World Bank Releases Report On Growing Food Insecurity

The World Bank released an analysis of the rising food insecurity rates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report, released on May 20th, 2021, stated that “COVID-19 impacts have led to severe and widespread increases in global food insecurity, affecting vulnerable households in almost every country, with impacts expected to continue through 2021 and into 2022.” It also states that global food prices increased significantly by 38% since January 2020. The emergence of COVID-19 prompted food production agencies, shipping companies and individual vendors to reimagine food prices as the pandemic surged. This report is especially significant in relation to African Nations, which are faced with vast overrepresentation of food insecurity. African states, alongside many others, have experienced mass historical colonialism, which created and maintains the majority of issues found within the continent today. Though most states have become independent from colonial rulers, its impact left many states reliant on foreign investment and aid. The World Bank has been a significant producer of financial aid to nations unable to support food security.

Contemporary African nations have been faced with significant challenges in regard to food insecurity and food sovereignty. Approximately 27.4% of Africans were considered severely food insecure in 2016, which is almost four times higher than any other region. This is a vast overrepresentation in comparison to other states.

The report included an overview of rising costs and the risk factors associated with food insecurity. Next, it highlights the support and intervention of the World Bank in relation to select nations, mostly from Africa. The World Bank describes its mandate to provide aid to the aforementioned nations alongside its overarching commitment to “work with governments and international partners to closely monitor domestic food and agricultural supply chains… to ensure that food systems continue to function despite COVID-19 challenges.” Finally, the report addresses a series of prevention tactics presented to aid in supporting nations for years to come. The prevention methods include an emphasized reliance on the World Bank’s financing to support long term, agricultural, scientific and institutional growth.

Policy and governmental recommendations are aimed at reducing food insecurity by engaging states in food sovereignty. In this, some scholars have recommended for foreign agricultural projects to replace traditional methods. Supporters claim that technological advancements and monetary investments will provide states with greater conditions for food production. However, this can conflate food inaccessibility with food availability. In replacing traditional agricultural methods, local farmers and producers will be displaced in favour of foreign, and usually large scale, productions. Additionally, these investors often produce single, large scale crops, which decrease food variety and deplete the land of nutrients needed for future crops.

A significant aspect of this topic emphasizes the notion that food insecurity in Africa is not due to a sheer lack of food, but rather the methods through which it is managed and distributed, another barrier within society. The creation of food shortage is often not due to a lack of food within the area, but rather by neoliberal and economic notions of accessibility and food sovereignty. The World Bank aims to bridge this divide with proposed investments into “a combination of short-term COVID-19 responses and investments to address the longer-term drivers of food insecurity.”