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2013 Global Food Policy Report

March 20, 2014 Comments off

2013 Global Food Policy Report
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

IFPRI’s flagship report examines the major food policy issues, developments, and decisions of 2013. It puts into perspective the year’s food policy successes and setbacks, and suggests how to advance policies that will improve the food situation for poor people in developing countries.

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Promising Agricultural Technologies for Feeding the World’s Poorest

March 3, 2014 Comments off

Promising Agricultural Technologies for Feeding the World’s Poorest
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Increased demand for food due to population and income growth and the impacts of climate change on agriculture will ratchet up the pressure for increased and more sustainable agricultural production to feed the planet. A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) measures the impacts of agricultural innovation on farm productivity, prices, hunger, and trade flows as we approach 2050 and identifies practices which could significantly benefit developing nations.

The global landscape of poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition and implications for agricultural development strategies

December 24, 2013 Comments off

The global landscape of poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition and implications for agricultural development strategies
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

For many years poverty reduction was the overarching welfare objective of a wide range of development institutions and programs, particularly in the context of agricultural development. Yet in recent years the development community has increasingly set for itself more specific welfare objectives by distinguishing between monetary poverty, food security, nutrition and, most recently, resilience. This paper first outlines a basic framework for thinking about the relationships between these different concepts, and then explores the empirical relationships among different indicators of these concepts, and some of their potential determinants. The empirical analysis highlights several important stylized facts. First, key indicators of these three dimensions of welfare suggest strong correlations among the subset of chronic welfare indicators but much weaker relationships between chronic and acute measures of welfare. Put another way, many countries are chronically poor, food insecure or malnourished, but a much smaller set of countries suffer from acute ill-being. For example, countries in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and South Asia suffer disproportionately from high rates of child and maternal wasting, and a relatively small subset of developing countries are highly prone to natural disasters. Conceivably these acutely vulnerable countries require quite different development strategies. Second, gross domestic product per capita, agricultural productivity, literacy rates, fertility rates, and health burdens all share fairly robust relationships with poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition indicators, as expected. But somewhat novel is a strong relationship between a simple indicator of dietary diversity and a wide range of both chronic and acute welfare indicators. This perhaps suggests that dietary diversity is a relevant intermediate welfare indicator of particular relevance for agricultural development initiatives.

2013 Global Hunger Index

October 14, 2013 Comments off

2013 Global Hunger Index
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

The issue brief for the 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report—the eighth in an annual series—presents a multidimensional measure of national, regional, and global hunger. It shows that the world has made some progress in reducing hunger since 1990, but still has far to go. World hunger remains “serious,” and 19 countries suffer from levels of hunger that are either “alarming” or “extremely alarming.”

The theme of the 2013 GHI report is resilience in theory and in practice. The relief and development communities have long struggled to understand why some people fare better than others when confronting stresses or shocks. Resilience-building efforts are much needed to help poor and vulnerable people cope with hunger seasons, droughts, and other natural and manmade disasters. To help build resilience in ways that will boost food and nutrition security, the report calls for breaking down the silos between the relief and development communities and for focusing on approaches that contribute to the ability of people and systems to resist, absorb, and transform in response to shocks.

Genetically modified crops in Africa

October 8, 2013 Comments off

Genetically modified crops in Africa
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

A variable climate, political instability, and other constraints have limited agricultural development in African countries south of the Sahara. Genetically modified (GM) crops are one tool for enhancing agricultural productivity and food security despite such constraints. Genetically Modified Crops in Africa: Economic and Policy Lessons from Countries South of the Sahara investigates how this tool might be effectively used by evaluating the benefits, costs, and risks for African countries of adopting GM crops. The authors gather together studies on GM crops’ economic effects and impact on trade, how consumers view such crops, and other issues. They find that GM crops have had, on average, a positive economic effect in the nations where they were used and identify future steps for enhancing GM crop adoption’s positive effects. Promising policy initiatives include making biosafety regulations that do not make GM crop development prohibitively expensive, fostering intraregional trade in GM crops, and providing more and better information about GM crops to consumers who might currently be skeptical of them. These and other findings in Genetically Modified Crops in Africa indicate ways biotechnology can contribute to economic development in Africa south of the Sahara.

