Monthly Archives: May 2010

My Letter to the FT on the Complexity of Food Security

One of the realities of working in corporate communications is that the lionshare of our time is spent reading, thinking and writing on behalf of our clients, and we are left with little time to write things in our own names.

But since much of my time these days is spent thinking about agriculture (from a variety of perspectives) on behalf of my clients, it struck me when two “food security” articles appeared in the Financial Times on the same day, one highlighting a surge in global cereal stocks and the other lamenting a serious famine in the West African country of Niger.

Below is the resulting letter to the editor, published in today’s FT (or read it here online).  It alludes to two interesting pieces of client work in which I am currently involved.  The first is the Farming First coalition which advocates for a farmer-centric, science-based set of solutions for sustainable agriculture; the second is a sub-Saharan African seed security initiative being implemented by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) – which also received coverage in the Guardian recently.

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(from the May 14 edition)

Sir, Two FT articles highlight how complex, and often befuddling, the issue of food security can be to manage. On one side, Javier Blas reports the US Department of Agriculture’s claim that “surging [cereal] production has … allayed recent concerns about the world’s ability to meet rising food, feed and fuel needs” (“Crop stocks set to rise for third year in a row”, May 12).

On the other side, Tom Burgis reports from Niger of “a food crisis spanning the Sahel” due to “high prices and lack of rain” (“Niger is on brink of food shortages”, May 12).

Whether it be food surge or food shortage, what these articles reveal is that food security at the global level is about much more than food availability. It is about local access to inputs and information as well as a set of policies that reflects farmers’ needs first. For example, the Southern African Development Community is piloting an innovative scheme to harmonise the seed regulatory systems in Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe so farmers can access quality seeds more reliably and at a lower cost.

Food security is about production, but it is also about policies.