Tuesday, 16 October 2012

World Food Day 2012

The Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC) is excited to be celebrating World Food Day 2012. This year, agricultural cooperatives are the focus of World Food Day, highlighting the role of cooperatives in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger.

As we observe World Food Day and acknowledge the one in eight people on the planet who suffer from undernourishment, we can be heartened that the world is making progress in eliminating hunger. The recently released report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) The State of Food Insecurity in theWorld 2012 has highlighted a decrease in undernourishment in most regions since 1990. 

However, there is still a way to go.  Especially in sub-Saharan African where our Centre is focusing its efforts, where more than one in four is hungry and rising by 2 per cent per year since 2007. The 2012 Global Hunger Index, published recently by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), shows that progress in reducing the proportion of hungry people in the world has been tragically slow.

We support and echo the words of FAO, IFAD and WFP:
"In today's world of unprecedented technical and economic opportunities, we find it entirely unacceptable that more than 100 million children under five are underweight, and therefore unable to realize their full human and socio-economic potential, and that childhood malnutrition is a cause of death for more than 2.5 million children every year".

Across eastern and southern Africa where we are working, smallholder farmers, especially women, are the key to improving food security. They are the major food producers in these regions, and are the beneficiaries of our investment and support. Farmer cooperatives present a good mechanism to overcome the many food security problems smallholder farmers face, such as access to quality seeds, fertilisers and knowledge on how to use them, labour input, access to markets and affordable credit. 

Even if these things are in place, farmers may still face obstacles such as transporting their produce to local markets and adequate storage so they are not forced to sell immediately after harvest when the prices are at their lowest. Agricultural cooperatives can help smallholder farmers access the information, inputs, credit, technology and training they need. They provide a good forum for agricultural innovations to be promulgated for adoption and they can empower farmers to obtain better profits by facilitating group purchasing and marketing.  

Discussion on food security more broadly is now recognising that agricultural and economic growth should be “nutrition sensitive”. This message is very aligned with the Centre’s focus on food and nutritional safety. The AIFSC and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)  co-hosted a design workshop for our food nutrition program in Nairobi in September where African, Australian and international experts developed six thematic areas for further investment by the Centre and our partners.

Participants at the design workshop for the AIFSC food nutrition program, Nairobi Kenya, September 2012 CC BY

Reducing hunger requires more than just increasing the quantity of food; it is also about increasing the quality of food in terms of diversity, nutrient content and safety. You can see how engaged our workshop experts were (!) in the above photo and some of the discussion of the workshop in a short film (courtesy of ILRI). 

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