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close this bookBriefs for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment - 2020 Vision : Brief 1 - 64 (IFPRI)
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View the document2020 BRIEF 1 - AUGUST 1994: ECONOMIC GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
View the document2020 BRIEF 2 - AUGUST 1994: WORLD SUPPLY AND DEMAND PROJECTIONS FOR CEREALS, 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 3 - AUGUST 1994: WORLD PRODUCTION OF CEREALS, 1966-90
View the document2020 BRIEF 4 - AUGUST 1994: SUSTAINABLE FARMING: A POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY
View the document2020 BRIEF 5 - OCTOBER 1994: WORLD POPULATION PROJECTIONS, 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 6 - OCTOBER 1994: MALNUTRITION AND FOOD INSECURITY PROJECTIONS, 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 7 - OCTOBER 1994: AGRICULTURAL GROWTH AS A KEY TO POVERTY ALLEVIATION
View the document2020 BRIEF 8 - OCTOBER 1994: CONSERVATION AND ENHANCEMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
View the document2020 BRIEF 9 - FEBRUARY 1995: THE ROLE OF AGRICULTURE IN SAVING THE RAIN FOREST
View the document2020 BRIEF 10 - FEBRUARY 1995: A TIME OF PLENTY, A WORLD OF NEED: THE ROLE OF FOOD AID IN 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 11 - FEBRUARY 1995: MANAGING AGRICULTURAL INTENSIFICATION
View the document2020 BRIEF 12 - FEBRUARY 1995: TRADE LIBERALIZATION AND REGIONAL INTEGRATION: IMPLICATIONS FOR 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 13 - APRIL 1995: THE POTENTIAL OF TECHNOLOGY TO MEET WORLD FOOD NEEDS IN 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 14 - APRIL 1995: AN ECOREGIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON MALNUTRITION
View the document2020 BRIEF 15 - APRIL 1995: AGRICULTURAL GROWTH IS THE KEY TO POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN LOW-INCOME DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
View the document2020 BRIEF 16 - APRIL 1995: DECLINING ASSISTANCE TO DEVELOPING-COUNTRY AGRICULTURE: CHANGE OF PARADIGM?
View the document2020 BRIEF 17 - MAY 1995: GENERATING FOOD SECURITY IN THE YEAR 2020: WOMEN AS PRODUCERS, GATEKEEPERS, AND SHOCK ABSORBERS
View the document2020 BRIEF 18 - MAY 1995: BIOPHYSICAL LIMITS TO GLOBAL FOOD PRODUCTION
View the document2020 BRIEF 19 - MAY 1995: CAUSES OF HUNGER
View the document2020 BRIEF 20 - MAY 1995: CHINA AND THE FUTURE GLOBAL FOOD SITUATION
View the document2020 BRIEF 21 - JUNE 1995: DEALING WITH WATER SCARCITY IN THE NEXT CENTURY
View the document2020 BRIEF 22 - JUNE 1995: THE RIGHT TO FOOD: WIDELY ACKNOWLEDGED AND POORLY PROTECTED
View the document2020 BRIEF 23 - JUNE 1995: CEREALS PROSPECTS IN INDIA TO 2020: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY
View the document2020 BRIEF 24 - JUNE 1995: REVAMPING AGRICULTURAL R&D
View the document2020 BRIEF 25 - AUGUST 1995: MORE THAN FOOD IS NEEDED TO ACHIEVE GOOD NUTRITION BY 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 26 - AUGUST 1995: PERSPECTIVES ON EUROPEAN AGRICULTURE IN 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 27 - AUGUST 1995: NONDEGRADING LAND USE STRATEGIES FOR TROPICAL HILLSIDES
View the document2020 BRIEF 28 - AUGUST 1995: EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS FOR FOOD SECURITY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
View the document2020 BRIEF 29 - AUGUST 1995: POVERTY, FOOD SECURITY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
View the document2020 BRIEF 30 - JANUARY 1996: RISING FOOD PRICES AND FALLING GRAIN STOCKS: SHORT-RUN BLIPS OR NEW TRENDS?
View the document2020 BRIEF 31 - APRIL 1996: MIDDLE EAST WATER CONFLICTS AND DIRECTIONS FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION
View the document2020 BRIEF 32 - APRIL 1996: THE TRANSITION IN THE CONTRIBUTION OF LIVING AQUATIC RESOURCES TO FOOD SECURITY
View the document2020 BRIEF 33 - JUNE 1996: MANAGING RESOURCES FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE IN SOUTH ASIA
View the document2020 BRIEF 34 - JUNE 1996: IMPLEMENTING THE URUGUAY ROUND: INCREASED FOOD PRICE STABILITY BY 2020?
View the document2020 BRIEF 35 - JULY 1996: SOCIOPOLITICAL EFFECTS OF NEW BIOTECHNOLOGIES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
View the document2020 BRIEF 36 - OCTOBER 1996: RUSSIA'S FOOD ECONOMY IN TRANSITION: WHAT DO REFORMS MEAN FOR THE LONG-TERM OUTLOOK?
View the document2020 BRIEF 37 - OCTOBER 1996: UNCOMMON OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY - An Agenda for Science and Public Policy
View the document2020 BRIEF 38 - OCTOBER 1996: WORLD TRENDS IN FERTILIZER USE AND PROJECTIONS TO 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 39 - OCTOBER 1996: REDUCING POVERTY AND PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT: THE OVERLOOKED POTENTIAL OF LESS-FAVORED LANDS
View the document2020 BRIEF 40 - OCTOBER 1996: POLICIES TO PROMOTE ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE FERTILIZER USE AND SUPPLY TO 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 41 - DECEMBER 1996: STRUCTURAL CHANGES IN THE DEMAND FOR FOOD IN ASIA
View the document2020 BRIEF 42 - MARCH 1997: AFRICA'S CHANGING AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES
View the document2020 BRIEF 43 - JUNE 1997: THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF AIDS ON POPULATION AND ECONOMIC GROWTH RATES
View the document2020 BRIEF 44 - JUNE 1997: LAND DEGRADATION IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD: ISSUES AND POLICY OPTIONS FOR 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 45 - JUNE 1997: AGRICULTURE, TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT IN LATIN AMERICA: A 2020 PERSPECTIVE
View the document2020 BRIEF 46 - JUNE 1997: AGRICULTURE, TRADE, AND REGIONALISM IN SOUTH ASIA
View the document2020 BRIEF 47 - AUGUST 1997: THE NONFARM SECTOR AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT: REVIEW OF ISSUES AND EVIDENCE
View the document2020 BRIEF 48 - FEBRUARY 1998: CHALLENGES TO THE 2020 VISION FOR LATIN AMERICA: FOOD AND AGRICULTURE SINCE 1970
View the document2020 BRIEF 49 - APRIL 1998: NUTRITION SECURITY IN URBAN AREAS OF LATIN AMERICA
View the document2020 BRIEF 50 - JUNE 1998: FOOD FROM PEACE: BREAKING THE LINKS BETWEEN CONFLICT AND HUNGER
View the document2020 BRIEF 51 - JULY 1998: TECHNOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUSTAINING WHEAT PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH TOWARD 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 52 - SEPTEMBER 1998: PEST MANAGEMENT AND FOOD PRODUCTION: LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
View the document2020 BRIEF 53 - OCTOBER 1998: POPULATION GROWTH AND POLICY OPTIONS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
View the document2020 BRIEF 54 - OCTOBER 1998: FOSTERING GLOBAL WELL-BEING: A NEW PARADIGM TO REVITALIZE AGRICULTURAL AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
View the document2020 BRIEF 55 - OCTOBER 1998: THE POTENTIAL OF AGROECOLOGY TO COMBAT HUNGER IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
View the document2020 RESUMEN No. 56 - OCTUBRE DE 1998: AYUDA A LA AGRICULTURA EN LOS PAÍSES EN DESARROLLO: INVERSIONES EN LA REDUCCIÓN DE LA POBREZA Y NUEVAS OPORTUNIDADES DE EXPORTACIÓN
View the document2020 BRIEF 57 - OCTOBER 1998: ECONOMIC CRISIS IN ASIA: A FUTURE OF DIMINISHING GROWTH AND INCREASING POVERTY?
View the document2020 BRIEF 58 - FEBRUARY 1999: SOIL DEGRADATION: A THREAT TO DEVELOPING-COUNTRY FOOD SECURITY BY 20207
View the document2020 BRIEF 59 - MARCH 1999: AGRICULTURAL GROWTH, POVERTY ALLEVIATION, AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: HAVING IT ALL
View the document2020 BRIEF 60 - MAY 1999: CRITICAL CHOICES FOR CHINA'S AGRICULTURAL POLICY
View the document2020 BRIEF 61 - MAY 1999: LIVESTOCK TO 2020: THE NEXT FOOD REVOLUTION
View the document2020 BRIEF 62 - OCTOBER 1999: NUTRIENT DEPLETION IN THE AGRICULTURAL SOILS OF AFRICA
View the document2020 BRIEF 63 - NOVEMBER 1999: PROSPECTS FOR INDIA'S CEREAL SUPPLY AND DEMAND TO 2020
View the document2020 BRIEF 64 - FEBRUARY 2000: OVERCOMING CHILD MALNUTRITION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: PAST ACHIEVEMENTS AND FUTURE CHOICES
View the document2020 BRIEF 65 - MARCH 2000: COMBINING INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL INPUTS FOR SUSTAINABLE INTENSIFICATION

