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.

Sharp rise in FAO Food Price Index, FAO

Spreading the word about the no-till agricultural revolution, IIED

On the road to Paris 2015: Towards a new global climate deal, Friends of Europe

Fake Meats, Finally, Taste Like Chicken, The New York Times

‘How DFID Learns’. Or doesn’t. UK aid watchdog gives it a ‘poor’ (but the rest of us would probably do worse), Duncan Green, Oxfam

Realising the Promise of Agriculture for Africa’s Transformation, PAEPARD

Global food security: could wheat feed the world?, The Guardian

Commentary Series – This Land is Our Land, Global Food for Thought

3 Graphics To Explain The Present And Future Of Climate Change, Forbes

Climate signals, growing louder, 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.

Food Security and Nutrition and the Post-2015 Development Goals, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Food Giants Want ‘Sustainable’ Beef. But What Does That Mean?, The Salt

FAO: ‘Revolution’ in Agriculture Vital to Meet Food Targets, Voice of America

Meeting the Food Challenges of Tomorrow Through the Legacy of Borlaug, Roll Call

Climate Change Could Delay The Fight Against World Hunger For Decades: Report, Huffington Post

Ending hunger – the rich world holds the keys, The Ecologist [Read more…]

Food Security when in Rome

ID-100139495This blog was first posted on Huffington Post

Food is often in short supply. The availability of and access to food is also, and has always been, highly political. Poor wheat harvests imported into Rome between 56 to 58BC led to grain shortages and fluctuating prices. As a result the Roman mob became volatile and “on one occasion crowds besieged the senate and threatened to burn the senators alive, apparently encouraged by the tribune Clodius who had passed a law increasing the number of people entitled to subsidised grain” (excerpt from Gordon Conway’s book ‘One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world?’).

Today food security is equally political and the 2007/08 food price spike led to political and economic instability and social unrest in both poor and developed nations. In Bangladesh, 10,000 workers rioted close to Dhaka, smashing cars and buses and vandalising factories in anger at high food prices and low wages. In Burkina Faso rioting broke out in the country’s second and third largest cities over food price increases of over 65%. In Cameroon large scale rioting in protest against inflating food and fuel prices saw at least seven people killed in the worst unrest seen in the country in over fifteen years. And the list goes on with unrest seen in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Haiti, Egypt, Indonesia, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia and Yemen. Russia and Mexico froze food prices to avoid public backlash, the Pakistan government deployed military to protect food reserves from being seized and Brazil announced a temporary ban on the export of rice.

As ‘One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world’ explains, these acute crises are part of a chronic crisis; the paradox of food insecurity that we face today is that there is enough food to feed the global population yet around one billion people are chronically hungry and another billion are obese. In his book Gordon Conway lays out the routes for achieving a fairer, more productive, stable and resilient global food system. On the 27th-28th February 2013, he took this vision to the three Rome-based UN agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). [Read more…]

The View from Rome

On the 27th and 28th February 2013, Gordon Conway travelled to Rome to discuss the messages of his book, One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world? with the three Rome-based UN agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

On the 27th February, in a joint FAO-WFP-IFAD seminar, Gordon presented his vision for tackling global food insecurity. Director General of FAO, José Graziano Da Silva, President of IFAD, Kanayo Nwanze and Executive Director of WFP, Ertharin Cousins, discussed their opinions of the book and the issues they see as crucial for eradicating hunger. A press release for the event can be found here.


Graziano began by saying that he thought the book was a good contribution to linking hunger eradication with sustainable production. He took from the book a series of five conditions we need to meet to tackle hunger, namely we can feed the world…

  • If we save and grow
  • If we put smallholder farmers at the centre of our effort
  • If we have more effective food systems governance
  • If we bring farmers together and build partnerships
  • If we can link hunger, access and waste

He also agreed on the point that food security is political and that it is a political decision of society to not accept hunger. But he disagreed with regards to Gordon’s take on Food Sovereignty, stating that food has a cultural dimension and that a territorial approach to food security with local centres of production and consumption is critical. Gordon responded to this by saying he agreed but believed food trade and the development of farms as businesses was also crucial.

Nwanze stated that he “would like to doubly applaud this book” and that he valued it for its “holistic and nuanced approach”. He agreed that farmers in developing countries are skilled and innovative and need to be connected to business and he described the “terrible paradox of food security” we face: that there is no shortage of food and yet millions of people go hungry. Nwanze shares Gordon’s optimism that small farmers  can feed themselves and the world, and believes that this book comes at the right time. His full statement can be found here. [Read more…]

One Billion Hungry: Fighting hunger together

590x130_RBA_bannerGordon Conway will lead and participate in a series of high-profile discussions on the critical issues raised in his book, One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world? at the three Rome-based UN agencies on the 27th and 28th February 2013.

The UN agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – are critical to global thinking around agricultural development and as such their strategies have a far reaching impact on how we tackle global food security.

On 27th February, the three agency principals, José Graziano da Silva (FAO), Ertharin Cousins (WFP) and Kanayo Nwanze (IFAD) will comment on Gordon’s vision of achieving food security, and will be inviting comments and questions from permanent representatives and staff at FAO. This high-level seminar will be webcast live here at 2:30pm GMT+1. Gordon will then lead a separate discussion around the themes of the book with the young professionals’ network, YouFID.

Gordon will also address IFAD on the topic of climate change and agriculture, and WFP on the issues of availability of and access to food, during this visit. The seminar at IFAD will be webcast live here at 10:00am GMT+1 on 28th February 2013. You can also read IFAD Associate Vice-President Programmes, Kevin Cleaver’s review of One Billion Hungry here.

The UN agencies have complementary strategies and are increasingly working together to find solutions to both acute and chronic hunger. [Read more…]

Food security and agriculture information at our fingertips

ID-100125038This week we’ve been thinking about information. Specifically the type of information on agriculture and rural development that is available, how useful it is and to who. A lot of data and statistics went into the writing of One Billion Hungry and some was hard to find, out of date or non-existent. Indeed statistics, such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) estimate of the number of chronically hungry people in the world, are often challenged because there are so few rigorous and comparable data sets available on food security and agriculture.

Yet policymakers often base investments in international development around evidence and farmers too must have access to clear and credible information in order to be competitive in the market. Ensuring information is timely, relevant and reliable, therefore is an important challenge. A recent paper by researchers at Tulane University investigated the impact of Food and Nutrition Security Information (FNSI) and its shortcomings concluding that while more conventional forms of data must be expanded in coverage, greater types and sources of data that come with increased connectivity must also be utilised.

Greater access to information can also help solve global challenges. As discussed in Chapter 1, we face the threat of repeated food price spikes, of which we have seen three since 2007. In 2011, the G20, in response to increased food price volatility, established the Agricultural Market Information System, with the idea that if information on the production, trade, use and storage of four globally important crops, wheat, rice, maize and soybean, is more transparent then policy action in response to market uncertainty can be coordinated and potentially dangerous and inaccurate speculation can be avoided. The coordination of policies and development of common strategies is undertaken by the Rapid Response Forum, whose second meeting is to take place on 20th February 2013. [Read more…]