Stories tagged: food security

From Data to Diets, the Future of Farming is Diversification

Diversity is just as important in food production as it is for healthy, nutritional diets, farmers from around the world told this year’s Committee on World Food Security meeting. Continue reading

Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium 2019 Sets Sight on Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future

“How will we grow an adequate quantity—and quality—of food to feed and nourish a rapidly growing, urbanizing world in the face of increasing water insecurity?” This was the primary problem considered by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs at the 2019 Global Food Security Symposium in Washington DC last week. This year’s symposium, ‘From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future’ saw the release of a 149-page report by the Council and focus on three central topics: the nature of the threat to water security; strategies to enhance water, food, and nutrition security; and ensuring that water solutions reach smallholder farmers. Continue reading

How Africa is Fighting Fall Armyworm

MaryLucy Oronje, Knowledge Bank Coordinator, at CABI East Africa writes about the efforts underway to tackle fall armyworm, which has devastated crops in 44 African countries.

Since fall armyworm was confirmed in Nigeria in early 2016, it has conquered at least 22 million square kilometres, expanding into 44 African countries by July 2018. In Africa alone, fall armyworm has the potential to cause maize yield losses of 8.3 to 20.6 million metric tons per year. Earlier this year, the pest was also confirmed in India, where it is likely to spread throughout Asia.

Since the start of the year, there have also been at least 14 interceptions of commodities such as babycorn, cut flowers, coriander, and capsicum in the European Union infested with fall armyworm, suggesting that it may begin to affect trade. With its continued move across the globe, studies have been carried out to try and map out where fall armyworm could arrive next.

Fall armyworm infested maize, Zambia (Credit: CABI)

In Africa, there has been a huge, concerted effort in the fight against fall armyworm in many ways from a number of organisations. Initially governments distributed free pesticides. However, this was largely viewed as an emergency measure and likely not sustainable. The combined cost of pesticides across Africa could run into the millions of dollars.

The work on fall armyworm in Africa has been extensive and far reaching, across a number of areas.

On the ground – supporting extension work

Working with extension agents is key to ensuring farmers are getting the best advice for their crops. This knowledge can be disseminated in a number of ways such as CABI’s Plantwise clinics where extension officers working as ‘plant doctors’ use tools like Pest Decision Management Decision Guides to give best practice advice. Not only do the tools need to be kept up to date, extensionists themselves must be well-trained on new methods and outbreaks.

Extension agents work in the field to ensure farmers get personalised advise about their crops (Credit: CABI)

Furthermore, it’s vital that all members of the farming community are included. CABI, in collaboration with Pest Control Products Board and Agrochemicals Association of Kenya have participated in training agro-dealers in the safe use of pesticides and Integrated Pest Management so that they stock the right pesticides and also help farmers make the right choices.

In the lab – continued research

Continued scientific research is important for finding newer and better solutions to fight fall armyworm. A number of biocontrol methods are being studied and tested, including the exotic egg parasitoid, Telenomus remus, which is widely used in the Americas to control fall armyworm is being tested in South Africa as a naturally occurring way to combat fall armyworm. In addition, CABI’s experts in the biological control of agricultural pests and diseases have conducted the first major study of potential biological controls for fall armyworm control in Africa.

Organisations including CIMMYT, IITA, ICIPE, AATF, and CABI are also looking into a range of areas such as host plant resistance, mating disruption and insect-resistant (Bt) maize.

On the go – investing in tech

Making use of technology in development is a growing and important field. By providing digital tools, data and information can be supplied and collected much faster. An example of a data collection tool is the FAMEWS App from FAO.

The app is used by all members of the farming community – from plant protection officers to the smallholder farmers – to collect data on pheromone trap catches during scouting. These traps help lure the fall armyworm and bring it under observation. The data is then used to better understand the lifecycle of the fall armyworm and the extent of the infestation; mapping out fall armyworm risk.

Another digital tool is CABI’s Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) which uses satellite technology for fall armyworm management. Farmers receive timely warnings about the risk of fall armyworm outbreaks and are advised on appropriate measures to protect their crops.

Farmers receive timely warnings about the risk of fall armyworm outbreaks and are advised on appropriate measures to protect their crops from CABI’s early warning satellite system (Credit: CABI)

In the field – working with farmers

Empowering farmers by giving them the skills and knowledge they need to combat pests and diseases is fundamental. Ensuring they know how to monitor their crops to detect fall armyworm eggs and larvae can inform immediate management decisions.

Without action, there would undoubtedly be a huge impact. Fall armyworm has the ability to lay up to 1,000 eggs and migrate long distances on prevailing winds. It breeds continuously throughout the year wherever there are host plants available.  This means that fall armyworm infestations can still occur off-season as long as climatic conditions are favourable. In light of this, it appears that this crop pest will become a resident in the crop fields of Africa, all year round.

