
Food systems are under severe stress around the world now. The thresholds of tolerance are already exceeding limits with millions facing acute food and water scarcity throughout all continents. Over a quarter of Africa’s population are facing hunger and food insecurity. Conflict, droughts, flooding, rising unemployment, inequality, economic crises, and the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic have been ravaging the Continent on an unprecedented scale.
India began its journey as an independent nation in 1947 with fresh memory of the Bengal Famine of 1943 which claimed 1.5 to 3 million lives. Against this backdrop, the First Five Year Plan (1951-56) prioritized agriculture which, however, shifted to heavily industrialization in the second Plan.
In a short period, the war in Ukraine has already had a major effect on the world economy. The United States and the European Union have levied sanctions on an unprecedented scale against Russia, energy prices have skyrocketed, and with the Black Sea closed, the world’s most fertile region is no longer linked to its markets. This will cause an appreciation of food prices that could wreak havoc in the European periphery.
The situation in Ukraine is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis, and the food security and wellbeing of the people of Ukraine should be our immediate concern. However, because of the dominant roles of Russia and Ukraine in global food, fuel and fertiliser markets, there are also massive knock-on effects for people around the world. This is particularly true for the supply and cost of food. Here are three ways that the invasion of Ukraine leads to potential risks to food security in other countries.
In an exclusive interview with IPS, Ambassador Cindy Hensley McCain, Permanent Representative of the US Mission to the food and agriculture organizations of the United Nations in Rome, Italy, shares her thoughts on food security, sustainable food systems, the impact of climate change on food production, conflicts and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, and her plans while working with the Food Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Programme (WFP) with Farhana Haque Rahman and Sania Farooqui.