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.

Building a Food-Secure World Helps America Prosper, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Nutrition and Social Protection, FAO

Weak links hamper knowledge sharing in agriculture, SciDev.Net

Paying farmers to help the environment works, but ‘perverse’ subsidies must be balanced, EurekAlert

Creating an enabling environment for livestock development in Ethiopia, ILRI

SPECIAL SERIES -Wanted: data revolution to track new U.N. development goals, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Can open data prevent a global food shortage?, The Guardian

The challenge of fighting poverty through farming, The Daily Monitor

Food security: businesses want government intervention to avoid long term risk, WWF

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Plant Doctor Game app was downloaded 1111 times!, Plantwise

As drought hits maize, Tanzania cooks up a sweet potato fix, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Understanding the SDGs: Tom Bigg, IIED

LUMENS is illuminating land-use planning for sustainable landscapes, Landscapes for People, Nature and Food

Farm to Table in Africa, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

FAO Food Price Index registers sharpest fall since December 2008, FAO

Risks to global food security

Farmers discuss climate and weather changes. Photo C. Schubert (CCAFS)

Farmers discuss climate and weather changes. Photo C. Schubert (CCAFS)

This week sees the annual Chatham House conference on food security. This year’s theme is around the risks to food security that come from greater globalisation of the food system. The conference focuses/focused on the “geopolitical, supply-side and market-based threats” to the global food system, in particular generating discussion with senior policy-makers and business leaders on identifying risks and priorities for action to mitigate them in the hope of building a more resilient food system.

Many organisations aim to identify and map risks to the food industry and food security, climate change and its impact on agricultural production being a prominent one. Maplecroft, a horizon scanning, risk analytics organisation that supports global organisations in identifying, monitoring, forecasting and mitigating financial and other risks to their operations, investments and supply chains, recently published their Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas 2015, which provides risk data for 198 countries on such issues as climate change vulnerability, food security, emissions, ecosystem services, natural disasters and regulation. [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.

Agricultural science is the backbone of sustainable development, Thomson Reuters Foundation

New Generation of GM Crops Puts Agriculture in a ‘Crisis Situation’, Wired

Amped-up plants, Nature

Moral Hazard? ‘Mega’ public-private partnerships in African agriculture, Oxfam

The African Landscapes Action Plan, Landscapes for People, Food and Nature

Closing the Gap for Post-2015: New Ambition for Acute Malnutrition, Huffington Post

UN: only small farmers and agroecology can feed the world, The Ecologist

The Time Has Come for Agroecology, IPS

Is FAO opening a window for ecological farming?, Greenpeace

How to equip farmers for climate change, CNN

Climate-smart agriculture: balancing trade-offs in food systems and ecosystems, CCAFS

Commodities: Cereal excess, Financial Times [Read more…]

Big data: big hope or big risk?

ID-100236071Hailed as the latest technological advance that could revolutionise development and agriculture (along with other sectors), “big data” has been the focus of several recent articles, most notably a series of articles published by SciDev.Net. In June 2013 a UN High level panel called for a “data revolution” emphasising the need for better data to track progress towards development goals. But what is big data and how can it aid poverty and hunger eradication?

Big data is not just large amounts of information but rather it’s about integrating infrastructure to collect data at every step of the development process and designing new data collection methods that can track development goals effectively. In particular, big data is being hailed as the big fix for the lack of reliable official statistics in developing countries. But there is no clear (agreed upon) definition of big data, one article stating “it is data generated through our increasing use of digital devices and web-supported tools and platforms in our daily lives”. Due to our increasingly digital society, the amount of data (from social media platforms, mobile phones, online financial services etc.) has grown enormously. A much quoted statistic states that up to 90% of the world’s data was created over just two years (2010–2012). The aim for big data is to use this sizeable knowledge source to add value to society. Driving interest in evidence-based policy making, big data is also being termed a movement, one that aims to turn data into decision making.

In May 2012 Global Pulse published a White Paper entitled Big Data for Development: Opportunities & Challenges, which highlighted the opportunities big data provides. In particular they explore the role of big data in describing what is happening, predicting what may happen and explore the reasons behind why things happen.

For agriculture, big data means information can be collected along the whole supply chain including from supermarkets, weather sensing equipment, digital images, and research papers. These data sets can then be transformed through analytics into actionable information. But this conversion is rife with complexities in terms of managing, processing, sharing and using huge amounts of data. [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.

Africa leading the way, Impatient Optimists

Is it crazy to think we can eradicate poverty?, The New York Times

Guest post: to find African development, look for good governance by the sea, Financial Times

Bill Gates Joins Tony Blair in Praising Africa Economic Progress, Bloomberg

Open Data Opens Doors, Feed the Future

Food Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding, Food Insight

Encouraging signs of progress from Bonn climate talks, Thomson Reuters Foundation

GM crops: Promise and reality, Nature

Over half world’s population could depend on imported food by 2050, Environmental Research Web

Agriculture and Livestock Remain Major Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Worldwatch Institute

Agricultural intensification could run up high bills in the long-run, SciDev.Net

New GM crop wave may ease Frankenfood fright, Western Farm Press

The Expanding Role of Smallholder Farmers in Feeding the World, CSIS

Africa: Economists Warn of Gaps Amidst Africa’s Growth, All Africa

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.

After 2015 – Toward zero hunger and sustainable food production? SIANI

Science and NGO practice are closer than they appear, SciDev.Net

Sustainable Intensification: Getting the Most from the Land, Agri-Pulse

Scientists Unite to Share Ag Data and Feed the World, USDA

DNA double helix: discovery that led to 60 years of biological revolution, The Guardian

Genebank Standards for Plant Genetic Resources, FAO

Incremental change is not enough – climate, business experts, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Europe’s other debt crisis caused by the long legacy of future extinctions, PNAS

New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition: Part 2, ONE [Read more…]

Food security and agriculture information at our fingertips

ID-100125038This week we’ve been thinking about information. Specifically the type of information on agriculture and rural development that is available, how useful it is and to who. A lot of data and statistics went into the writing of One Billion Hungry and some was hard to find, out of date or non-existent. Indeed statistics, such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) estimate of the number of chronically hungry people in the world, are often challenged because there are so few rigorous and comparable data sets available on food security and agriculture.

Yet policymakers often base investments in international development around evidence and farmers too must have access to clear and credible information in order to be competitive in the market. Ensuring information is timely, relevant and reliable, therefore is an important challenge. A recent paper by researchers at Tulane University investigated the impact of Food and Nutrition Security Information (FNSI) and its shortcomings concluding that while more conventional forms of data must be expanded in coverage, greater types and sources of data that come with increased connectivity must also be utilised.

Greater access to information can also help solve global challenges. As discussed in Chapter 1, we face the threat of repeated food price spikes, of which we have seen three since 2007. In 2011, the G20, in response to increased food price volatility, established the Agricultural Market Information System, with the idea that if information on the production, trade, use and storage of four globally important crops, wheat, rice, maize and soybean, is more transparent then policy action in response to market uncertainty can be coordinated and potentially dangerous and inaccurate speculation can be avoided. The coordination of policies and development of common strategies is undertaken by the Rapid Response Forum, whose second meeting is to take place on 20th February 2013. [Read more…]