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

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.

Nigeria: Paralyzed

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.

Nigeria: Durbah Festival Images

During the annual Durbah festival, over the period of Eid, the various district heads of each Emirate come to their Emir to show their strength in warriors and horsemen and to demonstrate that they are ready to defend his realm.

In former days, farmers would also seek to demonstrate their capacity in food production. The most productive farmers would be rewarded with courtly titles. But the role of the Emir is now largely symbolic; he can no longer offer incentives to increase production.

Nigeria: One Reason for Low Productivity

This weekend Nigerian journalist Abubakar Kabir Matazu invited me to drive with him and his children to his home town of Katsina in the far north of Nigeria to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Katsina is known as a ancient center of Islamic learning and Eid is the day thousands of brightly regaled horsemen parade before the Emir (see photos in my next posting). However I wanted to go to meet Matazu's father Alhaji Kabir Matazu, who is what one might call a middle class Nigerian farmer, and he is struggling.

Nigeria: Massacre in Jos

I arrive in Nigeria with news that hundreds of people have been killed in the town of Jos as a result of fighting between Muslims and Christians. There hasn't been a major outbreak of so-called "religious violence" in Nigeria for years and it was looking like a problem of the past. But the violence has always come as somewhat of a surprise and a mystery.

When I was in Jos earlier in the year I had seen how hard religious and ethnic leaders had worked to mend divisions and change ways people thought of each other.