Monday, September 19, 2011

Somalia and the Need for Agricultural Investments

The crisis continues to unravel in the Horn of Africa. A recent  NY Times piece, argues that 750,000 people could perish in the famine, and there seems to little resources, commitment, and coordination in the international community to prevent the crisis from reaching catastrophic proportions. In an excellent commentary from Project Syndicate, Sam Dryden, the Director of the Agricultural Development Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, argues that investments in small holders farmers can prevent future famines from happening again (the caveat being situations of extreme weather fluctuations and violence). 

Meanwhile, at an African Ministerial conference on climate-smart agriculture, in Johannesburg, Andrew Steer, World Bank's special envoy for climate change, articulated the importance of increasing investments in agricultural and food security research.  According to Mr. Steer, the WB is increasing its support for agriculture, from $4-billion invested in 2010 and previous years, to $6-billion earmarked for 2011, and plans to increase Ag investments to $8-billion in 2012.  See a clip of his speech below:

This comes at a time when the members of the G20 recently incorporated agricultural research as a center piece of their agenda to ensure global food security. The meeting took place in Montpellier, France from September 12 to 14. 

Three years have passed since the World Bank published its World Development Report on "Agriculture for Development." Now, funds are starting to trickle down to projects in the field. If there is anything positive from the horrendous tragedy unfolding in Somalia, it is the opportunity for governments and policy makers around the world to accelerate agricultural projects, and put on center stage the vital role of food security interventions in preventing future crisis.