|Who Will Be Fed in the 21st Century? (AAEA - ERS - IFPRI, 2001, 124 p.)|
|Part III: Ensuring Access to Food|
In Chapter 1, Pinstrup-Andersen and Pandya-Lorch use demographic and production models to project the numbers and regional distribution of food-insecure people in 2020. They simultaneously consider the ways scientists (or the world) might address them. Subsequent chapters of this volume stress the importance of appropriate resource management and biotechnology. Overall, these scenarios suggest a more positive aggregate world food outlook than existed five years ago (Pinstrup-Andersen and Pandya-Lorch 1994), and indicate how governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and international agencies can reduce the numbers of undernourished people in developing countries through improved education (especially for women), better access to clean water, and greater participation by communities.
Another way to approach this question, however, is to ask: Who will be able to feed themselves in the 21st century? This makes the future of hunger less a technical question, and more a question of human rights and capabilities. Will the global community achieve the United Nations' goal of a universal right to food in the 21st century? Who will be left out - and why? Can the scientific community do anything differently to enhance human capabilities and freedoms so that more individuals can choose lives they really value, including nutrition-ally adequate food?
In reframing the question this way, I draw on the perspectives of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen (especially Sen 1999) and of Food First (the nongovernmental Institute for Food and Development Policy). Both call attention to the root causes of hunger, not just poverty but the social structures of injustice and inequality underlying it, and call for policy commitments to enhance all human capabilities (Sen 1999; Lappe, Collins, and Rosset 1998). Both emphasize the violence associated with hunger, including civil conflict. Both insist that improvements in food security and human welfare can only occur through programs that effectively consider democracy along with development. In either view, eliminating half the world's hunger by the United Nations' target year of 2015 (FAO 1999b) will require more than state-of-the-art analysis that is demographic, economic, and agricultural; enhanced soil management; biotechnology; and revitalized investments in nutrition, food, and agriculture. It will also require genuine commitment to human rights, related transformations in agricultural and development policies, and greater participation by local peoples, demanding more appropriate actions on the part of governments and international agencies.
Two particularly important facets of a genuine commitment to human rights in this context are distinct but related efforts to create a more secure and peaceful world and to ensure equal opportunity for women. Peace and full participation of women, either singly or in combination, have the potential to substantively change projected outcomes for food security in the 21st century.1 The following two sections consider what peace might contribute to future food supply and demand, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa; and what might be gained from a woman-centered approach to food and nutrition planning, from agricultural research and extension to more efficient processing and consumption. A final section connects these two factors to additional institutional perspectives raised in other discussions in this volume.
Food from Peace
Armed conflicts (involving more than 1,000 deaths) constitute a significant cause of deteriorating food scenarios in developing countries and have been shown to be salient factors in the famines of the 1980s and 1990s. Recent research (Messer, Cohen, and D'Costa 1998) shows that populations in 47 countries suffered food insecurity as a consequence of food wars, a concept that includes both the use of hunger as a weapon in active conflict and the food insecurity that accompanies and follows as a consequence, because prolonged conflicts destroy land, waterworks, markets, infrastructure, and human communities. Historically, conflict and food insecurity are linked in a destructive cycle, where a principal source of conflict lies in lack of food security, which creates new potential for conflict. From this it follows that food security can help pre- vent conflict and is essential for sustained and peaceful recovery after wars have ended.
This research (Messer, Cohen, and D'Costa 1998) also estimated the magnitude of food-production losses due to conflict by examining trends in war-torn countries of southern Africa. The authors first compared mean food production per capita with peace-adjusted values (which indicate what food production might have been in the absence of conflict in the region). In 13 of 14 countries studied, food production was lower in war years. Differences were as small as 3.4 percent in Kenya and as large as 44 percent in Angola, with a mean difference of 12.3 percent. The authors then calculated differences in mean food-production growth rates during war and nonwar years. This method adjusted annual growth figures to represent food from peace as a percentage of the production the region might have produced had peace prevailed. Reductions in food-production growth rates were observed in all countries except Nigeria and were cumulative: from 1.3 to 3.5 percent in the 1980s, and from 3.9 to 5.3 percent in the 1990s. Although the data are rough, the point is clear: to reduce food insecurity, Africa and other regions need peace.
