national or global level. Several participants emphasized the importance of collecting data, stating that information at smaller scales could also be meaningfully aggregated to meso- and macroscales.
Emmy Simmons provided highlights of the breakout session on agricultural productivity and natural resources. She noted that most of the participants believed there were relatively good data for six major categories of natural resources—habitat, soil health, water, chemicals, air quality, and greenhouse gases?but that, for the most part, little of this information was linked to economic or social variables. Several breakout session members suggested that future efforts should focus on strengthening a limited set of indicators?those most likely to have the greatest impacts, positively or negatively, on global food systems. There was also considerable support for creating a dialogue between scientists, the public and key decision-makers to assure that the science was well understood, and encouraging markets and governments to take action based on the science.
Kostas Stamoulis briefly summarized the discussion from the food security, nutrition, and poverty breakout group. He noted that most participants believed that the quality of anthropometric data are generally good, but that metrics addressing micronutrient deficiency and diet diversity are scarce and should be expanded, as they are important predictors of good nutrition. Several participants complained that information on nutritional status is generally not linked to important co-variates, such as family income or intra-household food allocation, nor are data readily available to determine whether individuals suffer from acute or chronic malnutrition, important measures for determining appropriate policy interventions.
Stamoulis described the discussion on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicators, highlighting the need for better food balance sheets, since these are the basis for the FAO hunger indicators. Many participants emphasized the point that the FAO hunger numbers purport to provide information about food consumption, but in fact do not. They are based on 3-year trend data on aggregate food supplies or food availability, and as such, they do not reflect the changes in the number of people who are hungry because of price fluctuations or short term food supply disruptions. However, the numbers are useful as a way to focus high level attention on the problem of global hunger and to secure continued international financial support for anti-hunger initiatives.
Several participants also noted that these measures are not useful for national level decision-makers, who need to target specific anti-hunger interventions, and therefore other metrics are needed such as those developed from household survey data or other national level statistical collection efforts. Some participants suggested that household surveys, albeit costly, can provide essential national level data on key measures not covered by the FAO data or other global data sources?information on household level access and utilization of food as well as measures of malnutrition. Several participants remarked that it would be useful to have a core set of questions for household surveys that would allow for greater comparability across countries.
Also as part of the final workshop session, Prabhu Pingali of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation discussed the need to increase the reliability and transparency of global food security numbers and asked workshop participants to provide their views on the possibility of establishing a peer review mechanism. He explained that global numbers on hunger and poverty are important to target populations that need assistance, and indicators on natural resources and productivity help to identify the long term impact of development and to identify needed