Small farms, meaning farms with two ha of land or less, make up 80 percent of all farm holdings in Africa south of the Sahara (SSA). Such a large population clearly has the power to spur economic development in the region, and needs to be included in any economic discussion. But smallholders often find themselves confined to local markets or subsistence-level farming, leaving them trapped in poverty. What can be done to allow Africa's small farms to reach their full potential?

A new report from the African Development Bank (AfDB) examines the food security situation and needs of North Africa. The Political Economy of Food Security in North Africa finds that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the world's largest importer of cereals, with dependence on food imports expected to increase by 2050 due to a burgeoning population, decreasing agricultural productivity, and rising incomes.

At the World Summit of Food Security in 2009, the definition of food security was expanded to include nutrition as a critical component of the overall concept of food security. Despite increased recognition of the importance of nutrition, however, many Arab countries continue to struggle with malnutrition, particularly among children.

Over the past four months, weather patterns and conflict have played a key role in the food security situation in several regions, according to the latest issue of the WFP's Global Food Security Update. While good rains in the Sahel have led to a predicted short-term improvement in the region's food security, drought and flooding in several other areas of the world have produced shocks that are likely to drive more people into hunger.

Agricultural activities employ 77 percent of Senegal's workforce and account for 12.4 of its GDP. Despite the importance of agriculture to Senegal's development, however, the country is often subject to low rainfall and droughts, making its population particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. A new report from FEWS NET examines climatic trends in Senegal and finds several important implications for the country's agricultural production.

The GIEWS Global Food Price Monitor, released today, has seen a slight decline in international maize prices from their near-record highs in August. However, the report also cites increasing global rice export prices, as well as strengthening wheat export prices. Domestic wheat prices in several regions (Asia, CIS, and South America) also rose in September, reflecting higher prices in international and regional export markets.

FEWS NET has released the latest update to its West Africa Food Security Outlook. The report sees good crop production in the region, with initial evaluations citing cereal production between 5 and 17 percent higher than 2011. The report cautions, however, that due to continuing high prices and past stock depletion, food insecurity in some parts of the region could remain at Phase 2 (Stressed) levels through October.

AGRODEP (African Growth and Development Policy Modeling Consortium) has now launched its fourth round of membership extension. Qualified economists from Africa are eligible; membership provides free access to cutting-edge economic research tools, resources, and training that may otherwise be unavailable to researchers in the region.

A new joint program led by UN Women, FAO, IFAD, and WFP aims to empower rural women to work for food security, economic development, and social progress. "Accelerating Progress Toward the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women" is a five-year initiative that will be implemented beginning in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger, and Rwanda.

According to a new report released by FEWS, crisis-level food insecurity across West Africa has improved or stabilized in the past month, particularly from Mauritania to Chad and the eastern Sahel. Despite the improvement in food security, however, food aid will still be needed in the region through the fall to compensate for high prices and low household food stocks.

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