Although we have successfully reached the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger at the global level, an estimated 795 million people continue to suffer from hunger while two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. Making our food systems more nutritious, resilient, and inclusive can significantly improve the lives of millions of people living in poverty around the world.
The fifteen research centres collaborating in the global CGIAR partnership have all embraced gender as a cross-cutting theme for research. Understanding the differentiated social roles of men and women, and the challenges men and women face in accessing resources is key in reducing rural poverty, improving food security, nutrition and health, and sustainably managing natural resources. However, to achieve more gender-equitable goals, our development partners also need to be aware of how undertaking gender-sensitive actions could lead to a more equitable society.
Policymakers are key partners in this process as they can orient government programs and donor projects towards more gender-equitable objectives. Yet, how can we make sure that policymakers become interested gender-equity and recognize its importance?
Established in 2006 under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) supports efforts to promote evidence and outcome-based policy planning and implementation as part of the CAADP agenda.
In East and Central Africa, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) are implementing ReSAKSS activities. These include regular training workshops targeted on statisticians and economists in the statistics departments of African governments in order to help them better collect and analyse official statistical data and make robust interpretations from them to informing policymakers and other value chain stakeholders.
Experts outline challenges for ending global hunger during recent policy seminar
Ending global hunger and malnutrition is a monumental task. Yet it’s not an impossible one to realize, even in the next 10 to 20 years, provided that the international community builds on previous successes and follows through on forward-looking global commitments to achieve sustainable development.
The authors of the 2014 Global Hunger Index estimate that 805 million people worldwide suffer from hunger while an even larger number—2 billion—suffer from micronutrient malnutrition. Yet these numbers would be greater still if not for ongoing efforts aimed at reducing hunger and malnutrition, by USAID’s Feed the Future program, 1,000 Days, and theScaling Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative, to name a few.
Countries such as India, Brazil, and China have made impressive economic strides in recent years and are the foundation of what are termed middle income countries (MICs).
They also have a persistent hunger problem.
Those three, along with Mexico and Indonesia, are home to nearly half of the world’s hungry—some 363 million people. The just-released 2014-2015 edition of IFPRI’s flagship Global Food Policy Report says that hunger and malnutrition are not problems exclusive to low income countries and that sustained global progress cannot be achieved without a new approach to dealing with them in MICs. Economic development is welcome, but it must go hand-in-hand with sustained investment in reducing inequalities and improving human capital, with a particular focus on gender.
How can reliable water access contribute to nutrition security in Africa south of the Sahara?
IFPRI research on water for sustainable development
by Laia Domènech,
Globally, an estimated 805 million people are chronically undernourished, many of them in Africa south of the Sahara (SSA), where 329 million also lack access to improved water supply and 640 million do not have access to an improved sanitation facility.
The linkages between water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and nutrition have long been recognized. Poor WASH is considered a leading cause of diarrhea, nematode infections, and other conditions such as environmental enteropathy, which is caused by frequent intestinal infections and has received renewed attention in recent years.
Water is also an essential resource for growing food, and water scarcity is a major limiting factor for crop and livestock production in many parts of the world, where rainfall is scarce or erratic. There is great potential to expand small-scale irrigation in SSA, as only 6 percent of the cultivated area in the region is currently irrigated. Rain-fed cereal crops such as maize, sorghum, or millet and roots and tubers are key staples for many households in SSA. Yet these crops have limited nutritional and market value, and their potential to improve nutrition is therefore limited. In contrast, irrigated agriculture is frequently used to grow nutritious vegetables and fruits throughout the year, with important nutritional and health benefits for consumers. The nutritional and food security benefits of small-scale irrigation, however, are rarely recognized in many nutrition-sensitive interventions.
The blind adoption of solutions from other continents won’t work for Africa
African countries cannot blindly adopt food policy initiatives that spurred the Green Revolution in Asia as a way to promote agricultural development, according to new award-winning findings by researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute.
The research, which focused on Ghana and was originally published in the journal Food Policy, suggests that Africa must instead develop new technologies to improve the output of tree and root crops that are abundant in the region and to reduce the need for manual labor.
During the Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, Asian and Latin American countries experienced a dramatic increase in the production of wheat and other staples by using new varieties and relying more heavily on fertilizer and irrigation. African countries have sought to mimic their success, but the adoption of similar policies failed to increase agricultural output.
“Assuming Africa is an appropriate setting for another Asian-style Green Revolution is misleading and could result in, yet again, a frustrated attempt to attain sustainable agricultural growth,” said IFPRI Senior Research Fellow Alejandro Nin-Pratt, lead author of the study.
Ending hunger is difficult because it is a lengthy process that requires sustained policy attention and public resources at the same time that private markets are the arena for nearly all the decisions that matter.
Central to this process is the food system, both as a key element of structural transformation and where many of the poor make their living. Without a stable food system that minimizes volatility, countries cannot sustain rapid economic growth, as citizens and investors need to feel confident that food will be reliably available and affordable in rural and urban markets.
From left: Colin Poulton, Laura Pavlovic, Verena Fritz, and Danielle Resnick
Why are seemingly optimal investments and policies for reducing hunger and poverty so difficult to achieve in practice? Although scarce empirical research or insufficient technical capacity may be partially responsible, a lack of political incentives by those with the power to make decisions is often a key reason why it is so difficult to bridge the gap from research to policy reform. At a recent IFPRI policy seminar, speakers representing the research and donor communities discussed the importance of looking at ways to reduce hunger and poverty through this political economy lens.
The donor community has taken a leading role in this type of analysis. In the 1990s, donors began giving greater weight to the importance of “good governance” and gradually recognized that governance was not just an important outcome on its own but played a leading role in the overarching policy process.
By the early 2000s, a few donors began launching political economy analysis, including the UK Department for International Development’s “Drivers of Change” work, the Swedish International Development Agency’s “Power Analysis,” the Netherlands’ “Strategic Governance and Corruption Analysis,” and the US Agency for International Development’s “Democracy and Governance Assessments.” These early approaches were aimed at mainstreaming political thinking within donor agencies and providing contextualized analysis of the countries in which they were working.
More recently donors have moved towards a more practical approach, focusing on specific constraints to reform at the sector and project levels. The World Bank’s problem-driven analysis, which emerged during the past decade, is typical of this approach.
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