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

Appropriate technology to feed the planet

ID-100143278As we know the world faces the challenge of feeding a growing population in the context of a changing climate. Weather events currently impacting crop production are only expected to get more frequent and more severe. As a new report published by The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and the London School of Economics, entitled Feeding the planet in a warming world. Building resilient agriculture through innovation, argues this challenge will require an agricultural system as well as individual crops that are more resilient to future shocks and stresses.

The report also argues that current policies to achieve a more resilient agricultural sector fail to recognise the inadequacy of relying only on existing technologies. While overcoming global socio-economic barriers to accessing and disseminating such appropriate technologies should be a priority this in itself is not enough. Authors claim that we will also require “critical, game-changing solutions for building global agricultural resilience”.  In particular new higher-yielding and more nutritious crop varieties that use less water while being more resistant to pests and diseases and more tolerant of weather extremes: heat, cold, flooding, drought. This includes the use of ‘demonstrably safe’ genetically modified (GM) crops. As the report states, “Agriculture will need every existing tool in the box, as well as the development of new ones.” [Read more…]

New Oxfam Discussion Paper: Private Investment in Agriculture

An Oxfam Discussion Paper, authored by Erinch Sahan and Monique Mikhail, released in 2012, lays out the need for huge investment in agriculture in developing countries. Both public and private sector investment is needed but investments must promote production in a manner that ‘does no harm’ and that ‘does more good’.

The key roles for the public sector should be to support the most vulnerable small-scale food producers, those who the private sector has little incentive to engage with, and to create the right policy environment to allow the private sector to invest. But, as the paper points out, agriculture is ‘inherently a private sector endeavour’ and thus requires private investment, both large and small.

While the paper notes that private sector investment could have a positive impact it caveats this with the warning that investments must follow ethical and sustainable business practices. From Oxfam’s work on mobilising the private sector to support smallholder farmers, certain principles have emerged which they document in this paper. The private sector should invest in staple crops, local and regional markets, processing, access to services, sustainable agriculture as well as work with producer organisations and focus on women’s empowerment. Oxfam believe that private and public sector investment should complement each another and that when private sector investment is coupled with the right enabling environment, this investment can be transformational to economic growth, environmental sustainability and poverty reduction.