The Global Youth Wellbeing Index

indexCoverHalf of the world’s population is under 25. 1.8 billion people are between the ages of 10 and 24, the largest youth population the world has ever seen, 85% of which live in developing and emerging economies. In Uganda for example, 50% of the population is under the age of 15. While on the one hand such a large youth population is viewed as a challenge, of employment, of education and of population growth, this group also has significant potential to innovate and change the world for the better.

The first ever Youth Wellbeing Index, developed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF), compares how youths are faring across six key areas: citizen participation, economic opportunity, education, health, ICT and safety and security. For each area, indicators around the enabling environment in which youth live and participate, youth outcomes, and youths’ outlook and satisfaction with their own wellbeing are combined. The overall score is a combination of the six individual scores. Thirty countries representing around 70% of this youth group (generally aged 12-25 years) were ranked from high wellbeing to low.

The report finds the majority of the world’s youth living in countries at or near the bottom of the wellbeing ranking. In some countries such as Indonesia, youth are optimistic about their future in spite of the developmental challenges the country faces while in some developed countries such as Russia, youth can have more negative outlooks. Overall youth in rich countries tend to have higher levels of wellbeing than those in poorer nations. But money is not the key to everything. Spain has relatively high levels of wellbeing, ranking eighth, but faces high and increasing levels of youth unemployment. In the US, youth health is a significant problem. This shows that countries ranking high overall may score low in specific areas and vice versa. Across all countries youth are strongest in health and weakest in economic opportunity.

Jose Graziano Da Silva, Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, at the FAO’s Regional Conference for Africa, discussed the role of youth in African farming, highlighting their potential to innovate in the sector. Making agriculture more appealing and economically beneficial to younger generations is a significant challenge. Africa is the world’s youngest region, where more than half of the population are under 25 years of age. Agriculture in many African countries is a significant and fast growing economic sector but this growth has not resulted in widespread employment and attractive incomes for young people. Salaries are generally low, risks are high and there is often little help from governments should farming businesses struggle. The FAO is calling for “greater public and private investment in agribusiness, agro-industry and market-related services to attract and keep young workers, fuel job creation, and spur new development in the agricultural sector”.

The Global Youth Wellbeing Index emphasises that now is the time to invest in programmes and policies that engage youth and equip them to be productive. The key message is that if this generation of youth thrives so do we all.

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

 
Food Security and Nutrition and the Post-2015 Development Goals, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

 
Food Giants Want ‘Sustainable’ Beef. But What Does That Mean?, The Salt

 
FAO: ‘Revolution’ in Agriculture Vital to Meet Food Targets, Voice of America

 
Meeting the Food Challenges of Tomorrow Through the Legacy of Borlaug, Roll Call

 
Climate Change Could Delay The Fight Against World Hunger For Decades: Report, Huffington Post

 
Ending hunger – the rich world holds the keys, The Ecologist [Read more...]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Food prices and poverty reduction in the long run, IFPRI

Is ‘Getting to Zero’ really feasible? The new Chronic Poverty Report, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education 2013/2014 Report from the Field, SARE

Research reveals true value of cover crops to farmers, environment, Penn State

From poverty to prosperity: A conversation with Bill Gates, AEI

Harnessing Innovation for African Agriculture and Food Systems, Meridian Institute

Pests worm their way into genetically modified maize, Nature

Scientists sound the alarm on climate, The New York Times

Scale up policies that work to eliminate hunger by 2025 – food expert, Thomson Reuters Foundation

GMOs Should Be Regulated On A National Level In Europe, British Scientists Argue, Huffington Post

Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than we thought, University of Leeds

Examining the link between food prices and food insecurity: A multi-level analysis of maize price and birthweight in Kenya, Food Policy

GM maize heads for British fields, The Times

Number of Days Without Rain to Dramatically Increase in Some World Regions, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Steady increase in incidents of low levels of GM crops in traded food and feed, FAO

