Foreign Policy Blogs

Global Food Security – Year in Review 2011

Global Food Security - Year in Review 2011

Summary of Global Food Security 2011

The Global Food Security blog’s coverage for 2011 started where 2010 left off, with posts about controversial land grabs in Africa.  The recovery of Haiti was strained when even the production of rice, a staple crop, was slowed by fears that it might contribute to a growing cholera outbreak.  Foreshadowing the shortfalls that would be seen in other parts of the world in 2011, a post on food insecurity in Afghanistan revealed the aid agencies expected the conflict-torn country to have low-level food security.

With the FAO’s monthly report on global food prices showing that food prices in January 2011 were already at levels higher than the 2007-2008 food crisis, anxiety increased about whether this increase would subside or continue during the year.  As with the 2010 wildfires in Russia, fears that a natural disaster would upset food prices did occur when floods in Australia impacted global wheat supply.

As the protests of the Arab Spring emerged as one of the 2011’s major news stories, an underlying story followed by this blog was the role that frustration over food prices played in setting off unrest and fears of new unrest caused by food security in other regions of the world.

By February, concern emerged that drought conditions in China may lead to a run by the Chinese government on global food markets, raising prices across the board globally.  When rainfall arrived at the eleventh-hour to relieve parched Chinese farmland, the world quietly avoided another food crisis.

The March 11th earthquake in Japan and subsequent tsunami had the immediate effect of cutting off survivors from safe food and water.  In the aftermath of the natural disaster, fears of radiation contaminating the food supply in Japan shut down the export of food produced in areas nearby the Fukushima prefecture.  Throughout the year, lingering fears of radiation contamination in Japanese food products were confirmed with high radiation levels in some food products.

In June, a deadly outbreak of E.coli contamination in Germany killed 31 people and sickened over 3,000.  The story resonated because of the number of people affected, as well as the speed and reach of the outbreak.  The difficulty in identifying the source of the outbreak created new calls to examine how governments handle such outbreaks.

In July, a critical famine warning hit the Horn of Africa, a formal recognition of a problem that was building for several months.  With over 9 million people initially affected by the drought, the humanitarian situation looked as bleak as it could, until a few weeks later, when the UN declared famine conditions existed in two regions of Somalia.  The plight of the people in the Horn of Africa, desperately trying to escape areas devoid of food, only to become caught up in regional conflicts, overrun refugee camps and a painfully slow international aid response was covered by several blogs on the FPB network throughout the remainder of the year.  Added attention by the global media only bore witness to a worsening situation, but did not necessarily engender a greater aid response.

The international community’s attention to global food security was displayed in some important events in 2011.  At a May 6th FAO meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called attention to the need to immediately address the effects of rising food prices.  In late June, the G-20 held a landmark Agriculture Summit to discuss the connection between food production and distribution as a way of understanding how to prevent food crises.

Food security was given a prominent forum as the subject of two high-level meetings at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in September.  The theme of addressing rising food prices was carried on for World Food Day, October 16th.

As the year closed, western Africa’s Sahel region was preparing for the emergence of drought conditions across several countries.  Will lessons learned in 2011 be applied to address this budding crisis?  Or will 2012’s first food security crisis come from western Africa?

Most Unexpected Event

Many would like to say that in this day and age, no area of the world should suffer prolonged food insecurity from drought and famine.  Food security experts who tracked the crisis in the Horn of Africa would note that warnings about a natural disaster in the area and the challenges that would face a humanitarian aid response were already known.  While these experts would not call this crisis wholly unexpected, its results remains shocking.

Person (or people) of the year

While this category is addressed at the end of the year in all of the blogs, it always proves particularly difficult for this blog.  Of course, there are many examples of aid workers and individuals who aim to improve food security in the areas they live or work, and we try to acknowledge their work in posts as frequently as possible.

The Global Food Security blog therefore selects: The people of the Horn of Africa.  Using this space, we would like to once again call attention to the needs of over 10 million people by referring you to our posts from earlier in the year, where you can donate much needed funds to organizations working in the Horn of Africa.

Must reads for Global Food Security

Bloggers have included their recommendations for books related to their blog topics, but we would like to use this space to recommend that readers revisit some of this blog’s posts from the past year that highlighted unique aspects of this diverse topic.

MyPlate serves new nutrition guidelines
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new nutrition guidelines, represented in a new symbol, updating the “food pyramid” campaign.

Three new reports challenge food security forecasts
Three independent reports released in spring 2011 looked at the future of food security and how it will be impacted by  global warming, population and consumption patterns.

Five questions for…William Schanbacher
Discussing his recent book, Dr. Schanbacher shares his ideas on food sovereignty vs. food security, food as a cultural commodity and the effectiveness of international organizations in ending global hunger and poverty.

Forecast for 2012

One trend that was tracked in the past year was food insecurity in the United States.  As the 2012 presidential campaign moves into full swing, will hunger in the U.S. become a campaign issue?

The G-20 Agricultural Summit promised a great deal, but left some parts of the agreement unplanned or pushed them down the road.  Will the international community seize the momentum raised by this summit and other meetings to create mechanisms to keep food prices under control?  Or will it take another food crisis to initiate further action?

Come back to read and we will stay on top of these and other issues.

2011 Bloggers

In the past year, the Global Food Security blog had posts contributed by Nadja Boncouer, Michael Lucivero, Adam Read-Brown and Rishi Sidhu.  Ideas for posts were also contributed by members of the FPA staff.

Image credit: Sven Torfinn/The Guardian