With less than two years to go to meet the Millennium Development Goals, how has the world done on its goal of halving hunger? According to the IFPRI 2013 Global Food Policy Report, released this week, much work remains. While the number of chronically hungry people has declined from 1 billion to around 842 million over the last 30 years, this number is still unacceptably high. One in eight people around the world suffers from hunger on a daily basis.

Extreme poverty and gender inequality are two of the most daunting challenges faced by the developing world. To tackle these challenges, many policymakers are turning to public works programs. Such programs can help governments provide stable, balanced wages to households in need, while at the same time investing in important infrastructure, like roads and irrigation systems, that can promote economic development in the future. But these programs are not without controversy.

This article was originally posted as part of Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

The EU’s trade-distorting domestic farm subsidies were lower in the 2010-11 marketing year than in any previous year, according to new figures that the 28-member bloc has reported to the WTO.

This article was originally posted as part of Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

With the Bali ministerial now behind them, the process to develop a Doha “work programme” by year’s end is beginning to gear up in Geneva, with WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo urging members last week to use 2014 to get the struggling negotiations “back on track.”

More protection against low prices, while fixed payments ended
decade-long shift to subsidized crop insurance reinforced

By David Orden, IFPRI

After more than three years of oft-times tumultuous positioning, posturing, and negotiations, the U.S. Congress has passed a new five-year Farm Bill: the Agricultural Act of 2014. The bill, which the President will sign into law on February 7, reaffirms the government’s longstanding support to farmers through 2018.

This article is cross-posted from ChinaDaily, written by Shenggen Fan, the Director General of International Food Policy Research Institute.

Use, control, and ownership of productive assets – land, money, livestock, and education, to name just a few – are essential stepping stones on the path out of poverty. But this pathway can look very different depending on whether you are a man or a woman. Growing evidence suggests that women typically have fewer assets than men, and that they use those assets differently. What’s more, agricultural development programs may impact men’s and women’s assets in different, sometimes unexpected, ways.

Fertilizer use in India has exploded since the government began a subsidization program in the 1970s. National fertilizer consumption rates increased by 50% during the 1990s. But research has shown that the effectiveness of these inputs has actually declined – on average, 8 kilograms of grain were produced per kilogram of fertilizer in the late 1990s, compared to 25 kg of grain per kg of fertilizer in the 1960s.

The issue of large-scale public food stockholding programs played a starring role in this month's 9th WTO Ministerial in Bali (for more analysis, read posts by Eugenio Diaz-Bonilla and David Laborde and Luca Salvatici).

The “food vs. fuel” debate came no closer to a resolution last week, as Energy ministers from the European Union’s 28 member states failed to agree on a compromise limiting the use of transport fuels made from food crops such as rapeseed and wheat, so-called first generation biofuels.

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