What we’ve been reading this week

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

Food Waste and Food Security

Innovating for Urban Food Security in Africa, Gain

Food Security Portal, IFPRI

Farming and forestry can deliver food security, says UN, BBC News

Action to cut food waste gains momentum across Europe, The Guardian

Ending Hunger and Poverty: A snapshot of progress, Feed the Future

Is resilience a useful concept in the context of food security and nutrition programmes? Some conceptual and practical considerations, EconPapers

CIMMYT 2015 annual report ‘Building resilience to risk’ now available online, CIMMYT

ReFed Video Illustrates the Problem of Food Waste, FoodTank

High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) and the SDG Report, 2016

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016, UN [Read more…]

Finding hope in a gloomy view: the state of SDG 2

SDG report picBy Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

On 19th July, the first annual report on the progress of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was launched as part of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016 is designed to set the benchmark for the next 15 years over which the goals will be implemented by evaluating where the world stands now against them.

Although agricultural development will have an impact on every one of the 17 SDGs, it is nowhere more evident than in SDG 2, which aims to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” So where do we currently stand against this goal?

  1. Nearly 800 million people are still hungry

Despite progress made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), more than 790 million people around the world still suffer from hunger. According to the report, at the start of the new millennium 15% of people in the world were undernourished, and by 2015 this proportion was down to 11%. Although this is certainly progress, there is still a long way to go. Experiences from the MDGs indicate that, where countries failed to reach their target for reducing hunger, it was predominantly due to natural or human-induced disasters, and political instability. With a rising global population and a changing climate, resources such as land and water are likely to become increasingly limited, exacerbating these risk factors. This could destabilise progress towards SDG2, particularly in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa where, according to the report, more than 50% of the adult population face moderate or severe levels of food insecurity. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

Climate Change and Environment

Mainstreaming Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity into Agricultural Production and Management in East Africa, FAO

United we stand: Reforming the UN to reduce climate risk, E3G

What Africa’s drought responses teach us about climate change hotspots, The Conversation

Double shock of El Nino, La Nina could affect more than 100 mln people – UN, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Could climate impacts help keep the Paris Agreement on track? E3G

Ten ways the UK can maintain international leadership on climate change, iied

Hunger and Malnutrition

Aid agencies hail U.S. bill to end global hunger and malnutrition, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Scaling Up Nutrition: In Practice Issue 5 – From Science to Action, SUN

Congress Passed the Global Food Security Act. Here’s Why That’s Historic, The White House

Why the African food basket should be full of beans and other pulses, The Conversation [Read more…]

How putting the vulnerable first ultimately benefits all

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

Almost one year after the United Nations adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), delegates are coming together this week in New York for the first High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. The theme of the forum is “ensuring no one is left behind” and provides an opportunity for UN States Members and agencies to reflect on progress thus far on the SDGs, to identify cross-cutting issues, and address new or emerging challenges to achieving the goals.

A previous A4I blog series (part 1/part 2) looked at how agriculture is related to every one of the 17 goals. In the spirit of “ensuring no one is left behind” we’re now looking at how engaging marginalised and vulnerable groups can both contribute to achieving the SDGs and benefit these groups, particularly in the context of the agricultural sector.


2015-03-02 14.39.18SDG 5 demands gender equality, calling for “equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources.” These rights are particularly important for women who live in rural, agricultural areas. It is well documented that rural women are amongst the most likely to face barriers in accessing resources, such as quality seeds, fertilisers and credit, or gaining land rights. As a result of gender-related barriers, female farmers in Africa produce up to 25% less than men do. Yet, if these women could gain the same access to productive resources as their male counterparts, their yields would increase by 20–30% and raise total agricultural output by 2.5–4% annually. This alone would lift a total of 100 – 150 million people out of hunger. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

Food and Nutrition Security

From promise to impact: Ending Malnutrition by 2030, Clobal Nutrition Report

2016 World Food Prize goes to scientists who developed biofortified sweet potato, Genetic Literacy Project

Fighting global hunger helps us here at home, The Hill

Biofortification Pioneers Win World Food Prize 2016, Farming First

These 2 Boys Were Born The Same Day In The Same Town, But Their Lives Will Be Dramatically Different, The Huffington Post

The Global Food Security Act, AgriPulse

Unprecedented level of food insecurity in South Sudan, UN agencies warn, FAO


107 Nobel laureates sign letter blasting Greenpeace over GMOs, The Washington Post

EU position on GMOs a blow to SADC’s food security, The Southern Times [Read more…]

Food for thought from the land of a thousand hills

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

By Gordon Conway, Imperial College London

Conversation pic

The key to Rwanda’s agricultural success is good partnership between nongovernmental organisations, the private sector and the government. Sam Thompson/DFID Rwanda


On my most recent visit to Rwanda, it was evident that farmers there are beginning to do well. I have visited the country on a number of occasions over the past ten years, and each time I am impressed to see significant improvements in the lives of ordinary people. With average annual agricultural growth rates reaching 5.7% between 2001 and 2012, and average annual gross domestic product growth of 7%-8% since 2000, the signs are looking good.

Farmland covers three quarters of all land in Rwanda, amounting to about 18,425 km². Of the agricultural land, half of landholdings are less than half a hectare in size, and two-thirds of all food produced is for household consumption. This indicates that the agricultural sector remains largely subsistence in nature, despite the fact that these small farms are becoming increasingly commercial. Rwanda is famous for its coffee and tea, which combined account for about 70% of agricultural export earnings.

