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 family farming make poverty history?, CNN

Calling All Global Citizens: Small Actions to Create Big Impact Against Global Poverty, Huffington Post

Solving malnutrition through business and science?, Progressive Development Forum

Realizing Africa’s Rice Promise, Wopereis, et al.

The genetically modified food debate: Where do we begin?, Grist

Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture: Premises and Policies, Science

Africa: The Fuss Over Intensified Farming, All Africa

Agricultural researchers must back local climate innovation, Thomson Reuters Foundation

As Biotech Seed Falters, Insecticide Use Surges In Corn Belt, The Salt

Biofuels: have we lost the plot?, The Guardian

China and Nigeria sign $1.1bn deal, BBC

Food Insecurity Threatens 1.2 Million in Uganda’s Northeast, All Africa

Africa-wide “Great Green Wall” to Halt Sahara’s Spread?, National Geographic

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 Report Urges a U.S. Global Food Security Focus on Science, Trade and Business, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Pesticides Make a Comeback, The Wall Street Journal

The biodiversity challenge in Europe, Thinking Country

Q+A: Committee on World Food Security chair urges use of forest foods in diets, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Ghana hosts 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week, Joy Online

Trees on farms: challenging conventional agricultural practice, The Guardian

Disasters displaced over 32 mln people in 2012, rising trend forecast, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Feature: Curbing hunger, Ghana must go biotech, Ghana Business News

G8 under pressure to rethink biofuel mandates, EurActiv.com

Forests and insects for food security

ID-10035951-1The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has recently brought attention to two neglected areas of food security: forests and insects.

On the 13th to 15th May 2013 the FAO hosted an International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition which aimed to increase understanding of the role that forests, trees and agroforestry systems can play in improving the food security and nutrition of rural people. 1985 was designated the year of forests and food security but since then it has disappeared off the international agenda.

Forests, trees and agroforestry are often forgotten in national food security strategies and yet 1.6 billion people rely on forests and other natural systems for food and their livelihoods. Forests and trees are important in a number of ways:

  • They provide affordable sources of food, nutrients, fibre and fuelwood as well as sources of income
  • They help deliver clean water to agricultural lands by protecting catchments
  • Herders in arid and semi-arid lands depend on trees as a source of fodder for their livestock
  • Agroforestry can improve productivity, resilience and is a climate-smart agricultural practice.

In order to fully realise the potential of forests in tackling food insecurity, issues of land tenure, access and sustainable extraction need further investigation and policy agencies of agriculture, environment, health, development, nutrition, conservation, land-use planning and forestry require greater integration. Background papers to the conference discuss the role of trees in the livelihoods of the poor and the enabling political environments needed to increase the contribution of forests to food security. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

Every week we summarise the news stories and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Climate, Scarcity and Sustainability in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Global Dashboard

EU’s aid budget facing cuts despite evidence it will pay for itself by 2020, The Guardian

Britain in nutrition recession as food prices rise and incomes shrink, The Guardian

Cool bananas: a trade war is over, Financial Times

Cutting down trees is such a fuelish notion, The Times

Young people and agriculture in Africa, Institute of Development Studies

Global development podcast: farmers, GM crops and agriculture’s future, The Guardian

Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Reach New Record. WMO Bulletin highlights pivotal role of carbon sinks, World Meteorological Organisation

Evergreen Agriculture

Faidherbia albida is a tree of some consequence. As an important source of nitrogen in tropical agriculture, it is beginning to gain popularity in Africa. Not only able to access and make available to crops deeper sources of nitrogen, it sheds its leaves in the wet season and retains them in the dry season, acting as shade for crops without competing with them for light. Adoption in Niger and Zambia have been significant (4.8 million hectares and 300,000 hectares, respectively) and yield increases promising. At the Zambia Conservation Farming Unit unfertilised maize yields have increased to 4.1 tons per hectare from 1.3 t/ha when grown near F. albida trees. While in Malawi maize yields increased by 280% when grown in the zone of F. albida. There is another benefit too, carbon storage and accumulation. Tropical trees such as F. albida can sequester a minimum of 22.6 kg of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

But these trees are only one element of a wider movement, that of Evergreen Agriculture. Championed by the World Agroforestry Centre, Evergreen Agriculture combines the principles of Conservation Farming with agroforestry (both discussed in Chapter 13). The former, currently practiced globally on 100 million hectares of cropland, has direct benefits for soil and water conservation while the latter provides sources of green fertiliser, a diversity of products farmers can cultivate and other environmental benefits, such as shelter, erosion control and watershed protection. All of these combine to provide increased crop yields and a more stable, resilient farming system.