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.
One of the most populous countries in the developing world, Bangladesh has made impressive strides in recent years in both food self-sufficiency and poverty reduction. Since 1990, Bangladesh's Global Hunger Index score has fallen from 37.9 to 24.0, meaning a fall from extremely alarming levels of hunger. And from 2000 - 2010, the incidence of poverty in the country declined from 49 percent to 32 percent. Still, much remains to be done to ensure that the country continues its upward climb.
With breaking news about new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) coming out of China, questions arise again about how this disease is transmitted and what can be done to prevent future outbreaks. While the Chinese government has heightened disease detection efforts and increased prevention, control, and communications efforts in response to the recently reported cases, a strong global response is also necessary to control the spread of this disease.
Asia is home to more than two-thirds of the world's poor and hungry. And as populations around the world continue to grow, the region's most vulnerable people will be faced with even greater challenges in the coming decades. Climate change and unsustainable resource use are likely to impede agricultural productivity, exacerbating already high and volatile food prices and presenting significant barriers to poor populations' access to affordable food supplies. But the news is not all bad.
On November 4, the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with the USAID-funded Bangladesh Policy Research and Strategy Support Program (PRSSP) and IFPRI, launched a new program designed to fill gaps in knowledge surrounding the country's food security and agricultural sector. The Agricultural Policy Support Unit (APSU) will build capacity for critical policy research within the country and will provide evidence-based recommendations for short-term, medium-term, and long-term policies.
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.
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.
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.
During the Second APEC Ministerial Meeting on Food Security in Kazan, Russia, APEC Ministers unanimously endorsed a comprehensive plan to address food security and development issues. The Kazan Declaration focuses on increasing agricultural productivity, facilitating trade and developing markets, enhancing food safety and quality, and improving vulnerable populations' access to safe food sources, and ensuring sustainable development.
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.