Archive for ‘Food Security’


Global food crisis: The challenge of changing diets

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Demands for a more western diet in some emerging countries could have a more detrimental affect on global health and hunger than population growth

Why will nearly one in seven people go to bed hungry tonight? After all, the world currently produces enough food for everyone. Today’s major problems in the food system are not fundamentally about supply keeping up with demand, but more about how food gets from fields and on to forks.

Hunger – along with obesity, obscene waste and appalling environmental degradation – is an outcome of our broken food system. And the challenge of producing enough food to meet demand looks set to increase. With the world’s population expected to grow from around 7 billion today to more than 9 billion in 2050 – an increase of nearly one-third – there will certainly be a lot more stomachs to fill. The UN has forecast that, on current trends, demand may increase by 70% over the same period, and that’s without even tackling current levels of hunger.

But population growth, per se, is not the primary problem. By 2050 an estimated seven out of 10 people will live in poor countries reliant on food imports. The quantities of food eaten by each of these people every day is likely to be an unjustifiable fraction of what anyone reading this blog has already eaten today.

Instead, the real crunch is likely to come from the changing dietary preferences from people in some large emerging countries. Economic growth, urbanisation and rising affluence are increasingly bringing with them higher demand for convenient, processed foods, for meat, and for dairy products – in short, a more western diet.

This change in demand has significant environmental consequences. Feeding livestock is much less resource-efficient than growing grains for human consumption. Already, one-third of the world’s cereal harvest and more than nine-tenths of the world’s soya is used for animal feed. Soy-derived feed may be produced on, or indirectly contribute to expansion on to, cleared rainforest land. Rainforests are very important natural carbon sinks and therefore their clearance accelerates climate change, which is already challenging food production the world over.

The production of 1kg of beef uses 12 times the amount of water needed to produce 1kg of wheat, and more than five times the amount of land.

Changing diets bring significant social challenges. Malnourishment in the form of over-eating as well as under-eating will increasingly clog up healthcare systems and arteries in the developing world. In the rich world, obesity afflicts the poorer segments of society, because healthy foods are frequently more expensive. In the US, seven of the 10 states with the highest poverty levels are also among the 10 states with the highest rates of obesity. But in emerging countries obesity tends to be concentrated in the middle classes – those who lead more sedentary lifestyles and consume more processed foods. Countries such as Mexico and South Africa are having to increasingly deal with problems of the over-fed at the same time as those of the under-fed.

But before we point the finger at emerging economies for their rising consumption, let’s keep things in perspective. In 2007, the average American ate more than twice as much meat as the average Chinese resident. At the same time, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food as the entire food production of sub-Saharan Africa. So while rising affluence and changing diets are certainly set to pose some challenges over the coming years, we should perhaps start by looking long and hard at the contents of own fridges and dustbins.

  • Richard King is economic justice policy adviser at Oxfam GB

Source: Global food crisis: The challenge of changing diets – The Guardian UK

Date: 01 Jun 2011

The food crisis and too much meat

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Today (1 June) Oxfam has published its hard-hitting report, ‘Growing a better future’. Oxfam’s research forecasts a food price rise of 70-90 percent by 2030 – and when the predicted effects of climate change are included, those price rises could double again.

There are many contributing factors behind this food crisis, which is already a tragic reality in poorer countries and a looming threat for wealthier ones. One of the scandals of our global food system is that nearly 1 billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

Compassion in World Farming believes a significant factor is the massive global growth in meat production and consumption. As Oxfam’s report points out, “higher incomes and increasing urbanization leads people to eat less grains and more meat, dairy, fish, fruit, and vegetables. Such a ‘Western’ diet uses far more scarce resources: land, water, atmospheric space.”

