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.

Building a Food-Secure World Helps America Prosper, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Nutrition and Social Protection, FAO

Weak links hamper knowledge sharing in agriculture, SciDev.Net

Paying farmers to help the environment works, but ‘perverse’ subsidies must be balanced, EurekAlert

Creating an enabling environment for livestock development in Ethiopia, ILRI

SPECIAL SERIES -Wanted: data revolution to track new U.N. development goals, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Can open data prevent a global food shortage?, The Guardian

The challenge of fighting poverty through farming, The Daily Monitor

Food security: businesses want government intervention to avoid long term risk, WWF

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Plant Doctor Game app was downloaded 1111 times!, Plantwise

As drought hits maize, Tanzania cooks up a sweet potato fix, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Understanding the SDGs: Tom Bigg, IIED

LUMENS is illuminating land-use planning for sustainable landscapes, Landscapes for People, Nature and Food

Farm to Table in Africa, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

FAO Food Price Index registers sharpest fall since December 2008, FAO

Eco-agriculture a win-win for smallholder farmers: Greenpeace report

indexEcological agriculture, a variety of techniques used to improve provision and utilisation of ecosystem services within a farming system, is often considered to be lower yielding than intensive forms of farming reliant on synthetic inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. While the former is thought to be more sustainable, this sustainability is significantly reduced if more land is needed to produce similar yields to conventional farming. A new report from Greenpeace provides evidence, however, that eco-agriculture can yield better than its less environmentally-friendly counterpart in certain instances and be more profitable for small-scale farmers.

The report, Fostering Economic Resilience, is based on fieldwork from Malawi and Kenya and shows that farmers practicing either agroforestry, the use of trees that provide a natural fertilizer, or push-pull pest techniques, the use of plant species to draw crop pests away, achieve “higher incomes and yields than those practising chemical-intensive agriculture”.

Since the 1960s the use of nitrogen fertilizer has grown some 900% and is expected to grow further by 40-50% over the next four decades. And yet the problems of intensive agriculture and an overreliance on synthetic chemical inputs are well known:

  • Inputs are expensive to farmers and to governments when subsidized – 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa spend some US$1.05 billion a year on fertiliser subsidy programmes, an amount which makes up an average of 30% of their agriculture budgets.
  • The continued and heavy use of chemical inputs can pose severe health risks to farmers – “the UN Environment Programme has calculated that the cost of pesticide-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa, for governments and those affected, could reach $90 billion during 2005-20.”
  • Their manufacture is energy-intensive and contributes to climate change – “the manufacturing, transport, distribution and use of chemical fertilisers alone accounts for around 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions”.
  • Synthetic inputs can damage soils and run-off into waterways leading to soil acidification, eutrophication of water bodies and biodiversity loss – “some 30-80% of Nitrogen applied to farmland as fertilizer escapes to contaminate water systems and the environment”.

Ecological agriculture, such as agroforestry, water harvesting and organic farming, on the other hand, aims to protect soil and water resources, conserve biodiversity and both adapt to and mitigate climate change.

[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.

Do Aid and Development need their own TripAdvisor feedback system?, From Poverty to Power

Rebranding bran: teaching nutrient-rich cooking in Mali, The Guardian

African hub set up to boost research autonomy, Nature

Global Food Industry Reluctant Leaders of Smallholder Farming Revolution, The Huffington Post

Managing for Resilience: Framing an integrated landscape approach for overcoming chronic and acute food insecurity, Buck and Bailey

Agri-tech for Africa’s food security, development, SciDev.Net

Water-Smart Agriculture in East Africa, PAEPARD

New interactive tool brings malnutrition data to life, Devex

Fateful Harvest: Why Brazil has a big appetite for risky pesticides, Reuters

Denmark’s Drug-Free Pigs, The New York Times [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.

Report: Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050, EurekAlert

For Monsanto, a Season of Woes, The Wall Street Journal

GM crops: Vital for food security? Or overestimated potential?, The Independent

How genetic engineering can fight disease, reduce insecticide use and enhance food security: Pamela Ronald speaks at TED2015, TED

Is Monsanto on the side of science?, New Internationalist

China Seeks to Develop Global Seed Power, The Wall Street Journal

Discovery of heat-tolerant beans could save ‘meat of the poor’ from global warming, EurekAlert

Study Links Widely Used Pesticides to Antibiotic Resistance, Civil Eats

Genetically Modified Crop Industry Continues to Expand, Worldwatch Institute

World Health Organization: GM-Crop Herbicide a Probable Carcinogen, Food Tank

Achieve Global Food Security by Investing in Universities, Global Food for Thought

The GM crops debate moves to Africa – and it’s just as noisy, The Independent

Can ‘down to earth’ innovations keep hunger at bay in the Sahel?, 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.

Back agriculture to get the most out of aid to Africa, SciDev.Net

No-till agriculture may not bring hoped-for boost in global crop yields, study finds, UC Davis

Family farms produce 80 percent of world’s food, speculators seek land, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Can We Feed the World in 2050? A Scoping Paper to Assess the Evidence, GDAE

Principles for responsible agriculture and food investments are approved, FAO

Oxfam response to UN Committee on World Food Security Endorsement of Principles, Oxfam

Why ‘climate-smart agriculture’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, The Guardian

The Race Is On to Find Organic Pesticides, The Wall Street Journal [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 illegal fishing off Africa’s coast must be stopped, The Guardian

Can Synthetic Biology Survive In A World Haunted By ‘Frankenfood’?, Forbes

Global land prices and the future of farming, Financial Times

We’re massively underestimating climate costs, experts warn, Grist

Agro-sylvo-pastoral systems to feed West and Central Africa, PAEPARD

Call to halve target for added sugar, BBC

A Global Biotechnology Perspective, Scientific American [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.

Food security: Ag’s big challenge, Farm Weekly

Ending extreme poverty with a new model of development, Rajiv Shah, Devex

Q&A: Agriculture Needs a ‘New Revolution’, Kanayo Nwanze, IRIN

The Africa Fertilizer Gap, Global Food Security

How can Governments and Donors support Africa’s Women Farmers?, Duncan Green, Oxfam

British firm gets go-ahead for planting genetically modified omega-3 seeds, The Irish Times

Complex land rights feed ‘grabbing’ complaints in Tanzania, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Study casts doubt on climate benefit of biofuels from corn residue, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Six Innovative Initiatives That Are Working to Strengthen Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture, Huffington Post [Read more…]