There was, last week, a glimmer of hope in the wor...
There was, last week, a glimmer of hope in the world food crisis. Expecting a bumper harvest, Ukraine relaxed restrictions on exports. Overnight, global wheat prices fell by 10 percent.
By contrast, traders in Bangkok quote rice prices around $1,000 a ton, up from $460 two months ago.
Such is the volatility of today’s markets. We do not know how high food prices might go, nor how far they could fall. But one thing is certain: We have gone from an era of plenty to one of scarcity. Experts agree that food prices are not likely to return to the levels the world had grown accustomed to any time soon.
Imagine the situation of those living on less than $1 a day - the “bottom billion,” the poorest of the world’s poor. Most live in Africa, and many might typically spend two-thirds of their income on food.
In Liberia last week, I heard how people have stopped purchasing imported rice by the bag. Instead, they increasingly buy it by the cup, because that’s all they can afford.
Traveling though West Africa, I found good reason for optimism. In Burkina Faso, I saw a government working to import drought resistant seeds and better manage scarce water supplies, helped by nations like Brazil. In Ivory Coast, we saw a women’s cooperative running a chicken farm set up with UN funds. The project generated income - and food - for villagers in ways that can easily be replicated.
Elsewhere, I saw yet another women’s group slowly expanding their local agricultural production, with UN help. Soon they will replace World Food Program rice with their own home-grown produce, sufficient to cover the needs of their school feeding program.
These are home-grown, grass-roots solutions for grass-roots problems - precisely the kind of solutions that Africa needs.