Beyond the Price of Food: Putting Food Security Into Farmers Hands

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By Elena Davert

Last week the price of bread in Maputo, Mozambique rose by over 30 percent, causing a series of devastating riots that the country’s capitol had not seen since 2008. Over the last week, protests have left 13 people dead, about 400 injured, and nearly 300 in jail, according to officials.

Innovations are taking place in Mozambique and all over sub-Saharan Africa that not only help achieve greater yields, but also protect the environment and improve livelihoods. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The increased prices followed a surge in global wheat prices last month because of Russia’s drought-induced export ban on grains. The ban, which has recently been extended until late 2011, forced global wheat prices to rise 38 percent higher in July, 3.7 percent in August, and an extra 7 percent just this month. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the floods in Pakistan — Asia’s third-largest wheat producer — have further compounded the reduced wheat harvest this year.

The FAO, however, announced that it does not believe the world is headed toward a food crisis comparable to the one 2008. Although similar hikes in food prices sparked political instability in Mozambique two years ago, other key conditions, such as soaring fuel prices, aren’t present now.  The world cereal output in 2010 is still predicted to be the third highest on record

After an emergency cabinet meeting following the riots, Planning and Development Minister Aiuba Cuereneia made a statement that the Mozambique government would lower bread prices to previous levels through the use of subsidies. He also promised the price of rice and water also would be lowered, but that higher electricity tariffs were being maintained.

High food prices aren’t the only challenges people face in Mozambique or elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Climate change, growing population, and water sources are also affecting the overall food availability. But innovations are taking place in Mozambique and all over sub-Saharan Africa that not only help achieve greater yields, but also protect the environment and improve livelihoods. Groups such as Prolinnova and the National Farmers Union of Mozambique , for example, have found new ways to spread successful farming techniques to the rural of areas by helping farmers share information and sustainable agriculture techniques with one another.

To read more about innovations in Mozambique that are helping to improve access to food and improve harvest yields, see: Farmers Learning from Farmers and Spreading the Wealth of Innovations.

Elena Davert is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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