Most spectacular in 2011 was the turn of events on world wheat markets from price spike to near collapse: In the spring the media expected a second world food crisis, possibly worse than 2007–08. Until July, and particularly head of the meeting of G20 agricultural ministers, speculators and index funds were being accused more than ever of causing hunger. But then wheat prices dropped, and attention to speculation waned, hopefully making room for policy attention to larger, more long-term issues, such as rural finance.
—MICHIEL A. KEYZER, DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR WORLD FOOD STUDIES, VU UNIVERSITY, AMSTERDAM
Amid drought in the Horn of Africa, floods in South East Asia, and rain shortfalls in the Sahel, 2011 has clearly shown the devastating impact of climate-related shocks on food security. These crises have fo-cused policy attention on the urgent need to build the resilience of smallholder agriculture and poor rural people’s livelihoods. Going forward, and in light of the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, resilience is likely to remain a critical component of food security policies, initiatives, and development efforts at all levels.
—KANAYO F. NWANZE, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT, ROME
The Arab Spring posed the biggest challenge to food policy in 2011—and showed why it matters. Arab countries are squeezed on all sides by high imported food prices, spiraling costs of food subsidies, and the dual burdens of malnutrition and obesity, which will rise with population growth. The region is also the most vulnerable to global warming, water scarcity, and export bans. Without good policy and research, feeding the Arab world will grow ever more challenging.
—JOHN PARKER, GLOBALIZATION EDITOR, ECONOMIST, LONDON
When food prices rose in 2008, hasty responses like banning food exports helped drive 100 million people into poverty—the first increase in decades. When food prices rose again in 2011, the world avoided poor policy responses and invested instead in long-term food security. During the world’s worst drought in 60 years, this approach was validated by Kenya and Ethiopia’s ability to avoid famine, thanks in part to President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative and its emphasis on building resilience through agricultural development.
—RAJIV SHAH, ADMINISTRATOR, UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, WASHINGTON, DC
In 2011 two events were important: one was the eighth consecutive year of bumper harvest of Chinese grains at a record of 571 million tons, which surely contributes to a more stable world grain market; and the other was the G20 Agriculture Ministers Summit in Paris. A new era of international cooperation on global food security is approaching and emerging countries such as Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia will play increasingly important roles.
—JIAYANG LI, PRESIDENT, CHINESE ACADEMY OF AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES, BEIJING
The developing world was again hit by food price and supply volatility in 2011. In contrast to 2008, the demand for effective actions to advance food and nutritional security was front and center. The Committee on World Food Security explicitly stated that agricultural policies and public investment should prioritize nutrition and sustainable small-scale food production and increase the resilience of local and traditional food systems and biodiversity, a goal we are fully committed to implementing.
—KATHY SPAHN, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, HELEN KELLER INTERNATIONAL, NEW YORK
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, which contains 75 percent of the world’s second largest rainforest, wants to be a leader in reducing emissions from forests. Financing is expected to run in the billions of dollars, which demonstrates the government’s increased commitment to agriculture. Speculation in agri-cultural commodities was also high on the agenda in 2011. There is little evidence that speculators systematically drive food prices, but they do affect price volatility. However, limiting speculative trading might do more harm than good. The G20 decided to create more transparency and asked the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to monitor trading more closely.
—ERIC TOLLENS, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT, LEUVEN, BELGIUM
For the first time the G20 placed a high priority on agriculture. Price volatility and food security were priori-ties of the French presidency. Interest in these issues continues into 2012 under the Mexican presidency and is likely to generate significant investments in agriculture, thus addressing declining productivity.
—JUSTIN YIFU LIN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF ECONOMIST, WORLD BANK, WASHINGTON, DC
Persistent high food prices, among other things, triggered the formation of land markets, leading to excessive commercial pressure on land in a context of ill-defined property rights. A new landscape of energy policy emerged—shale gas, bioenergy, and partial exits from atomic energy in Germany and Japan. It comes with indirect linkages to agriculture (in the form of opportunity costs) and raises challenges to address climate change. Food policy was also significantly advanced by the G20 debate and proposals to increase agriculture aid, commodity trading improvements, and the related US and European follow-up that will accommodate more transparency and less speculation.
—JOACHIM VON BRAUN, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT FOR ECONOMIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE, CENTER FOR DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH, BONN, GERMANY
Climate-smart agriculture increases productivity, strengthens farmers’ resilience, and reduces agriculture’s contribution to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon storage on farmland. Growing global recognition of climate-smart agriculture and its potential to offer triple wins for food security, adaptation and mitigation was one of the major success stories of 2011, and has real potential to influence national food policy.
—RACHEL KYTE, VICE PRESIDENT OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, WORLD BANK, WASHINGTON, DC
The G20 process, with the creation of the Agricultural Market Information System and general recognition of the importance of better information significantly influenced food policy in 2011. So did the growing ac-ceptance of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s findings (in the 2011 State of Food and Agricul-ture report) that promoting gender equality and equity would bring the number of hungry down by 150 million. Also FAO’s launch of a new agricultural paradigm, “Save and Grow,” which is designed to increase global food production sustainably.
