Issue

Food

The United Nations defines food security as "all people at all times hav[ing] both physical and economic access to the basic food they need." For approximately 2 billion people throughout the world, this security is anything but guaranteed. Food security is a complicated issue that is susceptible to many forces.

Insecurity results from climate change, urban development, population growth, and oil price shifts that are interconnected and rarely confined by borders. It's an issue of global importance, and explored in-depth in the articles, videos and comments you'll find here.

In Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, a legacy of corrupt governance and an economy based primarily on oil exports has left the agriculture sector significantly weakened and millions of Nigerians hungry. And as poorer neighboring countries export more food to Nigeria in exchange for petrodollars, people there also go hungry. In 2005, thousands of children in neighboring Niger died of malnutrition, not because the country had had a particularly bad harvest, but because there was a food shortage in Nigeria, and people in Niger could not afford the ensuing higher prices.

A different threat is set to face the continent's second biggest crop: wheat. In 1999, 50 years since the last outbreak, a new and virulent strain of stem rust attacked Ugandan crops. Its spores then traveled to Ethiopia and Kenya before appearing in Iran last year. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has since warned six other countries in Central and South Asia to watch for signs of the new strain while scientists in the U.S. are urgently working to find a resistant wheat variety. In India alone, more than 50 million small-scale farmers are at risk because they rely on wheat for their food and income.

In Tajikistan, the global financial crisis is forcing thousands of newly unemployed Tajiks to return from Russia. In a country already straining to accommodate Tajik refugees from Afghanistan, the government's chronic mismanagement has amplified the power and food shortages that permeate the countryside.

In Guatemala, income inequality is among the worst in the world, with indigenous communities at a particular disadvantage. In some regions, an estimated 75 percent of the children from infants to the ages of 6 and 7 are chronically malnourished. It is a startling example of food scarcity in a country a mere four-hour flight away from the U.S.

Asia faced its own food crisis as the price of rice doubled last summer. Some hunger experts are seeking out large-scale responses, including stepping up commercial agricultural techniques by introducing genetically modified rice and related products into the region. Other more localized efforts by universities and organizations are providing training in sustainable techniques for traditional farming families and minority ethnic groups.

Pulitzer Center grantees explore the connected causes and effects of food insecurity including efforts to secure the physical and economic access to food in countries most in need.

Food was produced by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in partnership with the Project for Under-Told Stories and Saint Mary's University.

Food

In the Wheat Fields of Kenya, a Budding Epidemic

A virulent new version of a deadly fungus is ravaging wheat in Kenya's most fertile fields and spreading beyond Africa to threaten one of the world's principal food crops, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Stem rust, a killer that farmers thought they had defeated 50 years ago, surfaced here in 1999, jumped the Red Sea to Yemen in 2006 and turned up in Iran last year. Crop scientists say they are powerless to stop its spread and increasingly frustrated in their efforts to find resistant plants.

Nigeria: Can Emirs Help Restart Farming?

Food production in Nigeria is not keeping pace with population growth. The question is why? The country is not lacking in arable land and has not had a major drought for many years. So maybe the reason has something to do with changes to the way Nigerian societies are organized.

Nigeria's Deadly Land Clashes

Inhabitants of this village of mud houses in northern Nigeria say they woke December 12 to find 5,000 cattle chomping through their ripe crops. The grain farmers are mostly of the Hausa ethnic group while the cattle owners are Fulani nomads.

"We sent for the police and district head but in the meantime we couldn't just stand by and do nothing," said village representative Maiunguwa Garba. The dispute in this remote part of Katsina province was settled long before any law enforcement arrived.

Nigeria: A Conversation with Economist Shuaibu Idris

In my last blog entry I wrote about the many commercial farms in northern Nigeria that have failed. I wrote that my visiting them did not help me much in fathoming what went wrong with them all. But I have since gotten more clues from talking with various experts such as Shuaibu Idris a development economist and the Executive Director of Dangote Flour Mills. He talked to me about some of the local and international constraints that big farmers face as well as the constraints faced by small peasant farmers.

Nigerians Go Hungry Despite Oil Wealth

I first came to the dry, remote north of Nigeria 25 years ago on a rather strange holiday to visit a Dutchman I knew who had the job of managing a commercial farm there. The farm owner was Usman Dantata, a member of one of Nigeria's wealthiest families. Besides 2,000 hectares of land for cereals, cotton and rows and rows of industrial chicken coops, Dantata's property had a private airstrip, three mansions for each of his three wives, plus two teams of polo horses, some of which I got to ride.