Stories tagged: USA

Farming Beyond Borders: Farmers Share Challenges and Solutions

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Whilst many challenges facing Farming First’s supporters can vary from region to region, we also stand to gain much from sharing our common experiences, to identify relevant solutions. With this in mind, we recently interviewed farmers from opposite ends of the world, to find out which concerns and interventions – if any – they shared.

Beatrice Wakwabubi, a Kenyan farmer with Farm Africa’s Growing Futures initiative, and Jean Lam, a member of the National Farmers’ Union in the US, who works a no-till operation in Oklahoma, US, may seem to have little in common. But like many farmers in today’s uncertain climate, both women told Farming First that financing, rising costs and land access were their main concerns.

Beatrice called on her government to offer better financing options for smallholders to lease or buy their land, thus giving farmers greater security and incentives for investment. Jean added that as competition for land increased and farms continued to expand to remain competitive, young farmers would need low interest loans to incentivise them. Although their own experiences were vastly different, their concerns showed two sides of the same coin.

At the same time, a major challenge for Beatrice is the fertility of her soils as she diversifies and begins to grow French beans. A good way of avoiding preserving soil health is no-till farming, a practice that has already yielded results for Jean.

The scale of their farms, access to credit and markets, and environmental conditions may be greatly different. But today’s farmers also face many of the same challenges and can learn much from one another. Read the full interview with Beatrice and Jean below.

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Farming First’s Lindiwe Sibanda and Ajay Vashee Discuss Agricultural Development Support with Voice of America

LindiweIn a recent interview aired on Voice of America, Farming First’s Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Ajay Vashee spoke about the decline in agricultural development support over the past generation and how that has impacted the global food crisis, particularly in Africa.  Dr. Sibanda said:

“As a result of diminished resources and lack of funds for agriculture, we saw declines in productivity, we saw people moving out of farming to rely more on commodities like minerals, and rely more on imports of food rather than produce their own.”

Ajay Vashee also warned that the scale of the need is tremendous, and agricultural investments need to be sustained and expanded further in order to reap the anticipated outcomes.

The broadcast also addressed the structure of the Obama administration’s intended agriculture plan, which includes $3.5 billion over the next three years to help developing-world farmers produce more food and get their products to market.

Critical to heading off the food crisis in Africa is the prioritisation of research imperatives (per Farming First’s Principle 6). Joachim von Braun, Director-General of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, discussed the scale of the challenge facing global agriculture:

[I]f agricultural research and development were to increase from $5 billion a year to $15 billion, “10 years later we will have…300 million [fewer] people among the hungry poor. This is the largest benefit one can achieve with this type of investment.”

At a U.N meeting in September, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined the U.S. agriculture policy:

The strategy Clinton sketched out includes many of the elements experts say developing- world farmers need most: investments in research and development, access to improved seed and fertilizer, insurance programs for small farmers, as well as improved infrastructure such as roads and storage facilities to help farmers get their products to market.

The article highlights the fact that agriculture is a “good investment” for policymakers to make and that their efforts need to be farmer-focused and knowledge-based, aimed at diversifying the range of tools which they have at their disposal over the long-term.

Listen to the complete audio broadcast here:

[audio: voiceofamericafoodsecuritysibandavashee.mp3]

World Water Facts from a Newly Updated WBCSD Report

2959393208_f4fb74f682A newly updated report from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) highlights many key facts and trends on how the world uses and manages its freshwater supply.

Agriculture-related activity is responsible for around 70% of freshwater use.  Here are some other interesting facts from the report:

  • Less than 3% of the world’s water is freshwater.  Of this freshwater supply, about five-sixths is frozen and thus inaccessible.
  • Almost 97% of the available freshwater is stored in underground aquifers, with the remainder coming from rainfall, natural lakes, rivers, and other man-made facilities.
  • Fewer than 10 countries possess 60% of the world’s available freshwater supply: Brazil, Russia, China, Canada, Indonesia, U.S., India, Columbia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Globally, roughly 15-35% of irrigation withdrawals for agriculture are estimated to be unsustainable.  Susceptible regins include the western U.S., northern India and Pakistan, northern China, eastern South Africa, southeastern Australia, and parts of the Mediterranean.
  • India, China, and Egypt all use more than 80% of their freshwater for irrigation, compared to about 1% in the UK.
  • 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera)– the equivalent of 15 killer tsunamis each year or 12 Boeing 747 crashes every day.
  • U.S. average annual domestic consumption of water (per capita) is 215 cubic metres per year, 6.7 times the average in China and more than double the average in France.
  • Important trends impacting water use in the future include population growth, increasing global affluence, and climate change.