We use 67 billion animals a year for meat, milk and eggs, and of these, three quarters have to endure miserable lives in barren factory farms. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to dangerous climate change – and as we see above, climate change is predicted to double the price of some foodstuffs. So there is clearly an urgent need to address growth in global meat consumption:

  • Over 30 percent of global grains (including wheat and maize) and 90 percent of soya are used to feed farm animals, of whom the majority are in factory farms.
  • Converting plant protein into animal products is wasteful. It takes 20 kilos of feed to produce one kilo of edible beef, 7.5 kilos of feed for a kilo of edible pork and 4.5 kilos for a kilo of edible chicken.
  • If global demand for animal products continues to escalate, ever-increasing amounts of precious grains, and water to irrigate those crops, would be needed to fatten up ever-increasing numbers of factory farmed animals. Such a system is clearly unsustainable for animals, people and the planet.

Compassion believes that one of the easiest solutions to help remedy the situation is for those in high meat-eating populations to reduce their intake of meat and milk overall, and to choose animal products only from higher welfare systems which have paid more regard to environmental protection and animal welfare.

This would help farm animals, as reduced demand would enable a much-needed rise in animal welfare standards across the board. It would benefit human health; the World Cancer Research Funds advises a mainly plant-based diet with an upper limit of 70g of meat per person per day. It would benefit the environment too, as factory farms are highly polluting of air, land and water. And it should benefit the hungry, allowing a more equitable food supply for everyone on the planet.

Read more

Eating the Planet: Feeding and fuelling the world sustainably, fairly and humanely
This research, specially commissioned by Compassion in World Farming and Friends of the Earth, shows that we can indeed feed the world using humane and sustainable agriculture without further deforestation, without massive land use change – and without factory farming. But our options for doing so are greatly increased if high meat-eating populations reduce their consumption.

Beyond Factory Farming
This report examines the impacts of the massive global scale of livestock production. Each year we use 67 billion farm globally for meat, milk and eggs, the majority in industrial-scale farms. At the same time, the livestock population is set to double in the face of growing demand for meat and dairy products, particularly from developing countries such as China and India. The report presents solutions for a humane and sustainable farming system and provides policy recommendations for achieving this change.

The Meat Crisis: Developing more sustainable production and consumption edited by Joyce D’Silva (Director of Public Affairs, Compassion in World Farming) and John Webster (Professor Emeritus, Bristol University Vet School), Earthscan, 2010

The Meat Crisis brings together chapters from global experts to address the major issues around industrial animal farming. In brief, these are:

  • industrial animal farming’s contribution to anthropogenic climate change and the pollution of land and of rivers, lakes and seas
  • industrial animal farming’s demands on precious global resources of water, grains and soya, risking increased food insecurity for the hungry
  • the suffering imposed on the animals themselves
  • the impacts on human health of a diet high in animal products
  • the predicted doubling of demand for meat and dairy by 2050, which could mean roughly a doubling of the number of farm animals used for meat, milk and eggs per year to 120 billion, the majority of whom would be reared in confinement systems.

Interviews with some of the authors at also help bring these issues to life.

Source: The food crisis and too much meat – Compassion in World Farming UK

Date: 01 June 2011

World is ‘one poor harvest’ from chaos, new book warns

Monday, January 17th, 2011

AFP – Like many environmentalists, Lester Brown is worried. In his new book “World on the Edge,” released this week, Brown says mankind has pushed civilization to the brink of collapse by bleeding aquifers dry and overplowing land to feed an ever-growing population, while overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

If we continue to sap Earth’s natural resources, “civilizational collapse is no longer a matter of whether but when,” Brown, the founder of Worldwatch and the Earth Policy Institute, which both seek to create a sustainable society, told AFP.

What distinguishes “World on the Edge” from his dozens of other books is “the sense of urgency,” Brown told AFP. “Things could start unraveling at any time now and it’s likely to start on the food front.”

“We’ve got to get our act together quickly. We don’t have generations or even decades — we’re one poor harvest away from chaos,” he said.

“We have been talking for decades about saving the planet, but the question now is, can we save civilization?”

In “World on the Edge”, Brown points to warning signs and lays out arguments for why he believes the cause of the chaos will be the unsustainable way that mankind is going about producing more and more food.

