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.

The future of DFID, partnerships, aid and INGOs, c/o Alex Evans, From Poverty to Power

GE Critics Range as Skeptics. Groups Offer Scientific Panel a Range of Suggestions to Study Biotech Foods, The Progressive Farmer

Scientists praise and challenge FAO on agroecology, IATP

The Expanding Possibilities of Family Farmers, Roger Thurow

Cross-bred crops get fit faster, Nature

World hunger falls, but 805 million still chronically undernourished, FAO

Beyond Plant Breeding: Agro-Ecological Solutions for Climate-Smart Agriculture, Global Food for Thought

Documents reveal how poultry firms systematically feed antibiotics to flocks, Reuters

African Green Revolution Forum: Matters arising, Peoples Daily

Super bananas – world first human trial, Queensland University of Technology

ROUND-UP:Can Ban Ki-moon’s summit help build a global movement for climate action?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Seafood labels and sourcing to become clearer thanks to new code, The Guardian

Not so mega? The risky business of large-scale public-private partnerships in African agriculture, From Poverty to Power

DFID’s Agriculture and Growth evidence paper series

ID-10071316The UK Department for International Development has recently released a series of evidence synthesis papers on agriculture and economic growth, which aim to inform decision makers. While they do not represent DFID’s policy position they summarise the evidence underpinning debates related to several topics – agriculture and growth, agriculture and poverty, agriculture and the private sector, agriculture and women, and food prices and poverty.

Agriculture is an important sector for many developing countries both now and for their future development, contributing both to economic growth and reducing rural poverty. From the evidence assessed it appears that agriculture can have a positive effect on the economic growth of a country but this effect is contingent on many context-specific factors such as the current stage of economic development and resource endowments. Strong political commitment and an understanding of the local economy are key to maximising agriculture’s contribution to economic transformation. During early stages of a country’s development evidence shows that increasing agricultural productivity and incomes from farming drive demand for non-farm sectors and wider economic growth. At later stages the commercialisation of agriculture drives demand for agro-processing industries. Throughout this process and for sustained economic growth, countries are likely to have to shift resources from agriculture to other sectors as agriculture’s share in the national economy declines.

Agriculture can have a significant role to play in reducing poverty. Since agriculture is predominantly a rural activity, where the majority of the poor live, agricultural growth can stimulate greater rural labour opportunities. DFID found that poverty reduction from growth in agriculture is on average 2 to 4 times greater than from equivalent growth in other sectors. Again context matters and policies are needed to target poverty reduction alongside agricultural development. For many people in poverty increasing agricultural productivity may be a challenge particularly where the costs of doing so are prohibitive. In such cases agricultural growth which stimulates the rural non-farm economy may be more important for reducing poverty. Evidence suggests agriculture can be one part of a broader solution to tackle poverty and DFID identify several conditions whereby agricultural development can reduce poverty:

  • The domestic market is less well integrated into global trade.
  • A higher proportion of increased income is likely to be spent locally and on locally-produced goods and services.
  • There is an enabling environment and capacity in the local non-farm economy to increase production in response to increased demand.
  • Where small-holders have capability and capacity to either increase either the scale of production or the value of the produce.

[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.

Sharp rise in FAO Food Price Index, FAO

Spreading the word about the no-till agricultural revolution, IIED

On the road to Paris 2015: Towards a new global climate deal, Friends of Europe

Fake Meats, Finally, Taste Like Chicken, The New York Times

‘How DFID Learns’. Or doesn’t. UK aid watchdog gives it a ‘poor’ (but the rest of us would probably do worse), Duncan Green, Oxfam

Realising the Promise of Agriculture for Africa’s Transformation, PAEPARD

Global food security: could wheat feed the world?, The Guardian

Commentary Series – This Land is Our Land, Global Food for Thought

3 Graphics To Explain The Present And Future Of Climate Change, Forbes

Climate signals, growing louder, The New York Times [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.

