Stories tagged: food

What is the Irrigation Potential for Africa? : A new report by IFPRI

A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) titled “What is the irrigation potential for Africa? A combined biophysical and socioeconomic approach” has been published.

The report argues that although irrigation in Africa has the potential to boost agricultural productivities by at least 50 per cent, food production is almost entirely sustained through rainwater, with only six per cent of the total cultivated area equipped for irrigation.

Over 70 per cent of Africa’s poor live in rural areas, and most of these people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Therefore, the report says, agriculture has a key role to play in tackling poverty on the continent.

To help increase agricultural production and decrease poverty, many development agencies have recently proposed to substantially increase investments in irrigation in Africa. But, as the report claims, the potential for irrigation investments in the region is highly dependent on geographic, hydrologic, agronomic and economic factors that must be taken into account when the viability of projects is assessed.

The report analyses irrigation investment potential in Africa, and concludes that there is “significant profitable irrigation potential for both small-scale and large-scale systems”.

Farming First think that water use efficiency is important as water is a precious resource. By 2050, the proportion of the population facing stressed water supplies is expected to increase by 500% and the number facing full water scarcity is expected to increase by 800%.

We believe that research, innovation, and access to improved technologies, seeds, and improved irrigation techniques are essential to increasing the efficiency of water use, and that agriculture needs to be part of watershed management.

Click here to go to our water page, where you can download our position paper and read about our six-point action plan.

New Global Project Seeks Wild Crop Diversity

smalfleurGenetic traits of food crops are being collected in the largest ever global search to help protect global food supplies against the threat of climate change.

The initiative is being led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, working in partnership with national agricultural research institutes, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), who will all seek to find, gather, catalogue and use the wild relatives of wheat, rice, beans, potato, barley, lentils, chickpea and other essential food crops.

These wild plants contain essential traits that could be bred into crops to make them more durable and versatile in the face of varying climatic conditions.

Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, said,

All our crops were originally developed from wild species – that’s how farming began. But they were adapted from the plants best suited to the climates of the past. Climate change means we need to go back to the wild to find those relatives of our crops that can thrive in the climates of the future.

Crop wild relatives make up only a few percent of the world’s genebank holdings, yet their contribution to commercial agriculture alone is estimated at more than US$100 billion per year.

It is widely understood that, irrespective of the outcomes at the United Nations’ climate change conference in Cancún, the coming decades will see ever more challenging conditions for agriculture. The forecasts for declining yields are particularly frightening for the developing world. For example, yields for maize in Southern Africa, a vital crop in a region which already suffers from chronic hunger, are predicted to fall by up to 30 percent within just 20 years. The standard response until now has been that new, hardier varieties of our crops will be required.

Erik Solheim, Minister of the Environment and International Development of Norway, which is providing the initial budget of US$50 million to fund the work, said,

This project represents one of the most concrete steps taken to date to ensure that agriculture, and humanity, adapts to climate change. At a more fundamental level, the project also demonstrates the importance of biodiversity and genetic resources for human survival.

New UK Government Report on Food Security for 2030

defraA new report issued by the UK’s Department for Enviroment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) outlines how the UK government intends to address future food security. According to the Guardian, the ‘Food 2030’ report takes the most comprehensive approach to agriculture policy since the Second World War.

The UK food industry is worth £80 billion and employs 3.6 million people. Driven by the triple threat of a growing population, the threat of climate change and a vulnerable supply of natural resources, the new policy by Defra outlines what the UK government perceives to be priority actions for the future, including:

  • increasing the amount of food grown in Britain
  • reducing the impact of agriculture upon the environment
  • reducing agricultural emissions by the equivalent of 3 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020
  • reviewing the impacts of UK consumption on agricultural economies in the rest of the world
  • addressing the issue of waste through reuse, recycling or energy generation
  • informing consumers about healthy, sustainable food choices.

The policy also spells out plans to double its investment in agricultural research to £80 million by 2013, with a focus on helping farmers in developing nations.  Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State of Defra, said:

By turning research into practical ideas, and by learning from what the best are doing, we can achieve a lot more. Science will also tell us when nature is under strain.

‘Food 2030’ seeks to improve the UK food industry from production to distribution, providing better resources to farmers, whilst using natural resources sustainably to help the global food industry.  Benn said:

We need to increase food production to feed a growing world population – there’ll be another 2-3 billion people in 40 years.

The Financial Times reports that plans detailing how these changes will be effectuated, including any necessary new legislation, will be released in the coming months.