Beyond the quantitative data, findings also indicated that development projects themselves can be a source of conflict, where would-be beneficiaries perceive unfairness in distribution of land, water, and goods and take action against perceived relative deprivation and injustice. These combined quantitative and qualitative findings have two important implications. First, the findings suggest that most countries and regions that are currently food insecure are not hopeless underproducers but are still experiencing the effects of past or present conflicts, political instability, and poor governance. Their food-production capacities are higher, and their food outlooks in the medium to longer term are brighter, than evident in most current projections. A key production variable in such cases is peace, although agricultural investment in improved seeds, more efficient land and water management, and projects to save and restore appropriate seeds are also very important.
Second, while agricultural investment can be an important deterrent to conflict, its actual relationship to civil strife is complex. Although a recent study commissioned by the NGO Future Harvest (De Soysa and Gleditsch 1999), which is related to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), reached the simple conclusion that agricultural investment can help prevent conflict, it included a detailed Indian case study that demonstrates how complex the politics really are, and how successful outcomes depend on additional political factors that promote social justice. Agricultural investment can be carried out in ways that promote peace, but such development assistance needs to incorporate conflict prevention explicitly into policies, programs, and project planning, implementation, and evaluation. Case studies showing how aid that is sensitive to local participation can support peace rather than conflict have been produced for postconflict situations (Anderson 1999) but less often for conflict prevention. Experts designing programs of agricultural investment need to be aware of existing political circumstances in order to choose strategies that will foster cooperation among communities (or groups within communities). For example, provision of appropriate agricultural tools and seeds has been recognized as a critical step in the restoration of food production, food security, and peace during and immediately following periods of conflict (FAO 1998), and may contribute to conflict prevention as well.2 However, programs need to be structured so that they allow active participation by women as well as men, particularly where the potential for conflict remains high. Researchers assessing connections between development assistance and conflict in Rwanda (Jefremovas 1991; Newbury 1992) have argued that women's capacities must be enhanced not only to increase food production, reduce food insecurity, and prevent nutritional insecurity, but also to help prevent conflict.
Women and Food
Women make up half of the world's population and more than half of the developing world's farming population.3 A number of studies have found positive correlations between women's income and child nutritional status.4 Evidence also indicates that female-headed households generally have lower income, in part because they have less access to productive resources, and also because child care and domestic chores leave women with less time to earn cash income.5 Women's health and nutrition are special concerns, because women are often self-depriving or involuntarily deprived of food. Policymakers tend to characterize women as the shock absorbers of households, who absorb shortfalls in income or consumption, often at some nutritional cost to themselves (Quisumbing et al. 1995). In human terms, they often suffer abuse of the human right to adequate food and nutrition (ICN 1992); in economic terms, as a result of food deprivation they are less productive of goods and of household health. Their undernutrition also affects the nutritional status of the next generation because underweight women are more likely to give birth to infants with low birth weights.
Since the 1970s, there have been concerted efforts to involve women more centrally in development programs. These have included capacity-building programs to improve women's access to formal education and training, as well as specially targeted women's health and women-in-development programs designed to increase women's contributions to economic growth and other measures of human development. However, women still face discrimination and exclusion from above as well as horizontally (through gender-based discrimination in control of productive resources and income). Men are offered cash and field-crop programs; women are offered home vegetable gardens or cooking classes. Programs that claim to target women as beneficiaries often are not the same economic and production programs aimed toward men. Stereotypes of women's agriculture or women's work persist; distinguishing women's work makes women and their production visible and meaningful to economic planners (for example, Boserup 1965, 1970) but marginalizes women and their work from mainstream agricultural improvement plans. Agricultural investment programs that are separate, unequal, and gender specific also endure because of gender biases in science and development policy (for example, Downs, Kerner, and Reyna 1991).
Also constraining women's productivity are political and economic factors, including lack of ownership rights or direct access to land. Although women may gain use rights by custom and permission of male (owner) relatives, lack of secure tenure provides them with less incentive to invest in practices or crops (such as trees) that provide benefits only over the long term. They also have limited incentive to farm cash crops on lands they do not control, where products will accrue to male owners (even their husbands). Inequality and gender discrimination also mean women may lack access to water for irrigation or other purposes, technology, or new equipment.
Reversing agricultural underproduction by women will entail removing constraints as well as creating new opportunities. Equality before the law and secure access to land, water, and other factors of production are obvious steps, although they usually encounter resistance at all social levels. Even without major changes in the rules, women sometimes substantially improve production when they see market opportunities, as where Nigerian women, responding to urban market incentives, raised peri-urban production on land they did not own in unanticipated ways (Guyer 1998).
