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.

Firstly…
Andrew Youn: 3 reasons why we can win the fight against poverty
, TED

Climate Change

Climate-Proofing Agriculture Must Take Centre Stage in African Policy, IPS

Climate-Smart Agriculture in Action, Farming First via Youtube

Food Security

Ivory Coast experts propose “agricultural offensive” to achieve food security, News Ghana

Who will feed the Future? FARA

El Niño is over – but it leaves nearly 100 million people short of food, The Guardian

Ongoing conflicts and droughts exacerbate food needs, FAO

Feeding A Hungry Urban World, Huffington Post

Innovation in agriculture is key to ending extreme hunger – G20 ministers agree, IFAD

Resource use

African women are breaking their backs to get water for their families, The Washington Post [Read more…]

Protecting Africa’s Backbone: transforming agriculture in the face of climate change

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

Smallholder farmers in Africa are already aware that the climate is changing. For many, the growing seasons are becoming shorter and more difficult to plan, because of erratic and unpredictable weather including droughts and floods. Often this means that crops fail or yields are lower and livelihoods are impacted with less produce to feed the household, let alone surplus to sell at markets to gain an income. Unfortunately, the climatic conditions are likely to only get worse, with mean temperatures across Africa expected to rise faster than the global average, reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels. The pressure on African countries to boost productivity and accelerate growth is now higher than ever and is being further complicated by the potential adverse impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

In this context the Montpellier Panel  has launched a new briefing paper today – Set for Success: Climate-proofing the Malabo Declaration . The Panel urges African governments to fully recognise the scale of the threat posed by climate change to smallholder farming and to build climate-smart agriculture strategies into their National Agricultural Investments Plans that will help farmers mitigate the risks and adapt to the changing weather conditions. The paper also highlights more than 15 examples of success stories and programmes that have been shown to be impactful and can be scaled-up. Building resilience will be key to achieving the shared agendas of the Malabo Declaration, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To this end, the Montpellier Panel make the following recommendations:

  1. diagramSupporting the Malabo Declaration by building comprehensive information on climate-related stresses and shocks, both nationally and regionally, as well as their impacts on food and nutrition security.
  2. Mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture programmes into the next generation of National Agriculture Investment Plans to ensure a stronger focus on climate change and extreme weather events.
  3. African countries need support, through the African Union, NEPAD, CAADP and regional associations of National Agricultural Research Systems, to develop country investment plans that reflect a stronger, collective voice for Africa in international climate policy processes
  4. Facilitating African governments’ access to climate funds through the Green Climate Fund and other innovative finance mechanisms that will help countries implement climate-smart agriculture programmes.
  5. Improving Africa’s scientific capacity which will guide climate change adaptation and mitigation interventions in agriculture.
  6. Improving training for farmers on sustainable farming techniques, through improved extension services, farmer field schools and utilisation of digital technologies.

[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.

Global challenges, international action

Meet the man who changed the way the U.S. fights poverty abroad, Grist

G7: Japan, the Ise-Shima Summit, Munk School of Global Affairs

Global Standard to Measure Food Waste Aims to Put More on Plates, New York Times

Reevaluating the agricultural development agenda, The Chicago Council

100 years of global ageing, in one GIF, VOX

European parliament slams G7 food project in Africa, The Guardian

4 everyday things you can do to tackle climate change, World Economic Forum

Purchase for Progress: Growing Sustainable Food Systems, World Food Programme

Seeding labs blog, seeding labs

G7 leaders promise to boost global aid, EurAvtiv

China and Brazil in African Agriculture, Future Agricultures

Climate change and resilience 

Lack of water limits Madagascar’s climate-smart agriculture, Thomson Reuters Foundation

UNEP Frontiers 2016 report: Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern, UNEP Frontiers [Read more…]

Eight TED talks about the environment

In 2013 we brought you our six favourite TEDx talks about food security, which we followed with 9 more in 2014. This time, to celebrate World Environment Day on June 5th we bring you some of our favourite TED talks about climate change, biodiversity and the environment. We’d love for you to share your favourites and to hear your thoughts about our list on twitter using #TEDenvironment and our handle, @Ag4Impact

 

  1. Jonathan Drori: Why we’re storing billions of seeds highlights the importance of biodiversity for supporting life, and looks into the Millennium Seed bank where billions of seeds, including non-food plants, are being stored for posterity.

 

 

2. Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food takes this idea further, by looking at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that stores millions of specifically food-crop seeds. Cary describes biodiversity is the ‘raw material’ of agriculture and highlights the importance of storing these seeds for “whatever tomorrow may bring”

 

[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.

El Niño

El Niño and fighting leave 80 million in food crisis, SciDevNet

El Niño is over, but has left its mark across the world, The Conversation

Extreme weather increasing level of toxins in food, scientists warn, Thomson Reuters Foundation

El Niño is over – but it leaves nearly 100 million people short of food, The Guardian

El Niño and the acceleration of global warming, World Socialist Web Site

Food security and nutrition

Tackling food security with urban agriculture, CABI Plantwise

Making African agriculture achieve its potential, SciDevNet

How to eat your way to better grades, The Conversation

Nutrition surveillance systems: their use and value, Save the Children

Biodiversity Can Help Fill Gap Between Agricultural Production And Nutritional Needs For Healthy Living, Modern Ghana

Environment, climate change and natural resources

African migration may fuel rise in wildfire intensity, SciDevNet

GCF spotlight: Gambia, Green Climate Fund [Read more…]

Chains, loops, pillars and bridges – building resilience into agricultural systems.

