What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary of the news stories, reports, and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Feeding the cities

Growing Food for Growing Cities: Achieving Inclusive Growth, Chicago council

Future of food : shaping the global food system to deliver improved nutrition and health, World Bank

Why urban agriculture isn’t a panacea for Africa’s food crisis, The Conversation

Guest Commentary – How Access to Long-Established Technology Can Help Feed Growing Cities, Chicago Council

Growth opportunities and growing pains in a changing global food system, AgriPulse

Growing Food for Growing Cities: Engaging the Private Sector, Chicago Council

Climate change 

A new start for European foreign policy, E3G

Could global warming’s top culprit help crops? Eurekalert [Read more…]

Top 8 Quotes from “African Farmers in The Digital Age: How Digital Solutions Can Enable Rural Development”

“African Farmers in the Digital Age” is a special edition anthology, published in partnership with Foreign Affairs that brings together the views of twenty leading thinkers on all aspects of food systems, smallholder farming, and the transformative opportunity presented by digital technology. The authors of the essays in this collection paint a picture of what a thriving African food system can accomplish and lay out some concrete steps for building that system. According to the editor, Gideon Rose, “From mobile phones to big data, nutrition to climate change, the collection covers it all, with authors who have something powerful to say and the authority to be heard.” Here are some of the most insightful and salient quotes to give you a taste of the wisdom the anthology has to offer:

  1. “The combination of digital technology and human creativity in deploying it will revolutionize life for Africa’s farmers by overcoming isolation, speeding up change, and taking success to scale.” — Kofi Annan, Sir Gordon Conway and Sam Dryden

Access to digital technology can make the distance between a remote farmer and the market even shorter than a straight line. Whereas many smallholders live several hours by foot from most markets, mobile platforms can share market price information or connect farmers to buyers in an instant.

  1. “It is time to change the way we think. Farmers are not the cause of Africa’s poverty; they are a potential solution. They are key to creating the future envisioned by the SDGs.” — Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General

Check out this blog “Agriculture in Every SDG” to find out how agriculture is a central element for achieving each and every one of the recently adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  You might also want to have a look at the report “No Ordinary Matter” – the Montpellier Panel shows several ways that farmers can help to improve their soil quality and even sequester carbon!

soil carbon sequestration

  1. “If Africa’s evolving food system leaves its smallholder farmers behind, the continent will not reach its immense potential.” — Sir Gordon Conway and Sam Dryden

[Read more…]

Six fascinating talks exploring digital technology, agriculture and social change

Bonney et al., 2014

Photo credit: Bonney et al., 2014

The digital transformation of agriculture and other sectors has been occurring for a while now but there is much potential still to be discovered. These video resources not only discuss new ways digital technology can be harnessed but the challenges we face in utilising Information and Communications Technology for broader social change.

 

  1. Food Tank Webinar Series: Digital Agriculture with David Bergvinson

Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank, talks to Dr. Bergvinson on creating equitable opportunities for smallholder farmers to realize their full potential by utilising digital technology (mobile, cloud computing, social media, and big data analytics) along the agriculture value chain.

  1. TEDx: How can Digital Agriculture Feed Nine Billion People

Jim Ethington, technologist and entrepreneur with 15 years of experience building data analytics and machine learning products, discusses how the use of big data can help solve world hunger problems. For the last 6 years, Jim has been focused on the problem of how we can apply data science to farming. As the VP of Product at The Climate Corporation, he leads product design and development for a suite of products that provide insights and recommendations to farmers that help them to grow crops more efficiently and effectively.

  1. TEDx: Why digital transformation has little to do with technology!

Tobias Burkhardt, founder of the SHIFTSCHOOL for digital transformation, talks about our fears over an increasingly digital future. Exponential computing power and intelligent algorithms drive human productivity into another dimension and new technologies disrupt long established business models before lunch. He explores why only a small digital elite sees the potential while the majority of people are either afraid, ignorant or overconfident when it comes to a digital future. He explains that the answer is deeply routed in our middle class intellectual way of thinking of how to educate our children and how to live a successful life. It is not the technology but our mindsets that threaten our future wellbeing. [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.