2020 BRIEF 10 - FEBRUARY 1995: A TIME OF PLENTY, A WORLD OF NEED: THE ROLE OF FOOD AID IN 2020

Patrick Webb

This brief presents the views of Patrick Webb, who is a policy analyst with the World Food Programme.

Food aid is one of the constants of human experience. The storage of food as public provision against crises is a practice recorded since Babylonian times. Since the 1950s, the practice has taken on a more international (and often political) character, with food being channeled mainly from industrialized to developing countries. In 1993, global redistribution of food by public-sector agencies reached a record 17 million tons.

This large amount of food - nearly double the cereal production of the entire Sahel region in 1992/93, with a monetary value of almost US$4 billion - represented a major resource to recipient countries. About one quarter of it went to feed vulnerable people in countries facing drought or conflict, such as Somalia, Rwanda, and certain countries of the former Soviet Union (Figure 1). The smallest share (less than 15 percent) was channeled through development projects, while the largest share (60 percent) was programmed as budgetary support to weak economies (Figure 2).


Figure 1 - Worldwide food aid, 1993

Source Interfais, World Food Programme

But two qualifications should be made about the record set in 1993. First, the 17 million tons of food fell far short of meeting real need. The amount of food aid required in 1993 to raise global caloric intake per capita to recommended minimum levels has been estimated at 24-27 million tons - around 50 percent more than was available.

Second, the level is not being maintained. Food aid supply is determined partly by the Food Aid Convention, which sets a pledging floor to which individual donor countries commit themselves for a number of years. The extent to which donors exceed that floor is determined by a multitude of market forces, donor policies, and international priorities. The end of Cold War influences on donor foreign policies, implementation of the Uruguay Round agreements, World Trade Organization policies, European agricultural and Lome Convention policies, and the shaping (during 1995) of a new Food Aid Convention and a new U.S. farm bill will all have a bearing on food aid supplies.


Figure 2 - Food aid channels, 1987-93

Source Interfais, World Food Programme

In 1994, total food aid fell to around 14 million tons. The value of food aid fell from over 10 percent of total overseas development assistance in 1985 to less than 6 percent in 1994. A forthcoming rethinking of foreign assistance strategies in the United States (one of the world's largest donors), may lead to a continuation of these downward trends.

What, then, is the likely role of food aid in coming decades? If the world in 2020 is still characterized by food surpluses and falling cereal prices, will food aid have a useful role to play?

LINKING FOOD TO HUNGRY PEOPLE

The answer is yes; food aid will play an increasingly important role during the first half of the twenty-first century. Despite aggregate surpluses, current global concentrations of food surpluses in some regions and deficits in others are unlikely to change soon. Even if current (declining) levels of investment in agriculture are maintained to 2020, Sub-Saharan Africa will face an estimated deficit in cereals alone of almost 50 million tons.

Unlikely to have generated the foreign exchange capacity to cover this gap through commercial imports, much of Africa, and indeed many other parts of the world, will continue to turn to food aid - not as a last resort, but because it is a unique resource appropriate to meeting two special needs, humanitarian emergencies and chronic food insecurity.

HUMANITARIAN IMPERATIVES

The frequency, scale, and complexity of humanitarian crises have all been increasing in recent years. It has been calculated that the number of people affected by both natural and human-led disasters rose from 44 million in 1985 to over 175 million in 1993. The volume of food aid for relief operations rose from less than 1 million tons in 1979/80 to almost 4.5 million tons in 1993/94. The share of United Nations resources allocated to emergency and refugee operations rose from 25 percent in 1988 to 45 percent in 1992.

For the World Food Programme (WFP), the shift toward emergencies and increasingly protracted refugee operations has been even more marked. In 1986, WFP allocated 75 percent of its resources to development activities; the remainder supported relief and refugee operations. In 1993/94, more than 85 percent of its resources went to humanitarian emergencies and refugee needs.

Just as chronic food insecurity linked to poverty will still be a problem in 2020, it would be dangerous to assume that food crises will be fewer and less complex. Indeed, the complexity of many emergencies has been increasing (from largely drought-based to conflict-driven), along with their scale (from single-country to regional crises). Between 1970 and 1993, the number of people officially receiving protection and food assistance from the United Nations rose from 1 million to 17 million. If internally displaced peoples are included, the total rises to 40 million, many displaced as a result of political or military crises.

While one must be wary of simple extrapolation, it can be estimated that if the recent increase in refugees continued in linear fashion, the world would be faced with 250 million refugees in 2020, compared with 16 million in 1994.

TARGETING FOOD INSECURITY

The second area in which food aid has a comparative advantage over many kinds of financial assistance is in reaching large numbers of the world's most vulnerable food-insecure people.

Despite successes in many countries, absolute levels of chronic undernutrition and poverty continue to rise. The global population of underweight children below five years of age is expected to grow from around 193 million today to 200 million by 2020, with most of that deterioration in Africa. The total number of people likely to be under- or malnourished, now at 800 million, is likely to exceed 1 billion by 2020 - without counting the even larger problem of micronutrient deficiencies.

At the same time, while poverty reduction today stands higher on the agenda of many governments and international donors than in the recent past, absolute poverty, particularly in Africa, continues to grow. According to World Bank figures for 1990, over 180 million Sub-Saharan Africans live below the official poverty line. This number is expected to exceed 300 million by 2020.

Unlike most financial loans (or grants), food aid tends to be used in support of activities of direct benefit to very food-insecure people in food-deficit countries, often as a wage resource that transfers income to poor households through labor-intensive work programs. Food aid is also used as an incentive to children and mothers to attend school or health clinics.

Approximately 3 million tons of food were allocated for these projects in 1993, but the demand will be much higher in years to come. Projections based on linear trends in population growth, production, and consumption suggest that food aid requirements to cope with "status quo" conditions in 2020 are likely to be 60-80 million tons - four or five times the current supply. This excludes a potential rise in emergencies.

FOOD AID IN 2020

Food aid alone cannot adequately treat, let alone remedy, the scale of need outlined above. Nor can such huge humanitarian problems be suitably addressed with financial resources alone. While structural food deficits, weak market infrastructure, inappropriate economic policies, and armed conflict continue to cripple growth in many countries there will be a role for food aid.

This role will be two-pronged, based on direct humanitarian interventions as well as programs that effectively channel food (and nonfood) resources directly to the very poor, laying the groundwork for an economic growth in which the poorest, more marginal regions will be able to participate. But resources for both relief and development are finite and diminishing. Food aid is an increasingly scarce resource that requires coordinated efforts to bring greater technical skills and financial resources into play in combination with food to maximize the positive impact of each.

Demand for food aid will not be lower in 2020 than it is today. The supply will depend partly on how effectively food aid is targeted and managed, and partly on the priority given by donors to the problems that are best addressed through food aid: namely, acute and chronic food insecurity. But, if food aid levels are to increase, the world's major donor nations will have to make the alleviation of mass food insecurity, in times of peace as well as in times of crisis, an explicit and urgent priority.