Agricultural organizations around the world are joining forces in the search for drought-resistant crops for farmers in the south, as a global food crisis threatens the most vulnerable communities.
At the recent G7 summit, the ministers present stressed that food insecurity and malnutrition are an increasingly serious global problem. Adding to the chronic factors is the war in Ukraine, which has pushed up food, energy and fertilizer prices with “devastating consequences for some of the most vulnerable communities.”
According to the Global Report on Food Crises 2022, published earlier this month, the number of people experiencing food insecurity at “crisis levels or worse” has almost doubled, from 108 million in 2016 to 193 million in 2021.
Conflict, economic shocks and climate change are mentioned as the main causes of acute hunger (sudden food shortages due to crisis, ed.). That situation awaits more than 320 million people by 2022, unless urgent action is taken. This is the warning from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
Cross drought-resistant crops
In response to the food report, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARA) is launching a new initiative to improve livestock and plant production. The strategy also focuses on combating land degradation, preserving fisheries and strengthening agricultural guidance systems, said Aladdin Hamwieh, breeder, biotechnologist and Egyptian country director for ICARDA.
Conflict, economic shock and climate change are cited as the main causes of acute hunger.
‘The initiative focuses on developing droughts that tolerate drought and salinity – such as wheat, barley and chickpeas – by optimizing the crossing and transfer of genetic traits between different plants,’ explains Hamwieh.
The center also works with modern methods of plant cultivation such as rapid cultivation. It allows small farmers to receive new varieties that can be grown in a short time, he adds.
Irina Utkina, a spokeswoman for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), explains that the organization has developed a ‘rapid response plan’ this year to support the most vulnerable small and medium-sized agricultural households.
But Utkina says a significant increase in funding is needed to provide emergency aid and increase agricultural resilience. “In our call for 2022, the FAO needs $ 1.5 billion to help 50 million people,” she explains.
Making small farmers more climate-safe is crucial, says Rob Vos, director of trade at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
To quickly boost domestic food production, humanitarian aid and expanded social protection programs are needed, he says. However, to prevent further deterioration of the global food situation, investment in climate-resistant agriculture is needed and small-scale agriculture needs to be upgraded. All this supported by broad peace-building.
The number of people suffering from hunger is expected to increase this year due to various reasons, including the war between Russia and Ukraine. The conflict disrupts global trade in food, fertilizers and oil products, driving up food and fuel prices worldwide.
Food prices have risen 30 to 50 percent in many markets and have even doubled in some.
Food prices have risen 30 to 50 percent in many markets and have even doubled in some. The price of bread has risen 20 percent in some countries, said Sally Farid, an assistant professor of economics at Cairo University in Egypt.
WFP spokesman James Belgrave says “conflict, climate extremities and the pandemic are already leading to an unprecedented famine crisis in 2021. Now we have food and fuel prices at record highs – even higher due to the crisis in Ukraine – which only fuels the global crisis . ”
The catastrophic phase
Belgrave says that in the 81 countries where WFP operates, acute hunger is expected to increase by 47 million people if the conflict in Ukraine continues. Hunger will hit especially in sub-Saharan Africa. “This is a supplement to the 276 million people who are already experiencing acute hunger worldwide, which means that up to 323 million people can experience acute hunger by 2022,” he says.
‘Not all countries with severe food crises are affected in the same way by the war in Ukraine. Countries such as Yemen and Sudan are particularly hard hit because both are heavily dependent on wheat imports for domestic food consumption. ‘
More than half a million people in Ethiopia, southern Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen were classified in the report as being in a ‘catastrophic’ phase of acute food insecurity, which requires rapid action to save lives.
Nearly 70 percent of the total number of people suffering from acute hunger are in the following 10 countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Nigeria, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Pakistan and Haiti.
This article was originally published by IPS partner SciDev†