Delivering food security through international trade

ID-10035220When discussing global food security, the issues of access and availability commonly come up.  As One Billion Hungry examines, we currently produce enough food to feed the world, although demand is rapidly outpacing supply as populations and incomes rise and as the impacts of climate change escalate, and yet almost 900 million people do not get enough food to eat. Increasing food production, while critical, is unlikely to solve hunger and malnutrition alone. A new report by the Global Harvest Initiative highlights the importance of trade to food security, examining how our global trade systems can and must change to serve the whole of the population.

Coming at a particularly relevant time, following the success of the Bali trade talks and with negotiations for several bilateral trade agreements underway, the report, International Trade and Agriculture: Supporting Value Chains to Deliver Development and Food Security, was developed by GHI in collaboration with trade experts from the New Markets Lab, TransFarm Africa, and the International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council.

Given increasing globalisation, global trade and markets are becoming more important in the decisions of individual farmers. For farmers to invest in their farming enterprises, an end market must be available to them. This means that international trade decisions made in far off countries are having more of an impact on farmers on the ground. The report urges an holistic and integrated approach to trade with the aim of developing effective in-country enabling environments and efficient and fair value chains.

Specifically the report highlights the following actions needed:

  • Consistent, transparent, and science-based frameworks for regulating food safety, along with reliable processes for administering sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules, are critical to value chain development and increased agricultural trade;
  • Legal and regulatory issues play a significant role at all stages in value chain development – including inputs, production, processing, transport, and end markets – and many of these issues are covered by trade rules and disciplines;
  • Trade policy instruments can help foster the development of reliable systems for moving goods – including food, inputs, and equipment – and services through necessary legal and policy infrastructure and appropriate trade facilitation interventions;
  • A stronger focus on services will be increasingly important to agricultural trade, with laws and regulations needed that can support open systems for transport and distribution services; financial services; and wholesale, retail, franchising, and other services;
  • In places like sub-Saharan Africa where so many markets are small and landlocked, regional integration and harmonization of laws and regulations will be critical to agricultural growth, and particular focus should be placed on how laws and regulations are being implemented in practice;
  • Adequate and equitable intellectual rights protection is becoming increasingly important as technology, information sharing, and communication play an even larger role in value chain development;
  • With agricultural markets becoming more and more global, inward-looking policies – including forced localization – will need to be handled carefully so that they do not pose a threat to agricultural development and food security; and
  • There is a widespread need for commercially-focused capacity building designed to facilitate market development and generate regulatory reform in the agricultural sector.

Undertaking these actions should be the responsibility of the World Trade Organisation and a variety of international trade partnerships. The report clearly shows the need for innovation in trade and for greater transparency, in part to help uncover the potential for trade to actually help develop markets. As GHI state “Trade can and should impact individuals positively, add value economy-wide, and deliver broader food security and development benefits.”

While the report highlights the potential of trade to open up opportunities for farmers there is little mention of the need to protect farmers from the impacts of liberalisation, particularly where markets are mostly informal. Aiding small-scale farmers to meet the requirements of global markets in cost-effective ways must surely go alongside the increasing reach of international trade?

Accessing agricultural training

logoIn the increasingly digital world in which we live, information can still be hard to come by for many. An international NGO, Access Agriculture, established by NGOs Agro-Insight and Countrywise Communications in 2012 is working to close global agricultural knowledge gaps.

Although only around 15.6% of the African population, according to 2012 figures, has access to the internet, the telecommunications market in Africa is one of the fastest growing in the world. Mobile phone subscribers have increased 18% each year for the past five years and, while coverage is only at around a third of the population, the rapid increase in mobile phone use is motivating telecommunications companies to develop Broadband Wireless Access technologies to connect more people to the internet.

And this could be beneficial to farmers, connecting them with various information sources from around the world. Access Agriculture is a platform for agricultural R&D staff, service providers, extension agents, communication professionals and representatives of farmer organisations, which provides agricultural training videos in local languages. Their aim being to make knowledge on sustainable agriculture accessible to people in developing countries.

Training videos are available across a wide range of topics from cereals to livestock to mechanisation to integrated pest management. From conservation agriculture and agroforestry to conflict resolution and input buying.

To check out some of the videos on offer click here.

Access Agriculture is also in the process of developing Agtube (think YouTube for agriculture) where people can upload their own videos to share with the agricultural community. Set to be launched soon, Agtube, through increasing two way dialogue between agricultural actors, may provide opportunities for innovation through collaboration. We also hope we will learn more about the challenges developing country farmers face and the solutions they have developed.

Online sustainable agricultural training is also provided by the Rainforest Alliance.

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.

One small change of words – a giant leap in effectiveness!, World Agroforestry Centre

Policy: Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims, Nature

Enabling African Farmers to Feed the World, Farming First

Roundtable on Sustainable African Agriculture and CAADP 2014 review, PAEPARD

Agricultural Input Subsidies. The Recent Malawi Experience, Ephraim Chirwa and Andrew Dorward

African Farmers Reap Gains Of Biotech Cotton, CoastWeek

Humans are becoming more carnivorous, Nature

Seeds of hope emerge across the world’s drylands, World Agroforestry Centre

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee to examine Food Security, UK Parliament

For sustainable growth, count on agriculture, Thomson Reuters Foundation [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.

Agriculture ‘neglected’ at UN climate talks – again, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Why Have Farmers Yet Again Been Forgotten at the UN Climate Talks?, Huffington Post

The adaptation advantage: the economic benefits of preparing small-scale farmers for climate change, IFAD

Ensuring food security for the future, SciDev.Net

Mega farms create mega problems, The Guardian

Bill Gates: Here’s My Plan to Improve Our World — And How You Can Help, Wired

Purdue researcher: Income to become dominant driver of global food system, Purdue University

Farmer’s Diary: How science is vital for future farmers, Daily Monitor

China and US can use biotechnology to end scourge of global hunger, Global Times

Climate-smart agriculture success stories, CGIAR

Playing the field: Corn likes to sleep around — and that makes it hard to control GMOs, Grist

Apprehension over GM crops misleading – African scientists, Nigerian Pilot

Researchers develop new approach to identify possible ecological effects of releasing genetically engineered insects, University of Minnesota

Not too late to get agriculture into 2015 climate deal – World Bank expert, Thomson Reuters Foundation

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.

Milestone Claimed in Creating Fuel From Waste, The New York Times

Harvesting the Biosphere – book review, The Gates Notes

Should we embrace GM food? – five-minute video debate, The Guardian

Conservation agriculture puts Zimbabwean farmers on firmer footing, Thomson Reuters Foundation

In Uganda, better nutrition through school gardens, The Christian Science Monitor

Attacking the Hunger Epidemic — And Winning , Huffington Post

Women as a Force for Change, The New York Times

Iowa View: Increasingly, feeding a growing world needs more focus on science, technology, Des Moines Register

Scientists help African farmers battle pests in warming climate, Thomson Reuters Foundation

World’s 1st lab-grown burger cooked and eaten, CBC News

Indigenous Peoples and the Diversity of Food, Landscapes Blog for People, Food and Nature

What Does the Future Hold for Genetically Modified Cotton?, TriplePundit

ICRAF Studies Local Knowledge in Ethiopian Farming Systems, IISD

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.

Is Feed the Future delivering results? Yes – with some limitations, Global Food for Thought

Global leaders launch initiative to bridge conservation and agriculture, Bioversity International.

Corporations and the fight against hunger: why CSR won’t do, The Guardian

How Africa Can Transform Land Tenure, Revolutionize Agriculture, and End Poverty, World Bank

Small-scale Farmers: The Missing Element in the WIPO-IGC Draft Articles on Genetic Resources, Quaker United Nations Office.

What women farmers want to know, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Here are ways to make agriculture Africa’s best economic alternative, IPP Media

Innovation on farms, to improve food supply, addressed by conference, Irish Times

Findings Could Help Slash Child Malnutrition, Voice of America [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: Science Can Help Small Farmers Feed Africa, Africa Agriculture News

Why Don’t Farmers Believe in Climate Change?, Slate

International Food Security Assessment, 2013-2023, USDA

Once Upon a Village Value Chain in Africa, Huffington Post

Africa must partner to improve agricultural production, Ghana News Agency

Agricultural productivity and greenhouse gas emissions: trade-offs or synergies between mitigation and food security?, Valin et al

Looking for Ways to Beat the Weeds, New York Times

Global Food Security Index shows promise in developing nations, AG Professional

African Countries Come Up Short on Investment in Agriculture, Voice of America

A Gap in Organic Food Chain, Wall Street Journal

Address security issues for effective climate resilience – study, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Cover crops paying off, survey shows, Agriculture.com

Let’s Make Genetically Modified Food Open-Source, Slate