Eight TED talks about the environment

In 2013 we brought you our six favourite TEDx talks about food security, which we followed with 9 more in 2014. This time, to celebrate World Environment Day on June 5th we bring you some of our favourite TED talks about climate change, biodiversity and the environment. We’d love for you to share your favourites and to hear your thoughts about our list on twitter using #TEDenvironment and our handle, @Ag4Impact


  1. Jonathan Drori: Why we’re storing billions of seeds highlights the importance of biodiversity for supporting life, and looks into the Millennium Seed bank where billions of seeds, including non-food plants, are being stored for posterity.



2. Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food takes this idea further, by looking at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that stores millions of specifically food-crop seeds. Cary describes biodiversity is the ‘raw material’ of agriculture and highlights the importance of storing these seeds for “whatever tomorrow may bring”


[Read more…]

Unlocking Senegal’s Agricultural Potential

By Katrin Glatzel

When I was in Senegal a couple of weeks ago to visit the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Dakar, I was not only stunned by the warmth and hospitality of the Senegalese people, but equally astounded by the huge untapped agricultural potential.

As you reach the outskirts of Dakar and travel north-east towards the city of Thies, one gets the impression that the country is on an upswing: streets are buzzing with people, highways to connect the city with the new airport and conference centre are being constructed, and there are hundreds of small plots of former agricultural land which people hope to convert into residential areas and larger farms.

However, the image of an ‘economic upswing’ in Senegal is somewhat misleading; there is in fact a lot of untapped potential for agricultural and economic growth.

Agriculture in Senegal

1Agriculture in Senegal constitutes the main source of income for more than three-quarters of the population, yet the rural poor have limited possibilities to take advantage of opportunities for improving subsistence farming. They largely depend on income from cash crops, non-agricultural wages, and remittances (in 2011, remittances were worth 11% of GDP). Most of the rural poor live in areas which have limited capacity for food production due to dependence on rainfall, vulnerabilities to pest infestations, and depleted soils. [Read more…]

Coca-Cola trying to do good?

While this blog began as a look at how five big businesses are attempting to improve the livelihoods and food security of small-scale farmers in developing countries (see previous blog post), it quickly became more than a single blog’s worth of information, in particular, on just Coca-Cola alone. Hence this second instalment looking at the multiple initiatives Coca-Cola, with a number of partners, are running across a variety of themes. As with the last blog we’ll leave it up to you as to whether you think these initiatives add up to a sum total of “doing good”.

coceAt the US-Africa Leaders summit Coca-Cola announced a new investment into its African bottling partners of $5 billion over six years, bringing their total investment, between 2010 and 2020, to $17 billion. This money will be invested in Africa, where they have been working since 1928, in new manufacturing lines and equipment, creating more jobs, as well as several of Coca-Cola’s sustainability initiatives based around sustainable sourcing, safe water access and women’s empowerment. Some of these initiatives include:

Project Nurture – an $11.5 million partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and TechnoServe launched in 2010 supporting 50,000 small-scale mango and passion fruit farmers in in Kenya and Uganda to sustainably grow their crops and double their fruit incomes. As of June 2013, more than 50,000 farmers who were successfully organized into 1,100 producer business groups have been recruited, more than 70 community extension service providers and 48,500 farmers have been trained in agronomic practices, and two processors have been approved as suppliers in the Coca-Cola’s supply chain.

[Read more…]

4 big businesses trying to do good?

Much has been in the news recently, whether in support or sceptical, regarding initiatives of large corporations that aim in some way to address food security and the sustainability of food systems. Judgements around whether these programmes are genuine in their aims, positive for small-scale developing food producers and effective at tackling food security are mixed. Here we discuss some of these initiatives.

  1. Cargill

Over the last five years, Cargill claim to have contributed over $83 million to reduce hunger and improve nutrition around the world through their global partnerships and about half of Cargill’s global workforce is in the developing world. They have several programmes of work, for example:

  • In partnership with CARE and the World Food Programme, Cargill is working to improve food security and living standards in parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa. Since 2008 their work has reached over 100,000 people in rural areas and in 2013 they announced a three-year $7.5-million partnership building on the success of the Rural Development Initiative and a five-year $10-million plan to support people in India, Ghana, Cote d’IVoire, Egypt, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Brazil. In particular their work tries to improve productivity, incomes, food security and education.
  • Since 2004, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Cargill have been promoting techniques to increase productivity with less impact on land, water and biodiversity in Africa, Argentina, Brazil, China and North America, for example helping farmers grow soy more sustainably and protect the Brazilian rainforest.
  • In Mozambique, Cargill is working with AgDevCo to raise incomes for thousands of smallholder farmers through a long-term maize supply agreement with the Empresa de Comercialização Agrícola Ltd. programme. Also in Mozambique, Cargill has committed $1.35 million to a three-year partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation to support Bilibiza, a vocational school providing agricultural training for 400 students each year.
  • Cargill has helped to train more than 115,000 cocoa farmers around the world in improved agricultural practices, helping to increase the sustainability of cocoa supply chains, improve livelihoods and increase food security in cocoa farming communities in Brazil, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia and Vietnam.
  • With the World Wildlife Fund, Songyuan municipal government and smallholder farmers in northeastern China Cargill are working to improve maize production, decrease waste, conserve water and reduce fertilizer use. On demonstration plots average yields have been increased by 20% while in 2013, for the more than 15,000 farmers participating, yields were 39% higher than demonstration plots and fertilizer efficiency improved 34%.