Organizational and institutional issues in climate change adaptation and risk management

August 28, 2013 Comments off

Organizational and institutional issues in climate change adaptation and risk management
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

This report provides some reflections and insights on the level of awareness, practices, and organizational and institutional issues being faced by countries as they adapt to climate change, based on interviews with 87 practitioners working in government agencies, local organizations, international organizations, and think thanks reporting involvement in climate change adaptation. Data were collected in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Mali using both an e-survey platform and face-to-face interviews.

Responses reveal active work within these organizations on climate change adaptation and emphasize their important role in the countries’ efforts to address and adapt to climate change. Responses also reveal strong awareness among these organizations of different aspects of climate change adaptation along the different stages in a climate change adaptation project cycle, which may be a reflection of the active discussions and awareness campaigns during NAPA development in these countries. However, despite the awareness and presence of national strategies and action plans, there seem to be no explicit and clearly defined policy and strategy within these organizations outlining their role in and contribution to the national and collective efforts and, more importantly, no explicit and measurable targets and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system to track progress and outcomes over time. Reported capacity gaps can be grouped into two categories: training needs and institutional challenges.

From subsistence to profit: Transforming smallholder farms

August 8, 2013 Comments off

From subsistence to profit: Transforming smallholder farms
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

This food policy report presents a typology of the diverse livelihood strategies and development pathways for smallholder farmers in developing countries, and offers policy recommendations to help potentially profitable smallholders meet emerging risks and challenges.

Main Findings

Smallholder farmers in developing countries play a key role in meeting the future food demands of a growing and increasingly rich and urbanized population. However, smallholders are not a homogeneous group that should be supported at all costs. Whereas some smallholder farmers have the potential to undertake profitable commercial activities in the agricultural sector, others should be supported in exiting agriculture and seeking nonfarm employment opportunities.

For smallholder farmers with profit potential, their ability to be successful is hampered by such challenges as climate change, price shocks, limited financing options, and inadequate access to healthy and nutritious food. By overcoming these challenges, smallholders can move from subsistence to commercially oriented agricultural systems, increase their profits, and operate at an efficient scale—thereby helping to do their part in feeding the world’s hungry.

Policy Implications

Such achievements are possible only in a policy and investment environment that

  • promotes context-specific farm size,
  • supports productive social safety nets,
  • improves risk-mitigation and adaptation strategies,
  • links agriculture, nutrition, and health,
  • promotes pro-smallholder value chains, and
  • increases smallholder-friendly financing and investment.

Targeting technology to reduce poverty and conserve resources

July 9, 2013 Comments off

Targeting technology to reduce poverty and conserve resources
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Demand heterogeneity often makes it profitable for firms to price and promote goods and services differently in different market segments. When private consumption brings public benefits, this same heterogeneity can be used to target public subsidies. We explore the design of public–private targeting and segmentation strategies in the case of a resource-conserving agricultural technology in India. To understand farmers’ heterogeneous demand for laser land leveling (LLL), we conducted an experimental auction for LLL services with an integrated randomized controlled trial to estimate the private benefits of the technology. We use graphical and econometric approaches to characterize farmer demand for LLL. We then add detailed cost data from LLL providers to simulate and evaluate several potential targeted delivery strategies based on measures of (1) the cost-effectiveness of expanding LLL dissemination, (2) water savings, and (3) market surplus in a welfare framework. These simulations demonstrate inherent tradeoffs between increasing the amount of land that is leveled and expanding the number of farmers who adopt the technology, and between adoption and water savings. While segmenting and targeting are popular elements of many public–private partnerships to develop and disseminate agricultural technologies, formulating and implementing effective delivery strategies requires a rich understanding of costs, benefits, and demand. Our experimental approach generates such an understanding and may be relevant in other contexts.

