Even for a continent sadly accustomed to famine and misfortune, the situation in eastern Africa is dire. Close to 11 million children and families are suffering from the effects of the worst drought in 60 years. Thousands are fleeing Somalia on foot, leaving behind a nation plagued by malnutrition, disease and poverty.
Somalia, already one of the world's poorest countries, is in midst of an epic humanitarian catastrophe, as a third of its popultion - 3.7 million people - face starvation. Throughout the Horn of Africa, in countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, as many as 11 million people are currently at risk of severe malnutrition or starvation as the region faces the worst drought conditions in 60 years.
Women make significant contributions to the rural economy in all developing country regions. Their roles differ across regions, yet they consistently have less access than men to the resources and opportunities they need to be more productive. Increasing women's access to land, livestock, education, financial services, extension, technology and rural employment would boost their productivity and generate gains in terms of agricultural production, food security, economic growth and social welfare.
Lao PDR is highly dependent on natural resources for its prosperity but faces mounting environmental challenges. In addition to natural resource based investments, the expansion of commercial agricultural plantations and the extraction of minerals puts further pressure on the land.
The recent increase in economic activities linked to the country's natural resources has also had an impact on environmental quality. Managing these natural resources is vital as environmental conditions are closely linked to the livelihoods, health and vulnerability of people living in poverty, particularly women and children.
The UN is working at all levels to address the environmental challenges facing the country. The Poverty Environment Initiative supports the mainstreaming of poverty-environmental concerns and opportunities into national level planning. The recently developed Fisheries and Aquaculture Law is a landmark step for Lao PDR in protecting a vital food source and people's livelihoods. Fish and fisheries play an important economic role contributing an estimated 13 percent of GDP.
Please read more about UNDP's work on MDGs in Lao PDR here.
The World Bank's food price index shows wheat, maize and soya costs have soared, requiring a relaxation of export controls and a rethink on biofuels.
Food producing countries must relax export controls and divert production away from biofuels to prevent millions more people being driven into poverty by higher food prices, the head of the World Bank Robert Zoellick said in Washington.
The progress being made across the continent in the last few years should give us real hope for the future. Creative thinking, effective partnerships, leadership from governments and the efforts of smallholder farmers are helping drive the development of Africa's agriculture.
But we still remain a long way from our hoped-for destination. So what are the broader lessons we can learn from the progress so far? What are the obstacles that still need to be overcome to achieve our ambitions to transform Africa's ability to meet and exceed its own food needs?
Agricultural research produced in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation concluded last week that Africa should stop relying on just a handful of crops and developing new seeds as the default solutions to end hunger and poverty.
The message, outlined in a report by the Worldwatch Institute, appears out of step with the Gates foundation’s funding of agrotechnology initiatives to achieve agricultural development in Africa.
After water nearly overtook his village in northern Nigeria, Ali Gudinchin jumped into the rushing flood with a knife, cutting away ears of corn from stalks barely rising above the muddy surface.
He ended up with only three sacks worth of food, compared to the 50-odd bags of grains and vegetables he typically grows during the arid region's brief fertile season.