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close this bookIFPRI Research Perspectives, Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring 2000 (IFPRI, 2000, 16 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentCOMMENTARY
View the documentPOINT OF VIEW
View the documentTHE URBAN POOR
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· Out of the Shadow of Famine, edited by Raisuddin Ahmed, Steven Haggblade, and Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury. 307 pages; 23 figures. Hardcover: $70; paperback, $35. Available from the John Hopkins University Press, 2715 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218-4319 USA; telephone: 1-800-537-5487 or 1-410-516-6957; fax: 1-410-516-6998; email:; web:

Since 1990 the Bangladeshi government has dismantled its food rationing system, privatized grain distribution, eased restrictions on international trade, and reduced its own presence in grain markets. These changes, described in a new book from IFPRI and the Johns Hopkins University Press, have helped transform the country's food markets and food policies to free Bangladesh, which hosted two of the worst famines in the 20th century, from the constant threat of famine.

Out of the Shadow of Famine describes the foundations for these developments. Improvements in agricultural science in the 1970s roughly doubled farm yields, while in the 1980s liberalizing reforms rapidly increased rice cultivation. The increases in production, coupled with improvements in infrastructure and a more slowly growing and increasingly urban population, have substantially changed the structure of foodgrain markets.

· Explaining Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries: A Cross-Country Analysis, Research Report 111, by Lisa C. Smith and Lawrence Haddad

Although developing countries have made great strides in reducing child malnutrition since the 1970s, 167 million children under age five were still underweight in 1995. The share of malnourished children has declined from 47 percent in 1970 to 31 percent by 1995, but their number has stayed about the same. Even under the optimistic scenario considered in this report, 128 million children are projected to still be undernourished in 2020.

By finding out more about the causes of malnutrition, researchers and, by extension, policymakers, hope to identify ways to eradicate it everywhere. The immediate determinants of a child's nutritional status are dietary intake and health. These, in turn, are influenced by three household-level underlying determinants: food security, adequate care for mothers and children, and a proper health environment. Finally, the underlying determinants are influenced by the basic determinants: the potential resources available to a country or community and a host of political, cultural, and social factors that affect their utilization.

Focusing on the underlying determinants, the report identifies priority areas for reducing child malnutrition at the quickest pace in each developing region in the coming decades. It uses four variables to represent the determinants: national food availability (for food security), women's education and women's status relative to men's (for both quality of care and food security), and access to safe water (for the quality of the health environment). It also explores the roles of two basic determinants, using per capita national income to capture the availability of resources in a country and democracy as an indicator of the political context that influences malnutrition.

Results of this study indicate that, of the variables representing the four underlying determinants considered, more education for women offers the best hope for future reductions in child malnutrition in all developing-country regions. In addition, in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia greater national food availability is equally important. Not far behind in the list of priorities is improvements in women's status relative to men's. Improvements in health environment quality must also continue, but the report suggests that this is a priority area only for Latin America and the Caribbean. The report emphasizes that investments in these areas - all of which are critical to defeating malnutrition - will not be made unless enough economic resources are available and the political will exists to do so. Therefore, continued economic growth and enhanced democracy must also be priorities. This report can be downloaded from IFPRI at

· World Food Prospects: Critical Issues for the Early Twenty-First Century, Food Policy Report, by Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Rajul Pandya-Lorch, and Mark W. Rosegrant

Almost all of the increased demand for food between 1995 and 2020 will take place in the developing world, according to a new IFPRI food policy report. In developing countries during that period, population is expected to grow by 32 percent, urbanization will continue apace, and per capita incomes will increase. Despite these changes, in 2020 a developing-country person will consume less than half the amount of cereals consumed by a developed-country person and slightly more than one-third of the meat products.

The report examines trends in world food demand, supply, and trade. Unless strong action is taken by both developing countries and the international community, food insecurity and malnutrition will persist in 2020 and beyond, the authors report.

World Food Prospects also discusses six critical issues that could influence the future world food situation. For example, new information on factors that improve nutrition could help refocus efforts to eliminate child malnutrition. Current low grain prices may threaten producer incomes and thus future food production. Developing countries will need to participate effectively in trade negotiations to avoid losing the benefits liberalization can offer. And new farming and agricultural research practices may help small farmers in developing countries be more productive in the future. This report can be downloaded from IFPRI at

· Urban Livelihoods and Food and Nutrition Security in Greater Accra, Ghana, Research Report 112, by Daniel Maxwell, Carol Levin, Margaret Armar-Klemesu, Marie Ruel, Saul Morris, and Clement Ahiadeke

In the past only a small share of the Sub-Saharan African population lived in cities. Today the urban population is approaching 40 percent. The percentage of city dwellers who are below the poverty line is also growing rapidly. In Accra, Ghana, 9 percent were poor in 1987; by 1993, 23 percent were poor. How do they cope? This compelling case study of the effects of the urban environment on the livelihoods, food security, and nutritional status of the poor in Accra, a city of more than 2 million, is based on a 1996-97 survey that looks at everything from food consumption and employment to sanitation conditions and the care and feeding of children.

One phenomenon of urban living that is well documented in this study is the importance of foods purchased - and often consumed - away from home. Almost 40 percent of the total food budget of the group with the lowest income went to purchase foods sold on the street. Even more surprisingly, the richest group surveyed spent 25 percent of their food budget on street foods. Clearly, reliance on street foods is a coping strategy (people buy small quantities of food from venders when they do not have enough cash to purchase the ingredients to prepare a full meal at home). But it is also a part of normal urban living because it saves preparation time and effort.

Increasingly people in Accra earn their living from informal wage labor or self-employment, rather than from formal jobs. This is especially true for women, who are most likely to be self-employed as petty traders or street food venders - low-paying jobs - while men mostly work as skilled or unskilled laborers. Many households, particularly those headed by women, rely heavily on gifts, remittances, and borrowing to make ends meet.

Roughly 40 percent of households in Accra can be classified as food-insecure and many others are vulnerable, according to the report. Nearly one-fifth of children under the age of three years are stunted (low height-for-age). Fifty-five percent of the primary caregivers of small children worked full time and cared for their children while they worked, although most children did not show ill effects from their mothers' working. Children from households where care practices were deemed to be poor were likely to be malnourished. And care did not necessarily improve with higher incomes: only education of the mother was found to have a profound effect on the quality of child care provided.

Urban poverty is a fact of life in Sub-Saharan Africa today and is sure to worsen over the next 20 years. To address the causes in Accra, this report recommends a broad range of programs at both the city and household levels. The study is a collaborative effort of the International Food Policy Research Institute, the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research in Accra, and the World Health Organization. This report can be downloaded from IFPRI at

· Exercises in General Equilibrium Modeling Using GAMS, Microcomputers in Policy Research 4a (with supplement, 4b), by Hans Len

Over the past decade, the increasing power and reliability of microcomputers and the development of sophisticated software designed specifically for use with them has led to significant changes in the way quantitative food policy analysis is conducted. These changes cover most aspects of the analysis, ranging from the collection and analysis of socioeconomic data to the conduct of model-based policy simulations. IFPRI's Microcomputers in Policy Research series reflects the Institute's ongoing experience in adapting microcomputer technology for use in food policy analysis in developing countries.

The fourth publication in this series presents a set of exercises relating to computable general equilibrium (CGE) models. CGE models represent one type of economywide model used in policy analysis. This type of model explicitly recognizes that changes that affect one part of the economy can have repercussions throughout the rest of the economy. They are particularly useful in capturing the indirect effects of a policy change. The purpose of the manual is to develop the ability of the reader to construct, modify, and conduct food policy simulations using GAMS (General Algebraic Modeling System), one of the most popular softwares for solving CGE models. The model that is developed in the concluding exercise provides a starting point for applied policy analysis. A supplement to the manual provides the keys to the exercises. The manual also comes with a CD-ROM with a limited capacity version of GAMS together with numerous examples of GAMS programs linked to the exercises. This publication can be ordered from IFPRI at