Agriculture is in every SDG: Part 1

By Alice Marks

Story-2-SDGsSkimming the eye across the colourful chart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is easy to spot a couple which are intrinsically and directly linked to agriculture, but a closer look reveals that they are in fact all linked to agriculture. A healthy global agricultural sector underpins and supports so many aims of the SDGs that its development will be important for their overall success. As sustainable agriculture is essential for sustainable food systems and livelihoods, here is a breakdown of how agriculture, farming and nutrition fit into the first 7 goals

1. No Poverty

Over 70% of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, and rely heavily on agriculture for their survival and livelihoods. According to the World Bank, evidence shows that GDP growth generated in agriculture has large benefits for the poor, and is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth generated by other sectors. Particularly with investment and growth of sustainable value chains, agriculture can help to lift people out of poverty. [Read more…]

5 New Year’s resolutions to help the planet in 2016

ID-100383599Making small changes can have a big impact so this January do away with impossible-to-keep resolutions and do something that can make the planet greener, help local or distant communities and save you money. Make the change for over 66 days and, according to Lally et al (2010), it could become a new habit.

  1. Help tackle climate change

World leaders agreed the Paris Climate Deal in December, but tackling climate change will take all our efforts, not just politicians and big business. The transport sector in the EU is responsible for about one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions so help reduce this by taking public transport, combining trips and flying less (somewhat easier now with the rise of video/conference calls). The energy sector is responsible for almost 30% of emissions and so being more energy efficient is an important goal across industry and society. Learn how to make your home greener, reduce your carbon footprint and household bills with this infographic.

  1. Fight poverty in your community

While significantly more people are in extreme poverty in developing countries it can be difficult, as an individual, to know how to go about helping people often far away. Poverty is global, however, and can be found in most communities in the world. In the UK, for example, one in five people are thought to live below the official poverty line, despite being the world’s sixth largest economy. There are various ways in which we can tackle poverty in our own communities for example by donating food, clothing and other items, by volunteering in shelters, community centres and after-school programmes. You can find out more about volunteering here and here, and donating here, here and here. Or you can become more involved and join a campaign action group such as with RESULTS or find a local group at Global Justice Now. The Borgen Project list ten ways we can all begin to fight global poverty on their blog.

  1. See the world from a new perspective

Educating ourselves on the challenges the world faces can be both enlightening and motivating. Opening ourselves up to new opinions, discussions and perspectives can also help us figure out the solutions. Here are some educational and inspiring TED talks from the past year.

Gary Haugen: The hidden reason for poverty the world needs to address now.

Mia Birdsong: The story we tell about poverty isn’t true.

Pamela Ronald: The case for engineering our food.

Adam Smith: Let’s really feed the world.

Chloe Rutzerveld: 3D printed food: the future of healthy eating. [Read more…]

Making progress on nutrition

SUNA new report was launched last week in the Houses of Parliament which lays out progress made in tackling nutrition in several counties, as well as the challenges still ahead. “What works for nutrition? Stories of success from Vietnam, Uganda and Kenya”, a joint publication from RESULTS UK, Concern Worldwide and the University of Westminster, discusses these countries success in the context of global nutrition targets and concludes with key recommendations for government and civil society to build on this success and learn from their experiences.

Despite considerable progress in reducing hunger and the physical signs of malnutrition (the number of hungry people has been reduced by 200 million since 1990 and stunting in children under age five by 40%), malnutrition still places a heavy burden on survival and overall development. Some two billion people, for example, are estimated to suffer from micronutrient deficiencies (about 27% of the global population), which can have wide ranging long-term and irreversible consequences for their health and livelihoods. Undernutrition can reduce GDP and an individual’s earnings by as much as 10%. Progress in tackling malnutrition has also been uneven and inequitable: children in rural areas, for example, as twice as likely to be stunted as those in urban areas. But global initiatives are improving awareness of global malnutrition, and in 2012, the World Health Association (WHA) endorsed six targets on nutrition to be achieved by 2025.

  1. Achieve a 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted;
  2. Achieve a 50% reduction of anaemia in women of reproductive age;
  3. Achieve a 30% reduction in low birth weight;
  4. Ensure that there is no increase in childhood overweight;
  5. Increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50%;
  6. Reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%.

Financing for nutrition has been growing recently, although evidence indicates donors need to quadruple their financial pledges and governments need to at least double the amount allocated to nutrition in order to meet the WHA target on stunting in 37 high burden countries. And nutrition is a good investment: every dollar invested in nutrition yields more than 16 in return. [Read more…]

Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security

ADFNS-201541

By Katy Wilson

This Friday (30th October) marks the 6th annual Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS). This year the day will be commemorated in Kampala, Uganda, where, at the 15th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit in 2010 it was first declared. Since then the day has been commemorated in Malawi, Ethiopia, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2014 at the 23rd session of the AU summit, African Heads of State committed to ending hunger by 2025 and reducing stunting to 10% in the same period. This commitment is one of seven forming the Malabo Declaration. ADFNS provides an opportunity to reaffirm this goal and report on progress that has been made in reaching this commitment, among other objectives. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation 2015 State of Food Insecurity in the World report asserts that, as projected for 2014-2016, the prevalence of undernourishment in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be 23.2%%, down from 23.8% between 2012-2014.

