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.

UN official stresses link between healthy soils, sustainable development as Global Soil Week starts, UN

US Announces Plans to Reduce Agricultural Carbon Emissions, The New York Times

Guest Commentary – Agriculture: The Common Thread Connecting the Sustainable Development Goals, Global Food for Thought

Lifting the lid on the household: A new way to measure individual deprivation, From Poverty to Power

New crop insurance math, new challenges for farmers, Politico

UN urged to demand free access to crop data, SciDev.Net

Fostering Economic Resilience, Greenpeace

Meeting the Global Food Demand of the Future by Engineering Crop Photosynthesis and Yield Potential, Long et al, 2015, Cell

Universities join efforts to combat climate change in East Africa, Daily Monitor

This Earth Day, think agriculture, Plantwise

The genome of cultivated sweet potato contains Agrobacterium T-DNAs with expressed genes: An example of a naturally transgenic food crop, Kyndt et al, 2015, PNAS [Read more…]

Young people in Agriculture: Aspirations and Value Chains

By Alice Marks

Visiting the agricultural development projects supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in Mozambique, I was amazed by the number of young faces I saw in the villages. However, the resounding sentiment is that young people do not want to be farmers.  This is causing deep concern amongst many over how to keep the growing youth of Mozambique in agriculture. With the 11th highest birth rate in the world, and a growth rate of 2.45% a year, the population of Mozambique is growing, fast. More food will soon be needed to sustain the expanding population.

Young farmers

Young farmers in Mozambique

The aspirations of young Mozambicans are changing.  They don’t want to endure the same backbreaking agricultural work of their parents and prefer instead to seek office work in the cities. Mozambique now has an urbanisation rate of 3.05% per year, but whilst rural to urban migration of young people raises concerns, it may also provide opportunities. There are many prospects for young Mozambicans in the expanding agricultural sector to earn a better living and contribute to the countries food security.

But how can the agricultural sector engage with Mozambique’s growing youth?

[Read more…]

Sustainable Development Goals: Does success start with failure?

dfsffAs an outcome of the Rio+20 conference in 2012, countries agreed to embark on the process of developing the Sustainable Development Goals to carry on the work of the Millennium Development Goals. Set to be adopted at a UN high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly in September this year, the SDGs have come under recent criticism.

15 years ago, 189 UN members adopted the Millennium Declaration and the 8 Millennium Development Goals, comprising of 18 quantified targets and 48 statistical indicators (later expanded to 21 targets and 60 indicators). The MDG Report 2014 discusses progress so far in achieving the MDGs. The SDGs aim to continue the economic, social and environmental vision the MDGs first set out to achieve but the proposed SDGs number 17 in total with 169 targets and an estimated 300 or so indicators. In a blog post last year we discuss the 17 proposed SDGs. In recent discussions and articles the SDGs have come under considerable criticism for being too ambitious, too aspirational and too numerous. Here we look at some of these arguments.

More targets = greater success?

Does having significantly more goals, targets and indicators than the MDGs mean we can expect the SDGs to achieve more? Some are highly doubtful. The MDGs were criticised for being limited in scope and lacking consensus but in seeking consensus for the SDGs, even running door-to-door surveys, have the UN gone overboard in trying to please every interest group to the detriment of a joint vision? Some member states are arguing for the number of goals and targets to be reduced, while others see the higher number as a positive reflection that their creation was more bottom-up, through widespread consultation than the creation of the MDGs. Another view is that the number of goals has to be this numerous if they are to be universal. But should we have universal goals when their meaning and implementation will be so different in different countries? For example environmental protection will no doubt look very different in a developing as opposed to a developed country. Should there be separate goals for richer and poorer countries? Others value the proposed SDGs because they at least make an attempt to share responsibility between developed and developing countries, whereas the MDGs largely separated developed countries into funders and developing countries into actors.

Another view is that with more goals and more complexity the SDGs will be easier to ignore. The MDGs had a very simple, concise and easy to communicate message. Will the SDGs, and the work involved in putting together road maps for the implementation of 17 goals scare away policymakers? Is less more in international policy? Do broader goals better allow for local context and adaptation, and by having narrower goals will the plans put in place be less tailored, more one-size-fits-all, an approach typically condemned?

But perhaps the number of SDGs reflect the growth in our understanding of development and the environment. As our comprehension of the complexity of the issues and their connectivity grows do the goals grow too? Do more goals become necessary? Yes the SDGs are more ambitious than their predecessors but they tackle issues such as poverty from several angles: urbanisation, infrastructure, climate change, for example. Poverty is the result of social and political structures that favour inequality, poor governance and transparency, thus we need more goals to tackle each aspect. [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.

Do Aid and Development need their own TripAdvisor feedback system?, From Poverty to Power

Rebranding bran: teaching nutrient-rich cooking in Mali, The Guardian

African hub set up to boost research autonomy, Nature

Global Food Industry Reluctant Leaders of Smallholder Farming Revolution, The Huffington Post

Managing for Resilience: Framing an integrated landscape approach for overcoming chronic and acute food insecurity, Buck and Bailey

Agri-tech for Africa’s food security, development, SciDev.Net

Water-Smart Agriculture in East Africa, PAEPARD

New interactive tool brings malnutrition data to life, Devex

Fateful Harvest: Why Brazil has a big appetite for risky pesticides, Reuters

Denmark’s Drug-Free Pigs, The New York Times [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.

