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Pressures on land, water, energy threaten food security of poorest – Hunger Index

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The latest Global Hunger Index says pressures on three key needs of people, land-water-energy, is threatening the food security of the poorest and most vulnerable around the world.

According to the 2012 Index released October 11, 2012,  hunger on a global scale remains serious with 20 countries having levels of hunger that are “alarming” or “extremely alarming.”

“Two of the three countries with extremely alarming levels—Burundi and Eritrea—are in sub-Saharan Africa; the third country is Haiti,” it says, indicating that South Asia is the other region that continues to suffer from the highest levels of hunger.

It notes that the growing scarcity and degradation of farmland, rapidly rising incomes, and changing consumption patterns have all contributed to an increasing number of international land investments or land deals.

Continuing, the report indicates that many of these land deals have targeted sub-Saharan Africa, where land rent is lower, regulatory systems weaker, and levels of hunger higher.

“Large-scale foreign investments in land should be closely monitored. Local organizations are needed to secure transparency and the participation of smallholder farmers whose livelihoods are impacted by land deals,” said Bärbel Dieckmann, President of Welthungerhilfe, one of the organizations that put together the report.

According to the authors, water scarcity is exacerbated by climate change, especially in the severely water-stressed areas of the world, which are home to more than two billion people.  Flooding, drought, and environmental degradation all threaten agriculture in many parts of the world, they say.

Rising global energy prices is identified as a serious threat to food security as well as increasing demand for agricultural land and water for crop production which, in turn, also raises food prices.

The report says, higher energy prices also increase agricultural input costs, such as the cost of fertilizer and groundwater pumping and machinery, putting further pressure on prices.

“Agricultural production must increase substantially to meet the demands of a growing and increasingly wealthy population,” said Tom Arnold, Concern Worldwide’s Chief Executive Officer.

“Yet to avoid more stress on land, water, and energy resources, and to ensure that all have access to adequate food, that production must be sustainable and must prioritize the poor,” Tom Arnold adds.

The Index is of the view that food security is threatened by governments’ focus on short-term economic gains; uncoordinated land, water, and energy policies; and lack of political willingness and action to design policies that increase efficiency and reduce waste of natural resources while protecting the poor.

The long-term availability of natural resources is crucial for food security and human well-being, according to the Index.

“If local, national, and international natural resource policies focus on sustainable, long-term gains, if policies are coordinated and tradeoffs among land, water, and energy policies are minimized, we can strengthen the global food system while preventing resource depletion,” says Claudia Ringler, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Deputy Division Director.

“Such a shift to sustainable food security would benefit billions of people today and many more in future decades,” Ringler states.

In order to improve food security, the report recommended, among others, that there must be a secured land and water rights, phase out inefficient subsidies for water, energy, and fertilizers and encourage market solutions that promote efficient use of natural resources, the Index says.

By Ekow Quandzie

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