Food security and the crisis of the new millennium

Empowering women as a tool to achieve food security

Term Paper, 2014

30 Pages






1. Introduction

2. The crisis of the new millennium
2.1 Food Price Crisis
2.2 Financial and economic crisis
2.3 Ecological Crisis

3. Global Hunger Index

4. The impact on human development
4.1 Gendered-specific implications of the crisis

5. Gender and Development
5.1 Gender and food security
5.2 Closing the gender gap

6. Innovative approaches to achieve food security and gender equality in South Asia

7. Conclusion

8. Bibliography



Figure 1 Global Food Prices in the long and short run

Figure 2 FAO Food Price Index - 1990 to

Figure 3 Scale of the GHI

Figure 4 Contribution of components to 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 20.3 GHI scores, by region

Figure 5 Undernourishment in 2009, by region (millions)


Table 1: Exponential Trend Growth Rates

Table 2 Climate Change effect on 2050 production relative to no climate change effect


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1. Introduction

There are currently seven billion people living on earth of which about one billion suffer from hunger and malnutrition. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) assumes that in 2050, the global population rises to an estimate of about nine billion people. At present food crises and famines are no rarity what raises the question, if there will be enough food to feed the world´s population in the future? Achieving food security and the eradication of hunger are among the top priorities on the international agenda today.

The paper analyses the global challenges of the new millennium: The food price crisis, the financial and economic crisis as well as the ecological crisis. The crisis affect the world´s population, but in some regions such as South Asia or SubSaharan Africa, the impacts are disastrous. Food security is threatened and poverty and inequality increase. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which among other things tend to halve between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition, is moving further away (FAO 2009, p.8). These developments and current challenges are of serious concern and an opportunity for change.

To improve food security and reduce the constraints to economic growth in developing countries, a renewed interest in the investment in agriculture appears. In the light of climate change and changes on the world food market, agriculture becomes particularly important. Due a feminization of agriculture, women have taken on a major role as food producer. Nevertheless, in many regions of the world, female farmers face a wide range of gendered inequities. To receive a sustainable agricultural growth as well as to combat crisis, the role of female farmers is and will be central. Empowering women on all levels and closing the gendered gap in agriculture is an inevitable tool to achieve food security.

In the following the causes and consequences of the global crises as well as its impacts on people in developing countries is presented in detail. To show which countries are affected most by the crisis, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) will be used to measure and track hunger globally and by country and region. The GHI will be used as a tool to provide information about the drivers of hunger as well as food and nutrition insecurity.

In the focus of the analysis are women, not only because they play a key role in achieving food security, but also because they represent the most vulnerable group when it comes to the impacts of the crisis. As major food producers and contributors to food availability they face worldwide inequalities and constraints which are deeply rooted in social and cultural norms and often even encoded in legal provisions.

These descriptions should serve as a basis to explain how promoting gender equality and empowering women is linked to improve food security and to reduce poverty. Empowering women is an essential tool for a more food secure world. In doing so, not only the millennium development goal of alleviating hunger moves closer, but also the millennium goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women globally (FAO 2009, p.8). These issues are from longstanding concern and belong to the most important targets on the development agenda. This shows why gender mainstreaming needs to be a central strategy in developments efforts to improve food security.

To illustrate this, two innovative approaches of South Asia are presented. These approaches should show exemplarily how changing gender roles can be used as a transformative development pathway that promotes food security and poverty reduction. Furthermore they should show how international development efforts are implemented at present.

Statistical data of chosen examples should demonstrate the crisis and its impacts. The majority of the data is based on research results of the FAO and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Moreover journals of the United Nation or other publications and internet resources serve as basic literature of this paper.

2. The crisis of the new millennium

The current challenges of the global food crisis of the new millennium are three overlapping crisis which are intimately connected: food price crisis, financial and economic crisis and ecological crisis.

In 2007 - 2008, world food prices increased dramatically creating a global crisis and causing political and economic instability and social unrest for both, poor and developed nations. This situation was compounded in the second half of 2008 by the economic and financial crisis. Although both crisis developed from different underlying causes, they became intertwined and have fed one another (von Braun 2008, p.1). In addition the climate change has and will have a considerable impact on agricultural yields. In the following the three global crisis and their cause and impacts will be analysed.

