News Article | May 17, 2017
Enhancing Food Security in Africa Through Implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement Trade-related barriers constitute one of the major causes of food insecurity in Africa. How can the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement help facilitate agricultural trade and improve food security on the continent? Trade in agriculture is remarkably low in most African economies compared to the sector’s contribution to their GDP. The less-developed-yet-complex agricultural supply chains in the region are also challenged by intricate and burdensome import and export procedures. This exacerbates food insecurity in Africa. By ensuring simple and efficient trade in agriculture, the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) may provide a solution for enhanced food security on the continent. As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) definition, “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” This could be expressed through the four pillars of food security: (1) availability, (2) access, (3) utilisation, and (4) stability. Food Security is a serious challenge in many African countries. According to the FAO-IFAD-WFP State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 report, 232 million of Africans were still undernourished during the 2014-16 period, which corresponds to 20 percent of the continent’s population, compared to the 10.9 percent global average and 12.9 average in developing countries. How can the TFA help improve food security in Africa? In Africa, one of the main causes of food insecurity, in addition to regional/domestic production constraints and resource scarcity, is the lack of cost-effective and timely availability of food products from international markets. Imports are costly due to the high cost of trade. Higher trade and transaction costs stem from cumbersome regulatory procedures, both at the export and import level, as well as from the uncertainty at destination border points due to a number of non-tariff measures (NTMs) that may require a last-minute application of various standards and, at times, be nearly impossible to comply with by the exporters and importers. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly asserts a collective responsibility to fully achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 2, which aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by the year 2030. It also commits to the provision of universal access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round. This will require sustainable food production systems, resilient agricultural practices, equal access to land, technology and markets, and international cooperation on investments in infrastructure and technology to boost agricultural productivity. In doing so, the global community needs to focus on Africa, where the prevalence of hunger is more acute, high in proportion, and the recovery potential is low due to a lack of resources and related endowments. Most African countries do not have food self-sufficiency, thus imports are essential to feed their ever-growing populations. It should also be noted that intra-regional trade is very low in Africa, particularly in the agriculture sector, which is often attributed to the complexity of trading and logistics with neighbouring countries. Agricultural supply chains can be extremely complex and fragmented, particularly in African countries. This is due to multiple factors, most of which could be addressed through the implementation of the WTO’s TFA. Following is a brief overview of the TFA could help tackle these various challenges. Addressing the challenges at borders and customs would greatly help in enhancing food security in Africa. In addition to the aforementioned specific results, there are certain systemic implications of implementing the TFA that would help enhance food security in Africa. First and foremost, like in all other sectors, increasing the efficiency of logistics (which is a hallmark of the TFA) would result in gains for agriculture and food trade that, in turn, would contribute towards improving food security. Efficient transport and logistics systems, with improved ports and borders connectivity, increases the economic size of markets, which often result in competitive prices. As per estimates of the WTO Secretariat, full implementation of the TFA could result in a reduction of trade costs ranging from 9.6 to 23.1 percent. With an expected average drop of 16.5 percent, Africa is the region that would benefit the most from this reduction. Secondly, in the particular case of Africa, the access pillar of food security is jeopardised due to low income levels and prevailing poverty on the one hand, and food price volatility and stockpiling on the other. The rent-seeking behaviour of food traders in many countries would be mitigated through the increased availability and competitive prices of food items resulting from the implementation the TFA. Thirdly, with the enhanced level of information sharing and transparency required by the TFA, there would be less opportunities for red-tape in regulatory and trade administrations. It would allow many new traders, particularly small-scale ones, to enter the international trade of agriculture products, thus contributing to regional food security. Fourthly, due to the establishment of national trade facilitation committees under the TFA, the public-private interaction would result in better collaboration, particularly in the area of agriculture, leading to a more enabling trading environment. The TFA’s contribution to the four pillar of food security The link between trade and food security has been discussed in FAO’s The State of Agriculture Commodity Markets 