Written by Kristin Sampson, October 2010 2105 First Avenue South Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404 USA iatp.org
Growing government interest and support or ood reserveshas been evident in various international orums o late. At the same time, policymakers have been slow to act, reluc-tant to move away rom twenty or more years o economicorthodoxy that has insisted supply shocks are best resolvedthrough international trade alone. Many governments areexploring new ways to develop stronger and more resilient local, regional and national ood systems. Food reserves can bea critical component o those reorms.
The local level
All over the world, households that grow ood will store what they can o their harvest to meet their own ood needs, as wellas what they can aord to hold to sell later in the year. Thepractice is particularly common in areas where production isvery seasonal. Village or community reserves are constitutedby pooling a portion o each amily’s reserves. The advantageo local reserves is that they are immediately accessible to thepopulation and are made up o local products so that dietaryhabits are preserved, and dependency on products rom outsidethe community is reduced. They can help reduce incomeuctuation and thus make arms more resilient. Women inparticular oten play the central role in managing householdand local ood reserves, particularly in ood preservation andprocessing, and vegetable gardening.
In the Philippines, or example, the Asian Partnership or theDevelopment o Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA)promotes community reserves as an important element o itseorts to strengthen local ood systems.
AsiaDHRRA workswith communities to secure access to land, build rice banksand community nurseries, and raise awareness o traditionalood preservation technologies to manage surplus production.They also support the establishment o ood reserves, andencourage collective action and crop diversifcation or incomegeneration and home consumption. This integrated approachhas helped local armers to reduce income variability andimprove their arms’ production and resilience.
The national level
In addition to providing emergency protection, national reservescan help stabilize markets and provide incentives or localproducers to invest in their arms. In Malawi, agriculture is theprimary source o income or 85 percent o the population. Withthe election o President Bingu wa Mutharika in 2004, nationalood security has become a central policy objective. There hasbeen considerable media coverage o the government’s decisionto distribute subsidized ertilizer and improved maize seeds.This has resulted in increased production and maize surpluses.However, rebuilding the strategic grain reserve is also a keycomponent o Malawi’s strategy or ood security.At one time, Malawi’s Agriculture Development and MarketingCorporation (ADMARC) handled both commercial marketingand strategic grain management, but in 1999 the National FoodReserve Agency (NFRA) was created as an independent trust to oversee strategic grain management. In its early years theNFRA held less than 200,000 metric tons (MT), dropping below60,000 at the behest o the International Monetary Fund in 2001.The low level o reserves—and insufcient fnancial resources tobuy maize on regional and global markets during a period o highprices—contributed to the amine in 2002.
With this experienceand the 2008 ood price crisis in mind, the Mutharika adminis-tration chose to increase national physical reserves rather thanrely on imports. New storage silos are being built throughout thecountry to maintain 400,000 MT in the reserve system.Decisions on when to release stock rom the reserves are made bya stakeholder committee convened by the Ministry o Agricul-ture and Food Security. A request to draw down a specifc amount must be submitted by the government or an organization suchas the World Food Program. The ull committee must then agreeon the decision and the petitioner must commit to replenishingthe stocks i the petition is granted. According to Victor Mhoni,National Coordinator o Malawi’s Civil Society AgricultureNetwork, the process can be time consuming and needs be mademore efcient i it is to avoid exacerbating ood emergencies.
Stabilizing Agriculture Markets
FOOD RESERVES IN PRACTICE