[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.

Weight of the world: 2.1 billion people obese or overweight, Reuters

Despite all the highs and lows around the world, our number one challenge is how to feed humanity with nutritious food!, African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development

Food, health and sustainability: we become what we eat, and so does Earth, The Guardian

12 Data visualizations that illustrate poverty’s biggest challenges, ONE

The Science of Inequality. What the numbers tell us, Science

3,000 rice genome sequences made publicly available on World Hunger Day, EurekAlert

UPDATE 2-EU member states back compromise to allow GM crops-diplomats, Reuters

EU biofuel targets need 70m ha of land, says report, Farmers Weekly [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.

New infographics portal : Everything you wanted to know about Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, CCAFS

The seeds of a new generation, New York Times

Growth soars in sustainable commodities, but poorest producers miss out, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Small is Beautiful – four aims for positive land management, Thinking Country

The danger of trusting corporations to lead the fight against world hunger, Triple Crisis

First African study on biodiversity in genetically modified maize finds insects abundant, EurekAlert

Africa’s Green Revolution Is Ready to Go – Just Add Investments, AllAfrica.com

Should African farmers be able to choose GM crops?, B4FA [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.

Rising to the Challenge: Changing Course to Feed the World in 2050, Action Aid

Commentary: And the prize goes to … genetically modified foods, Global Post

No scientific consensus on safety of genetically modified organisms, Phys.org

Biofuel not off the hook for ‘land grabs’, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Commentary – Technological innovation for small-plot farms, Global Food for Thought

Why does climate change adaptation in Africa ignore politics? Great broadside from Matthew Lockwood, From Poverty to Power

Genetically modified crops should be part of Africa’s food future, The Washington Post

Retailers urged to accept more ‘ugly fruit’ to reduce food waste, Farmers Guardian

Seeking sustainable crops, Science on the Land

New Effort Launched to Measure and Monitor Global Food Loss and Waste, UNEP [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.

Rice gene digs deep to triple yields in drought, SciDev.Net

Short-term action needed to meet 2° warming goal – report, Thomason Reuters Foundation

Africa’s agriculture commodity exchanges take root, Forbes

Keeping pace with plant pathogens, National Science Foundation

Genetically modified crops pass benefits to weeds, Nature

Hungry for change, The Age

China gobbling up wheat, as US exports to nation soar, NewsMax

Put a corn cob in your tank, The Wall Street Journal

Pesticide risks need more research and regulation, SciDev.Net

Mali’s fish traders get wise to wetland conservation, Thomson Reuters Foundation

What if Food Labels Served as Warning Signs Instead of Marketing Devices?, Take Part

Paper recommendation: Landscape Sustainability Science, Ideas for Sustainability


Is Sustainability Still Possible?


Every year the Worldwatch Institute releases their annual State of the World report covering such previous topics as consumerism, climate change and food security.  In 2013, State of the World turns its attention to a popular topic, the concept of sustainability.

The report looks at the definition and use of the word sustainability, whether the concept has outlasted its usefulness and, if not, how we can measure sustainability? Practical approaches and policies for achieving sustainability, including geoengineering and corporate transformation, are investigated along with ways of coping with drastic environmental change and resource depletion, should we fail.

The term “Sustainability” is used frequently in our language today and with a myriad of different meanings, something the President of the Worldwatch Institute, Robert Engelman, calls “Sustainababble”. Its definition, in its original form is “capable of being maintained in existence without interruption or dimunition,” but since the release of the Brundtland Commission’s report in 1987 it has been used to mean ‘green’, ‘environmentally friendly’ or just ‘slightly less damaging than the conventional alternative’. The fear is that overuse of this term will result in the loss of meaning and impact, as well as an acceptance that if something is said to be ‘sustainable’ then it must be implicitly good. But good for what?

As we know the human population has surpassed a size and lifestyle that fits within environmental planetary boundaries. We consume more than Earth can provide. The new State of the World report asks the questions, have we gone so far that recovery is impossible and is it too late to change our future? “Has humanity already overshot the carrying capacity of the Earth so badly that we are doomed to a horrible crash after oil, or freshwater, or topsoil, or fish, or the ozone layer, or many other things –after one or all of them run out?” [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.

Europe set to ban bee-killing pesticides, Phys.org

Small farmers hold the key to tackling climate change, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The new geopolitics of food scarcity, Lester Brown

Plant biotechnology: Tarnished promise, Nature

G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, USDA

Stewards of the natural world do not understand the precautionary principle, The Guardian

Cargill launches initiative to help food makers improve the nutritional profiles of products for kids, Cargill

Feeding 25 million Ghanaians, Ghana Web

Gene silencing set to boost agricultural yields, Murdoch University

New plant protein discoveries could ease global food and fuel demands, EurekAlert!

Open access is the future for Africa’s science media, SciDev.Net

Study links insecticide use to invertebrate die-offs, The Guardian

At-risk countries need shared climate solutions – experts, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Guest Commentary: The Challenge of Going Beyond Sustainability, Farm Journal