DG’s Column

Thoughts on the 2012 Global Food Policy Report

Examining forestry with regard to investments in agriculture and nutrition, food prices, gender in rural economies and calorie-orientated agriculture policies.
The conversation around food security must integrate more qualitative measures.

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I had the pleasure of reading the excellent 2012 Global Food Policy Report, released on 14 March by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), one of CIFOR’s partners in the CGIAR.

This report illustrates well how the food system must be seen as part of the overall sustainability equation and conversely how forestry and the wider landscape needs to integrate with the food system.

The lead article, Walk the Talk, by IFPRI’s Director General, Dr. Shenggen Fan, led me to make some notes with additional thoughts below.

  • There is no lack of political commitments in the food and land space at the moment. Rio+20 talked about zero hunger and zero net land degradation. G20 and G8 have highlighted the need for investments in agriculture and nutrition. So how do we implement these commitments and how do we measure progress?
  • There are high expectations on what we call the “green economy”. At the centre of this aspiration is a “bioeconomy” that integrates contributions from land-based sectors to inclusive green growth as a key component of sustainable development. Herein lies huge opportunities for rural economies, including forestry, and rural poor worldwide – provided the access to capital and markets evolve, with relevant conditions on sustainability outcomes for these. But we seem to lack a policy roadmap. Shall we look to the SDG process to deliver on this?
  • The report highlights the need to move from quantitative measures of food security that are based on calorie intakes toward measures that include qualitative aspects of nutrition. Calorie measures can misrepresent important nutrition needs and underrepresent the opportunities of forestry for contributing to nutrition. As well, there is a risk that calorie-oriented agriculture policies may not lead to the best management of natural resources.
  • Food prices continue to be a major factor for food security politics, but we should be alert to protectionist measures that may arise and how these can affect other sustainability objectives. Keeping food prices down may help in the short term to make food affordable, but the implications for farmers’ livelihoods and how natural resources are managed may be significant.
  • We are starting to see a long-awaited higher focus on gender issues in agriculture and the rural economies. I do agree with Dr. Fan that we need more gender-disaggregated information and evidence to ensure that these policies are mainstreamed.
  • We must pay attention to mega-trends and long-term drivers. One of these is urbanization and the effects of growing wealth on consumption patterns, but another is the attractiveness of farming as a profession. Agriculture and forestry must be profitable and dynamic to attract young people.
  • Another mega-driver is the intersection of agriculture and forestry with energy production and consumption. With 30% of our energy consumed in the food system and 10% of overall energy provided by renewable biomass, the energy needs and expectations from the land-based sectors will be a key topic for sustainability and food security.

I strongly recommend you read the full report!

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