Food and nutritional security and sustainable management of local ecological systems are tightly tied to issues of gender and participation (Rhoades 1984). Food and agricultural planners have taken first steps toward participation by consulting individual farmers, or more rarely, whole communities, about agricultural intensification programs that are supposed to change their lives (Conway 1999). However, beyond the farmer-first viewpoint is the question of which farmers should be addressed, because women are often left out of the consultations, despite providing more than half of farm labor in Africa and substantial proportions in Asia and Latin America.
Women's access to information and materials is often restricted because there are few women extension agents, and even fewer women scientists in developing countries. The United Nations Environment Programme reported in 1988 that less than 1 percent of government-employed agricultural advisors in Asia and the Middle East were female, only 3 percent in Africa, and 8.5 percent in Latin America (Brown et al. 1995). For religious or other cultural reasons, male extension workers may work only with males and avoid contacts with females, and women may find it harder to find the time to meet with extension workers because of their duties as household keepers as well as farmers. Women may also lack the education, including fluency in the lingua franca, to converse with extension agents. All contribute to an impression that women's agriculture is inherently less productive than men's. However, given the same opportunities, information, and factors of production, females might well outperform males; they might also make different agricultural choices.
Removing the multiple barriers to women's access to extension requires deliberate steps, which may include training female extension workers, designing programs for mixed male-female farming groups, or transmitting information by media, such as radio. Lower educational levels may limit women's access to credit or their ability to use new scientific agricultural information. The less educated may be perceived to be less willing to adopt new cash crops, although the real problem may be that women grow subsistence crops for which no credit is provided and do not have access to the credit necessary to adopt other crops. NGOs in South Asia seek to provide innovative solutions to surmount these multiple systemic obstacles through systemwide programs that provide female-to-female extension, credit, education, and in some cases child care and maternal - child health services (Chen 1986).
Eliminating bias in access to education has longer-term implications for improving productivity. Fortunately, there is some limited evidence that such biases are receding, and that conventional agricultural intensification efforts are being modified to incorporate knowledge from farmers (Rhoades 1984). One project that experimented with women's knowledge in plant breeding involved selections of bean and cowpea varieties in Rwanda and Malawi over the years 1988-93. In an unprecedented collaboration, local women worked with scientists and anthropologists to develop a common understanding of their respective classifications of bean types and assessments of yield potential and other desirable cultural characteristics (such as faster cooking time) under actual growing conditions. In the collaboration, women farmers selected from more than 20 bean varieties those that they thought would do best under their growing conditions. They also grew those varieties that the breeders predicted would be more highly productive. The women's selections outperformed the breeders' selections by 60 to 90 percent, and they continued to grow these after the experiment was over. This is one of the few examples where women's indigenous knowledge was put to work in a way that combined local classification rules with access to new seed materials (Ferguson 1994).
Female scientists in developing countries also are helping to transform views of women's agricultural roles, arguing that the drudgery of women's agricultural lives needs to be changed, not defended. A celebrated and not uncontroversial example is Dr. Florence Wambugu, one of the first Kenyan women trained in biotechnology. To those who oppose chemical and biotechnological approaches to eliminating weeds of cereal and legume crops, she responds (from personal experience) that weeding is seasonal, back-breaking women's work throughout much of Africa. Over the past decade, striga, a particularly tenacious weed that is not easily eliminated by traditional manual weeding methods, has invaded grain crops and greatly reduced yields of maize, sorghum, and grain legumes. To those who lament the elimination of women's work by herbicides, Wambugu replies that the future for women in agriculture and food production depends on better science, seeds, and chemicals. In her estimation, the proper agricultural role for the new African woman in agriculture is in a genetic engineering lab, speeding up the breeding of new herbicide-resistant crop varieties that will make it unnecessary for African women now or in future generations to spend their lives pulling weeds (Gressel 1996).
What is being called for by innovative women scientists, farmers, and their advocates is nothing less than a revision of the development paradigm and women's roles within it. Only when women are scientists, planners, and extension workers as well as farmers will they be able to achieve full human rights, including rights to adequate food and nutrition and a sustainable environment. Only then will they be able to inject their special knowledge and energy into transforming agriculture and improving production.
Along these lines, certain nongovernmental organizations are attempting to change the ways governments, donors, and the people themselves look at their potential to transform women's lives and food insecurity. In addition to these efforts by agricultural, nutritional, and economic scientists, partnerships are growing between citizens' associations, both with and without the participation of scientists. South Asian nongovernmental organizations, such as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), the Grameen Bank (which makes small-scale loans to women as part of a social-transformation program), and the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA, an Indian nongovernmental organization) are relatively large-scale operations that seek to improve women's lives, with particular attention to education, health and nutritional security, food security, and food production. The Hunger Projects 1999 initiative to draw attention to and empower the African woman food farmer adopts a different strategy, pressing African heads of state and their assistants into public statements that acknowledge the plight and the potential of African women food producers. This is not business as usual, but an unusual effort to join central government and women leaders with United Nations and NGO officials and individual donors who are mostly from developed countries, drawing greater attention to women as the potential solution for Africa's agricultural problems.
