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Food Security Overview

Food prices remain high and volatile. Managing this volatility will require sustained commitment, co-ordination, and vigilance from the international community to help governments put policies in place to help people better cope. 

Some countries with high poverty and weak safety nets tend to respond to chronic price volatility by scaling up consumer food subsidies, which are often counter-productive. When faced with high food prices, many of the poorest families cope by pulling their children out of school and eating cheaper, less nutritious food, which can have catastrophic life-long effects on the social, physical, and mental well-being of millions of young people. Malnutrition contributes to infant, child, and maternal illness; decreased learning capacity; lower productivity, and higher mortality. One-third of all child deaths globally are attributed to under-nutrition, and up to 80 percent of our brain architecture develops during the first 1,000 days of life.

Investment in agriculture and rural development to boost food production and nutrition is a priority for the World Bank Group, which works through several partnerships to improve food security, from encouraging climate-smart farming techniques and restoring degraded farmland to breeding more resilient and nutritious crops to improving storage and supply chains for less food loss. In fiscal year 2013, new World Bank Group commitments to agriculture and related sectors reached $8.1 billion.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2014

The World Bank has engaged in policy dialogue with more than 40 countries, at their request, to assist them to address the food crises of 2008 and 2010, and the “new normal” of high and volatile food prices. Instruments include rapid country diagnostics, high-level dialogue, public communications, and in-depth analytical work. In the Middle East and North Africa region, the World Bank, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), released a paper on “Improving Food Security in Arab Countries." Further analytical work was undertaken on responding to food price volatility and subsequently summarized in the economic and sector work on 
"Responding to Higher and More Volatile World Food Prices."

The World Bank is also improving global collaboration in the generation and sharing of knowledge between agriculture, food security, and nutrition, through the SecureNutrition knowledge platform. As a part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, 100 partners – including the World Bank – have endorsed the Scaling Up Nutrition Framework for Action to address under-nutrition.

Expedited financial support

In 2008, the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors endorsed the Global Food Price Crisis Response Program (GFRP), initially a $1.2 billion rapid financing facility providing financial assistance as well as policy and technical advice to the poorest and most vulnerable countries. In 2009 the Bank increased the size of the facility to $2 billion, and extended the program until June 2012 to allow for a swift response to calls for assistance from countries hard hit by price spikes.

In September 2009, the G20 asked the World Bank to prepare a multilateral mechanism to help implement pledges to long-term food security made at the L’Aquila summit in July 2009. Launched in April 2010, The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) is intended to fill financing gaps in national and regional agriculture and food security strategies. Nine countries and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged about $1.35 billion over three years, with $1.2 billion received. Since May 2010, 25 countries have been allocated $912 million from the Public Sector Window of GAFSP.

In 15 (out of 25) GAFSP countries (approximately 11% of total GAFSP Public Window) funding is targeted towards nutrition related activities For example, in Bangladesh, 481 community facilitators and field assistants received nutrition sensitization and basic nutrition messages training during the second half of 2013.  In Rwanda, new high yielding and high nutrition crops were introduced including Irish potatoes, and zinc and iron fortified climbing beans. This strengthened capacity will have a long-term impact on ensuring country leadership designing and implementing operations in the field of nutrition.

Increased investment in agriculture: In 2013, new Bank Group commitments to agriculture and related sectors were $8 billion.   For IBRD/IDA, assistance to agriculture and related sectors has risen from an average of nine percent of total lending in FY10-12, to 12 percent in FY13.  At $4.4 billion, the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) investments were at the highest level ever. Altogether, the commitments meet the projection in the World Bank Group's Agriculture Action Plan 2013-2015, of between $8 billion to $10 billion. World Bank IBRD/IDA agricultural assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa was particularly strong, reaching $1.4 billion, a 35 percent increase over FY10-12.

Financial market insurance products and risk management strategies: In developing countries, farmers, agro-enterprises, and governments can employ a range of technical, managerial, and financial approaches to mitigate, transfer, and cope with risks. The World Bank supports the development and implementation of agricultural sector and supply chain risk management strategies in a growing number of developing countries through the provision of technical assistance, capacity transfer, and training. 

Research to address critical knowledge gaps: In collaboration with other agencies and institutions, the Bank is undertaking a comprehensive analytical program. In addition, the Bank continues its support to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). In 2012, a CGIAR Multi-Donor Trust Fund established to harmonize donor investments is being hosted and managed by the World Bank.

Coordinating with  development partners on food price volatility: The World Bank is actively engaged with the United Nations High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on the Global Food Security Crisis, providing both financial support to the HLTF through the World Bank's Development Grant Facility, and participating in the updating of the UN’s Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA). The World Bank contributes to agriculture and food security recommendations for the G20, and, in collaboration with partners, is implementing G20 initiatives to address food price volatility, including the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) launched to improve global agricultural market transparency. The World Bank also regularly participates in the Multilateral Development Banks’ Working Group on Food and Water Security.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2014

The resources made available through the Global Food Price Crisis Response Program are having a significant impact on the ground. In Niger, for example, rice yields in irrigated plots treated with the recommended dose of fertilizers exceeded the baseline average per hectare (ha) by 116% (5.4 tons/ha versus 2.5 tons/ha), which helped to benefit 33 rice producer cooperatives encompassing 20,784 farmers. In Nicaragua, the project provided school lunches to 609,000 pre-school and primary school children leading to higher retention rates in targeted areas.

Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) support in Bangladesh in the second half of 2013 trained 481 community facilitators and field assistants in nutrition sensitization and basic nutrition messages. In Rwanda, new high yielding and high nutrition crops were introduced, including Irish potatoes, and zinc- and iron-fortified climbing beans, strengthening the capacity will have a long-term impact on ensuring country leadership designing and implementing operations in the field of nutrition.  

In addition, GAFSP has committed to supporting 12 investment projects and 20 advisory services projects designed to promote food security and rural employment in the poorest countries. Recently approved projects include a $7 million loan to help FDL, Nicaragua's largest micro-finance lender grow its agribusiness portfolio, $4 million of financing for Pearl Dairy to expand milk processing and collection centers in Uganda, and $10 million to help coffee growers expand production capacity in Honduras and Nicaragua.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2014

The Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) is an inter-Agency platform that seeks to enhance food market transparency and encourage coordination of policy action in response to market uncertainty. It assembles food balance data, monitors trends, provides market analysis, builds capacity in participating countries, and facilitates information among policy makers. 

CGIAR Global Agricultural Research advances cutting-edge science to reduce rural poverty, increase food security, improve human health and nutrition, and ensure the sustainable management of natural resources. 

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) finances investments that increase incomes and improve food and nutrition security in developing countries. 

SecureNutrition is a knowledge platform that links Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition. 

Last Updated: Apr 07, 2014

Around The Bank Group

Find out what the Bank Group's branches are doing on Food Security.