The Challenge of hunger: ensuring sustainable food security under land, water and energy stresses..."World hunger, according to the 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI), has
declined somewhat since 1990 but remains “serious.” The global
average masks dramatic differences among regions and countries.
Regionally, the highest GHI scores are in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. South Asia reduced its GHI score significantly between
1990 and 1996—mainly by reducing the share of underweight children—but could not maintain this rapid progress. Though Sub-Saharan Africa made less progress than South Asia in the 1990s, it has
caught up since the turn of the millennium, with its 2012 GHI score
falling below that of South Asia.
From the 1990 GHI to the 2012 GHI, 15 countries reduced
their scores by 50 percent or more. In terms of absolute progress,
between the 1990 GHI and the 2012 GHI, Angola, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nicaragua, Niger, and Vietnam saw the largest improvements in their scores.
Twenty countries still have levels of hunger that are “extremely
alarming” or “alarming.” Most of the countries with alarming GHI scores
are in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (the 2012 GHI does not,
however, reflect the recent crisis in the Horn of Africa, which intensified in 2011, or the uncertain food situation in the Sahel). Two of the
three countries with extremely alarming 2012 GHI scores—Burundi
and Eritrea—are in Sub-Saharan Africa; the third country with an
extremely alarming score is Haiti. Its GHI score fell by about one quarter from 1990 to 2001, but most of this improvement was reversed in
subsequent years. The devastating January 2010 earthquake, although
not yet fully captured by the 2012 GHI because of insufficient availability of recent data, pushed Haiti back into the category of “extremely alarming.” In contrast to recent years, the Democratic Republic of
Congo is not listed as “extremely alarming,” because insufficient data
are available to calculate the country’s GHI score. Current and reliable
data are urgently needed to appraise the situation in the country.
Recent developments in the land, water, and energy sectors
have been wake-up calls for global food security: the stark reality is
that the world needs to produce more food with fewer resources, while
eliminating wasteful practices and policies. Demographic changes,
income increases, climate change, and poor policies and institutions
are driving natural resource scarcity in ways that threaten food production and the environment on which it depends. Food security is now
inextricably linked to developments in the water, energy, and land sectors. Rising energy prices affect farmers’ costs for fuel and fertilizer,
increase demand for biofuel crops relative to food crops, and raise the
price of water use. Agriculture already occurs within a context of land
scarcity in terms of both quantity and quality: the world’s best arable
land is already under cultivation, and unsustainable agricultural practices have led to significant land degradation. The scarcity of farmland
coupled with shortsighted bioenergy policies has led to major foreign
investments in land in a number of developing countries, putting local
people’s land rights at risk. In addition, water is scarce and likely to
become scarcer with climate change.
To halt this trend, more holistic strategies are needed for dealing with land, water, energy, and food, and they are needed soon. To
manage natural resources sustainably, it is important to secure land
and water rights; phase out inefficient subsidies on water, energy, and
fertilizers; and create a macroeconomic environment that promotes
efficient use of natural resources. It is important to scale up technical solutions, particularly those that conserve natural resources and
foster more efficient and effective use of land, energy, and water along
the value chain. It is also crucial to tame the drivers of natural
resource scarcity by, for example, addressing demographic change,
women’s access to education, and reproductive health; raising
incomes and lowering inequality; and mitigating and adapting to climate change through agriculture.
Food security under land, water, and energy stress poses daunting challenges. The policy steps described in this report show how we
can meet these challenges in a sustainable and affordable way.
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