2.1 Food Price Crisis

Characteristic for the food price crises is, that the food prices on the agricultural markets are less stable and predictable than ever before. Especially the rising number of starving people in the past ten years show the impact of increasing food prices. There have been changes on the world food market, which lead with the growing world population to problems. Mainly responsible is the importance of cereal for the food security. In 2007/2008 prices increased significantly for wheat, maize and rice (Figure 1). The food price Index rose about 40% relative to 9 % in 2006 (von Braun 2008, p.8). Following a decline, the prices index for basic food peaked again in the end of 2010 until the beginning of 2011 (Figure 2). Even higher than in the peak in 2008. After another decline the index went up again in 2012.

The global food crisis is an outcome of numerous factors. Since the 1990s, the production growth rate of grain and oilseed has declined. Between 1970 and 1990 the growth rate rose by an average of 2.2 percent per year whereas the growth rate has declined to about 1.3 percent a year since 1990 (Table 1). Many factors are seen responsible for the slowing of production growth. In the following the main causes of the food price crisis are shown:

Global grain stocks have declined. The costs of holding grain stocks is as high as 15% to 20 % of a stock´s value per year and thus considered as inefficient and less important while global food prices remain low. The liberalization of the agriculture market reduced the need for countries to hold public grain reserves. The result is an international food trading system in the hands of a few transnational corporations (Clapp; J. Cohen 2009, p. 15).

Between 2002 and 2007 the prices of energy intensive components of production, like fertilizer and fuel, were nearly doubling. The result were increasing production costs, which led to a 15 % to 20 % increase of export prices of major US food commodities (Mitchell 2008). An increasing demand for grain due to bio fuels production in the European Union and the USA has negative effects on the price spikes. Lands-use changes and a reduced production rate of other crops are the consequence. In 2007/2008 almost 5 % of all cereals produced were used for the ethanol production (Agarwal 2011, p.4).

Furthermore the production of bio fuel is linked to low grain stocks and large landuse shifts, speculative activity and export bans. These circumstances have been held responsible for increasing prices op to 75 %. So increasing food prices due the high demand on bio fuels influence the world food market and are triggering the international crisis (Clapp & Cohen 2009, p. 15f).

The Speculation in Financial markets had a strong influence behind the hyperinflation of basic food staples in the short run. The market should serve as a “stabilizing” tool. Future contracts with fixed prices, delivery dates and quantities allow farmers to sell their harvest ahead of time. Speculators should buy when prices are low and sell when they are high, which is supposed to make the prices less volatile. The major problem is that deregulation is allowing Wall Street banks to speculate in agricultural future contracts in unlimited quantities. “Swap” agreements and the systematic exploitation of regulatory loopholes have facilitated a surge in speculative investment in commodity up to unprecedented levels the past years. An artificial demand is being created by investors ‘speculation commodities which leads to price pressure on energy and food commodities.

Furthermore the problem is intensified by fast growing countries like China, India or Brazil. With the fast economic growth of those emerging countries, the eating habits of people change to an increase in the consumption of milk and meat products. Consequently, the grain consumption is getting reduced and the demand for grain as animal feed increases (Südhoff 2009, p.49). Today, China is the largest meat producer worldwide. The average meat consumption a year is increasing by 5 %, which leads to a rising need of animal feed. As the world´s largest corn exporter, China became the largest importer. To illustrate this, for the production of one kilogram beef, about seven kilogram grain as animal feed is needed. As a result, a major part of crop yields are being used for livestock farming (Halder 2008, p. 20).

2.2 Financial and economic crisis

The impact of the global food crisis was being magnified by the global financial crisis of 2007 - 2009 which originated mainly in the US and caused a global recession. Both, the global food and financial crisis overlap in time. Traditional coping mechanisms to combat the financial crisis are less effective as the crisis is affecting large parts of the world simultaneously for the first time (FAO 2009, p.9). Developing countries are financially and commercially more and more integrated into world´s economy so that they are exposed to shocks in international markets and shrinking global demand. The degree a country is affected by the economic crisis depends on its degree of integration with international markets for goods, services and financial products. Poorer countries which have increasingly depending on grain imports were hit particularly hard (FAO 2009, p. 13).

