The ‘Future of Food‘ is 3-part BBC television programme looking at how food production is going to have to evolve to adapt to increased global demand and less reliable access to key resources such as water and oil.
The programme host visits farmers in India, Cuba, the UK to look at how key issues such as water availability, climate change, and price volatility impacts their livelihoods and their ability to grow their crops.
The programme raises many of the questions and concerns which the Farming First plan aims to address. It also suggests that the issue of food security is one that is increasingly capturing the attention of more mainstream audiences in the west.
For those interested, the second part of the series airs on BBC Two on Monday, 24 August at 9pm.
Ahead of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development in May, Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda of Farming First went into the BBC studios to discuss what the priority objectives for agricultural policy should be in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Sibanda discussed the key principle of the Farming First plan as well as highlighting recent work of her own organisation FANRPAN on identifying the most vulnerable households in villages for targeted support. She discusses how African countries are spending $19 billion each year on the import of key staple foods despite the fact that 70% of the population is smallholder farmers with the potential to grow their own food.
Dr. Sibanda argues for the need to improve productivity in a sustainable way. Knowledge transfer and investment in infrastructure and resource management skills are key in achieving this. For instance, many farmers use recycled seeds which yield only 10% of the harvest that new seeds would bring.
Under these principles, agricultural policy should aim to help farmers eventually ‘self-help’ and become self-sufficient.
In May 2009, Farming First (farmingfirst.org) interviewed Mr. Idrissa Mwale, Principal Economist at the Ministry of Agriculture in Malawi. Mr. Mwale has coordinated the country’s farm subsidy programme, which targets the most needy farming households with subsidised seed and fertilizer. The programme has produced record harvests over the past four years, which have created an export market for Malawi’s farmers. Mr. Mwale discusses the next steps for the programme and how other African governments are learning from the agricultural programme as a driver of rural development.
Watch the video:
Mr Mwale was also interviewed by BBC’s World Business News.
Listen to the BBC interview audio file here:
Mr. Mwale also presented a speech on the successes of the programme at the UN Commission for Sustainable Development on 14 May 2009. In his speech, he discusses why and how agriculture should be put back at the center of the development agenda. He also notes how the Farming First principles align well with the programme Malawi has been following to date:
…this achievement came about because the Government of Malawi made a choice to prioritize the agricultural sector. This allowed the Government and various cooperating partners to increase investments in inputs provision, extension service delivery and agricultural research. This notwithstanding, the Government still believes that more investments in agricultural research, local based capacity building, irrigation development and marketing are necessary to spur increased and sustain production in the medium to long term. This is consistent with the Farming First principles of the partners hosting us tonight.
At the end of the G8 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting from 18-20 April, Farming First’s Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda discussed the impacts for African agriculture and development with the the BBC’s ‘Focus on Africa’ programme.
The G8 communique highlighted the fact that the world will need to increase its level of productivity in order to feed the growing population and to avoid the threat of wider global instability due to hunger and struggles for scarce resources.
Dr. Sibanda explained why food availability and food security should be urgent matters for the world’s policymakers:
When we talk of stability we cannot run away from talking about issues of availability… We are also looking at reduced availability – particularly in Africa – where we are not producing enough and we are relying on food imports and food aid. When we look at the agenda for stabilizing prices, particularly stabilizing food availability, we are saying, “How can food be moved between countries?”
There are tariffs and other barriers which need to be addressed, but at the global level, you are really looking at subsidies and protection of markets and the issue of trade. Can we have a trade regime which is equitable and that allows African countries that have excesses in production to sell in global markets and also allows food aid procurement to be sourced from local markets in Africa?
Dr. Sibanda also discussed why food security should remain a top priority despite the financial crisis that the world is also facing at present:
The whole spiral effect of the different crises means that you cannot just say that by addressing the financial crisis everything else will fall into place. As part of addressing the financial crisis, you cannot leave out the issue of food security because the commodity trade market has been disturbed…Agriculture forms the bulk of the commodities that are traded between countries so it is imperative that we look at the issue of food stability and food security globally.
As part of the financial crisis, you need to address the food agenda, and food security is key. You cannot stabilise the financial markets when there is insufficient food.
Listen to the full BBC interview with Dr. Sibanda here:
Select and copy the link in the box below to share elsewhere.
A creative project by the BBC World Service is tracking how food prices have been changing since the autumn of last year.
BBC journalists in 8 world cities — Brussels, Washington DC, Skopje, Moscow, Buenos Aries, Jakarta, Delhi, and Nairobi — have identified 5 staple foods for the area where they are based. On a weekly basis, they then go out and purchase these same five items to determine the changing cost of food over time.
Interestingly, as this graph from the BBC site indicates, the four poorer cities — in Africa, Asia, and South America — have all been facing higher price increases since last autumn than the others, with Washington DC and Brussels seeing the biggest drop in prices over the same time period.
Select and copy the link in the box below to share elsewhere.
The BBC World Service’s flagship ‘World Today’ news programme interviewed Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda to hear her thoughts on global food security and the emerging outcomes of the G8 agriculture ministers’ meeting, which occurred in Italy from April 18-20.
Dr. Sibanda noted that food shortages in certain parts of the world were unavoidable. Noentheless, policy experts could still prevent these shortages from making affected regions more unstable politically and economically. She says:
Definitely, food insecurity is global in that it will unsettle the whole world’s peace agenda. The developed countries have to contribute to the plan but more importantly the African countries now have to make sure that the smallholder farmer is at the centre of the debate.
Dr. Sibanda is highlighting how interconnected the policies of the G8 countries are in shaping outcomes for smallholder farmers across the world.
Listen to an mp3 audio file of this BBC interview here: