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…]

Food Security when in Rome

ID-100139495This blog was first posted on Huffington Post

Food is often in short supply. The availability of and access to food is also, and has always been, highly political. Poor wheat harvests imported into Rome between 56 to 58BC led to grain shortages and fluctuating prices. As a result the Roman mob became volatile and “on one occasion crowds besieged the senate and threatened to burn the senators alive, apparently encouraged by the tribune Clodius who had passed a law increasing the number of people entitled to subsidised grain” (excerpt from Gordon Conway’s book ‘One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world?’).

Today food security is equally political and the 2007/08 food price spike led to political and economic instability and social unrest in both poor and developed nations. In Bangladesh, 10,000 workers rioted close to Dhaka, smashing cars and buses and vandalising factories in anger at high food prices and low wages. In Burkina Faso rioting broke out in the country’s second and third largest cities over food price increases of over 65%. In Cameroon large scale rioting in protest against inflating food and fuel prices saw at least seven people killed in the worst unrest seen in the country in over fifteen years. And the list goes on with unrest seen in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Haiti, Egypt, Indonesia, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia and Yemen. Russia and Mexico froze food prices to avoid public backlash, the Pakistan government deployed military to protect food reserves from being seized and Brazil announced a temporary ban on the export of rice.

As ‘One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world’ explains, these acute crises are part of a chronic crisis; the paradox of food insecurity that we face today is that there is enough food to feed the global population yet around one billion people are chronically hungry and another billion are obese. In his book Gordon Conway lays out the routes for achieving a fairer, more productive, stable and resilient global food system. On the 27th-28th February 2013, he took this vision to the three Rome-based UN agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). [Read more…]