Global conference offers new research and commitments to address threat of rising shocks to global food system
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 16, 2014—According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the post-2015 agenda should aim to end hunger by 2025—and can succeed by building resilience to various environmental, political and economic shocks that threaten food security and livelihoods.
More than 800 experts from around the world are convening in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a three-day conference to discuss the scope of this challenge and the investments required to end hunger and malnutrition for good. The conference, “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security,” is organized by IFPRI, its 2020 Vision Initiative, and partners from May 15–17, 2014.
Building resilience is about helping vulnerable individuals, households, communities, and countries prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks and even to become better off. The shocks can be natural or man-made, short- or long-term, and acute or chronic.
Opening the conference, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn, noted “to be a resilient country we must also have a resilient agriculture system. Accordingly, we have invested in raising the productivity of small farmers, strengthening agricultural marketing systems, bringing more land under irrigation, and reducing land degradation by soil and water conservation measures including biological measures for sustainable land management.” He added, “Our people are at the center of these investments and policies.”
IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan stresses the conference’s relevance in light of growing uncertainty and extreme events. “Many of the potential shocks we face, such as disease, food price spikes, and natural disasters, know no borders. Our success in coping, and even thriving in the presence of shocks, will depend on renewed efforts to cooperate and collaborate on a resilience agenda,” he said. “Strengthened resilience in turn will be key to achieving an end to hunger.”
This call-to-action was echoed by fellow panelists Maria Helena Semedo, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Deputy Director General for Natural Resources, and Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Commissioner of the African Union Commission. The African Union is celebrating its Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa in 2014.
Many major shocks hit poor people and vulnerable communities hardest, and these groups also face constant threats of crop failure, disease, and accidents. All of these shocks, large and small, combined with chronic poverty, contribute to the persistence of hunger and undernutrition.
This requires action and investments in the form of research and knowledge sharing, policy and program prioritizing, and scaling up of successful approaches—especially for smallholder farmers.
"Successful small farms—which are responsible for up to 80 percent of the food produced in some countries—can create vibrant rural areas that ensure a dynamic flow of economic benefits between rural and urban areas," said Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). "Investing in the resilience of smallholder farmers is also investing in the resilience of food systems and communities and the balanced and sustained development of nations."
Commitments to building resilience were announced during the inaugural session of the conference. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), announced plans to launch the Food Security Climate Resilience Facility (FoodSECuRE), which will reinforce community resilience by responding to forecast climate shocks before they occur and providing multiyear financing for long-term activities.
In making the announcement, Cousin said, “Resilience will pay dividends for fragile communities who today face environmental, economic, and nutritional bankruptcy. For people in communities affected by droughts, floods, and other shocks, a resilience approach allows comprehensive action that both restores the productivity of people’s land and significantly improves their well-being. Empowering resilient families to withstand shocks can reduce—even by half—the likelihood that children will become malnourished.”
In the past five years alone, the world has witnessed a major earthquake in Haiti; drought in the Horn of Africa; an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis in Japan; and food price spikes in 2008 which still impact global food prices today. In the past six months alone, Typhoon Haiyan has hit the Philippines; major flooding has struck the UK; civil conflict has continued in the Central African Republic, Syria, and South Sudan; landslides have ravaged Afghanistan; and a new disease called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome emerged on the Arabian Peninsula. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also confirmed humans’ role in causing climate change and warned of further shocks to come.
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations; David Nabarro, Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition for the United Nations; and Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the Unites States Agency for International Development (USAID) shared video remarks in support of the conference aims.