15 May 2012

Africa's First HDR on Food Security Fails to "Put the Last First"

Today UNDP released its first ever Human Development Report for Africa, entitled "Towards a Food Secure Future".

I have a lot of time for Human Development Reports.  I think they offer a nice counterpoint to World Development Reports, and the regional reports really offer a chance for regional voices to be heard and for national politics to come into the picture. And the topic of food security is one that I very deeply care about.

There is much to like about the Report. It offers a more nuanced position on agriculture, income generation and nutrition; on empowerment, accountability, commitment, and resilience. I like the language of nutrition as a bridge from agriculture to human development.

But it is depressing to see the the last chapter in a good report (yet again) be about "Empowerment for Justice, Gender Equity and Food for Everyone".

It should be the first chapter, not the last. It should set the stage for everything else in the Report.

It should show us how food insecurity comes about because of the choices made by those with power, the interplay of competing interests, and the way the existing rules of the game are set up. In other words, politics.  The scope for doing this in a regional report is surely greater than in a more generic global one.

We should then have an agenda for what can be done to change the dynamic and the outcomes. What are the ways, methods and strategies in which voice, accountability and transparency can be promoted in the spheres of policy, technology, spending, training, communicating and framing.

And where are the actors, champions, alliances, movements and networks that need support to do this? How can their rights to speak out and be heard be promoted?

People, power and politics should come first in fight against hunger, not last.


John Hammock, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) said...

So glad you highlighted the importance of empowerment for food security, Lawrence. One new approach to measuring and increasing the empowerment and inclusion of women in agriculture you might be interested in: the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index. The new index is currently being rolled out by the U.S. Government's Feed the Future program to monitor the impact of its interventions on women in an effort to boost agricultural productivity and empower women in one stroke. It was developed by OPHI, IFPRI and USAID and offers one new methodological approach to tackling some of the root causes of food insecurity. Read more

Lawrence Haddad said...

John, I think this is a very positive development and I congratulate the teams at OPHI, IFPRI and USAID.

But this index is just the first step--as my former IDS colleague Naila Kabeer often reminds us, empowerment comes from unexpected sources which are often missed by attempts to measure it...

Harrison Field said...

Guess, the government and different corporations should pay attention to how they could make sure that through their movements they are supporting the goodness of majority. Also it's important to secure all the data needed for this action.

Yasmin Daly said...

They should always consider our brothers and sisters in Africa. Aside from food, they should also teach proper nutrition and basic education to them.