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Plant pests pose threat to food security in region

Plant pests pose threat to food security in region

Muscat, Sept 17 – Plant pests and diseases threaten food security and nutrition around the world, and endangers food security in our region with serious economic and environmental implications, Dr Nora Orabah Haddad, FAO Representative in the Sultanate, has said. Speaking at a regional workshop on the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) for Near East and North Africa, she said: “The risk of emergence and spread of transboundary pests and diseases has been exacerbated by the increasing movement of goods, people, plants and products. Not to forgot, the impact of climate change in recent years.”
The most important diseases that have been affecting plants are date palm red weevils, bacteria (Xylella fastidoisa), autumn worms, among others, she said.
Organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MoAF) in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the workshop began here on Monday. It was held under the auspices of Dr Ahmed al Bakri, Under-Secretary of the Ministry. It will continue until September 20.
Forty plant quarantine specialists, plant protection workers and technicians from the region are participating in it.
The workshop aims at providing an understanding of phytosanitary realities and challenges faced by each region as well as learning the latest in international phytosanitary standards.
IPPC is one of the oldest international conventions sponsored by FAO, which entered into force in 1952. It has 183 member states, including all countries in the Near East and North Africa region.
The convention aims at assisting the member states to improve and modernise plant protection programmes.
“IPPC’s objective is to provide guidelines and recommendations with a view to standardising phytosanitary measures at the global level to facilitate international trade in plant products,” said Dr Nora Orabah Haddad.
Nassr bin Saif al Shamsi, Head of Agricultural Quarries Department, spoke about the need for appropriate phytosanitary legislation and procedures to deal with agricultural shipments based on scientific grounds, risk analysis and assessment. This is to prevent spread of agricultural pests, protect environment and plant resources, and facilitate trade.
“Oman, in coordination with the GCC states, has been keen to update legislations on plant protection and develop capacity of agricultural quarantine in line with developments at the international level,” he said.
Some of the provisions of Unified Agricultural Quarantine Law between the GCC States are now being revised along with methods used for inspecting agricultural shipments and determining import conditions so they comply with international standards of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM), he added.
Meanwhile, an official from MoAF, presenting his paper, said Oman’s agricultural exports in 2017 stood at 0.5 million tonnes with a value of RO 63 million, while it imported 2.9 million tonnes of goods valued at RO 370 million in the same year.

Zainab al Nassri

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Food security #IndigenousNCDs : Welfare reform is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people  impoverishing them and resulting in the consumption of unhealthy foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Food security #IndigenousNCDs : Welfare reform is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people impoverishing them and resulting in the consumption of unhealthy foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases

What national and average Closing the Gap figures do not tell us is just how badly the estimated 170,000 Indigenous people in remote and very remote Australia are faring. This region where I focus my work covers 86 per cent of the Australian continent.

In the last decade new race-based instruments have been devised to regulate Indigenous people including their forms of expenditure (via income management), forms of working via the Community Development Programme (CDP) and their places of habitation, where they might access basic citizenship services.

All these measures have implications for consumption of market commodities, including food from shops, and of customary non-market goods, including food from the bush.

Owing to deep poverty, many people can only purchase relatively cheap and unhealthy takeaway foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases, like acute heart and kidney disorders, followed by lung cancer from smoking.

With income management Aboriginal people are being coerced to shop at stores according to the government’s rhetoric for their ‘food security’. Before the introduction of this regime many more people were exercising their ‘food sovereignty’ right to harvest far healthier foods from the bush.

Extracts from Jon Altman a research professor in anthropology at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University, Melbourne.

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A version of this article was first published in the Land Rights News

READ over 5 Articles NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Nutrition 

READ Articles NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Welfare Card 

” NACCHO is strongly opposed to the current cashless debit card trials as well as any proposal to expand. We also note that Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by the trials and that they are in and proposed for locations where the majority participants are Aboriginal. Whilst it is not the stated intent of the trials, its impact is discriminatory.

NACCHO knows that some Aboriginal people and communities need additional support to better manage their lives and ensure that income support funds are used more effectively.

However, NACCHO is firmly of the view that there are significantly better, more cost efficient, alternative approaches that support improvements in Aboriginal wellbeing and positive decision making.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services would be well placed to develop and implement alternative programs. We firmly believe that addressing the ill health of Aboriginal people, including the impacts of alcohol, drug and gambling related harm, can only be achieved by local Aboriginal people controlling health care delivery.