Victoria Seeds: Changing lives through wealth creation, Josephine Okot

The End of the ‘Developing World’, The New York Times

Book review: ‘The Meat Racket’ by Christopher Leonard, The Washington Post

GM Crops Lead to Increase in Trade Disruptions – UN Report, Sustainable Pulse

How the global banana industry is killing the world’s favourite fruit, Quartz

Agroforestry can ensure food security and mitigate the effects of climate change in Africa, EurekAlert

What can would-be African lions learn from the Asian tigers? It’s all about how urban elites see farmers, according to ODI, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Fertilizer in small doses yields higher returns for less money, Phys.org

Storm brewing over WHO sugar proposal, Nature

Food system that fails poor countries needs urgent reform, says UN expert, The Guardian

UN expert calls for bridging gap between urban consumers and local food producers, UN

Food Tank By The Numbers: Family Farming, Food Tank

The Power of Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES) to Inform Evidence-Based Nutrition Interventions and Policies, USAID

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Highlight: the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association (NASFAM) in Malawi, PAEPARD

FAO launches new standards for plant genebanks, FAO

Africa and India cultivate agricultural research ties, SciDev.Net

Who will pay for ecosystem services?, IIED

It’s not the ‘skipping’ three who should be questioned, it’s the wasteful supermarkets, The Independent

Pesticides halve bees’ pollen gathering ability, research shows, The Guardian

Natural Gas and Albacore: What Tuna Says About the Future of Mozambique, New Security Beat

Press Briefing of H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, PAEPARD

Fertilizer nutrient imbalance to limit food production in Africa, IIASA

Genetic weapon against insects raises hope and fear in farming, New York Times [Read more...]

The International Year of Family Farming

2014_IYFFAt the heart of One Billion Hungry is an understanding that small-scale farmers are central to global food security. Approximately one third of the world’s population depends on small farms. In developing countries smallholders form the backbone of food production, and, given that agriculture often employs the majority of the population, their ability to prosper from farming enterprises plays a part in broader economic transformation.

Of the 450 million or so small farms in the world, an estimated 60% of these are largely subsistence farms and often achieve yields much lower than their potential. A large part of this is down to limited access to knowledge, technology, markets, extension and financial services. Building an enabling environment in which smallholder farmers have access to opportunities to increase their yields and sell surpluses in fair and efficient markets is a key recommendation from One Billion Hungry and Agriculture for Impact’s work.

So it’s great news that 2014 has been named the International Year of Family Farming. The aims of the year are to boost the profile of family farming and smallholder farming and to emphasise the significant role these farmers can and do play in reducing hunger and poverty. Farming families, which are the dominant form of agriculture in developed and developing countries alike, have a vital role to play in providing food and nutrition to their households and communities but also in managing natural resources, protecting the environment and rural cultures, and achieving sustainable development. [Read more...]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Disturbing Report Highlights the State of the World’s Oceans, Green Africa Directory

Africa Week Recognizes Development, Governance Progress, IISD

Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa, IMF

From Plates that Grow Food to Certified Cocoa: UN Awards Innovative Green Enterprises at Green Economy Symposium, SEED Initiative

UN highlights role of farming in closing emissions gap, BBC

Farmers dig into soil quality, Nature

An exclusive interview with Bill Gates, The Financial Times

FAO expects more balanced food markets, less price volatility, FAO

Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies, The New York Times

New Effort Launched to Measure and Monitor Global Food Loss and Waste, UNEP

Nitrogen fixation helps double some African farm yields, SciDev.Net

Crop pests spreading polewards under global warming, European Commission

Food waste: ‘Six meals a week’ thrown away by Britons, BBC

We’ll rise or fall on the quality of our soil, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

How complexity thinking cut malnutrition in Vietnam by two thirds, From Poverty to Power, Duncan Green

Biotechnologies for smallholders: new publications

i3403e00The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation recently released a new publication, Biotechnologies at Work for Smallholders: Case Studies from Developing Countries in Crops, Livestock and Fish, which details how biotechnologies can help smallholders improve their livelihoods and food security. The report urges governments and stakeholders to take greater steps to bring agricultural biotechnologies to smallholder producers in developing countries.