2015-16. It was observed that while the effect of trade on enhancing food security is contextual, there is a body of evidence that establishes positive contributions of trade in enhancing food security. The very core function of the TFA is to make trade simpler and easier, thus strengthening the ability of businesses and countries to trade and leading to increased volumes of trade. As a result, the TFA would also contribute to improved food security. As Africa ranks particularly low on food production and relies heavily on imports, these positive effects of the TFA would be proportionally higher on the continent than in other food-insecure regions and countries. Following is a summary of how the TFA could help strengthen the four pillars of the food security in Africa. By expediting the import and export of goods, especially goods in transit, countries would ensure reliable options to source food from external markets whenever and wherever needed. In the case of Africa, most states are net food importing countries, with huge untapped potential for intra-regional agricultural trade. By promoting expedited and simple import and export, the TFA would enable the region to fully harness the potential of intra-African trade and ensure timely food procurement from external markets whenever required. This would also result in facilitating the establishment of regional agricultural supply and value chains. The implementation of the TFA would reduce transaction costs and, potentially, ensure consistent food supplies while avoiding supply gaps. This would result in relatively lower prices thus improving access and affordability. Trade, in general, increases the variety of food products available in domestic markets by adding to the options offered by national production. By addressing bottlenecks at borders and harmonising the application of food-related standards, the implementation of the TFA would thus improve the nutrition mix available in African markets. Presently, a lot of food items may not be imported due to a lack of knowledge and the arbitrary application of sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, which may result in the loss of perishable products at border check-points. The TFA provisions addresses such concerns through its provisions related to advance rulings, e-certifications, and the expedited clearance of perishable items. The lack of stability in food supplies is a very serious concern in many African countries, particularly given the context of natural disasters, protracted crises, and situations of drought or famine in some of the continent’s sub-regions. The stability dimension of food security depends on the availability of food in the first place, but more importantly it requires the ability to fill food gaps in a timely manner. By ensuring efficiency in international trade and reducing the time taken to export and import, the TFA would help ensure that food can be supplied constantly, efficiently, and in a timely manner whenever and wherever needed. By addressing trade inefficiencies at various stages and reducing bottlenecks at borders, it is possible to significantly increase the sustainability and reliability of agricultural supply chains in Africa, which would help ensure sustainable food security on the continent. After its ratification by the required number of member states, the WTO’s TFA has come into force and the implementation efforts are in progress. Longer implementation timelines, coupled with the availability of technical assistance, will allow African countries to adopt and implement the required legislative, regulatory, and functional instruments in a way that is in-line with their specific needs. Implementing these commitments would, in turn, make agricultural trade easier and contribute to improving food security on the continent. For these positive results to materialise, it is essential for African countries to put measures that increase the efficiency and simplicity of at-the-border processes at the centre of their priorities, in order to expedite food and agriculture imports and exports. The importance of before and beyond-the-border regulatory infrastructure should not, however, be underestimated, as they also play a key role in providing an enabling environment for food trade. It is perfectly legitimate to be cautious about agriculture trade, in particular as regards safety standards. Nonetheless, turning a blind eye and having a lacklustre attitude about the potential of trade to ensure reliable food supplies to vulnerable populations may fall short of jurisdictional and ethical legitimacy, despite the fact that maintaining a margin of policy space is also important. The implementation of the WTO’s TFA is a significant opportunity to put in place measures that would improve food security at national and regional levels in Africa, while keeping the required policy space and applying legitimate safety standards. The views expressed in this article are of author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the FAO or any of its Committees/Bodies. Author: Ahmad Mukhtar, Economist, Trade and Food Security, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
News Article | November 15, 2016
