Resource scarcity - Food

Resource scarcity - Food

Food security is becoming a major global concern due to increasing pressures from water scarcity, anticipated climate change impacts, demands for livestock feed and bio-fuels. Food prices have risen dramatically worldwide, but the impacts are being felt most in developing nations, where up to 90 per cent of household income may be spent on food.

The rising food prices have had a negative effect on global food security, particularly in developing states. Food scarcity is likely to increase conflict over resources and to act as a 'conflict multiplier' in regions of instability, such as Sudan, but also in other areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

Some research suggests that the most effective strategy to adapt agriculture to climate change is to increase biodiversity and the variety of crop species. However, many developing countries lack sufficient resources to invest in the long-term diversification of crop varieties or in a coherent strategy necessary for adapting agriculture to the impacts of climate change.

Australia's role

In May 2008, the Australian Government committed  $30 million to the emergency appeal of the World Food Programme (WFP) to address inadequacies in operations resulting from rising food and fuel prices.  In July 2008, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) announced that it was providing $50 million to a World Bank trust fund which would be used to stimulate agricultural production in developing countries suffering from the rise in food prices.  This trust eventually became the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.

On 12 May 2009, as part of its 2009–2010 development assistance budget, AusAID announced a new ‘comprehensive approach’ to combat the global food crisis: investing $463 million over four years to ‘support increases in food production globally and strengthen the ability of countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa to address food insecurity’.  This new initiative focuses on the following:
  • lifting agricultural productivity in staple crops through increased support for agricultural research and development,
  • improving rural livelihoods by increasing the competitiveness of agriculture, fisheries and other rural enterprises, and
  • building community resilience to shocks by strengthening social protection systems.

The Australian Government works with various other organisations on food security issues. These include the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Through its AusAID–NGO Cooperation Program, AusAID also works with NGOs that have met accreditation standards to help them implement community-level food security initiatives. In addition, another agency within the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, works closely with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, including in the Asia–Pacific region the International Rice Research Institute and the International Water Management Institute.

Further reading:

AusAID, Food security, updated 9 November 2010, AusAID website.

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), ‘Food security through rural development,’ ACIAR website, (n.d.).

N Brown, J Laffan and M Wight (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), ‘High food prices, food security and the international trading system,’ paper presented to the Informa National Food Pricing Summit, Sydney, 29–30 October 2008.

G8 leaders' statement on global food security, Hokkaido Toyako Summit, 8 July 2008, G8 Information Centre website.

Greenpeace, Food security and climate change—the answer is biodiversity, Greenpeace report, June 2008.

25 November, 2010

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