By Shenggen Fan
Dr. Shenggen Fan has been director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) since 2009. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Food Security and an executive committee member of the International Association of Agricultural Economists. IFPRI is partnering with The Council on its upcoming Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security.
As G8 leaders meet at Camp David later this week, food and nutrition security should stay at the top of the agenda and include countries beyond the G8, namely those in Africa and Asia. Leaders should address how they plan to increase development aid to help vulnerable people respond to crises and how they plan to scale up investments in science and technology to improve food security in developing countries. Innovations like biotechnology, nanotechnology, and biofortification can raise productivity, build resilience to weather-related shocks, enhance the nutritional value of crops, and ensure food safety. Issues of preventing price volatility—including halting grain-based biofuel production, establishing grain reserves for emergency use, eliminating food export bans, and increasing the transparency of food and agricultural market information—should also be addressed.
U.S. President Barack Obama invited African leaders from Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania, to take part in G8 food security talks, which signals an interest in addressing challenges facing the continent. Sporadic rainfall, crop shortages, and high food prices continue to threaten food security for the poor and hungry in the region, and, subsequently, drought and famine in the Sahel and other parts of Africa have increased. In 2011, more than 13 million people were affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa; this year, more than 15 million people across seven countries in the Sahel are already suffering from severe food insecurity or at risk of facing it in the near future.
In 2011, development aid from donors dropped for the first time in 15 years, falling by three percent from 2010. The experience of the Horn of Africa crisis exemplifies how various governments, humanitarian groups, and donor agencies can come together to tackle humanitarian crises. However, in addition to increasing aid for short-term interventions, the global community needs to commit to provide long-term interventions to build resilience to future crises.
At this year’s G8 Summit, leaders of industrial countries should focus on fulfilling their commitments to global food security. In 2009, G8 leaders at the L’Aquila Summit made considerable financial commitments to global agriculture and food security, pledging to mobilize $20 billion over three years through a coordinated, comprehensive strategy focused on sustainable agriculture development. As of May 2011, it was estimated that only 22 percent of these commitments had been disbursed. While developing country governments have taken important steps to boost food security-related investments, support from G8 countries remains critical.