IFPRI calls for rethinking how to address food crises

18 April 20235 min reading

The 2023 Global Food Policy Report, released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), offers critical evidence that can help policymakers, the private sector, and the international development community heed calls for a more proactive response to food system shocks.

The 2023 Global Food Policy Report explores a growing body of evidence on how diverse policy responses can reduce both the immediate and longer-term impacts of food crises, and improve livelihoods, incomes, and food security and nutrition for the future. Drawing on research from IFPRI and other CGIAR centers, it provides evidence-based policy recommendations for governments, donors, and nongovernmental organizations.

In 2022, the world faced multiple crises that added to the rising numbers of hungry and malnourished people. Continuing disruptions to food systems included the COVID-19 pandemic, major natural disasters, civil unrest and political instability, and climate change, all aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine war and related spikes in food and fertilizer prices. Already in 2021, some 768 million people were undernourished according to FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition Report, well above the low of 572 million reported in 2014; in 2022, the Global Report on Food Crises estimates that as many as 205 million people in 45 countries experienced crisis-level acute food insecurity or worse, nearly double the number in 2016.

“Crises, shocks, and volatility are no longer exceptions and may become the new normal,” said Johan Swinnen, Director General of IFPRI and Managing Director of the CGIAR Systems Transformation Science Group. “Hence, we should better predict and prepare, implement effective and accountable governance and institutions, and invest to build resilience against future crises. While discussions of a humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach have been underway for years, this report provides a solid policy basis for moving forward.”

“In 2022, requests for humanitarian assistance reached a record high of $41 billion. This timely IFPRI report highlights insightful ways we can rethink our response to food crises, so that we are investing beyond short term fixes to build food systems that are more resilient and equitable,” said Dina Esposito, USAID Assistant to the Administrator for Resilience and Food Security, U.S. Feed the Future Deputy Coordinator for Development, and Global Food Crisis Response Coordinator.

IFPRI's flagship report draws on a wealth of evidence built over many years by IFPRI and partners, focusing on three key areas: crisis prediction and preparation; building resilience before and during crises; and making crisis response supportive and inclusive of women, forced migrants, and other vulnerable groups.

“The 2023 Global Food Policy Report makes a clear case for more practical and connected early warning systems. This will help save lives, livelihoods, and money by enabling anticipatory action before a shock turns into a crisis. Bottom line, be ready to act now or risk paying a lot more, a few months down the road,” said Arif Husain, Chief Economist, World Food Programme (WFP).

Agrifood value chains  are critical to supporting livelihoods and food security during crises; governments are well advised to maintain a business environment that fosters flexibility, technical and financial innovation, and to provide essential infrastructure and targeted assistance for at-risk value chain actors and nodes.

Flexible, shock-responsive, and carefully targeted social protection systems are essential for building resilience prior to a crisis and for facilitating recovery. Integrating social protection with gender and climate goals can promote gender equality and sustainability.

Empowering women in crisis situations is crucial; they shoulder a disproportionate share of negative impacts. Collecting high-quality, gender-disaggregated data; directing funding toward programming that improves gender equality; and ensuring that women’s voices are included in decision-making at all levels can support development, monitoring, and achievement of clear gender equality goals amid crises.

Forced migration associated with crises constitutes an important adaptation strategy. Migration can provide benefits for both hosting and sending communities when policies facilitate migrants’ integration into their host communities’ economies and support those who remain behind. Adoption of appropriate policies demands novel methods and analytical approaches to trace migration and its impacts.

Larger and more effective financing and accountable governance are two vital and overarching requirements for bolstering resilience and improved crisis response.

Even before the widespread repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine, the UNFSS Climate Change lever called for an annual investment of $300 to $400 billion through 2030 to make food systems more resilient and sustainable. Available funds can be increased by repurposing the more than $600 billion in agricultural support provided by governments on an annual basis and better leveraging private sector funds to bolster long-term resilience.

“Better food crisis responses must be underpinned by good governance, effective institutions, and proper incentives. Effective governance and accountability require greater transparency, research tools to track risks and evaluate crisis responses, and the inclusion of women and other vulnerable groups,” emphasized Katrina Kosec, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow and one of the lead authors of the report. “Moving forward, governments must not only aim to better predict, prevent, and mitigate crises, but also govern for resilience and equity.”

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