Biosafety of GM Crops in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, CSIS

New African academy to nurture nutritious “orphan” crops, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Some GMO Crops Are on the Same Side as Their Opponents, MIT Technology Review

Farm Researcher CGIAR Budget Rises to $1 Billion in Hunger Fight, Bloomberg

Food security: an urban issue, The Guardian

Lost Freshwater May Double Climate Change Effects On Agriculture, Science Daily

Why we will need genetically modified foods, MIT Technology Review [Read more…]

2013 Global Hunger Index

GHIOn the 14th October 2013, the latest Global Hunger Index report was launched. Produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welhungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide, this annual report details the progress the world has made in tackling hunger. The index itself is “a multidimensional measure of national, regional, and global hunger” that combines measures of child underweight, child mortality and undernourishment (discussed in chapter 2 of One Billion Hungry). This year’s figures reflect hunger during the period 2008-2012 and show global hunger has fallen by a third since 1990.

While the world has made some progress in reducing hunger since 1990, we still have far to go. Global hunger remains “serious,” and 19 countries suffer from levels of hunger that are either “alarming” or “extremely alarming.” 23 countries, however, have reduced their GHI scores by 50% or more. The top ten so-called success countries in terms of improvements in GHI scores since 1990 were Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Sub-saharan Africa has one of the highest GHIs per region along with South Asia but since 2000, an increase in political stability and the achievements made in tackling HIV/AIDS, malaria and childhood diseases have seen SSA starting to make considerable progress towards reducing hunger.

There are a number of big data reports that come out annually around this time of year not least the Global Hunger Index and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s State of Food Insecurity in the World. The merit of these analyses lie in tracking progress and raising awareness but their data cannot be taken as a true reflection of what’s happening on the ground, merely an indicator of the global situation. That is not to say that there isn’t value in such data. McKinsey states that so-called big data has been exploding in recent years and highlights its use in uncovering emerging trends and future issues. Indicators such as the GHI have the power to inform if delivered at the levels at which key decisions are made but also potentially predict how hunger and its causes might change in the future.

This year the Global Hunger Index report talks about one key area that looks set to become more important as we continue to face growing global threats such as climate change and that is resilience. The report outlines how we must coordinate activities across the development and international aid sectors to help the most vulnerable better prepare and adapt to oncoming shocks and crises. [Read more…]

Home grown nutrition

ID-100149608 (2)The 1,000 day Initiative and Scaling Up Nutrition movement, detailed in Chapter 2, brought to the political fore the serious impacts of child malnutrition, which affects 40% of children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa. Malnutrition early in life not only impacts learning, levels of schooling attained, future earning potential and national economic growth but is a condition which is often passed from mothers to children, persisting across generations.

In a new UK Parliamentary report, Home Grown Nutrition, produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development, agricultural and other pathways to improving nutrition are discussed.

Agriculture and nutrition

Agriculture is a key industry for sub-Saharan Africa and investments in agricultural development are one of the most effective tools to ensure economic, social and political well-being. Smallholder farmers in Africa represent the largest economically productive business sector in the developing world, but they produce only a sixth of the output of farmers in Europe or North America. The potential to increase their productivity is enormous.

Investing in smallholder agriculture can address malnutrition directly through increased incomes and the diversification of food for household consumption. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, research has shown that the biggest limiting factor on food and nutrition security is income. And a diet that meets children’s energy, protein and micronutrient needs for optimal growth and development is four times more expensive than a diet with only adequate calories. Greater income, generated through agriculture, a sector that employs the majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa, can be spent on healthcare, education and, crucially, food. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

Talk point: is water a commodity or a human right?, The Guardian

Demystifying modern biotechnology, Modern Ghana

FAO leader calls for shift towards more sustainable food production and diet, Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) 95th Anniversary Symposium

Yes, I get furious when foreign aid is wasted. But Britons are saving lives… and are leading the world, says Bill Gates, Daily Mail

George Osborne declares ‘historic moment’ on UK aid target, The Guardian

Stop GM crops in Europe – new campaign launched, GM Watch

Food, fuel and plant nutrient use in the future, Council for Agricultural Science and Technology

GMO poll finds huge majority say foods should be labeled, Huffington Post

New metric to be launched on hunger and food insecurity, FAO

New EU policy to improve nutrition across the world and save millions of lives, EU

Connecting the dots between vaccines and hunger, The Guardian

Africa is on the rise – come see for yourselves, Financial Times

Aid for Trade: Reviewing EC and DFID Monitoring and Evaluation Practices, Traidcraft and CAFOD