Food Security Issues as of July 2022

UAA’s Development Issues Committee organized a July 14, 2022 event on “Impacts on Developing Countries of the Impending Food Security Crisis Exacerbated by Climate Change, the War in Ukraine and Supply Chain Issues.”

Discussion leaders were Mike Michener, Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, Paul Dorosh, Director of the Development, Strategy and Governance Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Dina Esposito, Vice President for
Technical Leadership of Mercy Corps.

Stephen Giddings, Development Issues Committee (DIC) Co-Chair welcomed discussion leaders and provided an introduction of the distinguished guests to open the discussion.

Paul Dorosh of IFPRI began the discussion with a power point presentation of the results of a study funded by USAID on the impact, titled “Russia- Ukraine War and the Global Crisis: Impacts on Poverty and Food Security in Developing Countries”.  (The power point presentation will be made available on the UAA website.) He explained that the study was organized in three phases:

1) Impact analysis which uses country models to assess the impacts of global shocks on economies and populations.
2) Policy response analysis compare the effectiveness of policy response by governments and development partners.
3) In-depth analyses with partners to tailor scenarios to policy and investment options.

The study covered numerous countries in sub-Sahara Africa, some Asian countries and Guatemala in Central America.

Phase 1 of the study findings included the following:

The study looked at shocks caused by the war in Ukraine and climate change, in particular the price of wheat which rose by 100% from June 2021-June 2022. The study also included data at the macro, micro, GDP and household level.

From the data, Mr. Dorosh pointed out that in the agri-food system GDP, some countries GDP dropped.  He briefly reviewed the agri-food system and the drivers that impact this system.

Drivers of econ issues differ. For example, the rise in fuel prices after GDP and the increase in trade and transport cost affect all market products in the economy. The shocks also affect the cost of fertilizer and the price of food.

He said households are hit twice with two shocks: 1) the rise in consumer prices and the 2) the drop in income. He stated also that fuel prices also affect both non-urban and urban household.

The study indicates that poverty has increased because of the shocks in all countries reviewed. One sees new poor as one consequence, mostly in urban areas. Malnutrition is on the rise as a result of higher food prices. Mr. Dorosh said that currently there are 19.2 million more undernourished people. In
looking at diets, the quality of food consumed has declined.

Phase 2: Policy Analysis/government response.

Mr. Dorosh mentioned that the study indicates that the country response varies based on the structure of the economy. He suggested that there is a need to better identify the most affected populations to create safety nets.

Dina Esposito from Mercy Corps and a former senior USAID Officer continued next with the discussion.  She highlighted that there are underlining causes of food securities. She also reminded the audience that there have been global food crises before Ukraine. Ms. Esposito emphasized how the issues related
to food, fuel and fertilizer are affected by “the 3 Cs” Covid, conflict and climate change. She summarized some key consequences as a result of the current situation.

  • Seventy percent of all hungry people are in conflict areas. Other countries affected by conflict, include Somalia which imports almost 90% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.
  • Climate shocks are resulting in large scale droughts, for example in Afghanistan.
  • Instability in Sri Lanka has risen as a result of shocks.
  • The United Nations has reported that more than two hundred thousand individuals are already in famine conditions.

In looking at the results, Mercy Corps is advocating for the following: 1) for more systemic changes, 2) increased support to market systems as integral to efforts to increase agricultural production and distribution of food and 3) integration of greater peace building efforts in conflict areas.  In reference to social protection, she said that there is a need for relief and development working simultaneously.  Ms. Esposito stated that peace building of governance needs to go along side to protect investments made in global food security which is a multidisciplinary problem.

Ms. Esposito concluded by asking a question, “Where is the call to action?” Global hunger is one of the world’s most solvable problems and we actually know a lot about ways and means to address the crisis.  But something is missing “at the top” to implement solutions and make things happen.

Stephen Giddings highlighted Ms. Esposito’s comments that food security is a multi-faceted problem involving climate, conflict, peace building, market systems health systems and others and requires multi-disciplinary solutions and specifically appreciated her need for a “call to action.”

Michael Michener, the final discussion leader discussed what USAID was currently doing to address the growing global food security crisis. He started with highlighting the three topics his discussion would cover the Agency’s expansion of its Feed the Future initiative, supplemental funds, and Ukraine and the
worsening of food prices which are contributing to food insecurity.

Mr. Michener pointed out that twenty million people in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia are facing starvation. Forty million more have been pushed into poverty. He added that Biden announced at the G7 meeting two weeks ago the expansion of the Feed the Future initiative and the addition of eight new countries. These new countries include Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Uganda, and Ghana.

He said that accountability is a hall mark of USAID’s Feed the Future approach. Solutions must be created to meet the specific needs of a country. The initiative expansion would focus on mitigating the global fertilizer shortage and increased high level engagement to address food insecurity and helping countries to move away from dependency on Russia for fertilizer. The expansion will also support the development of better drought resistant seeds, as well as increased access to local sources of fertilizer and better seeds. The expansion will focus on helping farmers in Ethiopia with vouchers and starter kits, as well as rehabilitating a hundred water sources.

Michener indicated that the expansion will also help sustain high level global engagement and strengthen global food security policy.

Mr. Dorosh of IFPRI added that microlevel interventions are crucial and welcomed as well.

The discussions by the three leaders were followed by a Q and A session with UAA participants. Stephen Haykin began the questions with the first one by UAA member Gerald Bowers. He asked how has export driven development strategies affected food security rather than approaches that focus on in-country self-sufficiency. Mr. Michener of USAID responded that Trade is important in promoting agriculture exports even if there are food security issues to promote growth. USAID collaborates regularly and closely with 11 other USG agencies (USDA, Feed the Future, etc.).

UAA member Gail Spence posed the question of should USAID and donors focus greater on creating a critical mass of in-country technical and non-technical expertise so that countries can take more ownership and leadership in addressing food security. Mr. Michener said that USAID’s Farmer to Farmer program is being expanded to focus more on this issue as well as providing more direct funding to local organizations. Mr. Dorosh of IFPRI added that USAID also supports country strategy programs to build in-country capacity to do research, policy-oriented capacity with government and universities. For example, he noted that its work in Rwanda to build policy capacity is having a big impact on food security.

Ms. Esposito pointed out that sometime the issue is not lack of technical knowledge but better governance to address food security. It can also be a resource problem or a process issue, as well as whose voice is being heard in making the decisions.

Stephen Haykin added that looking at the domestic side may be inciteful too as politicians try to increase the use of ethanol. Mr. Dorosh jumped in and reminded UAA participants of the importance of keeping international markets open.

Mr. Michener said that in focusing on ethanol that it makes no sense to take food out of the market for fuel. He suggested that there is a need to look more at biofuel, renewable fuel and as a means to break the cycle of agriculture’s dependency on fossil fuel.

UAA member, Paula Feeney asked about the importance of including nutrition into the focus of food security upon which Mr. Michener agreed and said that there will be more and more synergies of the two.

Stephen Giddings concluded the discussion with thanking again the distinguished guests for agreeing to speak and providing a most informative discussion on current global food security situation and the UAA members for attending.

Comments are closed.