Technology and innovation

Guest Commentary: Technology Can Feed the World, The Chicago Council

What mobile tech innovation offers food security, Devex

Africa gets new centre for agricultural innovation, SciDevNet

Mapping for food safety, iied

How the Fourth Industrial Revolution Can Radically Improve Our Food Supply Chain, HuffPost

The digital revolution in agriculture: Progress and constraints, IFPRI

Policy Brief: Small-scale farmer innovation, QUNO

How digital is solving 3 problems in agriculture, Zero Hunger Challenge

Nutrition, Food Security, and Waste 

Stink bug could boost health and nutrition in Africa, SciDevNet [Read more…]

Ecomodernism: creating more questions than it answers

ecomodernistBy Katy Wilson

In April 2015 ahead of the 45th Earth Day, a group of 18 authors, including the founders of the Breakthrough Institute, released An Ecomodernist Manifesto, a report outlining how to “use humanity’s extraordinary powers in service of creating a good Anthropocene”. Released on the 26th September in the UK, the publication outlines the authors’ beliefs that human well-being must be decoupled from environmental destruction and that alongside reducing our impact on the environment we must refrain from trying to balance nature with development if we are to “avoid economic and ecological collapse” and “make more room for nature”. This decoupling is to be achieved through several ways such as intensification, demographic change and through the use of technological substitutes.

Intensification of agriculture, energy extraction, forestry and human settlement is believed to be key to separating the natural world from ongoing human development and to enhancing nature, alleviating poverty and mitigating climate change. Authors use as evidence of this effect the fact that since the mid-1960s the amount of land needed for growing crops and animal feed for the average person has decreased by about half. Net reforestation has also been made possible in some areas such as New England due to agricultural intensification and a reduction in the use of wood as fuel.

Technology has, over history, reduced our reliance on natural ecosystems (or at least their directly obtained goods) and increased our resource-use efficiency but it has also allowed the human population, and associated consumption, to expand exponentially as well as increase the reach of society’s impact on global ecosystems. Although our consumption patterns are changing (in developing countries diets are shifting to include more meat and processed foods, while in some developed countries more sustainable protein sources are growing in popularity) and human population is predicted to peak and decline this century, globalisation and the distance between societies and the resources they consume, continues to increase. The development of technological substitutes could lower the impact our lifestyles have on ecosystems far away. Technological development supported by the report include urbanisation, nuclear power, agricultural intensification, aquaculture and desalination. On the other hand suburbanisation, low-yield farming and some forms of renewable energy production are believed to increase human demands on the environment. [Read more…]

Mozambique ‘from the field’: Going beyond and scaling up

By Stephanie Brittain

Mozambique has overcome a prolonged period of intense civil war, and emerged as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. Despite this massive achievement, it is still one of the world’s poorest countries with more than 50% of Mozambicans living on less than $1 per day.  70% of the population live in rural areas and agriculture is the main source of income, accounting for 29% of GDP and employing 88% of the labour force. Smallholder farms account for 90% of domestic food supplies. There is scope for development in terms of food and nutrition security as a quarter of children under 5 are underweight.

Working to tackle food insecurity and bolster the lives of smallholder farmers is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA invests in creating change across the whole agricultural value chain, catalysing public and private partnerships to achieve breakthroughs in agricultural production.

I went to Mozambique to see some of AGRA’s projects and to better understand the impact that their work is having on the lives of smallholder farmers. This is the first of a series of blogs that will discuss some of the lessons learnt from this visit.

Zano Ramambo farmers’ organisation

After a tough 10km drive down a heavily eroded dirt road I arrived in the village of Boavista, Manica Province, where I was warmly greeted by the Zano Ramambo farmers’ organisation. For the past 3 years, this farmers’ organisation has been receiving support from AGRA and ADEM (Manica Development Agency), an NGO that builds the capacity of farmers and optimizes value chains for poverty reduction in the province.

Dirt roads erode easily making it difficult to pass during the rainy season

Dirt roads erode easily making it difficult to pass during the rainy season

The organisation was established in 2006 by 36 members, with an initial focus on cattle farming. However, in the past few years they have widened their focus to include agriculture and grown in size and strength.  Zano Ramambo has now grown from the initial 36 members to 60 members, of which 35 are women. The organisation established a joining fee of 250 MZN ($7) and a monthly fee of 10 MZN ($0.28) per member. In 2014, the farmers focussed on better organising their group by elected board members and setting up a bank account to help them better manage their profits.

[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.

Here’s Why We Haven’t Quite Figured Out How to Feed Billions More People, National Geographic

How Much of World’s Greenhouse-Gas Emissions Come From Agriculture?, The Wall Street Journal

Developing countries blast rich-world farm subsidies at Rome talks, Reuters

Unprecedented Case Filed at International Criminal Court Proposes Land Grabbing in Cambodia as a Crime Against Humanity, Huffington Post

Feeding the world. The ultimate first-world conceit, Triple Crisis

Nobel laureates call for a revolutionary shift in how humans use resources, The Guardian

When Can A Big Storm Or Drought Be Blamed On Climate Change?, NPR

A sign of things to come? Examining four major climate-related disasters, 2010 – 2013, and their impacts on food security, Oxfam

4 problems GMO labeling won’t solve, Grist [Read more…]