Markets, climate change and food security in West Africa

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010: 8:45 AM
B301 (GWCC)
Molly Brown, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD; and J. P. Verdin, C. C. Funk, B. Hintermann, and N. Higgins

The recent massive increase in food and energy prices in the past five years, coupled with the awareness of the long term challenges of climate change to small holder agriculture in Africa has brought the issue of food security for the world's poorest people to the forefront once again. Asymmetric and limited integration of local commodity markets in West Africa highlights the weak position of Africa's rural countries in the face of climate change and demographic expansion. This paper will describe the functioning of local informal food markets in West African over the past twenty years and evaluate the impact of their limited integration with each other and with global commodity markets. Satellite remote sensing of vegetation has been used as a proxy for agricultural production in economic models to improve prediction of large swings in prices from year to year due to differences in supply. As demand increases, improvements in market functioning will be necessary to counter likely increases in production variability. Increasing Africa's stability in the face of climate change will require investment in agricultural production and transportation infrastructure in order to ensure an affordable flow of food to people in these extremely poor, landlocked countries. West Africa is home to a population that experiences some of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world. As industrialized nations shift policy from donation to global market solutions, the texture of the problem is becoming clearer. Yet while technology may be a panacea in developed environments, such is not necessarily the case in developing regions.