We know that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a genuine say over our lives, the issues that impact on us and can develop our own responses, there is a corresponding improvement in wellbeing. This point is particularly relevant given that the majority of trial participants are Aboriginal. “

Selected extracts from Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 

Download HERE 

NACCHO submission on cashless debit card final

As is the case in many countries, Indigenous people in Australia, New Zealand, United States of America and Canada are disproportionately affected by NCDs.

Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer,  smoking related lung disease and mental health conditions are the five main NCDs identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and these are almost uniformly experienced by Indigenous peoples at higher rates than other people.

Indigenous people globally are disproportionately affected by diabetes. In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are 6 times more likely than the non-Indigenous population to die from diabetes. In Canada, Indigenous peoples are 3-5 times more likely to have diabetes than other citizens.

Indigenous people are also more likely to have Cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease accounts for almost a quarter of the mortality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. Maori people are 3-4.2 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than other people in New Zealand.

These numbers are not improving, despite national rates of smoking decreasing, and increased social marketing aimed at reducing sugar consumption and increasing physical activity.

Mainstream solutions do little to reduce the burden of NCDs for Indigenous populations. The broader social determinants of health have a huge role to play, and until these are addressed in a meaningful way, Indigenous peoples will continue to experience an inequitable burden.

With colonisation having had a devastating impact on Indigenous peoples, and mainstream solutions unable to significantly reduce the rates of NCDs experienced by Indigenous peoples, a new paradigm is urgently required.

What is required is not more state based solutions but Indigenous led solutions.

Summer May Finlay Croakey 

Welfare reform is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people impoverishing them and resulting in the consumption of unhealthy foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases

Rome (Canberra) continues to fiddle while Black Australia burns. Professor Jon Altman weighs in on the ongoing disasters of government policy that have a tight grip on remote living Indigenous people.

In the last month I participated in two workshops. I used what I observed on my latest visit to Arnhem Land and what people were telling me to inform what I presented at the workshops.

The first workshop explored issues around excessive consumption by industrialised societies globally and how this is harming human health and destroying the planet. Workshop participants asked how such ‘consumptogenic’ systems might be regulated for the global good? My job was to provide a case study from my research on consumption by Indigenous people in remote Australia.

The second workshop looked at welfare reform in the last decade in remote Indigenous Australia. In this workshop I looked at how welfare reform by the Australian state after the NT Intervention was creatively destroying the economy and lifeways of groups in Arnhem Land who are looking to live on their lands and off its natural resources.

Here I want to share some of what I said.

BROADLY speaking Indigenous policy in remote Australia is looking to do two things.

The first is to Close the Gaps so that Indigenous Australians can one future day have the same socio-economic status as other Australians. In remote Australia this goal is linked to the project to ‘Develop the North’ via a combination of opening Aboriginal communities and lands to more market capitalism and extraction, purportedly for the improvement of disadvantaged Indigenous peoples and land owners.

While remote-living Indigenous people have economic and social justice rights to vastly improved wellbeing, in such scenarios of future economic equality based on market capitalism, the downsides of what I think of as ‘consumptomania’ are never mentioned.

The second aim of policy is the extreme regulation of Indigenous people and their behaviour, when deemed unacceptable. In a punitive manifestation of neoliberal governmentality, the Australian state, and its nominated agents, are looking to morally restructure Indigenous people to transform them into model citizens: hard-working, individualistic, highly educated, nationally mobile at least in pursuit of work (not alcohol), and materially acquisitive.

This paternalistic project of improvement makes no concessions whatsoever to cultural difference, colonial history of neglect, connection to country, discrimination, and so on.

In the last decade new race-based instruments have been devised to regulate Indigenous people including their forms of expenditure (via income management), forms of working via the Community Development Programme (CDP) and their places of habitation, where they might access basic citizenship services.

All these measures have implications for consumption of market commodities, including food from shops, and of customary non-market goods, including food from the bush.

We have all heard the bad news, year after year, report after report, that the government-imposed project of improvement, called ‘Closing the Gap’ and introduced by Kevin Rudd in 2008, is failing.

Using the government’s own statistics, after 10 years only one target, year 12 attainment, might be on track. I say ‘might’ because ‘attainment’ is open to multiple interpretations: is attainment just about attendance or about gaining useful life skills?

What national and average Closing the Gap figures do not tell us is just how badly the estimated 170,000 Indigenous people in remote and very remote Australia are faring. This region where I focus my work covers 86 per cent of the Australian continent.

What we are seeing in this massive part of Australia according to the latest census are the very lowest employment/population ratios of about 30 per cent for Indigenous adults (against 80% for non-Indigenous adults) and the deepest poverty, more than 50 per cent of people in Indigenous households currently live below the poverty line.

