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.

Agricultural activities employ 77 percent of Senegal's workforce and account for 12.4 of its GDP. Despite the importance of agriculture to Senegal's development, however, the country is often subject to low rainfall and droughts, making its population particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. A new report from FEWS NET examines climatic trends in Senegal and finds several important implications for the country's agricultural production.

The GIEWS Global Food Price Monitor, released today, has seen a slight decline in international maize prices from their near-record highs in August. However, the report also cites increasing global rice export prices, as well as strengthening wheat export prices. Domestic wheat prices in several regions (Asia, CIS, and South America) also rose in September, reflecting higher prices in international and regional export markets.

FEWS NET has released the latest update to its West Africa Food Security Outlook. The report sees good crop production in the region, with initial evaluations citing cereal production between 5 and 17 percent higher than 2011. The report cautions, however, that due to continuing high prices and past stock depletion, food insecurity in some parts of the region could remain at Phase 2 (Stressed) levels through October.

AGRODEP (African Growth and Development Policy Modeling Consortium) has now launched its fourth round of membership extension. Qualified economists from Africa are eligible; membership provides free access to cutting-edge economic research tools, resources, and training that may otherwise be unavailable to researchers in the region.

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.

According to a new report released by FEWS, crisis-level food insecurity across West Africa has improved or stabilized in the past month, particularly from Mauritania to Chad and the eastern Sahel. Despite the improvement in food security, however, food aid will still be needed in the region through the fall to compensate for high prices and low household food stocks.

FEWS NET has released its Food Price Watch for June, citing steadily increasing staple food prices in East Africa. Rising prices in the region are being caused by a combination of dwindling supplies from previous harvests and market interruptions due to conflict; many areas of the region were already seeing alarmingly high food prices.

The 2011 Horn of Africa food crisis brought the stark reality of weather-related shocks to the world’s attention, as the region’s worst drought in 60 years led to widespread crop failures and skyrocketing food prices and plunged millions of people into severe hunger and malnutrition. An early, effective response could have prevented the kind of widespread tragedy seen in the Horn of Africa in 2011, reducing mortality rates and malnutrition of young children, as well as helping families get back on their feet after the drought.

FEWS NET has released the latest Monthly Price Watch for May 2012. The report cites slight fluctuations in the international grains markets, with wheat increasing in many markets and maize export prices continuing to decrease. In both East and West Africa, staple food prices (particularly cereals prices) increased in April. These increases were due to diminishing stocks from previous harvests (East Africa) and a rapid increase in demand that is still unmatched by supply (West Africa, particularly the Sahel).