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

IFPRI’s 2011 Global Food Policy Report and the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2012-2021

The first in a new annual series, the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2011 Global Food Policy Report  looks at food policy over the previous year focusing on major developments, challenges and opportunities, and future actions. In 2011, food policy was on the international agenda with the G20 meeting to discuss food price volatility for the first time. Agriculture remained high priority on this agenda with emerging economies, global institutions, developed and developing country governments and international foundations maintaining their pledges to focus on agriculture and in some cases developing new plans for progress, such as the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture, Feed the Future and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. The famine in the Horn of Africa, biofuel policy changes, the agriculture, health and nutrition nexus, land policy and climate change were key topics for policymakers and were evident in the media.

This report discusses these themes at length and most importantly asks ‘what can we do better?’ thus contributing not only to research agendas and information sharing but hopefully shaping preventative actions and transformational policy change. [Read more…]

Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Secure Future

The UNDP recently released (in August 2012) a new report entitled Africa Human Development Report. It emphasizes the need for a coordinated, multi-sectoral approach to hunger and starvation in Africa. Rarely is the frustration and disbelief that the ‘spectre of famine…continues to haunt parts of Sub-Saharan Africa’, put so eloquently. Indeed, one in four Africans is undernourished and yet Sub-Saharan Africa has ‘ample agricultural land, plenty of water, a generally favourable climate for growing food’ and, in the past 10 years, ‘world-beating economic growth rates’ in some countries.

The solutions outlined in the report are not new: greater production, better access and increased human capability but this report goes further in saying these are necessary but not sufficient conditions for achieving food security. Good nutrition, robust policies, which support smallholder farmers, strong institutions and a focus on resilience are also critical. While many reports focus on some of these aspects, complex as they are on their own, this report gives an overview of the myriad of solutions that not only exist but that must come together to achieve food security.

Empowerment and human rights are also integral to the report: …’the basic right to food….is being violated in Sub-Saharan Africa to an intolerable degree’. Giving all people a voice and ensuring governments and are accountable to all people is an argument rarely used alongside the practical means of tackling hunger.

This report that lays out the issues in a powerful way, concluding that, ‘The challenge of food security in Sub-Saharan Africa is formidable, the timeframe for action tight and the investment required substantial. But the potential gains for human development are immense.’ Let’s hope the language is powerful enough to inspire action.