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

UN Photo Logan Abassi

Credit: UN/Logan Abassi

As meteorologists report that the El Niño Southern Oscillation is ending and a La Niña may be developing, spare a thought for smallholder farmers. Erratic rainfall, short growing seasons, prolonged droughts and flooding mean that crop yields suffer, and so do the livelihoods of those who rely on farming as their main source of income. And because agriculture does not only provide food, but also provides important environmental services, employment, and economic opportunities for local communities, it is not just the farmers and their families who feel the effects of the unpredictable weather that is becoming increasingly common all around the world. With increasingly global food systems, we will all suffer the consequences.

Despite the volatile weather, the food must grow on. Globally the growing population demands more, and more varied, food, to be grown with ever scarcer resources. However, current agricultural techniques have a voracious appetite for resources, consuming about 70% of all freshwater and using ever more land. But there are other viable ways of farming that are less resource intensive. In the recent submission to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 44), A4I advocated for the practices of Sustainable Intensification (SI) for agriculture. SI integrates innovations in ecology, genetics and socio-economics to help build environmentally sustainable, productive and resilient ways to produce more food with less, ensuring that the natural resources on which agriculture depends are maintained and even improved for future generations – also take a look at the A4I SI database where there are explanations and more than 80 case studies to highlight some of the best practices of SI. [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.

Africa Day 2016: focus on stories from Africa

The future of Benin will be shaped by its geography, The World Bank

Make farming a rewarding career for Africa’s youth, SciDevNet

Brexit may provide boost for African agriculture, The National

Tanzania orders drought-hit herders to leave national parks, Thomson Reuters Foundation

African Leaders Push for Increased Nutrition Investments, AllAfrica

Drought-tolerant maize improves yields in 13 countries, SciDevNet

The economics of reducing malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, Global Panel

On this Africa Day, we need to talk about nutrition, Institute for Global Health Innovation

GIZ – Post-Harvest Losses of Rice in Nigeria and their Ecological Footprint, GIZ [Read more…]

On this Africa Day, we need to talk about nutrition

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0. Originally posted by the Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London

Photo Credit  Fintrac Inc - kenyan families feeding children nutritious foodAs we celebrate Africa Day 2016, it’s time to reflect on the state of nutrition in Africa and the weighty effect malnutrition has on the continent’s ability to prosper. Progress has been made over the past decades, for example through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to reduce extreme hunger and starvation. However, it is the quality of food that people consume and a lack of variety that is of increasing concern. A few weeks ago, Roger Thurow, a Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, released a new book, The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children—And the World. The book lays out that nutrition, or lack thereof, in the first 1,000 days of life – from conception to the age of two – has a profound and lasting influence on a child’s ability to grow, learn, develop and work.

Stunting is a measurable impact of malnutrition, but the height of a child doesn’t tell the full story. The development of the child’s brain is also affected, so stunted children are more likely to fall behind in school, fail to achieve decent incomes, and perpetuate the cycle of poverty for the next generation. The cumulative effect of widespread malnutrition in a group of people can therefore directly impact, and limit, a society’s ability to develop and prosper. Thurow’s book highlights Uganda in particular, where half of women of childbearing age are anaemic and about 35% of children suffer stunting due to malnourishment. Indeed, a staggering 40% of all under-five deaths in Uganda are caused by malnutrition. Tragically, Uganda is not an isolated case in sub-Saharan Africa, where 40% of all children under the age of five are stunted. [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.

Biodiversity – special focus

Access and benefit sharing of genetic resources – making it work for family farmers, Bioversity International

Unravelling the costs of rubber agriculture on biodiversity, Science Daily

Investing in safeguarding crop diversity for a food-secure future, Bioversity International

Animals vital for preserving carbon-storing forests, SciDevNet

Knowledge Exchange Program Addresses Threats to Agricultural Biodiversity, FoodTank

Saving Biodiversity By Integrating It Into All Spheres Of Society, Ecosystem Marketplace

Community seed banks: origins, evolution and prospects, Bioversity International

Battle against time to bank world’s threatened seeds, SciDevNet

Food security & feeding cities

Food, business and the Sustainable Development Goals, Global Food Security [Read more…]

Three reasons to protect agricultural biodiversity

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

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Durum wheat variety, Ethiopia. Credit: Bioversity International

Even though new species are being discovered every day, one in five plants are threatened with extinction, according to the first annual State of the world’s plants, 2016 published by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in May 2016. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the largest threats facing these endangered plant species are the conversion of land for agriculture and biological resource use – the deliberate or unintentional consumption of a ‘wild’ species. Indeed, agriculture has been identified as the main threat to 85% of all threatened species, plant and animal, on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. For example, the growth of palm oil plantations has led to significant losses of natural forests and peatlands, with accompanying impacts on biodiversity.

Agricultural biodiversity, defined by Bioversity International as “the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture,” is facing serious decline. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) some 75% of genetic diversity has been lost since the 1900s. There are several causes of this loss of diversity, but the main reasons are ease of production and changes in consumer expectations and preferences, leading to an ever greater uniformity in the end product. If the produce is what people want to buy and it’s easy to produce why should it matter if there is less biodiversity? Here are three, of many, reasons why it is of paramount importance:

  1. Genetic diversity is important for an uncertain future
varieties of quinoa credit FAOALC

Several different varieties of quinoa grown in Peru. Credit, FAO

Genetic diversity in agricultural systems may be lost if species go extinct or different varieties of a species fall out of favour. If this happens, genes that are important for resistance to pests or diseases, confer tolerance to changing weather patterns and extreme weather events, or make the crop nutritious, may be lost. Even if these traits are not evident or useful now, the advantage they confer may be valuable for future generations, and may be difficult or impossible to recreate once they are gone. Indeed, work by Bioversity International highlights how the wild relatives of cultivated crops are already becoming increasingly important in the search for traits that farmers can use to improve domesticated varieties through crossbreeding. [Read more…]