Stories tagged: borlaug

The Next Borlaug Century: Biotechnology, Sustainability and Climate Change

The symposium will take place from 16-18 October in Des Moines, Iowa.

In keeping with Dr. Borlaug’s legacy, the event will bring customized and localized solutions for smallholder farmers to the forefront of dialogue on agriculture. Specifically, the symposium will explore:

  • The advances in science-based innovation in allowing us to not only produce more food, but to reduce loss and waste, enhance food safety and better manage our environmental resources. Looking at the role of technological innovation since the Green Revolution, the symposium will evaluate how we can use research, education, extension and enterprise to strengthen the linkages along the value chain to benefit all stakeholders, with a special focus on enabling farmers around the world to manage risks and build resilience in the face of growing climate volatility.
  • How we can best harness the many tools and technologies at our disposal, including biotechnology, alternative frameworks, and new methodologies and mechanisms, to improve human development, increase food security and enhance nutrition and health.
  • Diverse perspectives including agro-ecology and sustainable agriculture, as well as explore the crucial issues of land tenure, land management, emerging innovations in food traceability and precision agriculture. We will further analyze the metrics of sustainability and the success of collaborative initiatives to build climate resilience, while looking ahead at future challenges and opportunities.

For more information about the event, please click here

Food and (not vs.) Cash Crops

At the recent Borlaug Symposium in Ethiopia, ICRISAT researchers presented a paper examining the question of what the balance should be between food and cash crops.

The presentation used the examples of Ethiopia and Tanzania to show how crops have served both food and cash purposes, for the benefit of reducing poverty and hunger in developing countries.

In Ethiopia, chickpea production has been significantly boosted in recent years. Improved varieties and training programmes have resulted in a 40% increase in yields nationwide, with a 90% increase in yields in the East Shewa Zone in the Oromia region. With great increases in production by the tonne, earnings from exporting the crop have risen from $1 million in 2004 to $26 million in 2008. In Tanzania, similar impacts have been achieved with a key leguminous crop, the pigeonpea.The ICRISAT team stated,

As these examples illustrate […] the notion of a single, ideal balance point between food vs. cash crop may be too simplistic.

The presenter spoke of the insights they have gained in their Village Level Studies initiative, that have shown that poverty reduction is linked with improved connectivity between rural areas and urban markets.  ICRISAT refer to this concept, now the model for their Strategic Plan 2020, as ‘inclusive market-orientated development’ (IMOD).  In this plan, ‘markets’ are broadened to include the poor.

Their objective regarding food and cash crops is:

ensure food security first, then add income to the extent possible through cash crops.

The paper examines the need for a concept of ‘food and (not vs.) crops, whereby the balance between the two will depend on each farmers’ individual food security status.  The researchers say that stimulating staple food production, rather than growing high-value exotic products and export crops, will be the first trigger for IMOD, and will offer basic experience in supply chains before new crops are added to the mix.

The team also called for a comprehensive perspective on the entire value chain system, where farmers are supported by inputs, access to markets, infrastructure, credit and weather and market insurance, in a way that promotes equity and security.

The ICRISAT research emphasises the need for inclusion in market-access strategies, and also the need for full understanding of the context of each community, rather than blending all the poor into one bracket. They call for more information about the different categories of poor at local scales, to aid development work.

The presentation concluded:

The question should not be food vs. cash crops; it should be how to make food and cash crops work synergistically to propel farmers out of poverty. Ensure food security first, not in a way that creates aid dependency, but rather in a way that makes it a springboard towards market-orientated development.

Global Dialogue on Meeting Food Needs for the Next Generation

On 12th February 2010, a global conference took place in Washington D.C. looking at how the world can address future food security issues. Tackling the problems of population growth, climate change, and water scarcities, the conference discussed recommendations for developments in the agriculture industry.

A panel of experts was composed of:

  • Dr. Robert Paarlberg, Professor at Wellesley College, author of Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is Being Kept Out of Africa
  • Dr. Nina Federoff, Science and Technology Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State and to the Administrator of USAID, author of Mendel in the Kitchen
  • Dr. Calestous Juma, Pew award winner and Professor of Practice at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government
  • Mark Cantley, former head of the European Commission’s “Concertation Unit for Biotechnology in Europe” and of OECD’s Biotechnology Unit
  • Dr. Gale Buchanan, former USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, and lead author of the paper Agricultural Productivity Strategies for the Future: Addressing U.S. and Global Challenges

During the conference, Dr. Norman Borlaug’s last published statement was also revealed, which is included in a new CAST paper that identifies many challenges that agriculture will face in the coming years.

You can watch the video here.