The main aim of ADFNS is to bring together a range of stakeholders to intensify pressure to tackle food and nutrition security challenges in Africa, motivate financial commitments and bring greater awareness to the progress being made on the continent and the barriers still being faced. Additionally the day serves as a platform to facilitate sharing of experiences and knowledge, support for learning and measurement of progress.

The key objectives of ADFNS are:

  • To increase awareness of the importance of investing in the value-chains for nutritious foods and agricultural commodities in Africa and the benefits of doing so for social and economic development;
  • To facilitate a discussion between a variety of high-level national stakeholders as well as other governmental, not-for-profit and private sector actors such as farmers’ organisations, private businesses and academic and research institutions. With the hopes that the diverse points of view and cooperation will help shape an action plan to end hunger and malnutrition;
  • To share new technologies and best practices for empowering women;
  • To build women farmers’ awareness of market opportunities for local and indigenous foods and their role in diversifying diets and boosting food and nutrition security;
  • To promote the production and consumption of high quality, nutritious foods such as those fortified with micronutrients, or diverse nutrient dense vegetables and fruits as well animal source foods.

This year, the 6th ADFNS is centring on the theme of women, following the announcement made at the 24th Ordinary Session of the AU Summit that 2015 is the Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063. As has long been known, women are key to ending hunger and malnutrition, contributing a significant proportion of farm labour and household care. [Read more…]

Ecomodernism: creating more questions than it answers

ecomodernistBy Katy Wilson

In April 2015 ahead of the 45th Earth Day, a group of 18 authors, including the founders of the Breakthrough Institute, released An Ecomodernist Manifesto, a report outlining how to “use humanity’s extraordinary powers in service of creating a good Anthropocene”. Released on the 26th September in the UK, the publication outlines the authors’ beliefs that human well-being must be decoupled from environmental destruction and that alongside reducing our impact on the environment we must refrain from trying to balance nature with development if we are to “avoid economic and ecological collapse” and “make more room for nature”. This decoupling is to be achieved through several ways such as intensification, demographic change and through the use of technological substitutes.

Intensification of agriculture, energy extraction, forestry and human settlement is believed to be key to separating the natural world from ongoing human development and to enhancing nature, alleviating poverty and mitigating climate change. Authors use as evidence of this effect the fact that since the mid-1960s the amount of land needed for growing crops and animal feed for the average person has decreased by about half. Net reforestation has also been made possible in some areas such as New England due to agricultural intensification and a reduction in the use of wood as fuel.

Technology has, over history, reduced our reliance on natural ecosystems (or at least their directly obtained goods) and increased our resource-use efficiency but it has also allowed the human population, and associated consumption, to expand exponentially as well as increase the reach of society’s impact on global ecosystems. Although our consumption patterns are changing (in developing countries diets are shifting to include more meat and processed foods, while in some developed countries more sustainable protein sources are growing in popularity) and human population is predicted to peak and decline this century, globalisation and the distance between societies and the resources they consume, continues to increase. The development of technological substitutes could lower the impact our lifestyles have on ecosystems far away. Technological development supported by the report include urbanisation, nuclear power, agricultural intensification, aquaculture and desalination. On the other hand suburbanisation, low-yield farming and some forms of renewable energy production are believed to increase human demands on the environment. [Read more…]

Unlocking Senegal’s Agricultural Potential

By Katrin Glatzel

When I was in Senegal a couple of weeks ago to visit the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Dakar, I was not only stunned by the warmth and hospitality of the Senegalese people, but equally astounded by the huge untapped agricultural potential.

As you reach the outskirts of Dakar and travel north-east towards the city of Thies, one gets the impression that the country is on an upswing: streets are buzzing with people, highways to connect the city with the new airport and conference centre are being constructed, and there are hundreds of small plots of former agricultural land which people hope to convert into residential areas and larger farms.

However, the image of an ‘economic upswing’ in Senegal is somewhat misleading; there is in fact a lot of untapped potential for agricultural and economic growth.

Agriculture in Senegal

1Agriculture in Senegal constitutes the main source of income for more than three-quarters of the population, yet the rural poor have limited possibilities to take advantage of opportunities for improving subsistence farming. They largely depend on income from cash crops, non-agricultural wages, and remittances (in 2011, remittances were worth 11% of GDP). Most of the rural poor live in areas which have limited capacity for food production due to dependence on rainfall, vulnerabilities to pest infestations, and depleted soils. [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…]