2012 Global Hunger Index

April 28, 2013 Comments off

2012 Global Hunger Index
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

The 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report—the seventh in an annual series—presents a multidimensional measure of global, regional, and national hunger. It shows that progress in reducing the proportion of hungry people in the world has been tragically slow. According to the index, hunger on a global scale remains “serious.” The 2012 GHI report also focuses particularly on how to ensure sustainable food security under conditions of land, water, and energy stress. The stark reality is that the world needs to produce more food with fewer resources, while eliminating wasteful practices and policies.

In the coming decades food security will be increasingly challenged by land, water, and energy scarcity. To improve poor people’s nutrition and food security in this environment, we will need to make a diverse range of foods more available and accessible, identify and address wasteful practices and policies, and ensure that local communities have greater control over and access to productive resources. In other words, we need to build a sustainable world, where the degradation of ecosystems is halted or reversed and all people have access to food, clean water, and modern energy and are empowered to use them for their own well-being.

The Economic Consequences of Excess Men: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Taiwan

August 31, 2012 Comments off
Source:  International Food Policy Research Institute
As sex ratio imbalances have become a problem in an increasing number of countries, it is important to understand their consequences. With the defeat of the Kuomintang Party in China, more than one million soldiers and civilians, mainly young males, retreated to Taiwan in the late 1940s. Initially, the soldiers from mainland China were not allowed to marry. The ban was relaxed in 1959, however, suddenly flooding the marriage market with a large number of eligible bachelors. The operational ratio of males to females at marriageable age peaked at nearly 1.2 in the 1960s. Using data from multiple sources, we find that during times of high marriage competition, young men are more likely to become entrepreneurs, work longer hours, save more, and amass more assets. The findings highlight the important role of biological forces in shaping human economic behavior.

Does food security matter for transition in Arab countries?

August 13, 2012 Comments off

Does food security matter for transition in Arab countries?
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Expectations are high that transition in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen will bring about more freedom, justice, and economic opportunities. However, experiences from other world regions show that countries in transition are at high risk of entering conflicts, which often come at large economic, social and political costs. In order to identify options on how conflict may be prevented in Arab transition countries, this paper assesses the key global drivers of conflicts based on a dataset from 1960 to 2010 and improved cross-country regression techniques. Results show that unlike in other studies where per capita incomes, inequality, and poor governance, among other factors, emerge as the major determinants of conflict, food security at macro- and micro-levels emerges as the main cause of conflicts in the Arab world. This “Arab exceptionalism in conflict” suggests that improving food security is not only important for improving the lives of rural and urban people; it is also likely to be the key for a peaceful transition.

Agricultural R&D: Investing in Africa’s Future—Analyzing Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities

July 23, 2012 Comments off

Agricultural R&D: Investing in Africa’s Future—Analyzing Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

The promise and challenges inherent in agricultural development in Sub-Saharan Africa prompted the conference, “Agricultural R&D: Investing in Africa’s Future—Analyzing Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities,” which was convened by the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative—facilitated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)—and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). The goal of the conference was to define a road map for revitalizing agricultural research in the region focusing on four principal themes:

  • sustainable financing of agricultural research;
  • training the next generation of agricultural scientists;
  • effectively evaluating the performance of research institutes and systems; and
  • efficient organization of national agricultural research activities supported by regional and international capacities.

Mineral resources and conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

July 22, 2012 Comments off

Mineral resources and conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Civil wars inflict considerable costs on countries which may be trapped in vicious cycles of violence. To avoid these adverse events, scholars have attempted to identify the roots of civil wars. Valuable minerals have been listed among the main drivers of civil conflicts. Yet, despite the large body of literature, the evidence remains mixed. This paper provides a spatially nuanced view of the role of mineral resources in civil wars in the particular case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We estimate the impact of geolocated new mining concessions on the number of conflict events between January 1997 and December 2007. Instrumenting the variable of interest with historical concessions interacted with changes in mineral international prices, we unveil an ecological fallacy: Whereas concessions have no effect on the number of conflicts at the territory level (lowest administrative unit), they do foster violence at the district level (higher administrative unit). We develop a theoretical model wherein the incentives of armed groups to exploit and protect mineral resources explain our empirical findings. A spatial analysis of the effect of mining concessions on conflict backs our proposed theoretical explanation.

