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.

Report: Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050, EurekAlert

For Monsanto, a Season of Woes, The Wall Street Journal

GM crops: Vital for food security? Or overestimated potential?, The Independent

How genetic engineering can fight disease, reduce insecticide use and enhance food security: Pamela Ronald speaks at TED2015, TED

Is Monsanto on the side of science?, New Internationalist

China Seeks to Develop Global Seed Power, The Wall Street Journal

Discovery of heat-tolerant beans could save ‘meat of the poor’ from global warming, EurekAlert

Study Links Widely Used Pesticides to Antibiotic Resistance, Civil Eats

Genetically Modified Crop Industry Continues to Expand, Worldwatch Institute

World Health Organization: GM-Crop Herbicide a Probable Carcinogen, Food Tank

Achieve Global Food Security by Investing in Universities, Global Food for Thought

The GM crops debate moves to Africa – and it’s just as noisy, The Independent

Can ‘down to earth’ innovations keep hunger at bay in the Sahel?, Thomson Reuters Foundation [Read more…]

The Budongo Forest Landscape: Diets, Food Security and Nutrition

IMG_1366Around the Budongo forest, expanding sugarcane production, the establishment of tree plantations and forest loss have altered the landscape. In this rural area where nearly all households have a home garden or farm and, as such, rely, to varying degrees, on the food produced on their own land, such land use change can have a dramatic impact on livelihoods, diets and nutrition. Be it because of an increased incidence of crop raiding, unreliable weather patterns and seasons, or soil erosion, all thought to be a result of forest loss in the area, the changing landscape is a cause for concern among those who live there. A key element of the research in this landscape is to try to understand the links between land use change and food and nutrition security. As a first step this included investigating current levels of food insecurity, the diets of local people, how households characterise food security and what the drivers of food insecurity might be.

In Uganda, 48% of households were food energy deficient between 2009 and 2010 and the number of people suffering from hunger has increased from 12 million in 1992 to 17.7 million in 2007, mainly due to high population growth.

Deaths in children attributed to malnutrition 40%
% of children under the age of five who are stunted 38%
% of children under the age of five who are underweight for their age 25.5%
Prevalence rate of vitamin A deficiency 5.4%
% of the population affected by iron deficiency anaemia >50%
Total goitre rate due to iodine deficiency >60%
Average calorie consumption as a per cent of recommended requirements 75-90%
% below minimum recommended levels for protein consumption 33%
% below minimum recommended levels for fat consumption 20%

Source: MAAIF & MIH, 2005

In the Budongo Forest landscape, individuals and communities were asked about their ability to access and produce enough food. Many people reported that due to decreasing soil fertility, land exhaustion, high food prices and unpredictable or extreme weather such as droughts and floods, they were not able to produce enough food for their families year round. Many families (just under 50% of the 540 households interviewed) shared that they had experienced food shortages in the last year, with 3 to 6 months being the most common length of time such food scarcity occurred for. During these times coping mechanisms, apart from eating less, included turning to a neighbour or family member for help or trying to obtain a job on someone else’s land as a labourer. Income earned off the farm is then used to buy food or rent land to produce more food. [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.

2014-2015 Global Food Policy Report, IFPRI

Agriculture: Increase water harvesting in Africa, Nature

Middle Income Countries Play Key Role in Eliminating Hunger and Malnutrition, IFPRI

Agriculture bears major brunt of disaster impacts, new report says, FAO

Uganda’s plans for super bananas spark heated debate, Yahoo News

Contract farming and out-grower schemes, Action Aid

Political brief on the Principles on Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Foodsystems, TNI

The Path to Poverty: AGRA, small-scale farmers and seed and soil fertility in Tanzania, African Centre for Biosafety

Cropping Africa’s wet savannas would bring high environmental costs, Princeton University

The great land giveaway in Mozambique, Triple Crisis

Peak food? Can food tech supercharge crop yields and address global food security?, Genetic Literacy Project

Farming methods must sustain soil and be climate-smart, Daily Monitor [Read more…]

A Modest Proposal for Feeding Africa

ID-100136355In his recently released annual letter, Bill Gates has made a series of “big bets” for development. One of these bets, that Africa will be able to feed itself by 2030, is a view I also share. But I don’t think we need a big bet to make it happen. Rather, I have a “modest proposal” that I believe can guide Africa towards a hunger and poverty-free future.  I call this a modest proposal, as the ingredients that will achieve food security in Africa are already known to us, and we already have parts of them working. Currently, average cereal yields in Africa are a little over over one tonne per hectare. In China, they are three and a half tonnes. Here in the UK it can be up to eight tonnes. Africa has places where European-level yields could be achieved. That is not the issue. It can be done, the question is how….

