Friday, April 21, 2017

Food Challenges for the Americas - A Review of IFPRI's 2017 Global Policy Report

Highlights from IFRPI’s 2017 Food Policy report: Part 2

The effects of Climate Change, Violence, and Inequality and how Agricultural R&D expenditures and better trade policies can help




Nicaragua's Dry Corridor was especially hit by El Niño last year 
Some parts below are paraphrased from the report. Here's the original link to the report: http://www.ifpri.org/publication/food-security-and-nutrition-growing-cities-new-challenges

Read the first part of our reflections on the IFRPI’s report here:

In our recent reflection of  IFPRI’s 2017 Global Food Policy Report, we discussed major themes of the urban-rural divide and the changing diets that are evolving in urban centers. We connected these issues with poverty in countries where this divide is most prominent and focused in on Latin America in particular. In the second part of this reflection, we will discuss the challenges affecting the LAC region, which include issues such as climate change impacts, research and development expenditures, and total food productivity.

For many Latin Americans, there has been a great deal of socioeconomic progress made in the last few decades. Between 2002 and 2013, 60 million people in the region escaped poverty. Despite these improvements, the LAC region remains the most unequal region in the world. For the past three years, the poverty rate has stayed stubbornly at around 28% of the population, according to household surveys collated by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Furthermore, inequality is pervasive. A measurement for inequality is known as the GINI coefficient. This measurement detects where the most pronounced differences occur between the wealthy and the poor. The average Gini coefficient for Latin American countries sat around 0.51. This high score was even higher than Sub-Saharan Africa with a Gini score of 0.47. This means that LAC countries are experiencing growth in very concentrated sectors of their economies, whereas in Africa the significance of the growth that has occurred is slightly more nuanced.

A ramification for this degree of wealth inequality is the urban poverty that affects many of region's cities. Urban centers in Latin America and the Caribbean are among those most affected by violence and crime, apart from countries at war. Measured by homicides per 100,000 individuals, the 8 most dangerous cities in the world and 42 of the top 50 are in Latin America. Until urban poverty can be helped through more job opportunities, cities will be impaired in their ability to serve their citizens.

IFPRI: Data on this map shows the inequality present throughout Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Conflicts in some countries are prolonging agricultural economic growth as well. For example, even while in Colombia there’s been steady growth of the agriculture sector at a steady pace of about 2–3% annually, there have been constraints by the presence of armed groups. As the government’s peace agreement with the FARC is implemented, Colombia’s agricultural area could expand, with the prospect of rural development and private investment in areas controlled by these armed factions.

In addition, intense weather patterns from El Niño continued the drought from Central America in 2015 through early 2016. A region particularly impacted by the climatic changes is known as the Dry Corridor, a semi-arid region covering nearly one-third of Central America, primarily in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The productivity of nearly 3.5 million agriculturalists was affected. In particular, the weather patterns affected the growers who export crops like coffee and staple crops like maize and pulses. Subsistence farmers in the Dry Corridor were also affected, and a country like Honduras could have nearly lost 80% of its maize. Currently, El Niño is tapering off as it transitions to La Niña, a climate pattern that brings excessive rains, which lead to land erosion, floods, and powerful tropical storms. Due to the international prices of key staple foods being reduced, from the increased worldwide flow of agricultural goods, the hunger that El Niño could have caused was reduced, through affordable food imports for the countries’ most affected populations. 
See the info-graphic below:

Infographic on El Niño weather pattern
Haiti, the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere, also experienced extreme drought conditions as a result of El Niño. Half a million people of its 10 million were estimated to be suffering from a lack of food due to decreased production, and inability to pay for imported food. Then last October, Haiti was directly hit by the massive Hurricane Matthew, creating Haiti’s worst humanitarian crisis since the 2010 earthquake. As of late 2016, the population in the southern part of the country was in dire need of medicine, clean water, and food to avoid an even worse humanitarian catastrophe.

