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.

Act Now, or Food Shortages Could Become a Problem for Us All, Gordon Conway, Huffington Post

Eighteen Million Farmers in 27 Countries Chose Biotech Crops in 2013, Global Plantings Increase by 5 Million Hectares, ISAA

Agricultural Technologies Could Increase Global Crop Yields as Much as 67 Percent and Cut Food Prices Nearly in Half by 2050, IFPRI

Invisible Math: Accounting for the Real Costs of Big Ag, Civil Eats

Hidden crop pest threat to poorer nations revealed, EurekAlert

Feeding the World – or feeding the Corporations?, The Ecologist

New GM corn gets controversial EU go-ahead, EU Business

Agriculture Increasingly Spells Opportunity in the Arid Gulf, The Wall Street Journal

Food wars, Cosmos

Uganda takes stock of new climate information service, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Voluntary GE Labels Won’t Work, Huffington Post

The family farming revolution, Al Ahram

Developing a Sustainable Nutrition Research Agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa, PAEPARD

Who’s winning the battle against child mortality?, Devex

Vertical farming explained: how cities could be food producers of the future, The Guardian

From WEF 2014: Water shortage as global risk–now what?, Global Food for Thought

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.

Highlight: the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association (NASFAM) in Malawi, PAEPARD

FAO launches new standards for plant genebanks, FAO

Africa and India cultivate agricultural research ties, SciDev.Net

Who will pay for ecosystem services?, IIED

It’s not the ‘skipping’ three who should be questioned, it’s the wasteful supermarkets, The Independent

Pesticides halve bees’ pollen gathering ability, research shows, The Guardian

Natural Gas and Albacore: What Tuna Says About the Future of Mozambique, New Security Beat

Press Briefing of H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, PAEPARD

Fertilizer nutrient imbalance to limit food production in Africa, IIASA

Genetic weapon against insects raises hope and fear in farming, New York Times [Read more…]

The International Year of Family Farming

2014_IYFFAt the heart of One Billion Hungry is an understanding that small-scale farmers are central to global food security. Approximately one third of the world’s population depends on small farms. In developing countries smallholders form the backbone of food production, and, given that agriculture often employs the majority of the population, their ability to prosper from farming enterprises plays a part in broader economic transformation.

Of the 450 million or so small farms in the world, an estimated 60% of these are largely subsistence farms and often achieve yields much lower than their potential. A large part of this is down to limited access to knowledge, technology, markets, extension and financial services. Building an enabling environment in which smallholder farmers have access to opportunities to increase their yields and sell surpluses in fair and efficient markets is a key recommendation from One Billion Hungry and Agriculture for Impact’s work.

So it’s great news that 2014 has been named the International Year of Family Farming. The aims of the year are to boost the profile of family farming and smallholder farming and to emphasise the significant role these farmers can and do play in reducing hunger and poverty. Farming families, which are the dominant form of agriculture in developed and developing countries alike, have a vital role to play in providing food and nutrition to their households and communities but also in managing natural resources, protecting the environment and rural cultures, and achieving sustainable development. [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…]

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.

Increasing cropping frequency offers opportunity to boost food supply, University of Minnesota

Climate-Smart Pearl Millet Variety May Be a Game Changer for Nutrition, Feed the Future

WTO chief says no chance of global trade deal, USA Today

Iowa in the Amazon, The New York Times

Science’s role in growing diverse, nutritious food, SciDev.Net

What have been the farm-level economic impacts of the global cultivation of GM crops?, Collaboration for Environmental Evidence Library

‘Total inaction’ at UN climate talks, Africa groups charge, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Eating Aliens, Jackson Landers

Crowdsourcing app fights food loss in Africa, University of Twente

Hunger Grains: Are EU policies undermining progress on development?, From Poverty to Power, Duncan Green

How Africa’s natural resources can drive industrial revolution, CNN [Read more…]

Sustainable Food Systems

ID-100143900Food demand is expected to rise by 70% to 2050. Urbanisation and increasing incomes per capita are shifting diets to those more demanding of meat and other animal products, which has serious implications for the use of natural resources to produce food. Today around 1 in 8 people are malnourished and 870 million people chronically hungry, indicating our current food systems cannot meet present demand let alone future. Modifying the world’s food production systems to produce more food and perhaps distribute it more evenly, is made harder by a growing recognition of the negative impacts agriculture can have on the environment. Conversion of land to agriculture is the biggest threat to biodiversity. Agriculture places large demands on scarce natural resources, the overuse of which not only threatens the wider global environment and human wellbeing, but the very processes agriculture relies on e.g. pest control, pollination and rainfall.

A new report by the European Commission’s Science for Environment Policy, entitled Sustainable Food: A Recipe for Food Security and Environmental Protection, lays out the changes we need to make to our entire food system and the urgency with which we need to make them.

The report begins with a summary of the pressures on food production and the drivers of food demand namely: population growth; natural resource scarcity including land, biodiversity, water, climate change, and biofuels; changing dietary patterns and; rising food prices.

The report then turns to some of the solutions and pathways to making food systems more sustainable, advocating action around the following areas:

  • Minimising food waste
  • Rethinking land management and agricultural practices:
    • Using agroecological principles such as building soil organic matter, which the EU claim can reduce negative impacts and at the same time increase yields, although evidence of this potential win-win is scarce
    • Conservation agriculture and land sparing versus land sharing
    • Replenishing water supplies through, for example, no-till agriculture
    • Ensuring the long-term sustainability of fish stocks through expanding aquaculture
    • Reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change
    • Increasing the efficiency of agriculture through the application of science and technology
    • Understanding consumption patterns in a bid to contain the demand for the most resource-intensive types of food
    • Investing in smallholder farmers to help them increase their productivity and integration with global markets

Of course knowing that we need to undertake many of these actions is relatively easy. Understanding how to take action is hard and the report acknowledges that considerable policy and knowledge gaps exist, for example, what future per capita consumption levels will be, the benefits or impacts of different agricultural practices and ways of integrating multiple objectives in policy making. [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.

Global map of seeds, food and biodiversity launched, SciDev.Net

CAADP 10 Years Out: How Have Countries Fared in Agricultural Development?, IFPRI

Next generation of biofuels is still years away, CTV News

Empowering people and shaping policies for resilient agriculture and food systems, Wilton Park

Transformation of food systems needed for better nutrition, FAO

Changing the Global Food Narrative, Ensia

No-till farming is on the rise. That’s actually a big deal, The Washington Post

What does ‘big business’ say about Africa when it’s off the record?, From Poverty to Power, Duncan Green

Emissions of CO2 driving rapid oceans ‘acid trip’, BBC

Environmental pressures driven by EU consumption but faced by other countries, EC Science for Environment Policy

An Accidental Cattle Ranch Points the Way in Sustainable Farming, The New York Times

Bringing perennial grain crops to Africa is aim of new Gates Foundation-funded project, Michigan State University

Warsaw climate talks expected to deliver loss and damage mechanism, Thomson Reuters Foundation