Agricultural extenionist addresses farmer group in rural Malawi. Source: Flickr (Kirk Mason/Global Devlab)

SPOTLIGHT: Pilot project in Malawi

BY: Kate Ambler, Alan de Brauw, and Susan Godlonton

A farm worker cleans lettuce crops in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Photo: Maria Fleischmann / World Bank

Authors: Eugenio Diaz-Bonilla and Maximo Torero

An abridged version of this article was originally published in the Spanish-language press in Guatemala.

Global and regional experts will meet in El Salvador on September 10-11 to discuss new ways to enhance food and nutrition security in Central America.

With less than two years to go to meet the Millennium Development Goals, how has the world done on its goal of halving hunger? According to the IFPRI 2013 Global Food Policy Report, released this week, much work remains. While the number of chronically hungry people has declined from 1 billion to around 842 million over the last 30 years, this number is still unacceptably high. One in eight people around the world suffers from hunger on a daily basis.

Economic growth in the developing world relies heavily on credit, grants, and loans. But increasing poor populations' access to these financial vehicles brings with it a significant amount of risk for lenders, both public and private. When selecting development interventions to financially support, lenders and donors are often faced with an "either/or" proposition - they can fund either more sustainable (and thus less risky) projects that may have lower poverty-reducing effects or less sustainable projects that will have a higher impact on poverty.

Coffee crops throughout Central America are being hit hard by a widespread fungal infection known as coffee leaf rust. The outbreak of the disease, which begins by attacking the leaves and can eventually kill the entire coffee plant, could lower the region's total coffee harvest by as much as 20 percent in 2013. The loss is expected to reach a whopping US$600 million in value.

Food assistance programs are a staple in the international development world, used to address both humanitarian crises and longer term development goals. But what type of food assistance program is most effective in the fight against hunger and malnutrition?
A new IFPRI report examines this question.

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.

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.

FEWS NET has released its April Food Price Watch, citing stable prices throughout much of Africa and Central America. The Sahel region saw relatively stable cereals prices due to food assistance interventions and successful transport from surplus areas. In East Africa, staple prices remained generally stable, though high; some areas in this region saw seasonal increases.

Read the full report.
Read the Annex.

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