Stories tagged: principle4

Book Review: “Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty”


Two veteran Wall Street Journal reporters, Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, have teamed up to write a book addressing one of the most pressing questions of the 21st-century: global hunger.

The authors ask why hunger persists when the technology and tools already exist to feed the world:

Since the time of the Green Revolution, the world has known how to end famine and tame chronic hunger.  We have the information and tools.  But we haven’t done it.  We explored the heavens.  We wired the world for the Internet…. Yet somehow we haven’t eliminated the most primitive scourge of all.

In the opening chapters, Kilman and Thurow introduce the work of Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Prize-winning plant scientist who died on Saturday at the age of 95.  Back in the 1940s, Borlaug was assigned to a newly launched research centre in Mexico to train Mexican scientists how to boost farm productivity through plant breeding experiments.

Over the next two decades, Borlaug’s research helped boost wheat yields in the research areas almost seven-fold, from 11 bushels per acre in the early 1940s to as much as seventy-five bushels per acre in 1960.  Borlaug then travelled elsewhere in the Americas and across to Asia to demonstrate the potential yields which these new varieties could produce and to convince policymakers and farmers to adopt them to feed their growing populations.  (Apparently, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ripped up her flower garden to plant the new wheat varieties.)

And thus, the Green Revolution was born.  Demographic projections of mass famine and a population implosion were prevented, and the global supply of food exploded.

Yet around the same time, shifts in global agricultural policy began to shift.  Starting in the early 1980s, newly independent former colonies in Africa and Asia started to see a reversal in the foreign assistance being given to agricultural development (inputs, infrastructure, extension training, and research support).  In addition, the money being targeted at the alleviation of hunger came in the food of foreign-grown food aid shipped into areas of need.

A generation later, in the summer of 2008, the world went through a global food crisis where prices doubled and tripled for many staple foods and global reserve stocks of grain were reduced to dangerously low levels.  Kilman and Thurow argue that the time is right for a broad reinvestment into agriculture, similar to how the United States rallied to support the Marshall Plan for Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

The authors argue that public sentiment is in favour of increased support to feed the hungry, and social and political stability are increasingly under threat from those without sufficient resources to subsist.  They present a range of options, from investment in infrastruture and new seed technologies to policy reforms relating to how national budgets are allocated and how trade regulations are drawn up.

Africa is a particular target as it is seen as “the world’s final frontier of agriculture” where yields are still low and modern agricutural practices are often non-existent.  Coupled with a rapidly increasingly population, African farmers will be expected to double their production by 2030 in order to simply meet their own people’s food demands.  This will be no small feat, and it would require a coordinated, collaborative approach to see it through successfully.

A Closer Look at Mozambique’s Agricultural Production System

In Mozambique, differences in rainfall contribute to higher levels of poverty in drier areas.

Poverty levels in drier regions of the country range from 67 to 85 percent, said Professor Firmino Mucavele, Director for Academic Reform and Regional Integration at Eduardo Mondlane University in a presentation of his analysis of agriculture’s true contribution to the Mozambican economy.

Mucavele, a Food Agriculture Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) board member, outlined regional disparities within Mozambique, whose north and eastern districts receive as much as twelve times the amount of rainfall as the southern regions surrounding the Maputo capital.

Crop productivity is also connected to rainfall since irrigation infrastructure in the country is effectively non-existent. Of the 3.3 million hectares suitable for irrigation throughout the country, only fifty thousand hectares (or only a miniscule 0.13 percent) have this resource at their disposal.  Mucavele said:

The common denominator of the smallholder farmers is low productivity, limited ability of households to generate savings and food insecurity.

He added that access to key inputs is also low; only 2 percent of farmers use fertilisers and only 5 percent use pesticides. Underdeveloped capital markets and harvest losses averaging 40 percent also contribute to decreased productivity.

To boost the contribution of the agricultural sector, Mucavele made several key recommendations. He highlighted that the uptake of improved seeds and better production methods could boost crop yields; the yields from maize, which is Mozambique’s primary crop by volume, could be increased seven-fold, from 800 kilograms per hectare to as much as 6,500.  He also pointed out that introducing value-added processes to raw commodities could also boost export earnings, with milled maize fetching five times the price of whole kernels.

Lastly, a concerted effort to reform and support agricultural markets caould stem disruptive variations in crop prices and ensure Mozambique’s farmers a viable source of livelihoods.

Cautioned Mucavele: “Social, environmental and institutional stability depends on food security.”

“Weather Info for All” Programme Will Collect Meteorological Info in Africa

A new partnership will launch 5000 new weather stations across Africa to help collect meteorological information on the continent.  This information can then be used to predict and manage the impacts of climate change.

“Weather Info for All” is a partnership between the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and telecommunicatons companies Sony Ericsson and Zain.  The plan is to build 5000 weather stations on top of existing mobile telephone satellite units across Africa.

This project appears to be enhanced by the relative capabilities and goals of its partners. Public-private partnerships such as these are useful ways for building and sharing knowledge as well as helping farmers plan and protect their harvests better.

Final Adopted Text from CSD-17 Published on the UN Website

An advanced, unedited text of the final recommendations of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development is now available on its website.