Farming First’s Ajay Vashee Discusses Obama, Agriculture, and Malawi with Bloomberg

3772343979_c09946289fAfter attending the G8 summit in Italy earlier last week, President Obama immediately flew down to Ghana, in his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since being elected President.

Obama’s trips to Italy and Ghana both served to demonstrate his public support for an increased focus on the needs of farmers, particularly those without sufficient access to the tools they need to farm efficiently and feed themselves.

In Italy, Obama said:

There is no reason why Africa cannot be self-sufficient when it comes to food.  It has sufficient arable land.  What’s lacking is the right seeds, the right irrigation, but also the kinds of institutional mechanisms that ensure that a farmer is going to be able to grow crops, get them to market, get a fair price.

In a recent Bloomberg article, Farming First’s Ajay Vashee, President of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), discussed the need for African farmers to have better access to the seeds and fertilizers they needed to increase their yields and improve their livelihoods as farmers.

Vashee particularly noted the success of Malawi’s farm input subsidy programme, which has been running for the past five years and which has served as a model for neighboring countries.

The Bloomberg article noted that Tanzania began a fertilizer-subsidy programme last December, that Kenya has announced a similar subsidy plan to boost yields, and that the Ugandan government had increased spending on agriculture by 47 per cent in its latest budget.

In preparation for his trip to Ghana, Obama discussed the role that governments should play in driving progress in African development goals, quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article:

Countries that are governed well, that are stable, where the leadership recognizes that they are accountable to the people and that institutions are stronger than any one person have a track record of producing results for the people.

In May, Farming First interviewed the coordinator of Malawi’s farm subsidy programme and Principal Economist in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Idrissa Mwale.  Watch the video here:

Watch other videos from Farming First on Vimeo here.

Foreign Affairs Discusses ‘Bringing Agriculture Back to U.S. Foreign Policy’

In a new article in Foreign Affairs, Catherine Bertini (formerly Executive Director of the UN’s World Food Programme) and Dan Glickman (former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture) discuss how and why agriculture must be reprioritised in American foreign policy.

The authors discuss the systematic reasons why U.S. investment in agricultural development has fallen to only 15 per cent its 1980s levels, from $400 million to only $60 million.

They mention a lack of investment in systematic solutions, distorted trade and economic policies, and a lack of consensus on how to and where to supply development assistance.  They laso warn of the last generation’s failure to invest in knowledge transfer, new technologies, and improved market access for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

What Bertini and Glickman make clear is the both the moral and rational imperative for addressing the world’s food security issues through a farmer-centric approach to development.

UK Environment Secretary Declares, “We Face a Crisis of Sustainability”

35601Hilary Benn, the UK Environment Secretary, visited the US for meetings with Ban Ki-Moon and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. According to a DEFRA statement, They discussed the topics of climate change adaptation, food security, and the green economy.

He said:

These threats are real, they are immediate, and they will affect us all. Environmental degradation is putting an increasing strain on our natural resources, and it is both a cause and an effect of climate change.

To solve these global challenges, Benn highlighted the need for a more sustainable and productive model for agriculture, as well as more sustianable building practices, transport, and energy production.

The goal of reinvigorating the agricultural sector, he continued, would have to be accomplished through increased  collaboration and commitment from around the world:

We need the world to come together to deal with water scarcity, the damaging loss of biodiversity, and the challenge of producing enough food. The World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and others, need to respond to crises and support the investment that will secure supplies in the long-term.