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The global food insecurity is linked to growing pressure on land, water, and energy resources reveals the 2012 annual Global Hunger Index released by a consortium of three international not for profit organizations (International Food Policy Research Institute [IFPRI], Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide) last Thursday in Washington D.C.
According to the index released for the seventh time said that the unsustainable use of land, water, and energy is threatening the food security of the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world.
The index dubbed as The Challenge of Hunger: Ensuring Sustainable Food Security under Land, Water, and Energy Stresses, states that hunger on a global scale remains serious with 20 countries having levels of hunger that is “alarming” or “extremely alarming”. It identifies Burundi, Eritrea and Haiti as the three countries with extremely alarming food insecurity concerns. South Asia is the other region that continues to suffer from the highest levels of hunger. The food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa emanates from lack of political will and effective land use right argues the authors of the index.
“Political leaders in sub-Saharan Africa are not committed to food security. Ill defined land right system worsens the food insecurity situation in the subcontinent. Without proper land right system in place, farmers have no incentives to produce more and look after their land,” said the authors of the report in a teleconference they held with Capital from Washington D.C.
Growing scarcity and degradation of farmland, rapidly rising incomes, and changing consumption patterns have all contributed to an increasing number of international land investments or land deals argues the hunger index. Many of these deals have targeted Sub-Saharan Africa where land rent is lower; regulatory systems are weaker and levels of hunger is higher adds the index.
“Large-scale foreign investments in land should be closely monitored. Local organizations are needed to secure transparency and the participation of smallholder farmers whose livelihoods are impacted by land deals,” argued Bärbel Dieckmann, President of Welthungerhilfe.
Water scarcity is worsening by climate change. This is especially true in the severely water-stressed areas of the world which houses more than 2 billion people. Flooding, drought and environmental degradation all threaten agriculture in many parts of the world further explains the index.
Rising global energy prices are a serious threat to food security, increasing demand for agricultural land and water for crop production which, in turn, raise food prices. Higher energy prices also increase agricultural input costs, such as the cost of fertilizer and groundwater pumping and machinery, putting further pressure on prices.
“Agricultural production must increase substantially to meet the demands of a growing, increasingly wealthy population. Yet to avoid more stress on land, and to ensure that all have access to adequate food, production must be sustainable and must prioritize the poor,” said Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide.
“If local, national and international natural resource policies focus on sustainable, long-term gains, if policies are coordinated and tradeoffs among land, water, and energy policies are minimized, we can strengthen the global food system while preventing resource depletion. Such a shift to sustainable food security would benefit billions of people today and many more in future decades” added Claudia Ringler, Deputy Division Director of IFPRI.
The index recommends four points to ensure food security globally; first securing land and water rights to support Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests. Second, phasing out inefficient subsidies for water, energy, and fertilizers, in particular, for bio-fuel mandates in Europe and the United States and encourage market solutions that promote efficient use of natural resources. The third is scaling up technical solutions particularly those that conserve natural resources and foster more efficient and effective use of land, energy and water from farm to plate. The last is taming primary drivers of natural resource scarcity. That is addressing demographic change through giving women access to education and reproductive health services; raising incomes and lowering inequalities, mitigating and adapting to climate change through agriculture.