Resources are already beginning to be depleted, and that could cause a global “food bubble” created by overusing land and water to meet the exponential growth in demand for food — grain, in particular — to burst.

Two huge dustbowls have formed in the world, one in Africa and the other in China and Mongolia, because of soil erosion caused by overplowing.

In Lesotho, the grain harvest has dropped by more than half over the last decade or two because of soil erosion, Brown said.

In Saudi Arabia, grain supplies are shrinking as a fossil aquifer drilled in in the 1970s to sustain domestic grain production is running dry after years of “overpumping” to meet the needs of a population that wants to consume more meat and poultry.

Global warming is also impacting the global supply of grain, which Brown calls the foundation of the world food economy.

Every one-degree-Celsius rise above the normal temperature results in a 10 percent fall in grain yields, something that was painfully visible in Russia last year, where a seven-week heatwave killed tens of thousands and caused the grain harvest to shrink by 40 percent.

Food prices soared in Russia as a result of the poor harvest, and Russia — which is one of the top wheat exporters in the world — cut off grain exports.

Different grains are staple foods in most of the world, and foods like meat and dairy products are “grain-intensive.”

It takes seven pounds (3.2 kilograms) of grain fed to a cow to produce a pound of beef, and around four pounds (1.8 kilograms) of grain to produce a pound of cheese, Brown told AFP.

In “World on the Edge”, Brown paints a grim picture of how a failed harvest could spark a grain shortage that would send food prices sky-rocketing, cause hunger to spread, governments to collapse and states to fail.

Food riots would erupt in low-income countries and “with confidence in the world grain market shattered, the global economy could start to unravel,” Brown warned.

But Brown still believes civilizational collapse can be averted, if there is a mass effort to confront threats such as global warming, soil erosion and falling water tables, not military superpowers.

“World on the Edge” can be downloaded free-of-charge at

Source: World is ‘one poor harvest’ from chaos, new book warns – France 24

Date: 17 Jan 2011

The coming hunger: Record food prices put world ‘in danger’, says UN

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Food riots, geopolitical tensions, global inflation and increasing hunger among the planet’s poorest people are the likely effects of a new surge in world food prices, which have hit an all-time high according to the United Nations.

The UN’s index of food prices – an international basket comprising wheat, corn, dairy produce, meat and sugar – stands at its highest since the index started in 1990, surpassing even the peaks seen during the 2008 food crisis, which prompted civil disturbances from Mexico to Indonesia.

“We are entering danger territory,” said the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s chief economist, Abdolreza Abbassian.

Global food prices have risen for the sixth month in succession. Wheat has almost doubled since June, sugar is at a 30-year high, and pork is up by a quarter since the beginning of 2010.

The trends have already affected the UK where the jump in food prices in November was the highest since 1976. Meat and poultry were up 1 per cent and fruit by 7.5 per cent in one month.

Food producers have been told to expect the wheat price to jump again this month, hitting bakers and the makers of everything from pasta to biscuits.

More is sure to follow and that in turn will add to pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates to control rising prices. Higher mortgage bills by the end of the year will add to the unpleasantness facing “middle England” from a year of tax hikes and below-inflation pay rises.

However, the biggest impact of the food price shock will be felt in countries in the developing world where staple items command a much larger share of household incomes.

Economists warn that “soft commodity” food prices show little sign of stabilising, and that cereals and sugar in particular may surge even higher in coming months. In addition, long-term trends associated with growth in population and climate change may mean higher food costs become a permanent feature of economic life, even though the current spike may end in due course. Speculation, too, may be part of the crisis, as investors climb on to the rising food-price bandwagon.

Mr Abbassian said the UN agency is concerned by the unpredictability of weather activity, which many experts link to climate change. He said: “There is still room for prices to go up much higher, if for example the dry conditions in Argentina tend to become a drought, and if we start having problems with winterkill in the northern hemisphere for the wheat crops.”