Food production in Syria is edging nearer to collapse with wheat production having halved since the start of the war and the area of fields planted now at an all-time low, according to the UN. The World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of grave consequences for the availability of food in the warn-torn region unless immediate assistance is provided to farmers. Lack of food could add to the 11 million Syrians already displaced by five years of conflict, they said. Already there is a shortfall of a fifth in wheat supplies, with more than 9.4 million Syrians needing food aid. The situation is especially acute for almost 600,000 people living in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, where they largely rely on delivered food. The fighting has led to lack of access to land, markets and essential farming materials, such as fertiliser, seeds, veterinary medicines and fuel for machinery. This has also hit Syria’s livestock, which was once exported to other countries. Now, there are 60% less poultry - which was the most affordable source of animal protein - 40% fewer sheep and goats and 30% fewer cattle, the agencies said, as many herding families have been forced to sell or slaughter their animals. “Today, we see almost 80% of households across Syria struggling with a lack of food or money to buy food and the situation is only going to become worse if we fail to support farmers so they can maintain their lands and livelihoods,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO assistant director-general. “Agriculture was the main livelihood for rural households before the crisis and it is still producing to a certain extent, but it is stretched to the maximum and farmers have largely exhausted their capacity to cope,” he said. Muhannad Hadi, the WFP’s regional director, said: “The food security situation of millions of people inside Syria continues to deteriorate with people having exhausted their life savings and no longer able to put food on the table for their families.” The agencies’ officials visited Syria in June and found just 900,000 hectares of wheat had been planted in the previous year, compared to the 1.5m hectares planted a year before the war began. Low rainfall and the destruction of irrigation systems has made matters worse, the agencies said, with some farmers switching to hardier but less nutritious crops such as barley. Previously, the government was able to distribute high-quality seeds at subsidised prices, but now many farmers are forced to deplete their seed stocks, borrow from relatives and neighbours, or purchase expensive seed from the market. The conflict, and lack of fuel, makes transport difficult, meaning available food in the north-east of Syria cannot be taken to the west, where people largely rely on imports. Some action has been taken, with the FAO supporting more than 500,000 people so far in 2016 with cereal and vegetable seeds, live poultry, animal feed and vaccination campaigns. In the besieged city of Deir ez-Zor, increased supplies from newly harvested crops and airdrops of food assistance brought down the price of wheat flour by about 15% in June 2016, but prices remain up to 50% higher than in June 2015. Syria was already in the grip of a long, devastating drought when the conflict began in 2011, which some scientists think was made worse by climate change and contributed to the outbreak of war. In September, hydrologists and humanitarian groups warned that Syria’s water supplies were deteriorating fast, triggering more migration and disease and stoking a pollution crisis in neighbouring Lebanon.
News Article | January 31, 2016
A small village is seen at a distance in Farado Kebele, one of drought stricken Somali region in Ethiopia, January 26, 2016. Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen was speaking beside U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during a tour of an area where one of the worst droughts in decades has left children malnourished, killed livestock and damaged livelihoods. The relief operation by the government, World Food Programme (WFP) and charities needs $1.4 billion this year. The government says donors have covered about 30 percent so far. The WFP says $500 million is needed to continue operations beyond April. "Our government is committed to allocating the budget and mobilizing any resources to the target groups," Demeke told reporters at a food and cash distribution point in Ogolcho, a region south of the capital Addis Ababa. "The action of the international community is very critical and that should be on time," he added. The drought is as severe in some areas as the one in 1984, when conflict and failed rains caused a famine that killed a million people. Ethiopia now has one Africa's fastest growing economies, but the crisis is still straining the nation. The government spent $272 million last year on relief and has allocated $109 million so far this year, a hefty burden in a country which remains one of the poorest in Africa per capita and where many people rely on subsistence farming. Before flying by helicopter to Ogolcho, Ban met in Addis Ababa with government officials, U.N. agency staff and representatives of donors, such as the European Union and the United States, both major contributors. "We are doing all we can, mobilizing necessary funding," Ban said, praising the government for taking the lead while noting that "they have limited resources." Ban, in Ethiopia for an African Union summit that ended on Sunday, toured a small health post in the Ogolcho area where children are checked for malnourishment. Ogolcho is in Ziway Dudga district, where the main harvest almost completely failed last year. More than 65 percent of the district's population is dependent on relief food assistance. The north and east of Ethiopia have also been badly hit. Ban was shown a site where food and cash transfers are made under one of Ethiopia's flagship development initiatives, the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), through which about 7.9 million people around the nation who are deemed chronically food insecure receive support in return for community work. The program was started more than a decade ago, and experts say the crisis would have been far greater without it.