Data from these communities is useful for identifying fall armyworm hot spots and free zones as well as discovering which management techniques are working. Indigenous knowledge can also be gathered from these communities, which can be verified and scaled up.

CABI’s Fall Armyworm Portal pulls together resources from a number of sources, making it a one-stop shop for the latest material on managing fall armyworm.

Extension workers help farmers (Credit: CABI)

How did fall armyworm spread so rapidly across Africa?

There are three reasons:

  1. Lack of an early warning and detection system (including pest risk analysis and quarantine surveillance)
  2. Lack of emergency response systems
  3. Weak capacity and systems to control plant disease in some countries

There is a lack of coherent strategy across a number of African countries for dealing with invasive species such as fall armyworm, that would enable the shift away from reactive responses. For instance, farmers could get rapid access to cheap and lower-risk solutions if governments had a conducive policy for subsidies. The cost benefits of prevention will be so much more than the costs of control.

Fall armyworm, like most other invasive species problems, is multi-dimensional. No institution or country can properly manage it alone. International cooperation is needed in cross-cutting research, partnerships and outreach, and fundraising for sustained campaigns and action. Moving forward, there needs to be strong enabling policy and commitment from all stakeholders to be able to deal with fall armyworm, and other invasive species that may threaten Africa.

Featured photo credit: CABI

Learning From the Private Sector Experience Working With Smallholder Farmers

By Amy Chambers on behalf of Fintrac’s Feed the Future Enabling Environment for Food Security project.

Working with the private sector is key to fostering vibrant agricultural market systems, and  successfully integrating smallholder farmers into these efforts has the potential to pull millions of smallholders out of poverty.

There is an additional key factor in the mix, however. The elusive yet all-encompassing enabling environment — i.e. policies, laws, regulations, and norms that influence behavior in a market system — can derail even the best-laid business plans. By reshaping incentives to the point of hampering initial investment or efforts to scale, enabling environment conditions can create barriers that de-incentivize firms from doing business in a particular market.

To better inform donor support for these actors, we need a stronger understanding of how enabling environment factors influence the decision-making of firms who are either doing or trying to do business in markets inclusive of smallholders. The good news is that the experience and knowledge from the private sector actors either doing or trying to do business in these markets is out there.

Credit: Fintrac

What We Heard From the Private Sector

In August 2018, the Feed the Future Enabling Environment for Food Security project interviewed 25 small- and medium-sized agribusiness companies serving smallholder farmers across Bangladesh, Guatemala, Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya. For each, we endeavored to understand why they invest where they do, the challenges they face in entering and operating in new markets, and what type of support these companies leverage to assist in tackling enabling environment challenges to their investments.

While their stories were unique, the consensus was the same: the enabling environment impacts the structure, speed, and scale of the investment. For one investor, the lack of regulatory protocols for a new technology delayed the investment by more than a year. For another, the complexity of local contract law contributed to shifting focus to other markets. Frequent changes in customs procedures or outright corruption caused others to scale back or reorient their businesses to countries with more stable environments for investment. Typically, the business survives, yet the slower pace of investment or capital flight to safer markets caused by a weak enabling environment limits smallholder farmers’ access to the new technologies and services these businesses provide.

True to the axiom “time is money,” investors expressed little patience for the speed of reforms brought about through industry associations and formal public-private dialogue mechanisms. Though nearly 80 percent of those interviewed participate in these platforms, when faced with a pressing issue, investors favor narrow, action-oriented approaches that quickly bring the issue to relevant policymakers’ attention, such as leveraging informal connections with government officials or independently organizing public seminars or dialogue on specific issues.

What This Means for Donors and Other Development Partners

USAID and other development partners can play a crucial role in building a better enabling environment by identifying key regulatory impediments to investment and facilitating targeted, issue-specific collaboration between the public and private sectors to resolve these issues.

This support includes conducting baseline data studies to provide a starting point for public-private dialogue, assessing gaps in the legal and regulatory framework for new technologies and industries, bringing comparative evidence from other countries to bear on domestic policy discussions, and facilitating productive dialogue by bringing key decision-makers and investors to the table.

For a full discussion of the study’s findings, readers can access the report and summary learning note here.

A version of this post originally appeared on Featured photo credit: Fintrac

Using Innovation as a Pathway to Sustainability

As part of our “Agroecology in Action” series, Robynne Anderson, Chair of the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN) focuses on how we can use agroecology to protect vital ecosystems and achieve zero hunger.

Fifty years ago, agroecology emerged as a discipline focused on studying the interaction between crops and the environment. Over the decades, it has helped increase our understanding of agriculture’s environmental impact.

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