One concern, especially in Ukraine and Russia, is that the cold winter, following disastrous droughts and summer fires, will have damaged the seeds for next year’s crops, leading to an even more acute crisis than seen last year. Government policies, especially the export bans imposed by nervous Indian and Russian governments, have exacerbated such problems in world markets.

Meanwhile, burgeoning consumption in the booming economies of east Asia and the pressure exerted by the demand for crops for biofuels rather than food, especially in the US, is adding to the unprecedented squeeze on world food supplies.

The latest surge in crude oil prices adds to the risk of turmoil. Many experts say oil prices show few signs of abating, and the price of a barrel is set to breach the $100 barrier again soon. Opec officials yesterday said they were happy with such a level. Oil peaked at just under $150 a barrel in 2008; any sign of renewed tension in Iran would see the price exceed that. Higher oil prices add to food price inflation by increasing transportation costs.

The interplay of rising fuel prices, the growing use of biofuels, bad weather and soaring futures markets drove up the price of food dramatically in 2008, prompting violent protests in Mexico, Indonesia, Egypt, Cameroon and Haiti. Last year’s spike was provoked mainly by the freakish weather conditions in Russia and Ukraine, but one of the underlying trends is the growing and changing appetites of east Asia.

As more Chinese enter the middle classes they tend to consume more poultry and meat, just as Westerners did at a similar stage in their economic progress. However, meat and poultry husbandry consumes at least three times the resources that grains do, while the drift towards the cities in China is reducing the yields of its farms. Similar trends are visible in the other fast-growing, populous nations such as Brazil, India and Indonesia.

Countries that are poor and produce relatively little of their own food are most vulnerable to the food price shock – Bangladesh, Morocco and Nigeria top the “at risk” list, according to research by Nomura economists, who also identify growing shortages of water as a critical factor restraining any growth in agricultural productivity.

Owen Job, strategist at Nomura, said: “The economists’ model of increasing supply as demand grows may be breaking down. Supply cannot keep up with factors such as biofuels and the urbanisation of China. Some 30 per cent of all water used in agriculture comes from unsustainable sources.”

* David Cameron has disclosed that the Treasury was considering introducing a “fuel stabiliser”. Under the move, tax paid by motorists would be cut when the cost of oil surged worldwide and rise when it dropped. He said: “We are looking at it. It’s not simple but I would like to try and find some way of sharing the risk of higher fuel prices with the consumer.”

Source: The coming hunger: Record food prices put world ‘in danger’, says UN – The Independent

Date: 6 January 2011

Fears of new food crisis as prices soar –

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The bill for global food imports will top $1,000bn this year for the second time ever, putting the world “dangerously close” to a new food crisis, the United Nations said.

The warning by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation adds to fears about rising inflation in emerging countries from China to India.

“Prices are dangerously close to the levels of 2007-08,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist at the FAO.

The FAO painted a worrying outlook in its twice-yearly Food Outlook on Wednesday, warning that the world should “be prepared” for even higher prices next year. It said it was crucial for farmers to “expand substantially” production, particularly of corn and wheat in 2011-12 to meet expected demand and rebuild world reserves

Source: Fears of new food crisis as prices soar –

Date: 17 November 2010

Niger Crisis: Irish Red Cross undertakes biggest food distribution operation in its 70 year history

Monday, July 5th, 2010

The Irish Red Cross will be undertaking the biggest food distribution operation in its 70 year history in the coming weeks, delivering food to 115,000 people in Niger which faces one of its worst food crises in years.

This operation is in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) which has recognised the capacity of the Irish Red Cross to deliver 1,866 tonnes of food to the people of Niger, in coordination with the Niger Red Cross.

Noel Wardick, the Head of the International Department for the Irish Red Cross, is currently in Niger on an 8-day visit to assess the scale of the food crisis. He is meeting with Irish Red Cross staff and the Niger Red Cross to discuss how this food can be distributed to those who need it most.

“It is a great achievement for the Irish Red Cross that the World Food Programme has expressed such trust in us. However at least 7.1 million people in Niger – or half the country’s population – are still suffering from these extreme food shortages and we need help from the Irish public to continue this good work,” explained Noel Wardick.