Through 19 case studies in crops, livestock and fisheries, authors explore real experiences of smallholders using biotechnology in the production of a variety of crops, for example, bananas, cassava, rice, livestock and shrimp. The cases also cover a range of biotechnologies such as artificial insemination, fermentation and more sophisticated DNA-based methodologies, although not genetic modification.

The case studies have been selected from India, China, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand. In India, as an example, DNA markers have been used to develop a flood-tolerant rice variety with a potential yield increase of 1 to 3 tons per hectare compared to other varieties, under flood conditions. As of 2012, the new variety, Swarna-Sub1, was being used by three million farmers.

In Cameroon, DNA-based diagnostic tools have allowed for the quick detection and diagnosis of Peste des Petits Ruminants outbreaks, a virus which can rapidly spread amongst goats and sheep. This biotechnology has enabled authorities to control the disease, thus preventing an outbreak.

Biotechnologies, as seen from the case studies, can boost yields, improve quality and market opportunities, reduce costs and thus improve agricultural livelihoods for smallholders. As the report emphasises, however, biotechnologies will only work for smallholder farmers if smallholders participate in the design, research and dissemination processes. [Read more...]

Food waste harms climate, water, land and biodiversity – new FAO report

food wasteApproximately one third of food, equivalent to 1.3 Gigatonnes of edible food, is lost or wasted, according to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, entitled Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources. Often discussed in terms of its contribution to global food insecurity, this new report highlights food waste’s detrimental impact on the environment. For example, the resources used to produce this uneaten food equate to 1.4 billion hectares of land (around 30% of all agricultural land in the world); 250km3 of blue water (equivalent to 3 times the volume of Lake Geneva); and 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent (making food waste the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China).

While the costs of the loss of these natural resources is yet to be put in economic terms, the direct costs of food waste borne by the producers is some $750 billion each year, equivalent to the GDP of Switzerland.

The report also details key areas where large volumes of food are being wasted with severe environmental effects, most notably, cereals in Asia; meat in western countries and Latin America; fruit in Asia, Latin America and Europe; and vegetables in Asia and Europe.

While the aim of the report is merely to highlight the scale of the problem and identify priority areas for action, the FAO has also produced a Tool Kit for Reducing the Food Wastage Footprint, which provides guidelines for reducing food waste and gives practical examples of where this is happening. In particular it points to three areas of action:

·         Reducing food waste by improving losses on farms due to poor practices and by better balancing production with demand;

·         Re-using surplus edible food within the human food chain, i.e. in other markets or as food donations, and re-using non-edible food as livestock feed;

·         Recycling through by-product recycling, anaerobic digestion, compositing, and incineration with energy recovery to allow some energy and nutrients to be recovered from food waste, rather than it rotting in a landfill and producing methane. [Read more...]

Healthy people depend on healthy food systems: World Food Day 2013

WFDToday is World Food Day, the day that marks the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and this year the focus is on sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition. The FAO have produced a brief highlighting the key changes we need to make to our food systems to ensure everyone has access to enough nutritious food.

This year the FAO is emphasizing the ineffectiveness of our current food systems to tackle malnutrition. One in four children under the age of five in the world are stunted due to malnutrition, which when occurring early in childhood can limit physical and mental development for the rest of the child’s life. In total around two million people are not getting sufficient levels of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets, while at the same time some 1.4 billion people are overweight. These different types of malnutrition can coexist within populations and are in some ways linked. Both stunted mothers and overweight mothers can give birth to stunted babies due to a lack of nutrients in their diet, and stunted children are at greater risk of becoming obese as adults.

The cost of malnutrition can be measured in terms of both direct health care costs as well as indirect losses to human productivity and has been estimated at 5% of global income or $3.5 trillion per year. In tackling malnutrition, if we invested $1.2 billion per year for five years the annual gains generated are calculated at some $15.3 billion.

To tackle malnutrition we need to look at every aspect of the food system: the environment, institutions, processes and people. As an example, agriculture, which through poor practice can degrade the environmental resource base on which it depends is a serious threat to our food security. Together with forestry, agriculture uses 60% of the world’s land resources and 70% of the world’s freshwater resources. Using these resources efficiently and sustainably is crucial to ensuring we can feed the world now and into the future. [Read more...]

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