These are but a few examples of the kinds of coalitions, now available through improved communications technologies, that promise the 21st century might hold some very different and surprising possibilities for women, food, and even peace. This is not to say that all that is promised can or will be delivered, or that there are not countervailing tensions between developing and developed countries, and between women and men, over access to information and technologies, including the Internet. However, it does leave open the possibility of surprisingly positive scenarios in the face of the devastation of war, hunger, pestilence, and starvation.
To project the possible impacts of peace and of programs to enhance the capabilities of women requires creative thinking about food-security scenarios and policy tradeoffs. Shlomo Reutlinger, the economist behind the World Bank's 1986 study on poverty and hunger, later took his colleagues to task for not providing better understandings of the potential costs, benefits, and tradeoffs governing alternative policy choices. He emphasized how little economists know about the impacts of policy choices or investments in different types of social services, such as programs in women's education and health, on the alleviation of poverty, or the elimination of hunger, and on economic growth in particular national contexts. Although IFPRI economists, among others, are beginning to model some of the connections between women's education, food security, and nutritional outcomes (for example, Smith and Haddad 2000), there is still all too little policy- and country-specific data showing how particular policies make their impacts, or for that matter, what kinds of institutions should be involved in planning and implementing policies. Appropriate policy questions involve not only what should (or can) be done but who should do it and who should evaluate tradeoffs and then choose among benefits (Reutlinger 1996). Despite growing attention to the innovative programs and achievements of nongovernmental organizations, such as BRAC, the Grameen Bank, and SEWA, Reutlinger and others find there is still little formal understanding of the appropriate roles of NGOs in relation to governments or the private sector, for what types of programs, or in what types of environments.
A related problem is the lack of good information on what factors or conditions enable community-based, NGO, or pilot programs to be scaled up, and, reciprocally, how large nutrition programs instituted by governments under the auspices of international banks might more effectively be scaled down to operate more effectively in local communities (Marchione 1999).
In the United States and in the United Nations, the terminology of partnerships, and the need for more effective ones, are popular (for example, Eisinger 1998), but few studies show what makes some partnerships work more effectively than others, or how activities of governments and international agencies might link up more effectively with those of NGOs, the private sector, and local communities. In the developing world, for example, some multisectoral partnerships are widely cited as examples worthy of replication. These include the M. S. Swaminathan Foundation's biovillages (in India) and the Iringa community-based, integrated nutrition program in Tanzania (for example, WHO/UNICEF 1988). As models of government - community partnerships, however, they have not been widely imitated, and evaluations raise questions about the conditions under which particular programs succeed and the attributes necessary for their replication and successful scaling up.
Beyond partnerships, there are also a growing number of coalitions that hint at change in the way international development efforts are organized. One unusual coalition is building around opposition to the World Trade Organization, which unites diverse constituencies supporting economic rights, environmental protection issues (such as opposition to genetically modified organisms), and food security. These new coalitions and their channels of communication go beyond the microcredit, poverty-lending enterprise schemes, which in their time were also surprising success stories, to take local actions based on a global human rights perspective.
Transcending these technical and institutional issues, the major challenge for who will be fed is a cultural and moral one - whether the world will create a society that cares that everyone achieves a right to adequate nutrition and no one goes hungry. Whether scientists and the rest of the world arrive there safely and soon, on the basis of some of the technologies described in this session, will also depend on the ways scientists relate to society and its perception of risks and benefits. As Arthur Galston wrote 20 years ago, developing more thorough criteria for how safe safe should be is an imperative, as scientists create ever more complex plant-chemical systems. Science is not value free, and even those scientists who want to do basic research must involve themselves with the social consequences of their findings (Galston 1981). Equally, social scientists, as individuals and through their professional organizations, have an obligation to promote freedoms and prevent agricultural programs from interfering with justice and people's access to food, including the seeds with which they grow their living. Peace, and equal opportunities for women to participate in development and freedom, along with openings for innovative NGO actions, are just some of the surprise scenarios that could transform food-and-nutrition outlooks in the 21st century. As scientists and as human beings, we clearly have many underexplored opportunities to contribute to the way science can help more people feed themselves in the 21st century.