Scaling up in agriculture, rural development, and nutrition

June 29, 2012 Comments off

Scaling up in agriculture, rural development, and nutrition
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Taking successful development interventions to scale is critical if the world is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and make essential gains in the fight for improved agricultural productivity, rural incomes, and nutrition. How to support scaling up in these three areas, however, is a major challenge. This collection of policy briefs is designed to contribute to a better understanding of the experience to date and the lessons for the future.

Scaling up means expanding, replicating, adapting, and sustaining successful policies, programs, or projects to reach a greater number of people; it is part of a broader process of innovation and learning. A new idea, model, or approach is typically embodied in a pilot project of limited impact; with monitoring and evaluation, the knowledge acquired from the pilot experience can be used to scale up the model to create larger impacts. The process generally occurs in an iterative and interactive cycle, as the experience from scaling up feeds back into new ideas and learning.

The authors of the 20 policy briefs included here explore the experience of scaling up successful interventions in agriculture, rural development, and nutrition under five broad headings: (1) the role of rural community engagement, (2) the importance of value chains, (3) the intricacies of scaling up nutrition interventions, (4) the lessons learned from institutional approaches, and (5) the experience of international aid donors.

Economics of the Arab awakening

February 22, 2012 Comments off
Source:  International Food Policy Research Institute
Few observers would have predicted the dramatic changes over the past few months in the Arab world. Arab governments appeared to be in tight control, and many Arab economies were growing around or above the world average over the past few years. Annual growth rates in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Sudan averaged more than 6 percent between 2005 and 2010; and Syria, Tunisia, and Libya grew at about 5 percent on average during the same period of time. Official poverty rates in most Arab countries are lower than in many Asian and Latin American countries.
However, experts have long identified slow progress in economic diversification and job creation, social inequalities, and persistent food insecurity as major development challenges for Arab countries. Did these factors and, more broadly, people’s dissatisfaction with their living standards contribute to the recent uprisings? At first glance, the sudden turn of events and the generally low coverage, quality, and accessibility of data in the Arab world make it difficult to find answers to this question. By looking beyond more conventional data, however, this policy brief provides some insights into the potential role of economics in the ongoing uprisings. It also reviews major policy responses of Arab governments and provides a new narrative of Arab development that is based on inclusive economic transformation, food security, and decisionmaking.
Full Paper (PDF)

Gender, assets, and agricultural development programs

December 26, 2011 Comments off

Gender, assets, and agricultural development programs
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Being able to access, control, and own productive assets such as land, labor, finance, and social capital enables people to create stable and productive lives. Yet relatively little is known about how agricultural development programs can most effectively deliver these outcomes of well-being, empowerment, and higher income in a way that acknowledges differential access to and control over assets by men and women. After reviewing the literature on gender and assets, this paper offers a conceptual framework for understanding the gendered pathways through which asset accumulation occurs, including attention to not only men’s and women’s assets but also those they share in joint control and ownership. Unlike previous frameworks, this model depicts the gendered dimensions of each component of the pathway in recognition of the evidence that men and women not only control, own, or dispose of assets in different ways, but also access, control, and own different kinds of assets. The framework generates gender-specific hypotheses that can be tested empirically: i) Different types of assets enable different livelihoods, with a greater stock and diversity of assets being associated with more diverse livelihoods and better well-being outcomes; ii) Men and women use different types of assets to cope with different types of shocks; iii) Interventions that increase men’s and women’s stock of a particular asset improve the bargaining power of the individual(s) who control that asset; and iv) Interventions and policies that reduce the gender gap in assets are better able to achieve development outcomes related to food security, health, and nutrition and other aspects of well-being related to agency and empowerment. The implications of these gender differences for designing agricultural development interventions to increase asset growth and returns to assets as well as for value chain development are discussed. Based on this analysis, additional gaps in knowledge and possible investigations to address them are identified.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