As living conditions in households continue to deteriorate and food shortages hit the most vulnerable – children under five – the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) stated last week that it was quadrupling its emergency appeal for funds.

In support of this announcement the Irish Red Cross has called on the Irish public to give what they can as donations to the Niger Emergency Appeal remain very low.

“It is vital that members of the public are aware of the severity of this food crisis and that whatever they give can and will make a big difference to people’s lives. Donations will provide food for the people of Niger, and will also help them plant seeds so that they do not have to suffer a similar fate next year.”

Source: Niger Crisis: Irish Red Cross undertakes biggest food distribution operation in its 70 year history – ReliefWeb

Date: 05 July 2010

Biologist Warns Of Danger From Rising Sea Levels

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

In his new book, Flooded Earth, Peter D. Ward argues that even if humans stopped all carbon dioxide emissions today, the oceans will still rise up to 3 feet by 2050, wreaking havoc on many coastal cities and their infrastructure. In the worst case scenario, Ward tells host Guy Raz, the world may see water levels rise as much as 65 feet by 2300 causing massive human migration and a spread of tropical diseases.


GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I’m Guy Raz.

Peter Ward is a biologist at the University of Washington. He’s not a historian but in his new book, “The Flooded Earth,” he writes as a historian, but a historian describing the year 2120. And here’s what happened to the city of Miami.

Professor PETER WARD (Biology and Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington; Author, “The Flooded Earth”): (Reading) Miami had become an open city. It was also an island, although to the north it was still contiguous with the vast peninsula that had been Florida. The flooding had cut off all freeway and railroad ties while the airport itself was now a vast a lake. All this was because the level of the world’s oceans had risen 10 feet.

The reason for this vast geographic change, one that rendered every school child’s world atlas obsolete, was readily apparent: Greenland had lost its ice cover.

RAZ: That’s Peter Ward reading from his new book, “The Flooded Earth.” It paints a pretty bleak picture of how life on this planet will begin to change dramatically – as early as 2050, as sea levels continue to rise. Peter Ward joins me from KUOW in Seattle.

Welcome to the program.

Prof. WARD: Thank you so much for having me.

RAZ: You paint a picture of Miami. The city becomes kind of an archipelago of little islands, many islands, barely habitable. Is that really going to happen based on your projections?

Prof. WARD: It may not happen that early – that’s the worst case scenario – but it will absolutely happen if we continue to be producing emissions at the rate that we are. I’ve now spent two field seasons in Antarctica. I’ve been able to look there at the recession of the glaciers and also of the ice sheets.

Remember, everybody worries about icecap, but ice floating on the sea, even if it all melts, has no direct effect on…

RAZ: Right. It’s like ice in a glass. If ice melts…

Prof. WARD: Exactly.

RAZ: …it doesn’t change the level.

Prof. WARD: But, see, ice on land – and the two critical places are Greenland and Antarctica. I mean, those are really what we must worry about. I almost want to print out T-shirts: Keep the Ice Sheets, because we need to stabilize these.

RAZ: You focus on mass extinction of humans, of animals. You’re saying that sea levels will rise – they rise every day, they’re rising as we speak. What’s the best case scenario by the end of this century in terms of how high the sea will rise?

Prof. WARD: Best case scenario that I can see is going to be a little less than three feet.

RAZ: So if we do nothing now, if we freeze…

Prof. WARD: We do nothing.

RAZ: …mm-hmm. We do nothing, we freeze or emissions now, the seas will still rise by about three feet by the end of this century.

Prof. WARD: Three feet. And from all the engineers I’ve talked to – and it’s been an interesting ride for me – civilization can deal with up to a five-foot sea level rise without major dislocation. But anything above five feet and you’re talking tremendous economic and biological dislocation.

RAZ: Worst case scenario?

Prof. WARD: Worst case scenario would be five feet by 2100. But the problem with the five-foot rise, a sea level rise is something that doesn’t take place at a constant level. It’s accelerating. So once you have a five-foot rise by 2100, you might have a 50-foot rise by 2200.