Gordon Conway writes for Huffington Post. Read the original post here

Myth-busting for African Agriculture

Farmers in Cinzana village, Mali. Photo by: P. Casier / CGIAR / CC BY-NC-SA

Farmers in Cinzana village, Mali. Photo by: P. Casier / CGIAR / CC BY-NC-SA

If you know anything about African agriculture, many commonly held beliefs about the sector will easily spring to mind. Most farmers are women. Uptake of fertilizer and improved seed is low. Post harvest losses are huge.

Yet according to a new project “Agriculture in Africa – Telling Facts from Myths,” the evidence upon which we base our decisions and views about agriculture and farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa is often inadequate or out of date.

The project seeks to tell facts from myths about African agriculture using the Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture, or LSMS-ISA, a household survey project working to collect up to date agricultural data. It tests the validity of 15 commonly believed statements; statements that, although commonly accepted, may no longer be valid given Africa’s rapid economic growth and the new era of high food prices, amongst other driving forces of change. To date, surveys have been conducted in six countries — Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda — representing 40 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa.

We took a look at the preliminary findings to see where many of us may have been going wrong…or right. Here are some new facts about African agriculture that you may not know….

Emily Alpert and Stephanie Brittain write for DEVEX. Read the original post here

The International Development bill passes and 0.7% spending on international aid becomes law

ID-10017591Recently the UK passed a bill which enshrines in law their commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on aid every year, a target first reached by the UK last year. The UN established the target in 1970 but only five other countries – Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates – have met the target to date. The UK is the first G7 country to meet the target, spending £11.3 billion in 2014 on international aid. Alongside the financial commitment, the International Development bill, expected to come into force on 1st June 2015, also calls for independent evaluation and monitoring of money spent on aid.

Although the 0.7% spending target was part of each major political parties’ manifesto in 2010, the bill, proposed by Liberal Democrat ex-cabinet minister Michael Moore, sought to transform the pledge to a legal requirement. In December 2014 a vote to allow the bill to continue being scrutinised was won 146 to 6 despite opponents making the case that it may give the impression that no more was needed to tackle global poverty. Other opponents criticised the bill for “shackling future governments” to a level of spending despite other budgets being unprotected and the UK economy being far from sturdy.

The bill has been the cause for much celebration amongst the NGOs campaigning for its creation and passing, not only securing much needed aid for developing countries over the long-term but perhaps incentivising wealthier countries to follow suit. This doesn’t mean such NGOs will be resting on their laurels, now the challenge is to ensure that the has impact, is effective and transformative, and gets to those who need it most. They are also hopeful that this might mean the UK will play a leading role in other global challenges such as climate change.

Oxfam, in a blog post, described the law as historic and as proof of the power of people, in particular those people active under the Make Poverty History, Turn Up Save Lives and the IF campaign. By providing guaranteed aid over the long-term, recipients, in turn, can make long-term investments in education, health and development. “And it shows that when we act together, we can achieve incredible things.”

Although the debate over the effectiveness of aid at tackling poverty continues there is evidence of its benefits – in playing a large role in the near-eradication of polio and in halving of the number of children dying before the age of 5. UK investment in vaccines currently saves a child’s life every 2 minutes.

The UK’s international development secretary, Justine Greening, said: “Tackling poverty overseas is about addressing the root causes of global challenges such as disease, migration, terrorism and climate change, all of which are the right things to do and firmly in Britain’s own national interest.”

Despite upcoming elections, and the animosity they bring, and mass distrust in our politicians, it is heartening to know that on the important issues, the ones that can make life better for millions of people, our politicians can put aside their differences and do the right thing. If patriotism weren’t so utterly un-British, it would almost make you proud.

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.

Can greater transparency help people hold big corporations to account? Some new tools that may help, From Poverty to Power

S&T Committee Urges Change to EU Rules for GM Crops, ISAAA

New Project Announced – Global Food Security by the Numbers, Global Food for Thought

Public procurement in Africa benefitting family farmers and schools, FAO

Eight Ways Monsanto Fails at Sustainable Agriculture, Union of Concerned Scientists

Biodiversity or GMOs: Will The Future of Nutrition Be in Women’s Hands or Under Corporate Control?, Institute of Science in Society

Will Food Sovereignty Starve the Poor and Punish the Planet?, Independent Science News

Limits Sought on GMO Corn as Pest Resistance Grows, The Wall Street Journal

Farmers Put Down the Plow for More Productive Soil, The New York Times [Read more…]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,781 other followers