—JOSÉ GRAZIANO DA SILVA, DIRECTOR GENERAL, FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS, ROME
The increasing momentum of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement was evident in 2011. The movement supported country-led efforts to improve nutrition through cooperative partners working across sectors toward a common goal. Scaling Up Nutrition promotes both direct nutrition interventions and nutrition-sensitive strategies such as improving agricultural practices to increase availability of nutrient-rich crops. The 2011 international conference “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health,” co-ordinated by the 2020 Vision Initiative of IFPRI, sparked the interests of global counterparts and served as a timely complement to the Scaling Up Nutrition collective effort.
—EMORN WASANTWISUT, SENIOR ADVISOR, INSTITUTE OF NUTRITION, MAHIDOL UNIVERSITY, SALAYA, THAILAND
I am pleased with last year’s extraordinary commitment by world leaders to improve human nutrition, which has stimulated the emergence of a country-led movement to “Scale Up Nutrition.” I am particularly impressed with the way this has engaged a broad range of stakeholders and is encouraging nutri-tion-sensitive agricultural, industrial, health, education, employment, social welfare, and economic policies. I welcome the focus on improving the coverage of specific actions to improve nutrition from conception to a child’s second birthday and on political accountability for equitable improvement in nutrition within the context of policies for food, health, and social security.
—DAVID NABARRO, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL ON FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION, NEW YORK
For the eighth consecutive year, China’s total grain production increased, reaching 571 million tons last year and exceeding 550 metric tons for the first time in half a century. This helped China fight domestic consumer-price inflation and stabilize world food prices. Also, a study group headed by Yuan Longping, China’s father of hybrid rice, announced that the yield of hybrid rice per Mu exceeds 900 kilogram in one of its trial sites. This would contribute greatly to Chinese and world food security.
—KEMING QIAN, DIRECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF DEVELOPMENT AND PLANNING, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, BEIJING
In 2011 Oxfam launched its most ambitious campaign: GROW. Food prices, flattening yields, climate change, unfair trade, failing markets, inequality between men and women and land grabs are all connected and contributing to a global food system that is dominated by a few powerful governments and companies, while failing the majority of people. GROW will push policy and practice changes from the global to local levels to grow more food more fairly and sustainably.
—JEREMY HOBBS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OXFAM INTERNATIONAL, OXFORD, ENGLAND
The destabilizing effects and uncertainties created by the recent price hikes of major staple foods and the food crises and famine in the Horn of Africa, have raised food security concerns to a higher political level, receiving more attention and priority consideration than in the past in the agendas of decisionmakers in governments. This is an important step forward, since food security is a highly political issue that requires political solutions, rather than a humanitarian issue that needs technical solutions as it was often seen in the past.
—CARLOS PÉREZ DEL CASTILLO, CHAIR, CGIAR CONSORTIUM BOARD, MONTPELLIER, FRANCE
The importance of an integrated approach to food security that IFPRI has helped prioritize is vital in today’s world. The year 2011 and the famine in the Horn of Africa reinforced the role of social safety net programs in providing a broad package of support for the most vulnerable—from specialized nutrition products to protect the minds and bodies of young children, to investments in sustainable land management to help communities’ build resiliency to drought.
—JOSETTE SHEERAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME, ROME
In Canada, the most important food policy event was influenced by ideology rather than market or re-source policy shifts: the government’s decision to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board which for decades has sold all Western Canadian wheat. This will open up new market opportunities for the international wheat majors. On water issues, there were interesting indications that the Indian national government is looking for the political and financial space to assume a larger role, for example, by including major irrigation canal investments in its next five-year plan.
—MARGARET CATLEY-CARLSON, CHAIR, CROP DIVERSITY TRUST, ROME, AND PATRON, GLOBAL WATER PARTNERSHIP, STOCKHOLM
In our 2011 World Disasters Report, the IFRC addressed one of the most persistent critical issues facing our word today: hunger. As an Ethiopian, I saw first-hand my country’s terrible famine and I know what it means for people to starve. Globally, an estimated 925 million people do not have enough to eat, and as the population grows between now and 2050, global food supplies will come under even greater pressure. Governments must acknowledge the right to food and implement comprehensive, community-centered hunger prevention programs now and increase equitable and sustainable investments in food security.
—BEKELE GELETA, SECRETARY GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES, GENEVA
The G20 focused on food security and price volatility and led to international research initiatives to secure an adequate level of production. The Wheat Initiative was decided to promote highly productive wheat systems adapted to climate change. The GEO-GLAM project aims to monitor cultivated areas in order to predict harvests, as better anticipation prevents the formation of “bubbles” in agricultural markets. In 2011, G20 decisions represented a major step forward in coordinating efforts to improve World Food Security.
—MARION GUILLOU, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, FRENCH NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH, PARIS