Remembering our roots: new books and resources

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Photo by Danilo Rizzuti

Now going for close to four years, this blog began as a platform to allow us to continually update and review the content of One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world? Between the publication of The Doubly Green Revolution and One Billion Hungry, the agricultural development and environmental landscape had changed so much that it was important to find a way to remain relevant in order to help to bring about the changes needed for a food secure world. As such we like to periodically bring you a selection of up-to-date, interesting and thought-provoking books and resources, and here are our picks for early 2016. If you know of any interesting or pertinent books or other materials we’d love to hear your suggestions.

Books

Otsuka, K. and Larson, D.F. (Eds.) 2016. In Pursuit of an African Green Revolution. Views from Rice and Maize Farmers’ Fields. Springer.

This book explores recent experiences in trying to bring about a Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), focussing on rice and maize. Authors find that an African Rice Revolution has already begun in many irrigated areas, using Asian-type modern varieties, chemical fertilizer, and improved management practices. The same technological package significantly increases the productivity and profitability of rice farming in rainfed areas as well. By strengthening extension capacity and providing management training to smallholders, African governments can boost productivity and accelerate the pace of Africa’s Rice Revolution. The story for maize is quite different, however, where most farmers use local varieties, apply little chemical fertilizer, and obtain very low yields, and thus the success of Africa’s Maize Revolution will require a different approach based on hybrid maize, chemical and organic fertilizers, and stall-fed cross-bred cows.

Moseley, W.G., Schnurr, M.A. and Bezner-Kerr, R. (Eds.) 2016. Africa’s Green Revolution: Critical Perspectives on New Agricultural Technologies and Systems. Routledge.

This book examines the dominant neoliberal agenda for agricultural development and hunger alleviation in Africa. Authors review the history of African agricultural and food security policy in the post-colonial period, across a range of geographical contexts, in order to contextualise the productionist approach embedded in the much heralded New Green Revolution for Africa. This strategy, supported by a range of international agencies, promotes the use of hybrid seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides to boost crop production. This approach is underpinned by a new and unprecedented level of public–private partnerships as donors actively work to promote the private sector and build links between African farmers, input suppliers, agro-dealers, agro-processors, and retailers. The chapters in this volume raise serious questions about its effectiveness as a strategy for increasing food production and alleviating poverty across the continent.

Brautigam, D. 2016. Will Africa Feed China? OUP USA

Over the past decade, China’s meteoric rise on the continent has raised a drumbeat of alarm. China has 9 percent of the world’s arable land, 6 percent of its water, and over 20 percent of its people. Africa’s savannahs and river basins host the planet’s largest expanses of underutilized land and water. Few topics are as controversial and emotionally charged as the belief that the Chinese government is aggressively buying up huge tracts of prime African land to grow food to ship back to China. In Will Africa Feed China?, Deborah Brautigam, one of the world’s leading experts on China and Africa, probes the myths and realities behind the media headlines. Her careful research challenges the conventional wisdom; as she shows, Chinese farming investments are in fact surprisingly limited, and land acquisitions modest. Defying expectations, China actually exports more food to Africa than it imports. But is this picture likely to change?

Lumumba-Kasongo, T. (Ed.) 2015. Land Reforms and Natural Resource Conflicts in Africa: New Development Paradigms in the Era of Global Liberalization. Routledge.

This book is a critical examination of the place and role of land in Africa, the role of land in political formation and national identification, and the land as an economic resource within both national economic development and liberal globalization. Colonial and post-colonial conflicts have been rooted in four related claims: the struggle over scarce resources, especially access to land resources; abundance of natural resources mismanaged or appropriated by both the states, local power systems and multinationals; weak or absent articulated land tenure policies, leading to speculation or hybrid policy framework; and the imperatives of the global liberalization based on the free market principles to regulate the land question and mineral appropriation issue. The actualization of these combined claims have led to conflicts among ethnic groups or between them and governments. This book is not only about conflicts, but also about local policy achievements that have been produced on the land question. It provides a critical understanding of the forces and claims related to land tenure systems, as part of the state policy and its system of governance. [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.

2014-2015 Global Food Policy Report, IFPRI

Agriculture: Increase water harvesting in Africa, Nature

Middle Income Countries Play Key Role in Eliminating Hunger and Malnutrition, IFPRI

Agriculture bears major brunt of disaster impacts, new report says, FAO

Uganda’s plans for super bananas spark heated debate, Yahoo News

Contract farming and out-grower schemes, Action Aid

Political brief on the Principles on Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Foodsystems, TNI

The Path to Poverty: AGRA, small-scale farmers and seed and soil fertility in Tanzania, African Centre for Biosafety

Cropping Africa’s wet savannas would bring high environmental costs, Princeton University

The great land giveaway in Mozambique, Triple Crisis

Peak food? Can food tech supercharge crop yields and address global food security?, Genetic Literacy Project

Farming methods must sustain soil and be climate-smart, Daily Monitor [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.

