Stories tagged: principle2

Award-winning, Fact-based Tool Helps Track Agriculture’s Progress over Time

gapminder_agricultureGapminder Agriculture, a new data-tracking tool from the Gapminder Foundation, allows viewers to interact personally with various pieces of data to watch how agriculture has developed globally over time and by country.

Hans Rosling and his Stockholm-based team at the Gapminder Foundation have revolutionised the way in which the general public perceives development data. Not only are the charts visually stunning, but they are freely available through a creative commons license.  This allows anyone the opportunity to explore how various agricultural metrics relate to each other over time.

For instance, you can compare each country’s per capita production of staple foods on one axis and their per capita income on the other axis.  In an animated display, you can then watch how these numbers change from 1961 all the way to 2005 (and watch how drastically food production can rise or fall due to weather or other conditions).

There are a number of other data sets to play around with, including production data on other types of crops (e.g. fruits, vegetables, pulses etc) as well as basic development indicators (e.g. fertility or life expectancy).

Interactive Map Celebrates Agriculture’s Success Stories Across the World

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has just launched an interactive world map highlighting some of the many success stories in agricultural development from around the world.  It is part of a wider upcoming launch of their newest publication, Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development, which will be released on 12 November.

The interactive map allows viewers to explore case studies of how agricultural research has benefited individual countries and regions.  Each case study identifies key periods of time, target regions, and a more detailed account of each intervention.  It also provides additional links to related case studies from elsewhere.

The range of case studies includes:

  • Combating cassava diseases in Nigeria and Ghana: This programme has contributed to 40% yield increases and has benefited 29 million local people
  • Introducing zero-tillage agriculture in Argentina: This practice has improved soil fertility, created new agricultural jobs, and helped keep global soybean prices low
  • Improving mungbean yields and resilience in south Asia: Introducing new varieties of mungbeans has helped improve yields, shorten maturity times, and increase resilience to pests to the extent that global production increased by 35% over the past 25 years.

There are many more case studies on the site, which helps create a visual cue for understanding agriculture’s advancements since the mid-20th century.

Climate Change Threatens Brazilian Agriculture

171519724_99bf968bc3_mOne of the many unwelcome side-effects of global warming is the unpredictable weather patterns that it causes. In Brazil, those same patterns could be the start of a severe disruption to the country’s agriculture sector.

Reuters breaks down what is at stake for Brazil and the rest of the world:

At stake is a $250 billion farm industry, food for millions of poor and supplies to world markets of Brazil’s major export crops such as soybeans and coffee.

The effects are already being felt in parts of Brazil. Excessive rains and crop disease have washed out or ruined many crops. Some farmers are looking to science for answers, as one farmer notes here:
We can’t change our planting calendar or the rains. How can I minimize my risks? We hope science will provide some answers.
Protecting harvests requires that farmers have the tools necessary to cope with changing weather and market variations. Brazil’s government has begun working with new coffee strains which resist heat (by having longer roots) to deal with the potential changes to the country’s agricultural model.
Agronomic research should aim to focus on these issues of water use, soil fertility, post-harvest losses, climate change, and alternative uses for by-products.  The impact of this will be felt globally, as Brazil is the leading exporter of coffee, beef, soybeans, orange juice, and other farm products.

Blog Action Day 2009: Research Linking Climate-induced Conflict and Farming

Farming First is participating in Blog Action Day 2009, which brings the world’s bloggers together to discuss a common issue from their own perspectives.  More than 6800 blogs in 135 countries will be addressing this year’s topic of climate change.

For our part, we’re looking at an interesting article appearing in The Economist this week discusses the findings from a study done by two academics about the history of climate-induced warfare.

The study, by Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, and Sebastian Wagne of GKSS, a research institute near Hamburg, looked to find whether a correlation existed between climate and the number of conflicts registered over the past thousand years.

Their research concluded that until the mid-18th century more conflicts were registered during periods of low temperature.  And they think the effect on agriculture is the reason why:

Dr Tol and Dr Wagner suggest that in the more remote past the effects of cold weather on harvests led to supply shortages, and that these increased the likelihood of people fighting over food and the land needed to produce it.

However, the research found that the relationship between the two vanished in the mid-18th century, around the time that the Industrial Revolution began to take root:

These developments meant farmers could often produce reasonable yields during colder weather—and even when they could not, long-distance trade provided a buffer against crop failure. Meanwhile, the growth of cities and non-agricultural occupations meant there was money to buy such traded crops.

The lesson to be taken from this, according to the researchers, was that reliable supplies of food could minimise the instances of climate-related conflict. To ensure this, they stress the continued importance of investing in technologies which help improve crop yields and resilience.  The process of sharing knowledge and building local access and capacity for farmers is also key:

[T]he way to minimise the likelihood of climate-induced conflict in the future is to continue the process of crop improvement (for example, by taking advantage of the potential of genetic engineering) so that heat- and drought-tolerant varieties are available; to make farmers aware of these new crops and encourage their use; and to promote free trade and non-agricultural economic development.

This study reinforces the idea that political and social stability (vs. conflict) is related to a reliable supply of food and a coordinated structure of support for the world’s farmers.

Drip Irrigation Helps Farmers in Bangladesh Grow Crops in Salt-affected Soil during Dry Season

March and April are the driest months in Bangladesh.  During this time, up to 880,000 hectares of land is left fallow because of the intrusion of saltwater into the soil.

Bangladesh is benefiting from new research into how to make this land productive during the dry season.   Using simple drip irrigation technology on raised planting beds, tomato farmers were able to increase their yields fourfold by leeching salts out of the root zone of the plants.  Water for the drip irrigation is taken from ponds set up to collect rainwater.  As a result, salinity levels drop to less than 30% of levels typically recorded.

Researchers at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in conjunction with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) determined that this innovative farming practice had a benefit-cost ratio of 4.71.  This means that for every dollar (or Bangladeshi taka) invested in the technology, it would return $4.71 extra in profits.

The extra yields could help feed the country’s 140 million people or could be sold as a cash crop to generate incomes.

Vatican Endorses Use of Biotech for African Farmers

1916676488_c4a0b5427eA recent story from the Catholic News Service discusses how the Vatican has endorsed the idea of African farmers using biotechnology as a means of bringing themselves out of poverty.

Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, former secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said that new technologies “that can stimulate and sustain African farmers” must be prioritised as research imperatives.

Father Gonzalo Miranda, professor of bioethics at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University said:

[I]f the data shows that biotechnology can offer great advantages in the development of Africa, it is a moral obligation to permit these countries to do their own experimentation.

In African media, there is also talk of the the potential advantages of using biotechnology in crops. In the Nigerian newspaper Champion, a story was published that endorsed its use:

It is also practically impossible to achieve food security if we insist on remaining on the old conventional pathway of planting and waiting endlessly for harvest yields. Key observers believe that the best way out is in the effective deployment and utilization of gene technology also known as biotechnology.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the number of malnourished people in Africa could treble to 600 million as the world’s population grows by more than one third over the coming decades.