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.

G8 and FAO’s open-agriculture projects set to join forces, SciDev.Net

Agriculture: Engage farmers in research, Nature

Can you be resilient on one acre or less?, IFPRI 2020 Policy Consultation and Conference

Center for Food Safety Report Warns TTIP Could Undermine Critical Food Safety and Environmental Regulations, Center for Food Safety

A bigger rice bowl, The Economist

Miracle grow: Indian rice farmer uses controversial method for record crop, The Guardian

AGRA-backed companies become largest seed producers in sub-Saharan Africa, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The Birth of the Great GMO Debate, Scientific American

Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change, The Wall Street Journal [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.

Walking the talk: Why and how African governments should transform their agriculture spending, Action Aid

AGRA Strengthens Efforts to Help Governments Attract Private Investment in Local Agribusinesses, AGRA

Climate Change and Agriculture in East Africa, IFPRI

WTO overcomes last minute hitch to reach its first global trade deal, Reuters

Amb. Quinn’s Remarks: Keynote at UN World Food Day Observance in New York, The World Food Prize

African Plant Breeding Academy launched, World Agroforestry Centre

The Guardian and Observer Christmas appeal 2013: Future Africa, The Guardian

Book links food security to political stability, Cornell Chronicle [Read more…]

AGRA’s African agriculture report

Woman farmerLast month the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa launched their first annual report detailing the state of African agriculture, entitled The Africa Agriculture Status Report.

Focusing on staple crops, the report synthesises data from 16 African countries as well as international institutions such as the World Bank and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The report highlights some key priority areas for policy makers on the continent:

  • Reducing cheap and subsidised food imports, which weaken African agricultural market development, as well as increasing smallholder farmer access to credit, addressing trade restrictions and high transportation costs.
  • Addressing the gender imbalance in access to productive resources such as land, credit, agricultural technologies and services.
  • Boosting research and development for food security for underperforming countries. Africa as a whole has a mere 70 researchers per million inhabitants (compared to the USA, which has 2,640 researchers per million inhabitants).
  • Addressing declining soil fertility, which threatens crop yields and agricultural development. For AGRA this means addressing the high price of fertiliser in many countries of Africa.
  • Reviewing and harmonising seed laws and regulations to allow the development of Africa’s seed markets.

The value of the report lies in its synthesis of data and, due to this, of being able to make comparisons between countries. AGRA aims for the report to cover all countries in sub-Saharan Africa within a few years and has high hopes that the report will enable researchers, scientists, farmers and policymakers to access reliable agricultural data in order to make informed decisions relating to food security, data which can often be difficult to access.


Africa Soil Information Service

A survey of African soils, the African Soil Information Service (AfSIS), was launched in 2009 with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and also from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) through a grant to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

AfSIS, led by Pedro Sanchez, former World Food Prize Laureate, is developing continent-wide digital soil maps for sub-Saharan Africa that will cover more than 90% of Africa’s human population living in 42 countries. Using techniques such as digital soil mapping, infrared spectroscopy, remote sensing, statistics, and integrated soil fertility, the survey aims to build up a more comprehensive picture of African soils and to not only make these results available to farmers but to help them understand the implications for land management through extension and training. Indeed capacity building is a key part of the AfSIS project delivered through education to strengthen individual and institutional abilities to produce and use soil information as well as training for soil scientists.

Currently AfSIS ground teams are surveying and sampling 60, 100 km2 sentinel sites, which are statistically representative of the variability in climate, topography and vegetation of the project area. For more information on the survey, which feeds into larger projects to map global soils, visit their website.