The global development finance institution, the World Bank, has voted $45 billion for its food and nutrition security programme, consisting of $22 billion in new lending and $23 billion from existing portfolio for a period of 15 months. The new amount surpassed the initial $30 billion the bank initially budgeted for the programme.

“Our food and nutrition security portfolio now spans across 90 countries. It includes both short term interventions such as expanding social protection, also longer-term resilience such as boosting productivity and climate-smart agriculture.

“The Bank’s intervention is expected to benefit 335 million people, equivalent to 44% of the number of undernourished people. Around 53% of the beneficiaries are women – they are disproportionately more affected by the crisis,” the World Bank said.

The food and nutrition security programme is a response to the rising incidence of food inflation in many countries, exacerbated by many factors such as insurgency, drought and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, trade-related policies imposed by countries have surged. The global food crisis has been partially made worse by the growing number of food trade restrictions put in place by countries with a goal of increasing domestic supply and reducing prices. As of January 17, 2024, 15 countries have implemented 21 food export bans, and 11 have implemented 14 export-limiting measures,” the World Bank said.

Accordingly, food inflation continues to surge, reaching new highs in some countries.

“Information from the latest month between September and December 2023 for which food price inflation data are available shows high inflation in many low- and middle-income countries, with inflation higher than 5 percent in 63.2 percent of low-income countries (1.3 percentage points higher than in the last update on December 14, 2023), 73.9 percent of lower-middle-income countries (2.2-percentage points lower), 48.0 percent of upper-middle-income countries (2.0 percentage points lower), and 46.3 percent of high-income countries (11.1 percentage points lower),” the World Bank added.

In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, food inflation rose consistently year-on-year for 13th straight month from 23.75 percent as of December 2022 to 33.93 percent as of December 2023.

In Africa, the World Bank has approved a number of food related intervention programmes. It voted $766 million for the West Africa Food Systems Resilience Programme. This is meant to increase the region’s preparedness against food insecurity and improve the resilience of food systems in West Africa, through digital advisory services for agriculture and food crisis prevention and management, including enhancing adaptation of agriculture system actors and investing in regional food market integration.

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There is the $175 million Sahel Irrigation Initiative Regional Support Project, designed to enhance resilience and boost productivity of agricultural and pastoral activities in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. This programme targets 130,000 farmers and members of pastoral communities through small and medium-sized irrigation initiatives.

There is an Emergency Food Security Response involving 329,000 small holder farmers in the Central Africa Republic. The $50 million programme aims to provide farmers with seeds, farming tools, and training in agricultural and post-harvest techniques with a view to boosting crop production and becoming more resilient to climate and conflict risks.

Egypt secured $500 million through Emergency Food Security and Resilience support Project “to bolster Egypt’s efforts to ensure that poor and vulnerable households have uninterrupted access to bread, to strengthen Egypt’s resilience to food crises and to support reforms in food security policies, including to improve nutritional outcomes,” according to the World Bank.

The project will support the procurement of imported wheat equivalent to one month of supply for the Bread Subsidy Programme that supports about 70 million low-income Egyptians.

“The new financing supports Egypt by mobilizing immediate short-term relief to address supply and price shocks while simultaneously bolstering Egypt’s longer term food security strategy and improved nutrition for the poor and vulnerable. A significant number of households in Egypt reduced their food consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic, which could have a lasting impact on nutrition and the cognitive development of young children. An improved nutrition strategy, including through balanced diets, is a key element of this project,” the World Bank said.

The bank also granted $315 million to boost the resilience of food systems across the West Africa sub region, especially in Chad, Ghana and Sierra Leone, benefiting some two million inhabitants of the aforementioned countries under its Food Systems Resilience Programme (FSRP-2).

“Across the targeted areas in the three countries, FSRP-2 will help to reduce food insecure people by 25%. Access to hydro and agrometeorological advisory services will be extended to over 400,000 food system actors, while nearly 500,000 producers are expected to adopt climate smart agricultural technologies,” the World Bank said, adding that about 12,000 hectares of land area will benefit from integrated landscape management practices, and intra-regional traded productions in selected value chains will increase by 30% within the sub region.

Outside Africa, the countries that benefited from the food and nutrition security programme include Honduras, Bolivia, Jordan, Yemen and Tajikistan.