Blog Post

Increasing Resilience to Prevent Food Crisis: 2023 Global Food Policy Report Released

Over the past decade, the world’s food systems have faced multiple significant shocks, from the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to numerous climate change-driven natural disasters and instances of civil unrest and political instability. These challenges have disrupted markets, driven up food and fertilizer prices and price volatility, reduced food availability and accessibility, and pushed millions of people into hunger. Despite these alarming trends, however, IFPRI’s 2023 Global Food Policy Report: Rethinking Food Crises Responses finds that global food systems proved surprisingly resilient to these shocks and cites the opportunity to leverage this resilience to better prepare for future food crises.

Between 2014 and 2021, the number of undernourished people around the world ballooned from 572 million to 768 million. According to IFPRI’s IMPACT model, this number could grow by another 72 million by 2050 due to climate change alone. While increased hunger is a reality across every region of the world, the situation is most dire in Africa south of the Sahara, where 282 million people, or around 20 percent of the population, were undernourished and food-insecure in 2021. In Southeast Asia, over 4 percent of the population was undernourished in 2021, compared to around 2.5 percent in 2014; in Latin America and the Caribbean, prevalence of hunger has risen from 5.3 percent in 2014 to 8.6 percent in 2021.

In all regions, the most vulnerable populations—rural smallholder producers, the urban poor, the landless, internally displaced persons (IDPs), women and children, and refugees—face the most severe impacts of growing food insecurity. These populations also have fewer effective coping strategies with which to address food security and economic shocks. As a result, many of these populations will sell off productive assets, switch to cheaper, less nutritious foods, and reduce spending on education and health services, all of which can have further negative long-term consequences.

The report’s thematic chapters strike an optimistic note, however, highlighting several ways in which policymakers can better predict and address food crises and create more resilient and equitable food systems.

Early warning early action (EWEA) systems provide one such tool, alerting policymakers and the international development community to potential food crises. Many of these systems already exist, but there is significant room for improvement, the report says. For example, local monitoring of food insecurity and food crisis is often not well tied to regional and global monitoring systems. In addition, there is a need to homogenize methodologies and coverage of vulnerable populations so that estimates from different EWEA systems are more standardized and accurate. Data collection in conflict-affected areas also remains a challenge for these systems. The report calls for increased efforts to expand country-level coverage and frequency of data collection when it comes to acute food insecurity; enhance monitoring of structural factors that play a role in food crisis, such as climate change or conflict; strengthen analysis of how global food supply or price shocks are transmitted to local food systems; and increase collaboration among policymakers, researchers, and local stakeholders to better integrate EWEA systems to create standardization and a more holistic picture of food insecurity around the world.

Improving the resilience of agricultural and agrifood value chains is another key way in which policymakers and stakeholders can help prevent and respond to future food crises. These value chains play a crucial role in food security and poverty reduction, but they are vulnerable to shocks, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where markets are not as deeply developed. Investing in technologies like climate-smart agricultural techniques and index-based insurance can help increase resilience along agrifood value chains, as can creating proper enabling environments and avoiding trade restrictions and other policies that can further disrupt markets. The report also recommends that policymakers and development partners tailor their crisis responses to local contexts, including the value chain(s) impacted, and increase monitoring of value chain functioning both before and during crises to better target interventions and assistance.

Proactive planning when it comes to both humanitarian assistance and social safety nets can also help ensure that both local policymakers and the international community are ready and able to act in the face of food crisis. This includes designing social protection programs to be more flexible and inclusive; building crisis response into national budgets; increasing collaboration between ongoing social protection programs and emergency humanitarian assistance programs; and developing anticipatory action frameworks for humanitarian aid to better identify and monitor at-risk areas and establish funding triggers and financial resources before a crisis occurs.

Together, these recommended policies, programs, and tools can help the world move from a reactive way of dealing with food crisis to a more proactive, holistic approach that will increase the overall resilience of global food systems.