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.

Who Wants to Farm? Youth Aspirations, Opportunities and Rising Food Prices, IDS

The Shocking Cost Of Food Waste, Forbes

Research-for-development project chalks up significant progress to save maize from Striga weed, IITA

A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World, National Geographic

Food Waste Reduction Alliance Publishes Toolkit for Reducing Food Waste, Food Waste Reduction Alliance

Rejected ideas ‘could have aided developing countries’, SciDev.Net

UN to measure women’s rights progress over past 20 years, The Guardian

Africa’s youth key to strengthening agricultural economy, Teatro Naturale International

Climate change mitigation must benefit the poor, aid experts say, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Biofortified Beans to Fight ‘Hidden Hunger’ in Rwanda, Inter Press Service

The Grapes of Wrath is 75 years old and more relevant than ever, The Guardian

Ten lessons from biotechnology experiences in developing countries, FAO

Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says, The New York Times

OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2013-2022

logooecd_enThe 19th OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2013-2022 was recently released, which is an annual report on projections for 15 agricultural products over a ten year period. It covers OECD countries as well as India, China, Brazil and Russia as well as Argentina, South Africa and other developing countries. The report specifically analyses the impact of economic developments and government policies on world commodity market trends.

In this latest report the main headlines are:

  • Productivity growth is projected at 1.5% for the next decade, a reduction on the 2.1% productivity growth seen for the period 2003-2012.
  • We can expect food prices to remain higher than historical averages given increasing demand and stagnating productivity.  Price volatility and trade disruption are expected to continue to be a risk as food stocks, important as buffers against shocks to the food production system, remain low. As the report states, “a wide-spread drought such as the one experienced in 2012, on top of low food stocks, could raise world prices by 15-40%.”
  • Agriculture has become more market driven as opposed to policy driven. This can offer developing countries greater investment opportunities, economic benefits, and potential for production expansion if markets are fair and equitable. Agriculture for Impact and the Overseas Development Institute recently launched a report, Leaping and Learning: Linking smallholders to markets in Africa, which investigates how markets can work for smallholder farmers in Africa. [Read more…]

Progress from Doha on tackling climate change

A series of articles by Smita Nakhooda for the Overseas Development Initiative, Amy Goodman for The Guardian, and Aljazeera News lay out the progress made at the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC held from in Doha from the 26th November to the 8th December 2012. As Amy Goodman points out, “latest findings suggest that the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2ºC may now be beyond reach, and that we may now be locked into a 4-6ºC temperature increase”. So what are global leaders doing to avoid ‘dangerous climate change’?

1)    The Kyoto Protocol will run for a second commitment period from 1st January 2013 to 31st December 2020. But only the EU and Australia are bound by commitments to reduce emissions, and emissions reductions, an average of 18% relative to 1990 levels by 2020, are ‘not particularly challenging’. Further to this, countries such as the US and Canada are unlikely to adopt these commitments anytime soon. [Read more…]

Modelling Undernutrition

A new paper published in the Lancet in July 2012 aimed to redress the gaps in reporting child malnutrition across the world. Authors wanted to investigate the validity of a modelling approach to determining the status of child malnutrition at global, regional and national levels. Using data from a variety of sources, such as nutrition and household surveys and summary statistics from the WHO Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition, the authors calculated weight-for age Z scores. Using a Bayesian hierarchical mixture model to estimate Z score distributions, the authors investigated the validity of this model and its outcomes.

The overall findings were that globally in 2011, 314 million children under the age of five were mildly, moderately or severely stunted and 258 million were mildly, moderately or severely underweight. These results were also assessed with a view to exploring the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1 (halving hunger and poverty by 2015). For all developing countries (141 in total), there is less than a 5% chance of meeting the MDG1 target but this chance is not evenly distributed with 61 of these countries reporting a 50-100% chance. Indeed while progress to meet MDG1 in Sub Saharan Africa would appear weak with only three countries on track, a further 13 are on track to halve poverty and 10 to halve hunger.