That Africa has become a net importer of food and of agricultural products, despite its vast agricultural potential, is puzzling. Using data mainly for the period 1960-2007, this report seeks to explain Africa’s food-trade deficit since the mid-1970s. The core finding is that population growth, low and stagnating agricultural productivity, policy distortions, weak institutions and poor infrastructure are the main reasons. A typology of African countries based on data between 2000 and 2005 reveals that the state of food import dependency is different across the continent and varies according to countries’ levels of income. Although the few and relatively rich countries in Africa had the highest net food imports per capita (USD 185 per year in real terms), they had ample means to pay for their food import bills using revenue from non-agricultural sources. Conversely, the majority of the Africa’s low-income countries (mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa), where twothird of its population lives, had been net food importers; they imported far less food per capita (USD 17 per year) but had difficulty covering their food imports bills, as their export revenues were limited. Overall, between 1980 and 2007, Africa’s total net food imports in real term grew at 3.4 percent per year, but this growth was mostly fuelled by population growth (2.6 percent per year); the increase in per capita food import was only about 0.8 percent per year. Food consumption on per capita basis grew only at about 1 percent per year, while food production grew at an even smaller rate of less than 0.1 percent per year. The slow growth of food consumption and imports per capita is consistent with the weak economic growth and unchanged dietary pattern in the continent. Food import share, regardless of income levels, is relatively small and represents less than 5 percent of per capita income (GDP per capita). Because the share of food expense in household income is generally high in Africa, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, that the share of food imports over GDP is small implies that domestic production has largely contributed to feeding Africa’s population. Still, domestic food production has remained relatively low and increased only by 2.7 percent per year, just barely above population growth rate. This implies that any increase in per capita consumption had to be met by an increase in imports. The weak growth in food production arises from various constraints including those linked directly to agricultural productivity. Data and evidence from literature highlight that technical, infrastructural and institutional constraints share the blame. Likewise, distortions arising from both internal and external economic and agricultural policies (especially the protection and subsidies from developed countries and taxation on food production within Africa) have affected food productivity, production and trade in Africa. However, the examples of a few successful practices in African agriculture and the fact that the domestic food production has managed to keep up with population growth inspire optimism that the future is not all dark. There is a lot of room for improvement for agricultural productivity in these low-income countries to the point at which production growth outpaces the growth of population and per capita consumption.
More than 500 million family farms manage the majority of the world's agricultural land and produce most of the world's food. We need family farms to ensure global food security, to care for and protect the natural environment and to end poverty, undernourishment and malnutrition. Goals can be thoroughly achieved if public policies support family farms to become more productive and sustainable; in other words policies must support family farms to innovate within a system that recognizes their diversity and the complexity of the challenges faced.
The State of Food and Agriculture 2014: Innovation in family farming analyses family farms and the role of innovation in ensuring global food security, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. It argues that family farms must be supported to innovate in ways that promote sustainable intensification of production and improvements in rural livelihoods.
Synthesis Report capturing the main findings of the Studies carried out for the CFS.
Enhancing the socioeconomic benefits from forests
Across the world, forests, trees on farms, and agroforestry systems play a crucial role in the livelihoods of rural people by providing employment, energy, nutritious foods and a wide range of other goods and ecosystem services. They have tremendous potential to contribute to sustainable development and to a greener economy. Yet, clear evidence of this has been lacking. This evidence is critical to inform policies on forest management and use, and to ensure that the benefi ts from forests are recognized in the post-2015 development agenda, not only with respect to the environment, but also for their contributions to broader social issues.
This edition of State of the World’s Forests addresses this knowledge gap by systematically gathering and analysing available data on forests’ contributions to people’s livelihoods, food, health, shelter and energy needs. Crucially, the report also suggests how information might be improved and policies adjusted, so that the socioeconomic benefits from forests can be enhanced in the future.
On 7 August 2014 Russia announced a ban on food imports from Western countries which, in an earlier move, had imposed sanctions on Russian business interests in connection with the crisis in eastern Ukraine. The prohibition was effective immediately, and will stay in place for one year, blocking all imports of affected products from the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia and Norway. The list published by the Russian government covers bovine meat, pig meat, processed meats, poultry, fish and other seafood, milk and milk products, vegetables, fruits and nuts1. The import ban came in the wake of other import restrictions imposed by Russia on agricultural and food products earlier this year. In January 2014, Russia banned all pork imports from the EU on the grounds of recorded cases of African swine fever in wild boars in border areas of Poland and Lithuania. Other prohibitions included a ban on dairy exports from the Netherlands, quoting sanitary reasons, and on exports of meat from Ukraine, referring to an inadequate level of monitoring of meat quality standards. At the end of July 2014 bans on milk and milk products from Ukraine and fruit from Moldova were introduced, all on SPS grounds. On 1 August 2014 fruits and vegetables from Poland had already been blocked from entering the Russian market on the basis of unacceptable levels of pesticide residues and nitrates.
Although the latest bans add to a long list of import restrictions already in place, the scope of the bans, involving a large range of products from the main exporters to the Russian market raised concerns that supplies of key commodities to the Russian market would be further constrained, with negative implications for Russian consumers across all income levels, at least in the short run. This note examines the importance of the affected imports for consumption in Russia and discusses factors which will influence the dynamics of supply and demand response to the ban
Recent increases in the levels and volatility of food prices have created significant challenges to efforts to reduce levels of food insecurity both at national and household levels. As a result, significant political attention has been given to the promotion of improvements in food staples productivity in developing countries, both to offset the rapidly increasing costs of food imports, and to stimulate increased incomes and hence food security status at the household level. This attention has been manifested both at country level, with many developing countries placing food staples at the centre of their agriculture development programmes, and at the global level, for example in the context of the recent G20 initiatives.
A central focus of these initiatives has been to develop and advocate mechanisms that will result in increased levels of production by smallholder producers through the adoption of productivity —enhancing technology underpinned by improved research and development, facilitated access to critical inputs and production — related risk reduction measures. Less attention has been given to the significant heterogeneity of smallholder producers, both in terms of their access to the productive assets required to be able to increase production and, perhaps more importantly, in terms of their willingness to increase production for sale. A key message of this report is that without better understanding the determinants of smallholders’ participation in agricultural markets, and formulating appropriate measures to facilitate improved participation, initiatives seeking to promote the adoption of productivity enhancing technology by smallholder producers are likely to have limited success.
Part 1 examines the characteristics of smallholder farming from a market perspective, explaining that different categories of smallholder producer face widely different sets of issues and constraints to market participation, stressing the mutual reinforcement of productivity growth and market integration, and setting this in a dynamic context of the constrained choices facing different producers. It then sets up the policy challenges facing governments in attempting to alleviate the constraints facing these producers.
Part 2 considers the determinants of smallholder participation in rapidly evolving agricultural markets, considering the categories of constraints and risks faced in increasing levels of production for sale in different market outlets and the mechanisms through which the choices made by different market participants shape smallholders’ integration into markets.
Part 3 introduces examples of the types of solutions that may be required to facilitate the participation of smallholders in markets at different levels of formalization, considering arrangements such as producer organizations in aggregating smallholder production to market, and then the potential of mechanisms, or support services, such as market-based risk management instruments, market information systems and extension.
Part 4 then turns to examine how such arrangements and mechanisms might best be delivered to the smallholder sector, with prominence given to the role of the public sector, broadly defined to include government, donors and civil society
Monitoring commitment and capacity to act on food insecurity and malnutrition: the Food Security Commitment and Capacity Profile methodology
There is a global consensus that strong political commitment by Governments and development partners is key to the elimination of hunger and malnutrition. It is against this background that FAO has developed a methodology to assess and track efforts of national stakeholders to act on food insecurity and malnutrition: the Food Security Commitment and Capacity Profile (FSCCP) ( http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3998e.pdf ).
The methodology provides a tool that helps stakeholders to:
1. Carry out a systematic assessment of political commitment and capacity of countries to act on food insecurity and malnutrition;
2. Engage in evidence-based policy dialogue, planning and prioritization of investments in food security and nutrition; and
3. Monitor performance over time;
The methodology has been applied since 2013 in the context of FAO’s corporate Results Framework (http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/030/mk234ea1.pdf) for planning and monitoring progress of efforts to reduce hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.
The food security commitment and capacity country profile is designed as a balanced score card which provides a concise view of countries’ commitments and institutional capacities in terms of four key dimensions of the enabling environment, namely:
i. Policies, programmes and legal frameworks: i.e. the country has comprehensive policies/ strategies and investment programmes (based on evidence, addressing underlying causes of food insecurity and adopting a twin-track approach) that are supported by a legal framework;
ii. Human and financial resources: i.e. policies/strategies, programmes and legislation that are translated into effective action through the allocation of the necessary financial and human resources and solid administrative capacity of governments;
iii. Governance, coordination mechanisms and partnerships: i.e. the government regards food security and nutrition as an interdisciplinary priority by setting up a high level inter-ministerial unit responsible for the design, implementation and coordination of food security and nutrition responses, while ensuring accountability through its support to independent human rights institutions that provide people with means to file violations of the right to food. Furthermore, a government that takes on a lead role in managing partnerships and coordinated action across a broad range of actors and sectors involved in food security and nutrition at national/decentralized levels, creating space for civil society participation;
iv. Evidenced-based decision-making: i.e. decision-making on food security and nutrition that draws on evidence generated from functional information systems that make it possible to monitor trends; track and map actions; and assess impact in a manner that is timely and comprehensive, allowing for lessons learned to be fed back into the policy process.
For each of these four dimensions, the methodology paper outlines:
1. A set of core indicators and associated qualifiers;
2. The approach to producing a score for each of the qualifiers and indicators;
3. Details on the sources of the required data and information.
4. A survey instrument and secondary data collection tools.
Apart from helping FAO to measure the outcome of its work on food security and nutrition, it is expected that the country profiles will also stimulate debate on how to improve the enabling environment for food security and nutrition and promote more systematic learning and sharing of experiences.
It would be interesting to hear from the experiences of other agencies and sectors that are monitoring political commitment.
SOFI 2014 presents updated estimates of undernourishment and progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and World Food Summit (WFS) hunger targets.
The 2014 report also presents further insights into the suite of food security indicators introduced in 2013 and analyses in greater depth the dimensions of food security – availability, access, stability and utilization.
In addition, this year’s report examines the diverse experiences of seven countries, with a specific focus on the enabling environment for food security and nutrition that reflects commitment and capacities across four dimensions: policies, programmes and legal frameworks; mobilization of human and financial resources; coordination mechanisms and partnerships; and evidence-based decision-making.
You can read the key messages or download your full copy from the FAO website: www.fao.org/publications/sofi.
This article summarizes the outcomes of an FSN Forum online discussion on Street Foods (September/October 2011). The discussion was part of a study carried out by FAO’s Regional Office for Africa on possible incentives to improve the safety, quality, and nutritional value of street foods.