Stories tagged: principle3

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.

Benefits of Satellite Technology on Crop Yields Explored

Some farmers are looking to the skies for help in boosting their crop yields. In an article appearing in The Economist this week, the spotlight is shone on farmers using satellite-based intelligence to find out how to best manage farm production to get the best yield.

Precise prescriptions for growing crops can be obtained quickly, and less expensively, by measuring electromagnetic radiation reflected from farmland. The data are collected by orbiting satellites.

For the farmers that utilise the satellite technology, the amount of data available to them about their crops is great:

The spectrum of this radiation—which can be in the form of either natural sunlight or artificial radar—can reveal, with surprising precision, the properties of the soil, the quantity of crop being grown, and the levels in those crops of chlorophyll, various minerals, moisture and other indicators of their quality. If recent and forecast weather data are added to the mix, detailed maps can be produced indicating exactly how, where and when crops should be grown.

It is very new technology. However one country seemingly leading the way in utilising this technology is France, according to The Economist.

More farmland is analysed by satellite there than in any other country, according to Infoterra (a subsidiary of EADS Astrium, a European space giant), the firm that is France’s largest provider of such information.

Computer mapping of farmland, also known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), can also help farmers to establish land ownership and in turn encourages long-term investments such as irrigation infrastructure to boost yields.

Ryk Taljaard of Geo-Logic Mapping noted that this technology is extending into Africa and is helping farmers make more accurate and cost-effective orders for inputs such as seed, fertiliser and sprays.

The Economist article also reports that the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi has begun cataloguing more than 100,000 samples of African soils with the aim of incorporating this information into existing satellite technology.

UN Report: Low-carbon Farms Can Raise Food Output

According to a newly launched UN report, low-carbon farming can both curb climate change and boost food output in developing nations. The agency’s report, “Food Security and Agricultural Mitigation in Developing Countries,” suggests that because of this fact, low-carbon farms must be rewarded under a global climate deal due in December.

In a Reuters article, Leslie Lipper, FAO economist and co-author of the report said that financing remains a major hurdle to greater implementation:

“A key part of the problem is a lack of financing.  If adopted by farmers, many of these practices make them better off, but in the short run they may face reduced income,” Lipper said, using the example of removing cattle to allow grasslands to recover.

In terms of contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, the report estimated that farms accounts for 10-12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions directly.  It also estiamted that $210bn would be needed between now and 2050 to help farms upgrade sufficiently to meet future yield needs.

Developing countries could raise about $30bn annually toward this investment through carbon market financing.  Measuring such improvements to the carbon efficiency of farm production is currently being researched.

Supporting Rural Development in Guatemala

In the Cuchumatanes Highlands in Guatemala, The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been supporting a rural community development project.

The project aims to improve the livelihoods of 22,000 families with incomes below the poverty line. A needs analysis demonstrated that one of the problems in the area was poor handling and application of crop protection products, leading to health and environmental risks.

As a result, IFAD formed a partnership with CropLife Latin America to provide training for the project beneficiaries.

A multiple approach was used: teaching Integrated Pest Management (IPM) concepts and proper, safe use of crop protection products to farmers and their families, school teachers and health workers; a one-year course for schoolchildren on environmental protection; training teachers on the benefits and risks of crop protection products; communicating to housewives the importance of washing farmers’ clothes separately so as to avoid contamination of other clothes and water supplies; providing information to health workers at medical and paramedical levels on treatments in the event of accidents; and the training of trainers to amplify the reach of the programme goals.

A similar programme has started in the Dominican Republic and plans are being implemented to expand it throughout Central America.

This initiative in Guatemala echoes two of Farming First’s principles: Sharing knowledge and Building local access and capacity.

There are currently four IFAD-supported projects ongoing in Guatemala. Among them is a rural development project in the Western Region.

The target group comprises smallholder farmers, landless farmers, and microentrepreneurs and artisans. The programme will reach minority groups, particularly indigenous populations with lower educational levels and very limited access to productive resources.

For farmers in Guatemala, such assistance is needed as the country is facing the worst drought in 30 years.

Kenyan Smallholder Farmers to be Offered Crop Insurance

Following a successful pilot phase for the new insurance scheme developed by UAP in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation, Kenyan farmers will be able to purchase insurance against the effects of drought and excessive rain.

The program is the first of its kind. Here are more details:

Under the novel system, farmers register their purchases by sending an SMS to a phone number provided by UAP. The weather stations then monitor the weather and inform the insurance company of impending crop failure and subsequent compensation. Each farmer is then informed via SMS about the payouts. Costs are kept down through the use of automated weather stations which avoid the need for expensive field visits to farms to ascertain risk and loss.   This makes the insurance feasible for both the farmer and the insurance company.

The first pay-out to farmers affected by drought happened in Nanyuki last week. UAP Head of Marketing and Distribution Joseph Kamiri said that the company had developed the product in response to a great need identified while developing agriculture insurance products for the Kenyan market in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation.

The early success of the programme has given it the go-ahead to be released across the country in 2010, said Rose Goslinga, insurance coordinator of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya:

Traditionally, smallholder farmers have been totally dependent on the vagaries of weather. In times of drought they lost their crops and their investment in seed and fertilizer.  To make matters worse, farmers then had to pay for a second lot of seed to enable them to replant. But because they had not obtained a crop, they had little money, if any, to repurchase the seed.

In recent months, Kenya has been hit by severe drought, so this new programme will likely go a long ways toward helping impacted farmers get back on their feet.

Training Courses in Vietnam Use Contests, Storytelling to Reach Out to Farmers

Vegetable production is very important to Vietnam’s economy, with many farmers seeking access to export markets as a means of improving their livelihoods. However, meeting quality requirements for export produce can be a challenge for farmers.

As a response to this issue, the Plant Protection Department (PPD) of Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with CropLife Asia, introduced a joint campaign in 2003.

Initially, one hundred and thirty trainers were trained over a six-day course in Ha Tay and Ho Chi Minh City. Farmer training courses then took place at 33 farmer field schools in four target provinces. The project also included innovative methods, such as farmer contests and community drama to improve the outreach to more stakeholders and make the programme more attractive and interesting to participants. The community dramas were broadcast on Vietnam Television and reached millions of viewers.

Three broadcasts were made as a result and they attracted additional attention through a national competition for script writers. The winning screenplays were broadcast on network television. Another outcome of the project was the creation of a forum between farmers and staff from the Ministry, which has helped communications and kept farmers updated on new regulations.