WHO to basically everybody: Stop eating so much sugar, The Washington Post

Five Lessons from the Frontlines of Africa’s Green Revolution, Ventures

Grow Markets, Fight Hunger: A Food Security Framework for US-Africa Trade Relations, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

EU State of the Environment Report, European Environment Agency

Ugandan farmers take on palm oil giants over land grab claims, The Guardian

Better genes for better (more adaptable) beans, EurekAlert

How to reduce losses on the way to the market, Daily Monitor

Climate change and compassion: the missing link?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Can Public-Private Partnerships Actually Benefit the Poor?, PAEPARD [Read more…]

Foreign investment in developing country agriculture – evidence for inclusivity

ID-10052509Evidence that investing in agriculture in developing countries as a way of tackling poverty and hunger is growing. Given the sheer number of people working in the agricultural sector, investments can have benefits on a large-scale but there are also risks and big investments can, in some cases, harm the rural sector, taking land and resources away from local people. Aiming to illustrate these risks and benefits are a couple of recent reports.

A paper from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Impacts of foreign agricultural investment on developing countries: evidence from case studies, brings together FAO case studies on “the impacts of foreign agricultural investment on host communities and countries”. These studies show that large-scale land acquisitions, particularly where land rights are tenuous and governance poor, can have detrimental consequences for local communities, depleting natural resources and harming livelihoods, factors which increase rather than reduce poverty. Such investments will also generate conflict between investors and inhabitants. More inclusive investment models, which involve local people in business decisions and are respectful of existing land rights are found to be more likely to yield positive impacts for both businesses and societies alike. Factors required for an inclusive business model are stated as “strong external support for supporting farmers and facilitating the investor-farmers relationship” and “patient capital”, understanding that returns on investment may take time. The enabling environment in the recipient country is also critical, comprising a strong and fair legal and institutional framework. As such building this enabling environment through “strengthening the governance and capacity of institutions in host developing countries” is vital if foreign agricultural investment is to have the proposed developmental impacts.

Despite evidence that foreign investment in developing countries can be beneficial, when done responsibly, there remains much polarity in debates around its utility. On the one hand, hoping to spur large-scale economic development as investment opportunities in agriculture increase. On the other, a sense that these money-making opportunities are a new form of colonialism, particularly where natural resources of a country are purchased with little concern for people’s rights. To help promote inclusive investments in developing countries, the Inter-Agency Working Group of the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Bank have the aim of creating “a body of empirical knowledge” that will guide investments to being more responsible. A recent joint UNCTAD-World Bank report, The Practice of Responsible Investment Principles in Larger Scale Agricultural Investments, summarises a field-based survey conducted, which looked at the agricultural investment approaches of 39 large agribusinesses in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, and in particular their attitude to social, economic and environmental concerns.

The results show that investments have generated both positive and negative impacts. The positive being job creation, market creation, the introduction of new technologies, increased rural incomes, and, in some cases, the provision of rural services such as education, healthcare, infrastructure, and access to finance. On the negative, poor outcomes for environmental resources and conflict over land was significant, particularly where formal land rights were conferred to investors despite existing claims to informal land rights. Lack of communication, unclear processes of land acquisition and rights, and poor consultation with inhabitants underlie these conflicts and resettlement was rarely a fair deal for local people. Investments did vary in their impact, however, as well as with regards to their profitability. A clear message from the report is that investments with positive economic, social and environmental benefits are possible, and indeed those that were positive for the local area were more likely to be successful. [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 Conference on Land Grabs 2014, PAEPARD

A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops, PLOS One

Climate change a “threat multiplier” for farming-dependent states-analysis, Thomson Reuters Foundation

10 billion people for dinner | Nina Fedoroff | TEDxCERN, YouTube

Biotechnology: Against the grain, Nature

Climate smart, sustainable agriculture, AgriPulse

Thirty percent of world’s food wasted, new online platform seeks savings, Thomson Reuters Foundation

How To Eat For The Climate, Forbes

mNutrition – how mobile phones are improving nutrition, The Guardian

South Africa: Five Diseases, One Vaccine – a Boost for Emerging Livestock Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, All Africa

New project to boost yam production in West Africa, IITA

IPCC preparing ‘most important’ document on climate change, BBC

Resilience for food and nutrition security, IFPRI [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.

Why nutrition-smart agriculture matters, Devex

The next steps for Africa to meet its potential, The Washington Post

Limited potential of no-till agriculture for climate change mitigation, Powlson et al, Nature Climate Change

Getting caught with our plants down: the risks of a global crop yield slowdown from climate trends in the next two decades, Lobell and Tebaldi, Environmental Research Letters.

Smart Aid for the World’s Poor, The Wall Street Journal

Crops v conservation: how farmers can solve the dilemma, Financial Times

Food, farming and antibiotics: a health challenge for business, The Guardian

Farm manager plays leading role in postharvest loss, EurekAlert [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.

The sustainable intensification of European agriculture, Rise

The Role of Trees in Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture in the Tropics, PAEPARD

World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme ‘complicit’ in genocidal land grabs – NGOs, The Guardian

Food waste reduction could help feed world’s starving, BBC

The Next Green Revolution May Rely on Microbes, PBS

Which governments are doing best/worst in the fight against hunger and undernutrition?, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Food security report – MPs call for ‘Plan B’ for animal feed, Farmers Guardian

Fertilizers: quality over quantity, Global Food Security

Picking up the pieces from a failed land grab project in Tanzania, Global Post

Agronomic and environmental aspects of the cultivation of genetically modified herbicide-resistant plants, Tappeser et al (eds)

Malnutrition a threat with use of climate-resilient crops, scientists say, Thomson Reuters Foundation

‘Land grabbing’ could help feed at least 300 million people, study suggests, EurekAlert [Read more…]