Poverty rate and government income transfers

April 19, 2011 Comments off

Poverty rate and government income transfers
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

The poverty rate and income transfer are clearly correlated. However, not much research has attempted to determine the causal linkage between the two. Previous research has primarily focused on the poverty-reducing impact of income transfer. In this paper, we apply a simultaneous equation system of spatial regressions to uncover the spatial pattern of the relationship between the poverty rate and income transfer, using a sample of 3,001 U.S. counties. The results are in line with theoretical expectations; they provide evidence of a significant simultaneity effect between the poverty rate and income transfer. Our findings also confirm the presence of significant spatial autocorrelation. Contrary to previous studies, we find that more generous counties tend to do a better job of reducing poverty and that counties with more poor tend to be less generous, creating incentive for the poor to participate in the labor force. Furthermore, counties located in devolution states perform better in both poverty reduction and income transfer. These findings are missing from extant literature that focuses only on the poverty-reducing impact of welfare payments.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

Urgent Actions Needed to Prevent Recurring Food Crises

April 12, 2011 Comments off

Urgent Actions Needed to Prevent Recurring Food Crises
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Recent trends in food prices—higher levels and higher volatility—mirror trends predicted by a number of experts. Given the complex web of factors influencing global food security, governments of developed and developing countries, as well as international organizations, must use a comprehensive approach to prevent a food crisis reoccurrence. This comprehensive approach should comprise a number of initiatives and reforms; while some of these have been proposed before, their merits are even more relevant today and justify reprioritization and reallocation of national and international budgets. There are 7 main initiatives that governments and institutions should promptly implement.

  1. Effective policies and technology investments to minimize food–fuel competition.
  2. Social protection, especially social safety nets, for the most vulnerable groups.
  3. Transparent, fair, and open global trade.
  4. A global emergency physical grain reserve.
  5. Policies and investments to promote agricultural growth, in particular smallholder productivity, in the face of climate change.
  6. Investments by national governments in climate change adaptation and mitigation using the full potential that agriculture offers.
  7. An international working group to regularly monitor the world food situation and trigger action to prevent excessive price volatility.

+ Full Document (PDF)

The gender implications of large-scale land deals

April 11, 2011 Comments off

The gender implications of large-scale land deals
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Whether viewed as “land grabs” or as agricultural investment for development, large-scale land deals by investors in developing countries are generating considerable attention. However, investors, policymakers, officials, and other key stakeholders have paid little attention to a dimension of these deals essential to truly understanding their impact: gender. It is easy to laud outside investment in agriculture, or to deride land deals and the accompanying processes as bad or unfair, without looking at the benefits and costs to local men and women. The results of land deals depend in part on the prior rights and responsibilities of women and men and in part on how the land deal’s implementation perpetuates, improves, or distorts these rights and responsibilities.

A wide-ranging body of evidence forms a clear rationale for prioritizing gender issues in agriculture. Households often do not act as a single unit when allocating food and nonfood resources, which means all household members may not benefit from providing the male household head with more income. Evidence shows that improvements in household agricultural productivity, food security, and nutrition must address women’s needs because, in many parts of the world, women are more likely than men to spend the income they control on food, healthcare, and their children’s education. Conversely, land deals can reduce the welfare of women and their families, even if men’s income increases. Land-related investments promoted in the name of “rural development” will miss their mark unless the many actors involved—including national and local governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the research community, and investors—recognize and address the needs of women as well as men.

Responding to health risks along the value chain

February 22, 2011 Comments off

Responding to health risks along the value chain
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

This brief describes food safety risks along the value chain, identifies drivers of change, presents the risks posed to the poor by both food safety challenges and responses to them, and underscores the use of risk-based analysis to craft effective food safety policies that benefit both poor consumers and poor producers.

+ Full Document (PDF)

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