News Article | March 4, 2016
Dead fish are seen as Lake St Lucia is almost completely dry due to drought conditions in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, northeast of Durban, South Africa February 25, 2016. Lake St Lucia is almost completely dry due to drought conditions in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, northeast of Durban, South Africa February 25, 2016. "El Nino is progressing toward a potential regional emergency requiring a coordinated response," WFP said in a report on the unfolding situation. In January WFP said 14 million people in the region faced hunger. The figures exclude South Africa, where President Jacob Zuma said last month that 2.7 million households would be affected by the drought. Regional breadbasket South Africa had its driest year on record in 2015, threatening the key maize crop and pushing spot prices for the grain 100 percent higher over the past year. For the region as whole, WFP said many areas had recorded their lowest rainfall in 35 years between October 2015 and January 2016, the main planting window for grains such as the staple maize crop in the southern hemisphere winter. The drought conditions are also hurting livestock, a key source of wealth for many rural households in the region. "Limited water availability and poor pasture are worsening livestock conditions. The number of livestock deaths is already increasing in parts of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe," WFP said.
News Article | January 26, 2016
Midway through the farming season, the fields around the village are normally green at this time of the year but now they lie barren. Local people, who should be looking forward to the harvest in late March, are instead awaiting its failure and wondering how to make do with meager supplies of food aid. "It will not take us far so we will have to eat sparingly," said Jesta Kugarira, 65. Apart from a few showers in mid-January, it hasn't rained in Mafomoti since September and her maize, millet and sorghum crops have been destroyed. Kugarira, who has 12 children and grandchildren aged between three and 24, said her family is surviving on one meal a day. She has just six kg (13 pounds) of cereal, two kg of beans and some vegetable oil that she has received from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to keep them fed for a month. The drought is likely to damage harvests across southern Africa and about 14 million people are at risk, the WFP says. But whereas neighboring South Africa is wealthy enough to tackle the problem of food shortages, the impact is looking particularly serious for Zimbabwe where 70 percent of the population still survives on farming. Zimbabwe's economy has been struggling for five years to recover from a catastrophic recession that was marked by billion percent hyperinflation and widespread food shortages. Strained relations between President Robert Mugabe and aid donors such as the European Union have complicated matters. Agriculture is critical to Zimbabwe's economy, generating 30 percent of export earnings and contributing 19 percent to GDP. But a report by the government and international aid agencies last year said 16 percent of Zimbabwe's population - which numbers 13 million - required food up to March 2016. In drought stricken areas, emaciated cows root around the bare earth trying to find something to eat. Some livestock are too weak to stand while birds flock around the carcass of a dead donkey. Around Mafomoti, 500 km (300 miles) south of the capital Harare, 375 families have received aid which is expected to feed a total of 2,784 people. Villagers said they were being forced to sell their surviving cattle, prized possessions in rural Zimbabwe which families usually keep to fund future family expenses such as educating the next generation. "Livestock was our bank because people expected to sell and raise money for school fees, but they are all dying and there are no pastures. If you look around you, it's just barren," said Luxon Mabvongwe, a 50-year-old father of 11. Whereas food prices usually rise in times of drought, the opposite is true of livestock in Zimbabwe at the moment. With animal feed so scare, farmers are selling cows for as little as $50 compared with at least $400 they would get in better times. Harare plans to import up to 700,000 tonnes of maize and has secured a $200 million loan to import grain. The EU has urged Mugabe's government to declare a food emergency, allowing international donors to raise money quickly to provide more food aid. Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said only that Harare is already providing food imports but is open to assistance. Relations between Brussels and Harare remain fraught. The EU, which imposed sanctions in 2002 over electoral fraud and human rights abuses, has renewed measures including a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his wife until next month. Some villagers in Mafomoti are considering trekking the 100 km to the South African border to look for food. However, the continent's top maize producer is suffering from the same drought and could reap its smallest maize crop in a decade this year, a Reuters poll showed. Josphat Ngwenya, the local chief, said the long-term consequences of the drought went well beyond food shortages. "Most households will collapse and many children will fail to go to school," said Ngwenya.
