Making the shift to sustainable agriculture: 10 principles

Image from GHI's 2015 GAP Report: http://www.globalharvestinitiative.org

Image from GHI’s 2015 GAP Report: http://www.globalharvestinitiative.org

By Katy Wilson

According to the recently released 2015 Global Hunger Index from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), hunger levels remain “serious” or “alarming” in 52 of 117 countries, despite many countries having reduced their hunger scores by at least half since 2000, including Brazil, Azerbaijan and Mongolia. The highest levels of hunger were recorded in Central African Republic, Chad and Zambia. Several new studies and reports suggest that failure to meet countries’ food needs requires the transformation of our food systems and a shift to sustainable farming.

Global Harvest Initiative’s 6th annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report (2015 GAP report), released last week states that for the second year in a row the rate of global agricultural productivity growth (1.72%) falls short of the level needed to feed an estimated 9.7 billion people by 2050 (1.75%). Regionally, the rate of agricultural productivity growth is particularly alarming in sub-Saharan Africa, where by 2030 only 14% of food needs will be met. Across all developing countries the average rate of growth is 1.5%. Stagnating agricultural productivity growth will cause food price increases, greater demand for humanitarian aid and for land to be converted to food production. The report urges productive and sustainable agricultural systems to become a priority. [Read more…]

10 priorities for making African smallholder farming work under climate change

By Katrin Glatzel

With just over two months left till a new international climate change agreement is being finalised in Paris, the Montpellier Panel is launching a new report today, “The Farms of Change: African Smallholders Responding to an Uncertain Climate Future”, which addresses some of the key challenges to climate-proof Africa’s smallholder farmers.

FoC cover pageAs we all know, two of the greatest challenges of the 21st century are the increasing demands for food, water and energy from a growing population and – climate change. Agriculture and smallholders are central to both, perhaps nowhere more so than in Africa. Africa is already battling against the impacts of climate change and smallholder farmers are amongst the most vulnerable with the least capacity to adapt. Rising temperatures signal more extreme weather events that will put lives and livelihoods at greater risk, increasing smallholders’ vulnerability to drought, famine and disease. And whilst progress has been made during the last two decades to reduce hunger and to improve farmers’ livelihoods, climate change jeopardises these gains.

High levels of poverty and underdevelopment combined with insufficient infrastructure exacerbate the already severe impacts of global warming on resources, development and human security. In order to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, international organisations and governments must help smallholders to reduce and off-set greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. [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.

Can greater transparency help people hold big corporations to account? Some new tools that may help, From Poverty to Power

S&T Committee Urges Change to EU Rules for GM Crops, ISAAA

New Project Announced – Global Food Security by the Numbers, Global Food for Thought

Public procurement in Africa benefitting family farmers and schools, FAO

Eight Ways Monsanto Fails at Sustainable Agriculture, Union of Concerned Scientists

Biodiversity or GMOs: Will The Future of Nutrition Be in Women’s Hands or Under Corporate Control?, Institute of Science in Society

Will Food Sovereignty Starve the Poor and Punish the Planet?, Independent Science News

Limits Sought on GMO Corn as Pest Resistance Grows, The Wall Street Journal

Farmers Put Down the Plow for More Productive Soil, 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.

Roadmap for Strengthening Forest and Farm Producer Organizations, FAO

Six innovations revolutionising farming, The Guardian

Could insects feed the hungry world of tomorrow?, BBC

Beating the heat, Nature Biotechnology

Crop yields and global food security, Australian Government (GRDC)

Acres of genetically modified corn nearly doubled in a decade, Harvest Public Media

What’s the best way to measure empowerment?, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Majority of African Farm Workers Struggle to Afford Food, Gallup

Wild about Agricultural Innovation in Botswana, Global Food for Thought

Pesticide blamed for bee deaths now linked to bird declines, Los Angeles Times

Food Security and WTO Domestic Support Disciplines post-Bali, ICTSD

Why does Europe hate genetically modified food?, Rappler

Can Africa create a new green generation of food producers?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Higher Food Prices Can Help to End Hunger, Malnutrition and Food Waste, IPS

[Read more…]

14 agricultural infographics – The rise and rise of the infographic part two

Last year we posted a blog article about the role of infographics in communicating policy and advocacy messages in a simple, accessible and powerful way. The trend for the infographic to present big data and hard hitting facts to the masses is still growing and here are some more infographics we think you should take a look at:

  1. Oxfam Australia in their infographic, What’s wrong with our food system, look at why so many farmers are hungry.
  2. The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center documents Advances in global agriculture.
  3. Public Health Degree investigate the Two sides of the global food crisis.
  1. Online Schools compare Oil fields with corn fields in terms of their productivity and greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. The United States Agency for International Development’s infographic, The global state of agriculture, looks ahead to how we must increase food for a growing population.
  3. The International Food Policy Research Institute document how conservation agriculture works in Farming for the long haul.
  4. Monsanto explores The role of data science in agriculture.
  5. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, through their FAOSTAT database, explores Our food and agriculture in numbers. The FAO have also created Genetic resources and biodiversity for food and agriculture.
  6. Raconteur presents the facts on Sustainable agriculture.
  7. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have created several infographics entitled Simple innovations help African farmers thrive, Growing rice for a hungry world and Making progress on the MDGs.
  8. Float Mobile Learning examines how Mobile technologies in North American agriculture have developed and progressed.
  9. GSMA M-Agri have published an infographic on the Agricultural productivity gap and the opportunity for mobile.
  10. ONE’s, A growing opportunity: Measuring investments in African agriculture, investigates whether promises by governments and donors have been kept.
  11. The International Food Policy Research Institute look at Meat: the good, the bad and the complicated.

 

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 prices and poverty reduction in the long run, IFPRI

Is ‘Getting to Zero’ really feasible? The new Chronic Poverty Report, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education 2013/2014 Report from the Field, SARE

Research reveals true value of cover crops to farmers, environment, Penn State

From poverty to prosperity: A conversation with Bill Gates, AEI

Harnessing Innovation for African Agriculture and Food Systems, Meridian Institute

Pests worm their way into genetically modified maize, Nature

Scientists sound the alarm on climate, The New York Times

Scale up policies that work to eliminate hunger by 2025 – food expert, Thomson Reuters Foundation

GMOs Should Be Regulated On A National Level In Europe, British Scientists Argue, Huffington Post

Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than we thought, University of Leeds

Examining the link between food prices and food insecurity: A multi-level analysis of maize price and birthweight in Kenya, Food Policy

GM maize heads for British fields, The Times

Number of Days Without Rain to Dramatically Increase in Some World Regions, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Accessing agricultural training

logoIn the increasingly digital world in which we live, information can still be hard to come by for many. An international NGO, Access Agriculture, established by NGOs Agro-Insight and Countrywise Communications in 2012 is working to close global agricultural knowledge gaps.

Although only around 15.6% of the African population, according to 2012 figures, has access to the internet, the telecommunications market in Africa is one of the fastest growing in the world. Mobile phone subscribers have increased 18% each year for the past five years and, while coverage is only at around a third of the population, the rapid increase in mobile phone use is motivating telecommunications companies to develop Broadband Wireless Access technologies to connect more people to the internet.

And this could be beneficial to farmers, connecting them with various information sources from around the world. Access Agriculture is a platform for agricultural R&D staff, service providers, extension agents, communication professionals and representatives of farmer organisations, which provides agricultural training videos in local languages. Their aim being to make knowledge on sustainable agriculture accessible to people in developing countries.

Training videos are available across a wide range of topics from cereals to livestock to mechanisation to integrated pest management. From conservation agriculture and agroforestry to conflict resolution and input buying.

To check out some of the videos on offer click here.

Access Agriculture is also in the process of developing Agtube (think YouTube for agriculture) where people can upload their own videos to share with the agricultural community. Set to be launched soon, Agtube, through increasing two way dialogue between agricultural actors, may provide opportunities for innovation through collaboration. We also hope we will learn more about the challenges developing country farmers face and the solutions they have developed.

Online sustainable agricultural training is also provided by the Rainforest Alliance.