These circumstances lead to across-the-board drops in trade and financial inflows as well as a reduction in export earnings, foreign investment and development aid and remittances. This has a negative effect on employment opportunities and money available for programs to promote growth for those in need (FAO 2009, p. 4). International food commodity prices remain high and volatile of which poor people in developing countries are especially affected. The economic crisis affects those parts negatively which already reached their limit of their ability to cope with the increase of prices during the food price crisis. Overall, the economic and financial crisis set to deepen food security.

2.3 Ecological Crisis

The ecological crisis implies changes of the environment such as the loss of fish stock, climate change, disruption of the hydrological cycles and water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and plant genetic diversity or land degradation. Currently, the climate change is maybe the most prominent and most influential of the ecological crisis. It will have a major effect on food security. Dying water resources, an increase of floods and draughts or rising sea levels will stress environment and especially agricultural systems (FAO 2013, p.10).

The world food production is increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events linked to climate change. It puts additional pressure on already over-exploited natural resources worldwide and has a negative effects on crop yields, stability of food supplies and the ability of people to access and utilize food in many developing countries. Although rich countries and increasingly emerging countries are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions, the impact on poor people in developing countries is most severe. This is not only because of the geography of those countries, but also because of their limited adaptive capacities. Climate changes have drastic effects on agricultural food production, hence food availability, stability, access and utilization (Behnassi; Draggan, Sidney, p. 98f).

The most affected regions by climate change will be South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As a consequence yields and production for staples will decrease globally, but these regions will be hit hard (Table 2). According to recent calculations in South Asia the production of rice, wheat and maize will decrease in 2050 by around 14 per cent, 48, 8 per cent and 8, 9 per cent and by 15, 2 per cent, 35, 8 per cent and 7, 1 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. The lower production rate of the most important staples due climate change will lower the world´s production of rice, wheat and maize by 13, 5 per cent, 27, 4 and 0, 4 per cent in 2050. As the world´s population is growing and the demand for food increasing, climate change is a major problem for food security especially in developing nations. Food prices increase for all major crops such as wheat, maize, soybeans and rice. Feed price increases and with this the meat prices (Agarwal 2011, p.5).

3. Global Hunger Index

The concept of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool, designed by IFPRI to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally and by country and region. The index provides information about the drivers of hunger and food and nutrition insecurity. This allows to show the effects and impacts of the global hunger crisis of the new millennium. Furthermore successes and failures in hunger reduction can be shown. To measure hunger, the index combines three equally weighted indicators: undernourishment1, child underweight, child mortality. With these independently measured indicators, the GHI reflects not only the nutrition situation of a whole population, but also of children as a physical vulnerable group. This is important, because a lack of nutrients during childhood leads to a high risk of illness, poor physical and cognitive development or even death (Grebmer; Headey; Haddad; Olofinbiyi; Fritschel; Yin; Yisehac; Connell, 2013, p.13).

The GHI of 2013 has been calculated for 120 countries. A country´s GHI score is calculated by “averaging the percentage of the population that is undernourished, the percentage of children younger than five years old who are underweight, and the percentage of children dying before the age of five” (Grebmer; Headey; Haddad; Olofinbiyi; Fritschel; Yin; Yisehac; Connell, 2013, p.8). This calculation results in a 100 points scale on which o points is the best score (“no hunger”) and 100 points are the worst score. On a scale values less than 4.9 reflect "low hunger", values between 5 and 9.9 reflect "moderate hunger", values between 10 and 19.9 indicate a "serious", values between 20 and 29.9 are "alarming", and values exceeding 30 are "extremely alarming" hunger problem (Figure 3).

From 2003 to 2009, the number of hungry people in developing countries has been increasing from 845 million to 1,020 million. The main causes are rooted in the global food price crisis and the worldwide recession (FAO 2010). The GHI shows that Asia and Africa are the most affected regions. The GHI score in these counties has barely improved in the past years. Child underweight is seen as the biggest contributor to hunger globally. That makes reducing child


1 FAO defines “undernourishment” as the consumption of fewer than about 1800 calories a day, which is the minimum to that the majority of people requires to live a productive and healthy life.

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Food security and the crisis of the new millennium
Empowering women as a tool to achieve food security
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Lisa Schmidt (Author), 2014, Food security and the crisis of the new millennium, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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