So the five-foot rise would be catastrophic economically but it would also really be pointing the gun to the head of all of the coastal cities. Sooner or later, within a century or two after that, you’re going to be dealing with triage, trying to figure out what do we save and what don’t we.

RAZ: Where in the U.S. are we likely to see the effects? I mean, we think about, let’s say, the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, and we can imagine what that looks like on a map, right? Will that look the same in 100 years?

Prof. WARD: In some senses. The place that will be most mitigated in terms of geography will be the entire Gulf region. I mean, that poor benighted place where we have all that nasty oil going to shore, that is the area where sea level will have the greatest impact.

RAZ: So when you talk abut the Gulf, are you talking about, for example, the Mississippi Delta?

Prof. WARD: Yes. The Mississippi Delta and every other delta on this planet is an endangered species. Deltas are completely tied into sea level. Even a one-foot rise in sea level tremendously affects the sedimentology of delta formation.

And here’s why deltas are so important: an enormous proportion of the world’s rice comes from the deltas in the tropical areas of the planet. When we have a rise even of a foot in sea level, we have many feet of lateral salt migration, the problem isn’t the vertical rise of the sea. It is the fact that salt has this nasty habit of migrating sideways. And sideways into soil kills off agricultural crops.

Salt and plants that produce crops just don’t mix. Mangroves, if we could eat mangroves, we’d be in great shape. But we’re looking at this confluence, and this is why I’m so disturbed. We’re looking at a global population that’s going from 6.6 billion to nine billion. We’re looking at a sea level rise from one to three feet, and we’re looking at a reduction in arable land because of that sea level, so the equation is more people less food.

RAZ: You say that there are three possible outcomes of global warming. One, that scientists are wrong and that the icecaps won’t actually melt; the second that the icecaps will melt but humans will adapt and they’ll begin to cooperate; and the third is kind of a, I would call, “Mad Max” scenario where the ice caps melt and you have something akin to global anarchy. Which of these do you see as the most likely outcome?

Prof. WARD: I hope it’s number two. I mean, this is just a hope. And we’re looking back at history to try to understand how things happened and yet we’ve never had an industrial civilization of our level in history encountering rising sea level.

The fastest rise we know of in the past from Ice Age melting, though, is about five meters a century. So that’s 15 feet in one century. We know from geological records it can go that fast. And this was in consequence to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide far less than what we’re doing now.

RAZ: And that would’ve been the results of volcanoes, for example?

Prof. WARD: What we’re doing to the atmosphere now is very similar to what I studied in the deep past, which is that the Permian extinction and the Triassic extinction, when there were enormous volcanic vents of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at rates that seem to be akin to what we’re doing now.

Now, we just came through a horrible global recession and yet emissions globally did not reduce to where we hope they were. Even with the recession, emissions keep going up. Carbon dioxide levels keep going up. If we return to full employment, with all these extra people, what happens? Higher emissions, less ice sheet, higher sea level.

RAZ: Peter Ward, all of the scenarios you lay out are quite shocking and they’re fascinating, but I wonder at what point does all you say become tangible, become something that people can actually see and be affected by, because, you know, one could argue that until that point, this is just theoretical and it’s difficult to get people to respond and to make changes.

Prof. WARD: Look, what if we’re wrong about the sea level rise? What will we have done to mitigate it? We will have searched for alternative forms of energy all good. We will have tried to do defenses on our coastlines, and with rising temperatures we’re going to get stronger hurricanes; all good. So even if the sea level doesn’t rise, the attempts to defense it are actually very powerful and positive things.

The alternative, doing nothing, well, maybe we’ll get away with it. Maybe we’ll dodge the bullet, but what if we don’t?

RAZ: That’s Peter Ward. He is a professor of biology and Earth and space sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of the new book, “The Flooded Earth.”

Peter Ward, thank you so much.

Prof. WARD: Thank you.