News Article | March 4, 2016
"Almost 16 million people face hunger in Southern Africa because of a drought exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern and that number could climb to almost 50 million, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday. "El Nino is progressing toward a potential regional emergency requiring a coordinated response," WFP said in a report on the unfolding situation. In January WFP said 14 million people in the region faced hunger. The figures exclude South Africa, where President Jacob Zuma said last month that 2.7 million households would be affected by the drought."
News Article | January 22, 2016
Experts say the drought is worse than the one in 1984, when years of conflict followed by the failure of rains led to a famine that killed up to a million people. This time, Ethiopia is better positioned to respond after rapid economic growth, but still risks being overwhelmed as it digs into strategic food reserves. "The scale of the need is really huge and has outstripped the Ethiopian government’s ability to do this on their own," Save the Children President Carolyn Miles told Reuters from the United States after a visit to Ethiopia. The drought has mainly been blamed on El Nino, a weather pattern causing rainfall to decline in some areas of the world and floods elsewhere. Save the Children has been seeking $100 million for the next 12 to 18 months, but so far has only $30 million. "One of the hardest things right now is getting the awareness up," Miles said. The U.N. World Food Programme is also facing a funding shortfall. It needs $480 million to help meet the needs of about 7.6 million of 10.2 million at risk in coming months, but has raised just under $60 million, a WFP official said. Save the Children has ranked Ethiopia a Category 1 emergency, like the Syrian crisis. Miles said the Syrian conflict, rumbling on for five years, had "really stretched the humanitarian system", making it harder to find international support for Ethiopia. Ethiopia was showing more openness than in the past in publicising the crisis, which could help. "But because there is so much stress and strain on the humanitarian system, I am not sure how much of a difference that will make," she said. Ethiopia was using its food reserves cautiously to make them last, Miles said. Some families received rations for not all of their members, while handouts were often made only every other month. More international aid would make the government "more comfortable using (the) reserves," she said. Almost 5.8 million of those facing critical food shortages are children, with 400,000 severely malnourished or close to it, making them highly susceptible to pneumonia or malaria, Miles said. "We really want people to act now when we can actually save those children’s lives," she said.
News Article | February 26, 2017
OSLO (Reuters) - Aid agencies must get food to close to 3 million people by July to avert a famine in Africa's Lake Chad region caused by drought, chronic poverty and Islamist insurgents Boko Haram, the United Nations said on Friday as it launched a funding appeal. International donors at a conference in Oslo pledged $672 million for the next three years in new money, $457 million of which was for 2017, Norway's foreign minister said. The United Nations, which says it needs $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for the region this year, had previously raised $19 million towards this target. The presence of Boko Haram militants has prevented farmers from planting crops or accessing Lake Chad to provide water for their animals. Fishermen have also been prevented from accessing the lake which is shared between Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad, aid experts say. Boko Haram militants have killed around 15,000 people and forced more than 2 million from their homes during a seven-year insurgency. Despite having been pushed out of the vast swathes of territory they controlled in 2014, their attacks and the counter operations by Nigerian authorities still disrupt vital economic activity, officials say. The most urgent need is to reach 2.8 million people with rice or sorghum, or cash to buy supplies, by July, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said. "We are in the lean season and people's supplies are depleted. We need to avoid a famine," Abdou Dieng, the WFP's country director for West and Central Africa, told Reuters. Overall 10.7 million people -- roughly 2 out of 3 inhabitants -- need humanitarian help such as food, water, education or protection, the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. The United States, a major aid donor to the region in previous years, did not pledge any money on Friday. Stephen O'Brien, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said this was because the U.S. administration was still in transition following November's election. Half a million children aged under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. "One in five could die and the others could suffer severe long-term consequences, such as stunting," Manuel Fontaine, the U.N. children's fund UNICEF's head of emergency programmes, told Reuters.
