Published On: Wed, Sep 28th, 2016

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS AND THE NEED FOR FOOD SECURITY – An interview with Rajendra Aryal

Rattana Lao (nsnbc) : The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 36 countries, including 28 in Africa are facing food security crises and required immediate external assistance. Millions of people in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Southern Africa are facing food crisis on a daily basis. Rattana Lao talked with Rajendra Aryal, the Senior Programme Advisor at Global Food Security Cluster (gFSC) in Rome on what food crisis is and what it meant for smallholders.

farming_fao_rattana-lao_thailand_2016RL: What is food security?

RA: Food security is not whether there is food available in the market, but it also touches upon issues of access and utilization. Stability is also the key. We have to think about the ability of the people to obtain sufficient amount of nutritious food over a period of time to ensure their food security.

RL: What are different kind of food security crises currently experienced by the world?

RA: At global level, there are different types of crises a country can be facing. On the one hand, there is a protracted crisis, or long-term crisis. Many countries are facing this such as Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan – these are the countries that food security has been heavily affected by the conflict and displacement of people. Another type is called slow onsetwhich is caused by El Nino or also called as ENSO – El Nino Southern Oscillation. There is also ‘’sudden onset’’ crisis mainly caused by natural disasters, such as earthquake or flash floods.

RL: What is El Nino and ENSO?

RA: Its a climate phenomenon that fluctuates due to the rise of sea surface temperature over the tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean and the interaction with the atmosphere. This causes drought, irregularity in rainfall patterns and floods, heavily affecting developing countries that depend on agriculture.

RL: There is also La Nina after El Nino right? What is it?

farming_fao_rattana-lao_nsnbc_2016RA: It is also called Post – El Nino phenomenon. In theory, when El Nino happens, La Nina could follow though it does not always have to be the case. La Nina happens when sea surface becomes cooler and has the interaction with the atmosphere, which can create heavy rainfall in such an erratic way that could also cause floods and landslides, which could cause severe losses of crops, livestock and fishery.

RL: How does it affect farmers and fishers?

RA: The drought can disturb rainfall patterns and farmers cannot plant seeds on time or the harvest does not follow regular cycle. The droughts also affect the availability of irrigation water and the overall water available for farmers. If the farmers are unable to produce, this has repercussion for household level food security.

RL: How do the farmers and fishermen responded to this phenomenon in the past?

RA: Farmers and fishermen try their best to protect their assets and family. They use their limited savings till they last, and then start selling their livestock or other assets in order to survive. Some even migrate unfortunately. If the situation worsens, the population may end up with hunger and malnutrition. In order to prevent such thing happening, the smallholders need immediate help in different forms such as food assistance, agriculture inputs and cash.

RL: What kind of help is needed to prevent this?

rajendra-najal_fao_2016RA: There are several things that need to be done. Firstly, there is a need for shifting the paradigm from disaster response to long term risk reduction and resilience building, especially focusing on the small farmers and fishers. Secondly, its better coordination between different agencies. Thirdly, countries should have policies and laws that regard to risk reduction and preparedness, and last but not least, there should be a flexibility in financial arrangement. Funding mechanism is essential and should be made to make sure that when disaster happens, funding will be immediately available for the people. Because there is no geographical barrier for ENSO, it can hit multiple countries all at once. So a better international and regional collaboration is also needed. FAO, with its technical expertise could be instrumental in providing the required support.

Another important thing is effective early warming. The people should be made aware about the upcoming disaster in a timely manner through multiple channels such as radio, TV, newspaper and local government agencies.

Ultimately, the national governments have to take these issues seriously and take them as priority. Its one thing to be prepared of disaster, its another thing to respond immediately and effectively.

R/L – nsnbc 28.09.2016

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