Monday, February 23, 2009

UNEP Warns of Acute Food Crisis

UNEP warns of acute food crisis
Updated on: Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Story by: george kebasso

UNLESS more intelligent and creative management is brought to the world’s agricultural systems- Kenya included, the 2008 food crisis, may foreshadow an even bigger crisis in the years to come, warns a rapid assessment report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).The report released by a task force established by the UNEP to assess the environment’s role in averting future food crises during the weeklong 25th Session of the Global Environment Ministers’ Forum in Nairobi called on governments to adopt a seven point plan seeking to reduce the risk of hunger or even loose the fight against rising food insecurity.
The seven point plan consists of short, medium and long term recommendations that the UNEP has proposed to contain the escalating food prices across the world. According to the report, the first short term measure, challenges governments to enforce strict price controls in order to curb unnecessary increase of food prices that are currently beyond the common man’s reach.
In the report UNEP also wants the removal of subsidies on agricultural commodities and inputs that are exacerbating the developing food crisis as a short term measure. The report on the current food crisis in the country warns that food prices will continue to rise. Titled; ‘The Environmental Food Crisis: TheEnvironment’s role in averting future food crises’, the report indicates that the current food crisis in the country and the world in general will continue because of poor environmental management methods.
The report links the current crisis which includes high prices and soaring demand for food; to combined effects of; speculation in food stocks, extreme weather events, low cereal stocks, growth in biofuels competing with cropland and high oil prices. Climate Change for example, emerges as one of the key factors that may undermine the chances of feeding a population expected to rise to over 9 billion people by 2050.The report says that food losses in the field between planting and harvesting could be as high as 20-40 per cent of the potential harvest in developing countries due to pests and pathogens.
Members of the task force argue that unless more sustainable and intelligent management of production and consumption is undertaken, food prices would still become more volatile and expensive in Kenya as the population is rising steadily and expected to hit over a 40 m mark by next year. And as a result of an escalating environmental degradation in the world, the experts led by Dr. Christian Nelleman, UNEP’s head of the rapid response team, also propose the reduction of the use of cereals and food fish in animal feed and develop alternatives. “This can be done in a green economy by increasing food energy, efficiency using discards, capture and recycle of post harvest losses and waste,” added UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner during a press conference to unveil the report.

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