News Article | January 18, 2016
The worst-affected country is Malawi, where 2.8 million people, 16 percent of the population, are expected to go hungry, followed by the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar where almost 1.9 million are at risk, WFP said in a statement. In Zimbabwe, 1.5 million people, more than 10 percent of the population, face hunger, WFP said. "With little or no rain falling in many areas and the window for the planting of cereals closing fast or already closed in some countries, the outlook is alarming," the U.N. agency said. "WFP is looking to scale up its lean season food and cash-based assistance programmes in the worst-hit countries but faces critical funding challenges," it added. The drought has hit much of the region including the maize belt in South Africa, the continent's most advanced economy and the top producer of the staple grain. South Africa faces its worst drought in decades after 2015 was the driest calendar year since records began in 1904. Expectations of a dire crop this season could force the country to import up to 6 million tonnes of maize, over half of its consumption needs. Maize prices in South Africa hit record highs on Monday, with the March contract for the white variety scaling a new peak of 5,106 rand ($304) a tonne, according to Thomson Reuters' data. In countries such as Malawi, much of the maize crop is produced by small-scale farmers, often just to feed their own families. The vast majority are utterly dependent on rainfall as they cannot afford irrigation systems. The drought has been worsened by an exceptionally strong El Nino weather pattern, a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that occurs every few years with ripple effects around the globe, scientists say. El Nino events typically bring drier conditions to Southern Africa and wetter ones to East Africa. The dry, hot conditions are expected to persist until the start of the southern hemisphere autumn in April or May. "One particularly worrying symptom of southern Africa’s vulnerability to food and nutrition security is the alarming rate of chronic malnutrition. Levels of stunting among children in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are among the worst in the world," WFP said.
News Article | October 31, 2016
"I feel very honoured to join the Board of Trustees of the World Food Programme (WFP). My position as CEO at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC) and my contribution to the WFP will bring a valuable asset to both organisations, connecting research with practical advice", says DOC CEO Pooran Chandra Pandey. "Members of the Board expressed a keen and unanimous desire to request Pooran Chandra Pandey's valuable contribution in view of his expertise, his experience in public service, and his commitment towards promoting food security and removal of poverty", states Rita Sarin, Country Director of The Hunger Project India. Joining Rita Sarin are Prof Swaminathan, known as the father of the Green Revolution in India and holder of the World Food Prize, and Neela Gangadharan, Former Chief Secretary to the government. The Trust offers advice without distinction based on any caste, creed, colour, race, religion, language, nationality, or gender and without any profit motive. The purpose of the Trust is to reduce poverty, hunger, and malnutrition for the most disadvantaged sections of the population in India, especially women and children. Its mission relates to the distribution of food. The Trust was chaired by the Former Indian Prime Minister I.K. Gujral for several years. The Dialogue of Civilizations supports the commitment of Pooran C. Pandey in the WFP Board of Trusts as it goes in-line with the principles of the Institute to reduce potentials of conflict situations in the world. Rooted in a tradition of seeking dialogue-based solutions to humankind's most pressing issues, Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute builds on the work and achievements of its predecessor organization, the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations, bringing together global thought leaders from academia, public policy, business and civil society to debate and develop practice-based policy advice. The roots of the organization date back to 9 November 2001, following an initiative by Iranian leader Mohammad Khatami, when UNESCO Member States unanimously adopted the 'UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity' and the UN General Assembly presented its Global Agenda for Dialogue among civilisations, setting out the principles of intercultural dialogue to be defended and objectives to be achieved. The World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations emerged as a practical endeavour to implement this initiative, and has since evolved into what is today Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute.