Politics of Poverty

Food Security and the G7: Is Elmau the new L’Aquila?

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Vegetables grown in Touba Ngembe are displayed for sale in the village market of Ndiaganiao, Senegal Tuesday, April 20, 2010. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/Oxfam America

Industrialized nations are considering a big, new food security and nutrition commitment.

It’s easy to forget the bad old days of 2008.  Food prices were going crazy around the world.   There were “food riots” in 30+ countries.  The World Bank (and many others) issued a call for action to help the poorest farmers in the world, based on analysis  that showed that the international development community had essentially abandoned them, with aid and investment in the agriculture sector withered to a small fraction of what it once was.

Suddenly, food security, food production and farming were top-tier issues.  Donors rallied to put agriculture and food security back near the top.  And the G8 highlighted the issue with an important initiative launched at the Italy summit in L’Aquila.

Since then, food security has remained a significant priority, although you can feel the energy and urgency deflating.  Food prices have floated downward in the last few years.  And donor assistance for food security and agriculture is, again, falling.

Comes now another G7 summit (Russia since expelled for bad behavior), this time hosted by Germany in the mountain resort of Schloss Elmau.  For months we wondered what issues would bubble up the agenda for the summit.  Now, it seems an answer is emerging: Food security.

Word is leaking out that the German government has proposed a new, ambitious initiative that would renew and build out the L’Aquila initiative.

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Today at the Chicago Council conference in Washington DC, Stefan Schmitz, the German “food sherpa” announced that Germany has put food security and nutrition on the G7 agenda.  He describes a broader initiative that will continue the L’Aquila initiative’s focus on small farmer productivity, but also to expand to include other elements on nutrition, climate resilience, gender.  He noted that fragility and conflict should be recognized as important drivers of hunger and need more attention.  He spoke about the need to break the cycle of poor nutrition and ill health from mothers to children.  “Germany is convinced that a world without hunger is possible, but ‘business as usual’ is not an option.”

This is a welcome – even exciting – boost the historic effort to end hunger.  Details to be negotiated.

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