15 June 2023, Africa: Professor Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chair, CGIAR System Board
With conflict in Ukraine, Sudan and elsewhere, the relationship between instability, migration and food security is increasingly apparent.
The Russia Ukraine crisis, is affecting food systems around the world, driving up the price of grains and fertilizers with countries that can least afford it hit the hardest. At the same time, broader food insecurity is contributing to forced migration and rising social tensions.
Accelerating climate change amplifies the risks, with yields for some crops in sub-Saharan Africa set to fall by up to 35 per cent by 2050.
Sweden has supported Ukraine generously to defend its sovereignty and deal with the ripple effects of the war. But too little investment has been directed towards tackling the root causes of hunger and nutrition, building resilience into our food systems and preventing crises from occurring in the first place.
Some 1.5 billion people currently live in fragile and conflict-affected settings, most of whom also face high levels of hunger and malnutrition. In 2022, 80 per cent of the more than 100 million people who were forcibly displaced globally suffered acute food insecurity.
By 2030, an estimated two-thirds of the world’s extremely poor will live in these conditions unless leading economies like Sweden take steps to address global hunger as both a cause and consequence of conflict.
With sanctions, blockades and conflict holding up the export of synthetic fertilisers and staple cereals again this year, food supplies will suffer, prices will continue to fluctuate, and more will join the 349 million people who are acutely food insecure.
As the world’s largest publicly funded agri-food research network, CGIAR has developed many tools to empower developing countries to reduce their dependency on major exporters like Ukraine and Russia. This includes a range of fertiliser, improvements in agronomic practices to increase yields and new, hardier crop varieties. However, these innovations are not reaching enough of the world’s smallerholder farmers and other value chain actors to be effective.
More collaborative efforts that unite research organisations like ours with local governments, agencies and the private sector are needed to accelerate the process of rolling out innovations to deliver more diversified, resilient food systems.
Another clear strategy for reducing both fragility and food insecurity is to increase investment into the development of rural economies, particularly through agriculture. For almost all of the countries considered fragile and conflict-affected, agriculture is among the most important economic sectors.
Stabilising individual and community livelihoods through innovative social protections, food system development, and climate adaptation programs has the potential to increase food, nutrition and economic security as well as social cohesion, resilience and equality.
This approach is one of four pillars in CGIAR’s newly launched Fragility, Conflict and Migration (FCM) initiative, and focuses in particular on increasing women’s empowerment within agriculture to maximise opportunities to reduce fragility and vulnerability.
Finally, humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts need to more consistently factor in climate and food security.
The newly launched Climate Security Observatory goes some way towards filling the data gap to allow different agencies to better understand the impact of climate change on food, land and water systems and the role this has in conflict. But policymakers around the world should also be including both climate and food security in all of their overseas assistance.
Sweden has a long and commendable history of leading efforts to address the most pressing global challenges, which includes the country’s role as a founding partner of CGIAR more than 50 years ago.
But the job of delivering global food security and reinforcing national security is not done. In the face of the polycrisis, the world once again needs the leadership, compassion and generosity that have become Sweden’s hallmark.
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