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.

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.

Cross-posted from the International Food Policy Research Institute
By Sarah Dalane

Ethiopia faces many challenges, but the country is quickly shedding its label as one of the world’s poorest countries, finding itself today among the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. The question now at hand is how to sustain this historic growth, and emerge as a middle-income country by 2025. The Ethiopian government is turning to its leading—but one of its most underperforming— industries for the answer: agriculture.

It's become clearer and clearer in recent years that spikes in food prices can have significant impact on incomes, markets, and nutrition worldwide. Extreme fluctuations in the price of food can pose challenges for both consumers and producers, and also often lead to political and market overreaction such as export restrictions. While such policies are designed to protect domestic populations, they can further exacerbate price spikes on the international market and have devastating consequences for global food security.

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.

Effective policymaking relies on sound knowledge. Knowing what works and what doesn't, who the target population is and what they need, and what the situation is really like "on the ground" is crucial to ensuring that policies and programs have the desired impacts. But all too often, critical information is out of date, difficult to locate and access, or even nonexistent.

Today marks the 20th annual World Water Day, an event centered on increasing recognition of the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of the world’s freshwater resources. This year’s World Water Day is dedicated to the theme of international water cooperation and is coordinated by UNESCO in collaboration with UNECE and UNDESA on behalf of UN-Water.

2012 was a year of challenges for the global food system, from severe drought in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and the United States to ongoing conflict in Central Africa to political stalemates over the end of distortionary agricultural subsidies in the US and EU. As 2013 begins, global food security continues to be in a vulnerable position, with 870 million people hungry and 2 billion people poorly nourished.