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Poverty Alleviation and Research Partnerships

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Presentation delivered by Dr. Steve Jennings (Oxfam GB, United Kingdom) at Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security. March 25 - 28, 2014, Ciudad Obregon, Mexico.

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Poverty Alleviation and Research Partnerships

  1. 1. Poverty Alleviation and Research Partnerships Dr Steve Jennings Oxfam
  2. 2. Before you start a research partnership ... • Is research the solution? • Do you agree what the problem is that research can help resolve? • Do your incentives align?
  3. 3. What is the challenge? • The obscenity of our times: 842 million people – 12 percent of the global population – were unable to meet their dietary energy requirements in 2011–13 (FAO 2013) • Food security: all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life • The four conditions for food security: • Availability: supply of food through production, distribution, and exchange • Access: affordability and allocation of food • Use: ability to metabolize • Stability: availability, access and use over time
  4. 4. The nature of the solutions • The food system is complex, so solutions can create perverse outcomes as well as positive ones: despite the green revolution, the 1.5-2 billion people dependent on smallholder agriculture include half the worlds undernourished people • Yet economic growth in smallholder agriculture is far more effective at reducing poverty and food insecurity than growth in other sectors: in Viet Nam investment in rural infrastructure (all- weather roads, irrigation systems, electrification and sanitation), increased public spending on agriculture and land reforms have transformed Viet Nam from a food-deficit country in the 1990s to a major food exporter today. Thus, investment in smallholder agriculture has been a key driver behind Viet Nam’s transformation from one of the poorest countries in the world 25 years ago to lower middle-income status 40-50% are subsistence (e.g. maize), buy in food, and get most cash from off farm work. 20-30% are occasionally connected to markers and are food buyers 3-15% are regularly selling into markets 1-2% ‘market-ready’ farmers Rural world 1 Rural world 2 Rural world 3
  5. 5. But what is the nature of the challenge? Malthus vs Sen • Malthus: “Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio, subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio” • ‘Malthusian’ side solutions tend to focus on production, be technological, ‘simple’, attractive to policy makers (eg new varieties or agronomic techniques)
  6. 6. What is the nature of the challenge? Malthus vs Sen • Sen: “Starvation is the characteristic of people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there not being enough food to eat” • Food wasted by consumers in industrialised countries each year (222m tons) is almost as high as the total net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230m tons) (Gustavsson et al 2011) • Providing the additional calories needed by the 850m people facing hunger would require just 1% of the current global food supply (Raworth 2012) • In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese (WHO 2013) • Sen side solutions tend to focus on access and entitlement and be contingent, context specific, involve power, and are ‘messy’ (democracy, redistribution, land reform, social protection)
  7. 7. Even if you agree on the problem, and research is part of the answer, do your incentives align? • Time • Language • An end in itself or a means to an end? • Roles and organisational purpose
  8. 8. When the alignment is right ... • Food Price Volatility research (Oxfam and the Institute of Development Studies) • We aim to generate evidence about how high and unpredictable food prices affect overall well-being and development in poor or vulnerable communities. • 4 year, longitudinal study in 10 countries funded by DfID, Irish Aid, Oxfam and the BRAC Development Institute • ASSAR (Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions) University of Cape Town, University of East Anglia, START International, Indian Institute for Human Settlements and Oxfam • Aims to develop and trial relevant actionable strategies for adaptation; enable systemic capacity strengthening for adaptation in research, policy and practice; and ensure research is used so as to shape policy and practices. • c. 4 year, 14 countries, funded by IDRC (International Development Research Centre) and DFID
  9. 9. Take home messages • Poverty alleviation is a complex socio-economic problem (Viet Nam) • When it is, don’t assume that you agree on the nature of the problem: producing enough food for everyone isn’t the same as everyone having enough food to eat (Malthus vs Sen) ... • ... Or that your incentives align (time, purpose) • Finding these alignments does happen, and does yield research partnerships which have an impact on poverty