By Alison Buckholtz
Those are just a few of the ways experts have described the hunger crisis in Yemen, which for over a decade has had one of the highest levels of malnutrition in the world. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022 and the resulting war has ushered in even grimmer predictions for feeding the future—not just in Yemen, but in other vulnerable countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Tunisia.
That’s because these nations depend heavily on food imports from Ukraine. The war has triggered fast-rising global food prices and has affected the production, exports, and prices of agricultural commodities, also raising the price of energy and fertilizers worldwide. Although the cost of food was already high before the war, the World Bank’s Global Food Commodity Price Index is currently 80 percent higher than it was two years ago. There is little relief in sight, as food prices are likely to exceed their pre-crisis levels at least through the end of 2024, according to the World Bank’s Commodity Markets Outlook.
The implications are stark: in addition to the baseline of 276 million people who experienced acute hunger in 2021 in the 81 countries where the World Food Programme (WFP) operates, another 47 million additional people in these countries may fall into acute food insecurity, the WFP has said.
Ayham, 20 months, eats supplementary food at a WFP-supported mobile nutrition clinic in Mokha. Photo: WFP/Hebatallah Munassar
IFC has launched its Global Food Security Platform to respond to the food security crisis. The $6 billion financing facility will support vulnerable communities, boost the flow of vital commodities to emerging markets, and help reduce food insecurity. It will also finance continued trade flows of vital food supplies to populations in need, increase the availability of fertilizers and other critical supplies for farmers in vulnerable regions, and help private companies make new investments in longer-term solutions to the hunger crisis--with a focus on making local food systems in emerging markets more diversified, sustainable, and productive.
“The private sector has an essential role to play in alleviating food insecurity and in creating lasting solutions. By strengthening supply chains and ensuring that people have access to and can grow affordable food, this initiative will contribute to building resilient food systems in the most vulnerable regions,” said IFC Managing Director Makhtar Diop.
Confronting multiple challenges
IFC’s Global Food Security Platform will seek to reduce volatility in food markets through emergency financing to farmers, commodity traders, food and feed processors, and other private players that face restricted funding and sudden spikes in costs that are limiting their operations. IFC will also boost its provision of working capital and longer-term financing to clients in Ukraine, where it aims to restore crop production and the country’s capacity for food storage, processing, and logistics.
With world grain supplies highly impacted by the war in Ukraine, IFC will explore localized production of key staple crops, as well as the commercial viability of traditional wheat alternatives in African and Asian markets.
Since the food security crisis has been exacerbated by formerly once-in-a-lifetime severe weather events brought on by climate change, the Platform will accelerate IFC’s ongoing work to make local food systems more productive and resilient to a changing climate. IFC aims to expand its investments in new methods and technologies that reduce the climate footprint of farming and key agricultural commodities, including fertilizer, while providing practical, field-based support to clients undertaking sustainability initiatives.
Indian farmers adopt climate-smart agricultural practices. Photo: Bradford Roberts/IFC
IFC’s Global Food Security Platform will be complemented by IFC’s ongoing advisory work, especially in strengthening crop production practices, building smallholder capacity, and improving access to safe and nutritious foods. Efforts will also focus on addressing gender gaps that limit opportunities for women and limit global food production. Women around the world must overcome hurdles to access the technical assistance, financial services, capacity building, and information to raise productivity and generate income opportunities.
IFC’s Global Food Security Platform will boost many different industries that play a role in advancing food security.
- In agribusiness, the Platform will help stabilize volatile food markets and strengthen supply chains.
- In climate, investments made through the Platform will seek to improve the climate resilience of farmers, reduce emissions from agriculture, and continue IFC’s work reducing carbon footprint of key inputs like fertilizer.
- In disruptive technology, the Platform will support the uptake of digital technologies in agricultural supply chains, as digital technologies can help strengthen food production by improving access to markets and financing for smallholder farmers and boosting yields.
- In infrastructure, the Platform will fund solutions to storage and logistics challenges, limiting food loss and waste in supply chains – two issues that can significantly decrease the availability of food.
- In manufacturing, IFC will focus on easing supply chain issues by providing working capital support and extending trade finance solutions for traders of fertilizers and crop nutrition products.
IFC’s Global Food Security Platform is part of the World Bank Group’s ongoing $30 billion initiative to reduce food insecurity during the next year. IFC’s public and private sector interventions are implemented in close coordination with the World Bank and MIGA.
Published in October 2022