Source: Biologist Warns Of Danger From Rising Sea Levels -

Date: 03 July 2010

Zimbabwe: Food Shortages to Worsen in Drought-Prone Areas

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

The southern parts of the country are expected to suffer acute grain shortages, with more people expected to rely on food aid.

The United States-funded Famine Early Warning System (Fewsnet) reported that the availability of grain was likely to deteriorate through September until the end of the farming season in March next year.

The food security situation in the southern, western and some eastern parts of the country is likely to deteriorate through September and food assistance will be required for the vulnerable households both in rural and urban areas,” reads the report.

The report by Fewsnet is likely to put the government in a spot of bother.

A number of Zanu PF ministers announced earlier that Zimbabwe would not accept food aid as this was being used as a tool for regime change.

Earlier this year, Agriculture and Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister, Joseph Made announced that the government had banned donor agencies from dolling out free food. Matabeleland South governor, Angeline Masuku also said her province, which is drought prone and is among the hardest hit, would reject any food aid.

Early this year Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai conducted a tour of farming areas describing the farming season as catastrophic.

He said at least US$500 million was needed to offset the food deficit, but so far his appeals had not achieved much.

The farming season runs between October and March with food insecurity in rural areas peaking around January and February.

The most affected areas are the southern districts, Binga, Kariba, Mudzi and the southern parts of Manicaland.

Fewsnet noted that the supply of grain had remained favourable throughout the country, though the cost of living had remained high.

“The cost of living for the majority of poor urban households is likely to remain high, making it difficult for these households to meet their basic food and non-food requirements.”

Already there is a food deficit of 416 000 metric tonnes of grain, due to poor imports and unimpressive harvests and this is set to worsen in October, when the traditional “hunger” season sets in, continued the report.

The northern parts of the country have 10 months of food supply, while most of the country only harvested food to last them untill the end of this May.

Fewsnet noted that there were pockets of moderately food insecure households who failed to produce anything from the 2009/2010 agricultural season and these would need food assistance at the beginning of October.

Initial reports indicated that about 2,2 million people were in need of food aid.

Zimbabwe has had to rely on food aid since President Robert Mugabe embarked on a chaotic and ill advised land reform programme a decade ago.

Thousands of white commercial farmers were pushed off their land, since then the country has experienced successive grain deficits.

Source: Zimbabwe: Food Shortages to Worsen in Drought-Prone Areas – allafrica

Date: 03 July 2010

Central Vietnam dries up

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

The outlines of the MARD report were briefed on July 1. Members of a MARD mission just returned from Vietnam’s central region confirmed that nearly 200,000 hectares of rice and vegetables are withering. Half of the area suffers from serious drought. At least 15,000 hectares of rice will be a dead loss.

Drought is also drying up also daily water supply. At least 40,000 households in nine districts of Binh Dinh province, on Quang Ngai’s Ly Son Island, and along the lower reaches of the Thu Bon river (Quang Nam) are living without adequate supplies of clean water.

At a meeting chaired by First Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Bui Ba Bong on July 1, Pham Hong Quang, head of the mission to the central region, said that drought most serious in the north central region – the coastal provinces of Thanh Hoa, Nghe An and Ha Tinh.

Quang said that of more than 250,000 hectares of summer-autumn rice, 62,000 are seriously short of water, including 55,000 hectares in the aforementioned provinces. Another 70,000 hectares of ricefields have been left fallow because of drought.

On the central coast, 25,000 hectares of rice and 23,000 hectares of vegetables are reported to lack water. The worst hit provinces are Binh Dinh (6000 hectares), Quang Nam (5000 hectares), Khanh Hoa (5000 hectares), Phu Yen (2000 hectares) and Da Nang (700 hectares).

Quang forecast that if baking sun continues for another five to seven days, losses will rise considerably. Specifically, the north-central region would have to write off another 12,000 hectares rice while losses on the central coast will double to reach 45,000 hectares.

The hot dry weather has persisted for more than two months, drying up rivers, reservoirs and streams in the region.

Major rivers like the Tra Khuc (Quang Ngai), Vu Gia and Thu Bon (both Quang Nam) are all dry. The level of water in reservoir at Quang Ngai’s Thach Nham dam is one meter below the spillway.

“I’ve never seen such a serious drought in my life. Trees can’t live in scorching sun and water shortage like this. Several years ago, the sun was fierce but we still had water,” senior farmer Nguyen Thanh Hung from Dien Ban district (Quang Nam) told VietNamNet.

“God is too cruel! How can we survive in this weather!” lamented senior farmer Le Than.

Most estuaries in the central region have been infiltrated by sea water. As a result, pumping stations are idle.

To save over 500 hectares of rice, Tam Ky city, Quang Nam province, spent over 800 million dong ($42,000) to build a dam against salt water intrusion.

On Ly Son island, twenty kilometers off the coast of Quang Ngai province, 110 families have built tanks to collect rain-water when wells became unreliable. However, their tanks are now bone-dry because there has been no rain since mid-March.

The island’s 20,000 residents must purchase water brought from the mainland on boats. They are being charged as much as 190,000 dong ($10) per cubic meter.

The MARD mission confirmed that central provinces have established steering boards to combat the drought and ordered drastic measures but the situation is not improved. Average temperatures in May and June were nearly 2°C higher than average.

MARD’s Cultivation Department and the General Department of Irrigation have recommended that drought-stricken provinces reconsider where the selection of crops should be changed to cope with drought, dredge canals, redouble efforts to manage irrigation effectively and dig more wells.

MARD will ask the government to mobilize anti-drought assistance urgently for the central provinces.

Source: Central Vietnam dries up –

Date: 03 July 2010

Right to food threatened globally by runaway prices in 10 years

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The country must brace for a huge problem– a food crisis — in 10 years.

This dire warning was raised by Chairwoman Leila M. de Lima of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in a speech delivered during the 4th general assembly of the FoodFirst Information and Action (FIAN) at the Religious of the Good Shepherd Retreat House in Tagaytay City last June 19.

De Lima said a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that:

“over the next ten years, the average prices of wheat and coarse grain will rise from 15 percent to 40 percent. Vegetable oils are projected to rise by more than 40 percent. And dairy prices are expected to increase anywhere from 16 percent to 45 percent.”

This does not augur well for the basic human right to food, the CHR chief stressed, since the total number of undernourished people now is one billion, a sixth of the global population.

Even as food production manages to keep up with growing demand, these agencies said the world is in for a regime of “more hunger and increased food insecurity.”

“One billion people for whom the right to food is a cruel joke or a mere mirage. One billion people whose health will continue to flounder because of poor nutrition. That number includes countless adults who will face significant difficulty carrying out their work, or finding work in the first place. And it includes countless children for whom the day’s lessons fade inevitably into the background, while the emptiness that is their hunger gnaws away at their being,” De Lima noted.

“The report points to a number of reasons for increasing prices, from growing demand for biofuels created using food crops, to increasing consumption of food from emerging nations which are becoming more prosperous, as well as rising production costs, such as the cost of energy,” she added.

Higher food prices would penalize the poor, De Lima explained,

“since they spend a far larger share of the family budget on food. It is clear that at the international level, across continents and countries, the right to food will face significant peril over the coming years. Therefore in response, we must redouble our efforts to help protect and fulfill the right to food.”

She lashed out at the “vested interests have worked to stymie genuine comprehensive land reform, through intimidation, the use of legal action, and acts of violence, including murder. And actions arising from economic, political and other interests have deprived vulnerable groups of their access to food, because of water contamination, home demolition, harvest confiscation and worse.”

De Lima said “one of the primary institutions which has been there and which has continuously stepped up, in order to advocate strenuously, knowledgeably and passionately on behalf of the right to food has been the FoodFirst Information and Action Network or FIAN.”

Source: Right to food threatened globally by runaway prices in 10 years — CHR –

Date: 23 June 2010

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