Progress in tackling global food insecurity is welcome but not the whole story

by 08th Oct 2013
Progress in tackling global food insecurity is welcome but not the whole story

The 2013 Annual State of Food Insecurity in the World report was launched last week, in time for the annual meeting of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This year’s report estimates that progress has been made towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halve the level of global hunger, albeit with wide disparities across regions.

It’s refreshing to have some positive news about the decrease in the number of people who are food insecure and I was pleased at the prominence given to social protection in the report. (See more on the positives below). However there were some glaring omissions. What about the focus on governance and women’s voice? Where is a reflection on the contribution of climate change to food security? And why, at a time when 4 million people inside Syria face food insecurity, does the report stay silent on emergencies and the impact of conflict and crisis on immediate and long term food insecurity? All at a time when the CFS, this week, is finalising policy recommendations for managing food insecurity during protracted crises.

Nonetheless, with regard to the positives – here is how CARE has been contributing:

According to the report:

  1. Food insecurity has decreased from 870 million in 2010-12 to 842 million in 2011-13. We could be on track to meet the MDG to halve hunger by 2015 with persistent commitment and investment.
    CARE’s programme SHOUHARDO in Bangladesh saw a 30% fall in stunting in less than four years and continues to show that by providing integrated programming and focusing on women, major advances can be made in reducing under-nutrition.
  2. Economic growth can contribute to reducing hunger if its gains are shared: policies must target the poor.
    CARE is engaging with the international processes that are underway to write guidance for investment in agriculture in order that they support smallholder farmers who produce the bulk of food in developing countries. We also continue to engage with the principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment and other processes on guidance for investments in agriculture.
  3. Progress requires a range of food security and nutrition enhancing interventions in agriculture, health, hygiene, water supply and education, particularly targeting women.
    CARE’s integrated programming demonstrates that multi-sectoral interventions are required for FNS. CARE’s Food Security for the Ultra Poor programme saw an increase in the ‘acceptable’ food consumption score (a nutritional measure of food diversity and quality) from 52.3% in 2010 to 91% in 2013, by combining income generating activities with infrastructure development, access to safety nets, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) planning, participation in community governance, and nutrition interventions.
  4. Increasing agricultural productivity and food availability, especially through smallholder farmers, can reduce food and nutrition insecurity even in areas of widespread poverty.
    CARE’s focus for rural food and nutrition security is on smallholder farmers for two reasons. (i)Smallholder farmers produce 80% of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa, up to 80% of which is produced by women, and so are still the basis for ensuring FNS in developing countries (ii) Smallholder farmers are some of the most vulnerable households in the world due to climate change, lack of government investment and lack of political organisation and voice; and the case is even more marked for women and girls.
  5. Smallholder agriculture interventions combined with social protection and other income increasing measures can spur on rural development and enable equitable economic growth.
    Under CARE’s Adaptation Learning Programme, CARE combines improved access to income (through village savings and loans associations (VSLAs) and improved farmer production, with policy and planning work to ensure climate change and activities to mitigate its effects are included in district and national development and growth plans.Remittances, which are three times higher than overseas development assistance, make an important contribution to reducing poverty and therefore food and nutrition insecurity.
  6. But access to finance is not just about remittances.
    CARE works with women and men to access much needed finance through VSLAs and linking to the formal sector. CIUK is just starting a study to measure the impact of our VSLA work on food and nutrition security.
  7. Ending food and nutrition insecurity requires a long term commitment to mainstreaming food and nutrition security in public policies and programmes.
    It’s true for government and it’s true of CARE’s work too: We’ve developed some long term programmes to do this. The emerging Smallholder Agriculture in a Changing Climate is a new ten-year approach which combines adaptive capacity, market access and a focus on women to sustainably increase food production.
  8. Keep food and agriculture high on the development agenda
    CARE is active in the CFS and I am in Rome this week for this very reason. We will meet with DFID and the UK Ambassador to ensure the UK’s commitment to support smallholder farming. We are also co-hosting a side event at the CFS to discuss options for sustainable agricultural food systems.
  9. Countries with consecutive governments who made a long term political commitment to rural development and poverty reduction are those most successful at reducing food insecurity. The report also demanded commitment to social protection, nutrition, agriculture and income diversity.
    If CARE too, is committed to our role in reducing food and nutrition insecurity, we need to ensure we continue to improve a multi-sectoral approach to our work in this area.

Find out more about CARE's role and position at the 40th annual meeting of the Committee on World Food Security.

Larissa Pelham

Larissa was formerly CARE’s Food Security Advisor responsible for providing technical advice on any aspect of CARE’s work that involves food security. Her role involved advising country offices on their food security programming; coordinating knowledge and response in food security with other NGOs and the UN system; and guaranteeing that CARE and others learn from how CARE’s work with climate change, adaptation and resilience, governance and private sector engagement impacts on food security, in order to continually improve our work.

Her previous work has covered research, programming and advisory roles across a range of NGOs, UN, multilateral institutions and think tanks. She has specialised in how social protection, safety nets and disaster risk reduction contribute to food security and poverty reduction. Her work has covered Asia, Africa and Latin America, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa, in particular.