Rwanda certainly lives up to the tagline “the land of a thousand hills”, with stunning mountain scenery at every turn. This is beautiful for the visitor, but it presents real challenges to farmers, who typically have a farm plot that is just 0.6 hectares in size. Plots also tend to spread over several locations, resulting in many households farming as little as 0.4 hectares.

A thousand hills

The flatter land is often used to grow crops to sell at local markets. The steeper slopes, which are more difficult to farm, are used to grow food for household consumption. But as the population swells, additional pressure is loaded onto scarcer land. This encourages people to move on to even steeper slopes, where farming is physically more demanding and the shallower soils are more prone to erosion and landslides. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

2016 World Food Prize Laureate, HarvestPlus

Agricultural techniques and policy in Africa

Climate-Smart Agriculture in Action, Farming First

African policy to end hunger silent on climate risk, SciDevNet

Centuries-old African soil technique could combat climate change – scientists, Reuters Africa

Climate-Smart Agriculture in Senegal. CSA Country Profiles for Africa Series, CCAFS

Food for thought from the land of a thousand hills, The Conversation

EDITORIAL: African govts should implement policies that increase food production, The New Times

Mainstreaming climate-smart practices in cocoa production in Ghana, CCAFS


Guest Commentary – Africa’s famine – will President Obama’s Power Africa and Adesina’s Light Up Africa make a difference? Chicago Council

Matt Shakhovskoy: Three Big Opportunities for Unlocking Smallholders’ Access to Finance, Farming First

Despite problems, north African consumers offer investors promise, This Is Africa

Disruptive innovation: The most viable strategy for economic development in Africa, The World Bank

“Sweet business” of beekeeping helps protect Zimbabwe’s forests, Thomson Reuters Foundation

‘GMO’ Regulation: After 30 Years, Let Science Finally Show The Way, Forbes [Read more…]

The power of working together: International day of Cooperatives, July 2nd 2016

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

International Day of Peace celeberation in Juba.

Camaraderie in South Sudan – Credit UN Photo, Isaac Billy

The International Day of Cooperatives is the perfect time to celebrate the power of pulling together in the face of adversity. Working together can create social capital that enables individuals to achieve goals that they may not be able to achieve alone. Although ‘Social capital’ might sound like something intangible, it has a huge value. It is a measurement of connections between people – the glue that binds people and the reason to work towards common goals. In other words, it’s the value of ‘who you know’ rather than ‘what you know’ and evidence shows that communities with high social capital are more able to become economically and sustainably prosperous.

A group of people that is cohesive, value each other and stick together through hardship, is more able to work together to overcome challenges. The ability to do this is particularly important for communities with low incomes, limited education and few physical assets because it can create a social safety net that helps mitigate shocks or stresses. This is where cooperatives can come in and form a framework through which people can unite under shared needs and aspirations. Agricultural cooperatives work in a number of ways that can be beneficial to individuals and communities. A group of farmers make a more attractive customer than a single farmer because they spread risk amongst them, so facilitating access to finance, agricultural inputs and external markets.

Cooperatives support one another

For example, the Association pour la vision des Eleves de Nyonirima (AVEN) is a group of twelve young men and women from northern Rwanda. The AVEN members decided to form a cooperative after participating in Technoserve’s STRYDE training program, which equips school-leavers with training in business management skills, financial literacy and personal development, then links them to financial services. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

Climate change

GCF Insight 2016, Green Climate Fund

EU Commission presents COP21 ratification proposals, The Parliament Magazine

New crop varieties ‘can’t keep up with global warming’, BBC News

Seven climate records set so far in 2016, The Guardian

Value chains and food systems

Who Controls The Food Supply? Forbes

Fight Poverty Through Entrepreneurship, Huffington Post

Improving global value chains key for EU trade, European Parliament

Are donors pulling back on agriculture research funding? Devex

Feeding A Hungry Urban World, Huffington Post

Senegal’s farmers adopt new tool to boost harvests: mobile phones, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Putting water in local hands: Farmers to manage irrigation systems in Rwanda, IFAD [Read more…]

Mastering the last mile to food security

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0


IFPRI, Milo Mitchell

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for achieving food and nutrition security? According to Roberto Ridolfi, Director for Sustainable Growth and Development at the European Commission, there is not far left to go, but the journey still presents many obstacles to overcome. To him, the last mile is “the last inch between the fingers of the farmer and the seed in the soil.” On June 14th, the eve of the European Development Days, delegates congregated in Brussels at a workshop entitled Going the Last Mile: Accelerating Progress in Food Security and Nutrition. The evocative title conjured up different images for each speaker, which combine to create a path along this mile:

Step one: use the brain

For a long-distance runner, like Stineke Oenema from the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition, “the last mile of a marathon can be the hardest to complete”. The last mile is when the brain must be engaged to mentally, as well as physically, push towards the finish line. Similarly, now is the time to engage the knowledge of scientists, engineers, and experts in order to overcome the final barriers, such as lack of access to a varied diet or improved seeds, which allow food insecurity and malnutrition to persist.


Credit: Scott Wallace, World Bank

Indeed, in order to create sustainable agricultural growth research is desperately needed, for instance to generate improved varieties of crops. An excellent example of the impact that this can have was delivered by HarvestPlus Country Manager for Rwanda, Joseph Mulambu, who discussed their biofortified high-iron beans. Not only can a portion of the biofortified beans provide half of the daily requirement of iron, but the beans have been shown to be drought resistant, inferring an extra advantage to those who grow them. Using conventional breeding techniques, HarvestPlus scientists have contributed a crop that is nutritious and can reduce iron deficiency while at the same time improves farmer resilience to droughts, which are likely to become more severe and more frequent due to climate change. This is exactly the kind of innovation that helps the finish line come into view. [Read more…]