El Niño had an impact throughout other countries as well, particularly Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, northern Brazil, and the southern regions of Argentina and Chile, while generating excess rain in parts of Brazil, Peru, and eastern areas of Argentina, with negative impacts on a variety of crops and livestock production.



The increasing frequency of extreme weather events will require substantial investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) and in infrastructure to cope with this changing environment. However, agricultural research investment levels in most low- and middle-income countries still fall well below the minimum target of 1 percent of agricultural gross domestic product recommended by the United Nations. Higher levels of funding are needed to establish and maintain viable agricultural research programs that achieve tangible results.

1) Agricultural R&D Spending + Number of Researchers

Working with a large network of country-level collaborators, Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) conducted surveys to collect primary data and analysis on agricultural R&D investments. After analyzing the data, ASTI publishes information and identifies trends in funding sources, spending levels and allocations. Indicators derived from this information allow the performance, inputs, and outcomes of national agricultural R&D systems to be measured, monitored, and bench-marked, with the ultimate goal of informing and improving decision making. This table shows a breakdown of Latin American investment into agricultural researchers.

Among the countries that Partners of the Americas works with, Nicaragua had 132 researchers, Guatemala had 142, the Dominican Republic had 200, and Colombia had over 1,100. Haiti was not included.  At the global level, per capita agricultural expenditure increased at a rate of 1.9 percent per year between 1980 and 2014.3 Much of the observed growth took place in the last two decades (1995–2014), reversing the decline observed between 1980 and 1994.


IFPRI: This table shows the investment in agricultural research spending and how many researchers each country has recruited. 

2) Agricultural Expenditure by Region

Moreover, tracking public expenditure by national governments allows policy makers and analysts to examine: (1) national policy priorities, as reflected in the allocation of funds, and (2) the cost-effectiveness of public spending both within and across countries. Public expenditure is expenditure incurred by public authorities—including central, state, and local governments, public corporations, and state enterprises—to provide public goods and services or to achieve national development goals. The Statistics of Public Expenditure for Economic Development (SPEED) database, a resource of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), provides data that policy makers, researchers, and other stakeholders can use to examine both historical trends and the allocation of government resources across sectors.

Several regions showed a strong recovery in the most recent period (1995–2014), while others experienced further declines in agricultural spending. This disparity reflects differences in levels of resources, economic performance, demographic shifts, and development priorities.
IFPRI: Latin America and the Carribean lags behind East Asia and the Middle East in the relative percentage of agricultural R&D to agricultural GDP

3) Global Hunger Index 


The Global Hunger Index (GHI) provides a comprehensive measure of hunger at the global level and by country. It allows for tracking progress and setbacks in addressing hunger and malnutrition over time and for assessing the drivers of these changes. The GHI is designed to raise awareness and understanding of regional and country differences in the struggle against hunger and to trigger action to reduce hunger around the world.
Source: World Economic Forum
The GHI scores for East and Southeast Asia, Near East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States range between 7.8 and 12.8, and represent low or moderate levels of hunger. Yet disparities within each region are important to recognize. For example, Haiti has a 2016 GHI score of 36.9, which places it in the alarming category, although Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole is the developing region with the lowest GHI score.

A good first step to fighting hunger is to add more value to domestic producers. This step was taken by nations present at the World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference in Nairobi that took place in December 2015, where member countries agreed to ban export subsidies. This benefits agricultural exporting countries from Latin America and Africa. It also benefits those countries which imported food, where some countries experienced a flood of foreign subsidized goods into their domestic markets. It benefits domestic producers most notably. Furthermore, negotiations between MERCOSUR, composed of South American countries, and the European Union are discussing trade issues related to market access, particularly trading off European manufacturing for MERCOSUR agriculture.

MERCOSUR's trade initiative is a good step to benefit LAC farmers

In this article, we've looked at various food and agricultural challenges, and how international NGOs are leveraging their resources to measure the effect of these conflicts on hunger around the world. With a focus on Latin America, more needs to be done when looking to create urban-rural connections. Additionally, resources need to be directed towards R&D and education for agricultural technicians in these countries as climate change impacts the growing patterns of these countries.

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