Interlocking uncertainties: new challenges for food and agriculture
The interlocking food, fuel, financial and climate crises present major challenges fordevelopment. This is particularly so in Africa – and for the poor across the world. The bottom billion is now not only resource poor, but hungry too. The shocks of recent years are unprecedented: they interact in ways that create extreme poverty traps, increasing the vulnerability of the poor – and especially women and children.
Such shocks are felt especially acutely in so-called fragile states where governance is weak and the potential for conflict is high. Already facing extreme risks and challenging livelihoods, poor people must now deal with deep, interacting and interlocking uncertainties. Increasingly the consequence of a complex, interconnected and globalised world, extreme volatility will remain a feature of the development landscape. Coping with and proofing against such risks and uncertainties must be the core challenge of any international development endeavour.
Addressing food insecurity and hunger lies at the heart of this. MDG1 has stated our global ambitions. But the recent combination of food, fuel and finance shocks, and the long term stress of climate change, has set us back. Even approaching the targets looks like a forlorn hope. But there are solutions to these challenges; although recent events put these into new perspective, adding a new urgency to the task.
The immediate effort, particularly in Africa – but also in large parts of Asia – must be effective relief and social protection measures to avoid the already hungry becoming hungrier. The ‘silent tsunami’ of global hunger is a real phenomenon, and it has not gone away with the reversal of the food and fuel price hikes of 2008. The financial crisis adds to the burden, as remittance flows dry up and economies slow down. A major effort to ensure a basic safety net is needed to offset the negative impacts of extreme price, production and market volatility that affect the poor.