Gerda Verburg, Chairperson of the Commission and the Netherlands’ Minister of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality, said of the outcome:

Nothing less is needed than a revolution in ideas and a revolution in technologies, supported by a revolution in trade policies and market access and the financial means to implement.

The final plan stressed the central importance of farmers – particularly women farmers and rural communities – to deliver such a paradigmatic shift in the agricultural sector.

According to the final press release issued on the CSD-17  final text, This could be done by

employing science-based approaches and local indigenous knowledge; expanding investment incentives, in particular for small farmers; and encouraging and supporting safge integrated pest management.

Read the ‘Farming First’ Speech Given at the UN Commission for Sustainable Development

Presented Tuesday, May 12th
Dialogue with Major Groups

Madam Chair, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am Dr. Sarala Gopalan, a farmer from India. I am speaking on behalf of a multi-disciplinary team: Farmers, Science and Technology, and Business who have joined together calling for a new model for agriculture based on knowledge and people – Farming First.

After too many years of neglect of agriculture in national policies, Farming First returns farmers to the centre of policy decisions. Governments, businesses, scientists, engineers, and civil society groups must focus their attention and prioritize the source of global food security in all development efforts.

Farming First is not just words; it is a real partnership to enhance complementarities to achieve sustainable agriculture and a better livelihood in rural areas.

The six pillars of Farming First are about the inter-linkages and continuous cycle of resources, knowledge and tools for farmers to use sustainable agricultural practices.

As CSD-17 discusses inter-linkages, we would like to stress that Farming First promotes an integrated approach which is more than agriculture. We truly believe that focusing on farming is a key mechanism to foster economic and social development for millions of individuals and food security for all.

1) Safeguarding natural resources is the first pillar of the Farming First concept. It emphasizes the importance of land and water management, which should be improved through the widespread adoption of sustainable practices of land use, including conservation tillage and other techniques.  Our coalition agrees strongly with the need stated by the women’s major group to ensure proper land tenure rights for women in particular.

2) The second pillar is Sharing knowledge. We need to put in place an improved mechanism for  extension services – which are neither “top down” nor “bottom up” but truly collaborative.  Demonstration projects can harmonize global research and best practices with existing local knowledge, including that of indigenous people.

3) Building local access to ensure that farmers have access to resources to manage their production more efficiently with emphasis on capacity building, with the support of appropriate infrastructure – particularly roads, ports, and existing technology – to make supplies available in rural communities and to allow access to markets as highlighted during the side event held by the engineers.

We also wish to join with our colleagues in the trade unions to stress the importance of decent work and training for farmers and agricultural workers.

4) Protecting harvests is the fourth pillar of Farming First. In many of the poorest countries, 20 to 40% of crop yields are lost because of inadequate pre- and post-harvest support. One of the most important ways to improve productivity is to minimise losses through local storage capacities and transportation mechanisms as well as provision of  risk management tools to protect farmers in the face of climate variations and market failures. We are eager to explore with the Youth Major Group, the opportunities to change unsustainable consumption patterns.  Food spoilage in the developing world and food waste in the developed world are equally problems.

5) Farming First aims at helping subsistence farmers to become small-scale entrepreneurs. Linking farmers to markets is essential, should we want to make them become real entrepreneurs. Farmers need to be able to get their produce on to the market and receive equitable price treatments for it. Both NGOs and local authorities have outlined the importance of developing fair markets.

6) Once products have been sold, we need to continually improve the cycle. Prioritising research imperatives is Farming First’s sixth and last pillar. Achieving sustainable agriculture requires applied research and available, appropriate technology, prioritising locally relevant crops and farmers’ needs, stewardship techniques, and adaptation to climate change. This will ensure that farmers’ needs are taken into account and that they benefit from continuously updated and improved tools and knowledge to enable them to successfully achieve all the other steps of the process.

Madam Chair, Farming First is about a process of continual improvement that applies to ALL forms of agricultural systems including organic, conventional and others.  Every system must be made more sustainable, today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come.

Please visit to lend your voice to our effort. In just a few weeks since we launched the site, 1300 individuals have already said they concur with the principles of Farming First.

Finally, Madam Chair, at the eve of the High Level Segment, we do not want the CSD to miss the opportunity to create a realistic, action-oriented text on agricultural and rural development.  With this is mind, we would like to ask the Ministers and Official country representatives what the prospects may be to achieve that goal, and what expectations you may have from Farming First partners for implementation following the negotiations?

CNBC Africa’s ‘Regional Round-up’ Programme Interviews Farming First’s Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda

cnbcafrica_dark_backgroundCNBC Africa’s ‘Regional Roundup’ programme looks at the issues, trends, and events that are shaping the investment landscape across Africa — politically, socially, and economically.

Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda discussed how the Farming First principles can be applied to boost the agricultural sector and to support the wider economy.  She highlighted the need for more secure access to inputs and to a guaranteed marketplace where agricultural surpluses can be sold.

Dr. Sibanda also spoke of the need to create more linkages between the various agriculture-related programmes and policies which currently exist, and she discussed the opportunity which Zimbabwe has to apply these to their agricultural sector.

Watch Dr. Sibanda’s interview here: