The 2012 Human Development Report for Africa explores why dehumanizing hunger remains pervasive in the region, despite abundant agricultural resources, a favorable growing climate, and rapid economic growth rates. It also emphasizes that food security – the ability to consistently acquire enough calories and nutrients for a healthy and productive life - is essential for human development.
To boost food security, it argues for action in four interrelated areas: agricultural productivity, nutrition, access to food, and empowerment of the rural poor. It asserts that increasing agricultural productivity in sustainable ways can bolster food production and economic opportunities, thereby improving food availability and increasing purchasing power. Effective nutrition policies can create conditions for the proper use and absorption of calories and nutrients. Finally, empowering the rural poor - especially women - and harnessing the power of information, innovation, and markets can promote equitable allocation of food and resources within families and across communities.
Market information is essential for agricultural development and to improve food security, particularly for small‐scale producers and traders, who typically have limited access to, and understanding of market information and analysis.
Good market information helps ensure transparency, competitiveness and the more equitable sharing of benefits between market participants. Effective market information systems reduce information asymmetries, increase competitiveness, and improve marketing system efficiencies. For small farmers, this can help strengthen their bargaining position and improve their understanding of marketing opportunities and options. For traders, market information can help identify producers and others traders, expand their business and bargain more efficiently. Good market information is also an essential ingredient for governments to take appropriate policy decisions in support of agricultural growth and enhanced food security.
Continued population growth, urbanization and rising incomes are likely to continue to put pressure on food demand. International prices for most agricultural commodities are set to remain at 2010 levels or higher, at least for the next decade (OECD-FAO, 2010). Small-scale producers in many developing countries were not able to reap the benefits of high food prices during the 2007-2008 food price crises. Yet, this upward food price trend could have been an opportunity for them to increase their incomes and food security. The opportunity that high food prices could have provided as a pathway out of poverty for small producers was not realized.
Evidence from the ground shows that when strong rural organizations such as producer groups and cooperatives provide a full range of services to small producers, they are able to play a greater role in meeting a growing food demand on local, national and international markets. Indeed, a myriad of such institutional innovations from around the world are documented in this FAO case-study-based publication. Nevertheless, to be able to provide a broad array of services to their members, organizations have to develop a dense network of relationships among small producers, between small-producer organizations and with markets actors and policy-makers.
This fact sheet highlights the progress of rural women against key Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicators, pointing to some of the advancements made and gaps that still exist. It few exceptions, rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and men for every MDG indicator for which data are available. While data collection along these lines has improved in recent years – in part because of increased donor and government interest – there still remains a general lack of data not only disaggregated by sex, but also by rural and urban areas. This has an impact on our global ability to confidently monitor progress towardthe MDGs for all people in all regions, urban and rural, and particularly where progress is needed most.