Chicago Council’s Grow Markets, Fight Hunger Report Featured, Global Food for Thought

FAO food price index drops again in March driven by sugar’s sharp slide, FAO

Deforestation is messing with our weather — and our food, EurekAlert

Agriculture and Agrometeorological Services, PAEPARD

Yesterday’s bread against food waste, Plantwise

“Why Wait Until the Next Food Crisis?” Improving Food Reserves Strategies in East Africa, ACORD

Why we should be worried by the World Bank shoveling $36bn to ‘financial intermediaries’, From Poverty to Power

Feeding the World – Without GMOs, EWG

We’re treating soil like dirt. It’s a fatal mistake, as our lives depend on it, The Guardian [Read more…]

Mozambique ‘from the field’: Going beyond and scaling up

Mozambique has overcome a prolonged period of intense civil war, and emerged as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. Despite this massive achievement, it is still one of the world’s poorest countries with more than 50% of Mozambicans living on less than $1 per day.  70% of the population live in rural areas and agriculture is the main source of income, accounting for 29% of GDP and employing 88% of the labour force. Smallholder farms account for 90% of domestic food supplies. There is scope for development in terms of food and nutrition security as a quarter of children under 5 are underweight.

Working to tackle food insecurity and bolster the lives of smallholder farmers is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA invests in creating change across the whole agricultural value chain, catalysing public and private partnerships to achieve breakthroughs in agricultural production.

I went to Mozambique to see some of AGRA’s projects and to better understand the impact that their work is having on the lives of smallholder farmers. This is the first of a series of blogs that will discuss some of the lessons learnt from this visit.

Zano Ramambo farmers’ organisation

After a tough 10km drive down a heavily eroded dirt road I arrived in the village of Boavista, Manica Province, where I was warmly greeted by the Zano Ramambo farmers’ organisation. For the past 3 years, this farmers’ organisation has been receiving support from AGRA and ADEM (Manica Development Agency), an NGO that builds the capacity of farmers and optimizes value chains for poverty reduction in the province.

Dirt roads erode easily making it difficult to pass during the rainy season

Dirt roads erode easily making it difficult to pass during the rainy season

The organisation was established in 2006 by 36 members, with an initial focus on cattle farming. However, in the past few years they have widened their focus to include agriculture and grown in size and strength.  Zano Ramambo has now grown from the initial 36 members to 60 members, of which 35 are women. The organisation established a joining fee of 250 MZN ($7) and a monthly fee of 10 MZN ($0.28) per member. In 2014, the farmers focussed on better organising their group by elected board members and setting up a bank account to help them better manage their profits.

[Read more…]

Past, present and future: IFPRI’s 2014-2015 Global Food Policy Report

CAeEPQKUQAA9iSc.png largeIn the fourth instalment of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s annual report on food policy, launched on 18th March 2015, authors report on the major developments that have happened at a global, regional and national level in 2014 but also, and for the first time, discuss the challenges to tackling food insecurity we face in the near future.

Looking to the past, the report highlights achievements as well as setbacks. For example, achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015, of 64 countries meeting the MDG of halving the number of hungry people since 1990, of global undernourishment having fallen from 19% to 11% in the past 2 decades, the commitments made at the Second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome to end malnutrition, the African Union committing to end hunger by 2025 and membership in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement continuing to grow.

But 2014 also experienced shocks and disasters such as the largest ever outbreak of Ebola, continuing civil war and conflict in the middle east, extreme weather conditions such as drought in Central America and typhoons and flooding in the Philippines, and continuing distortion of the agricultural markets with the US passing the Farm Bill and the EU implementing the latest Common Agricultural Policy. And ongoing is a lack of food security and adequate nutrition for hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

While disease, conflict and climatic upheaval are expected to intensify over the coming years, this year could be a window of opportunity to mitigate and build resilience to future shocks, and to step up in the fight against hunger and poverty as the Sustainable Development Goals are shaped and come into force and as a new climate agreement is (hopefully) adopted.

IFPRI’s report highlights some key food policy aspects of hunger and malnutrition such as the importance of sanitation, social protection and food safety, which need to be considered in future policy making. The report also discusses the role of middle income countries in combating hunger and the future of small family farmers.

Middle income countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Mexico are growing fast economically but they are also home to almost half of the world’s hungry (363 million people). These countries must be part of any strategy to combat hunger and malnutrition and they also have the resources to make a huge difference as we’ve seen in Brazil. Although the challenges faced in these countries are diverse and nation-specific, the report identifies several shared factors affecting food and nutrition security such as rising inequality, shifting diets, rapid urbanisation and the absence of nutrition-focused policies. The report points to the examples of South Korea and Chile in reducing hunger and malnutrition while promoting inclusive and sustainable growth. As the report states, economic growth is not sufficient alone to tackle hunger and thus suggests that MICs use nutrition-specific and –sensitive interventions and value chain approaches to reshape the food system; reduce inequalities, for example, through providing education to the underprivileged and supporting women in accessing productive resources; improve rural infrastructure, expand effective social safety nets and improve south-south knowledge sharing.

2014 being the UN International Year of Family Farming, the report looks to the role of small family farmers in meeting a country’s agriculture needs as well as how such farmers can become more profitable or when they might need to leave farming for a more economically justifiable pursuit. Agriculture is mainly a family affair with family farms producing some 80% of the world’s food. As such family farmers play a significant role in global food security and nutrition in both providing the food we eat but also because many small-scale farmers are themselves food insecure. [Read more…]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,205 other followers