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.

For many smallholder farmers, accessing larger, more lucrative markets can seem like an impossible proposition. While contract farming (a set agreement between a farmer and a buyer) can help establish set prices and more reliable links to domestic and international markets, contracts are typically signed with more educated, medium-sized farmers rather than smallholders.

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.

Recent financial crises have impacted nearly all aspects of the global economy, including foreign aid. With the "fiscal cliff" looming in the United States, development programs throughout the world could face even greater budget cuts in the coming months. As donor countries tighten their belts, greater attention must be paid to which types of programs and interventions have the most impact in developing countries.

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.

Ukraine has announced that it will be enforcing an export ban on wheat beginning on November 15. The move comes after poor weather impacted Ukraine’s wheat harvests and follows in the wake of the US drought, which decimated that country’s wheat crop and led to sharp increases in international prices. Ukraine’s exports are expected to reach 5.3 million tons in November, a level which the Ukrainian government says will exhaust the country’s exportable surpluses.

Since 2009, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) has driven the European Union's policies on biofuels. The RED's current mandate states that 10% of the EU’s transportation fuel must come from renewable sources by 2020; it also mandates that only 5.6% of this can come from first-generation biofuels (i.e., biofuels produced from food crops such as maize).

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.

In honor of World Food Day (October 16, 2012), IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan provided guest commentary on the World Economic Forum's Forum Blog. The piece focuses on the critical role that smallholder farmers play in the fight against hunger, undernutrition, and food insecurity.

When it comes to improving global food security and ending hunger, increasing access to reliable, up-to-date information and research is an important first step. National and international policymakers rely on credible data, statistics, and analysis to enact appropriate policies and respond to local, regional, and global food crises. In many developing countries, however, such information is often difficult to access; even when data is available, it may not be communicated to policymakers in an accessible, easy-to-understand way.