Cross-posted from
By Grace Lerner

Nearly 30 years after the 1984 famine that left more than 400,000 people dead, Ethiopia has made significant progress toward food security. Some of these recent successes include a reduction in poverty, an increase in crop yields and availability, and an increase in per capita income—rising in some rural areas by more than 50 percent!

What happened to cause this breakthrough, and what steps does the country need to stay on track?

Economic growth in the developing world relies heavily on credit, grants, and loans. But increasing poor populations' access to these financial vehicles brings with it a significant amount of risk for lenders, both public and private. When selecting development interventions to financially support, lenders and donors are often faced with an "either/or" proposition - they can fund either more sustainable (and thus less risky) projects that may have lower poverty-reducing effects or less sustainable projects that will have a higher impact on poverty.

A new report from IFPRI, WFP, and Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) finds that in 2011, food insecurity affected an estimated 17 percent of the population, or 13.7 million people. This number is up from 2009, when 14 percent of the population suffered from food insecurity. Poverty has also risen during this time, with 15 percent of the population moving into poverty between 2009 and 2011.

The latest USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) report was released on Friday. The WASDE report provides monthly comprehensive forecasts of supply and demand for major U.S. and global crops, supplied by the USDA. Crops covered include wheat, coarse grains, rice, and oilseeds. This report can explain past and current global commodities trends, as well as predict trends for the coming year. This month's report cites higher global wheat supplies for 2013/2014, as well as record global corn production.

For the second month in a row, the FAO Food Price Index rose on sharp increases in dairy prices and marginal increases in meat. The Index averaged 215.5 points in April, up 2 points from March. At this level, the Index is only 9 points below its highest level, seen in February 2011.

Coffee crops throughout Central America are being hit hard by a widespread fungal infection known as coffee leaf rust. The outbreak of the disease, which begins by attacking the leaves and can eventually kill the entire coffee plant, could lower the region's total coffee harvest by as much as 20 percent in 2013. The loss is expected to reach a whopping US$600 million in value.

Fertilizer is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving agricultural yields in developing countries. Despite widespread recognition of fertilizer's importance, however, many African farmers use substantially less fertilizer than their counterparts in Latin America and Asia. A new article in IFPRI's Insights Magazine examines why this is so, and how increasing competition in the global fertilizer market could help close the gap.

After being largely eliminated by structural adjustment programs in the 1980s and 1990s, large-scale input subsidy programs are regaining popularity throughout the developing world, particularly in Africa south of the Sahara. It's estimated that African countries spend, on average, 30 percent of their agriculture budgets on these programs, which aim to increase small farmers' investments in new technologies and increase agricultural production. Despite these programs' widespread use, however, debate abounds about how efficient input subsidy programs actually are.

Asia is a region characterized by unique agricultural and economic opportunities and challenges. In recent years, many Asian countries have made great strides in transforming their agricultural systems and reducing their numbers of poor and malnourished. Despite this progress, however, the region remains home to most of the world's poor and hungry, and faces additional challenges in the form of environmental degradation and climate change.