Source: © 2011 G.M.B. Akash/Panos

In recent years, the world has faced continuing food security challenges. The food price spikes of 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 brought lasting impacts in the form of increasingly high food prices and price volatility, overwhelmingly harming the world's poorest producers and consumers. Guarding against price volatility to protect the world's most vulnerable populations will require restructuring global agricultural and financial markets, a need that global leaders are now beginning to recognize and address.

The Minister of Finance of an African country needs to reallocate the country’s public investment to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving the proportion of the poor and hungry by 2015: Should the minister increase investment in health and education, with the view that a future productive labor force can lift itself out of poverty? Or shift a greater share of the public budget to support agricultural productivity directly, as the vast majority of the poor relies on agriculture as their main livelihood?

The new report cites an important pattern of declining rainfall, particularly in the heavily populated areas of the Rift Valley. Extended drier weather could increase the number of Ethiopians at risk for food insecurity in the next two decades if agricultural development is not increased in other areas of the country.

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IFPRI's Africa Director, Ousmane Badiane, recently participated at the Washington meeting of the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI) and sat down for an interview about the role of global donors in enhancing food security and meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The interview highlights the progress made by the initiative and emphasizes the need for continued mutual accountability and coordination of efforts by donors and countries,

For many poor rural farmers, getting their products to market is one of the most daunting obstacles they face. Markets in developing countries often have weak integration, characterized by a lack of communication and information-sharing; thus, while markets in one region may offer higher prices for a commodity, farmers in other regions have no way of learning about, and taking advantage of, these price differences.

According to a Hazards Outlook released by FEWS NET on Wednesday, a slow start to the rainy season has resulted in seasonal rainfall deficits across the Greater Horn of Africa. The delay in seasonal rainfall has already impacted some crops in the region. Heavy rainfall forecast for Ethiopia next week could mitigate the moisture deficit; however, other areas of the region will continue to see only light rainfall.

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FEWS NET has released an updated forecast analysis for the Horn of Africa, citing the likelihood of poor rainfall in the coming months. In the most likely scenario, rainfall in March-May will be ten percent below average. While a ten percent reduction in rainfall would not have substantial negative impacts on crop production, humanitarian agencies are urged to prepare contingency plans to address possible disruptions to food access.

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The African Growth and Development Policy (AGRODEP) Modeling Consortium released its first edition of the AGRODEP Bulletin, a publication providing insights into major economic development issues in Africa. The Bulletin introduces research and capacity building activities undertaken by AGRODEP and announces publication of new economic data and statistics on Africa. Read more.

AGRODEP (African Growth and Development Policy Modeling Consortium) has now launched its third round of membership application. 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.

FEWS NET has released its monthly price watch for February 2012. The report cites stable and declining grain prices in much of West and East Africa, although prices remain high in the Sahel region and Kenya. In particular, grain prices in South Sudan remain very high due to poor production and trade; similarly, maize prices in Malawi continue to increase rapidly. Afghanistan and Tajikistan continue to see high wheat and wheat flour prices.

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