This is also paradoxically where Indigenous people have most land and native title rights, a recent estimate suggests that 43 per cent of the continent has some form of indigenous title; and is dotted with maybe 1000 small Indigenous communities with a total population of 100,000 at most.

Native title rights and interests give people an unusual and generally unregulated right to use natural resources for domestic consumption.

This form of consumption might include hunting kangaroos or feral animals like the estimated 100,000 wild buffalo in Arnhem Land.

Such hunting is good for health because the meat is lean and fresh; it is also good for the environment because buffalo eat about 30kg of vegetation a day and are environmentally destructive; and it is good for global cooling because each buffalo emits methane with a carbon equivalent value of about two tonnes per annum.

The legal challenge of gaining native title rights and interests is that claimants must demonstrate continuity of customs and traditions and connection to their claimed country. But in remote Australia, culture and tradition have been identified as a key element of the problem that is exacerbating social dysfunction. (That is unless tradition appears as fine art ‘high culture’ which is imagined to be unrelated to the everyday culture and is a favourite item for consumption by metropolitan elites.)

Hence the project of behavioural modification to eradicate Indigenous cultures that exhibit problematic characteristics, like sharing and a focus on kinship and reciprocity, to be replaced by western culture with its high consumption, individualistic and materially acquisitive characteristics.

Connection to country, at least if it involves living on it, is also deemed highly problematic by the Australian state if one wants to produce western educated, home-owning, properly disciplined neoliberal subjects — terra nulliusis now to be replaced by terra vacua, empty land.

Such empty land would be ripe for resource extraction and capitalist accumulation by dispossession Despite all the talk of mining on Aboriginal land, there are currently very few operating mines on the Indigenous estate. This is imagined as one means to Develop the North, but recent history suggests that the long-term benefits to Aboriginal land owners from such development will be limited.

MUCH of what I describe above in general terms resonates with what I have observed in Arnhem Land where I have visited regularly since the Intervention; and what I hear from Aboriginal people and colleagues working elsewhere in remote Indigenous Australia.

From 2007 to 2012 all communities in Arnhem Land were prescribed under NT Intervention laws. Since 2012, under Stronger Futures laws legislated in force until 2022, the Aboriginal population has continued to be subject to a new hyper-regulatory regime: income management, government-licenced stores, modern slavery-like compulsory work for welfare, enhanced policing, unimaginable levels of electronic and police surveillance, school attendance programs and so on.

The limited availability of mainstream work in this region as elsewhere means that most adults of working age receive their income from the new Community Development Program introduced in 2015. Weekly income is limited to Newstart ($260) for which one must meet a work requirement of five hours a day, five days a week if aged 18-49 years and able-bodied.

Of this paltry income, 50 per cent is quarantined for spending at stores where prices are invariably high, owing to remoteness.

The main aim of such paternalism is to reduce expenditure on tobacco and alcohol which cannot be purchased with the BasicsCard.

Shop managers that I have interviewed tell me that despite steep tax-related price rises (a pack of Winfield blue costs nearly $30) tobacco demand is inelastic and sales have not declined.

Since the year 2000, Noel Pearson has popularised his metaphor ‘welfare poison’. Pearson is referring figuratively to what he sees as the negative impacts of long-term welfare dependence. In Arnhem Land welfare is literally a form of poison because in the name of ‘food security’ people are forced to purchase foods they can afford with low nutritional value from ‘licenced’ stores.

However, paternalistic licencing to allow stores to operate the government-imposed BasicsCard is not undertaken equitably by officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

So one sees large, long-standing, community-owned and operated and mainly Indigenous staffed stores being rigorously regulated, managers argue over-regulated. Such stores are highly visible, as are their accounts.

But small private-sector operators (staffed mainly by temporary visa holders and backpackers) that have been established as the regional economy has been prised open to the free market appear under-regulated, even though they are also ‘licenced’ to operate the BasicsCard.

These private sector operators compete very effectively with community-owned enterprises because they only have a focus on commerce: all the profits they make and most of the wages they pay non-local staff leave the region.

Owing to deep poverty, many people can only purchase relatively cheap and unhealthy takeaway foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases, like acute heart and kidney disorders, followed by lung cancer from smoking.

With income management Aboriginal people are being coerced to shop at stores according to the government’s rhetoric for their ‘food security’. Before the introduction of this regime many more people were exercising their ‘food sovereignty’ right to harvest far healthier foods from the bush.

This dramatic transformation has occurred as an unusual form of regional economy that involved a high level of customary activity has been effectively destroyed by the dominant government view that only prioritises engagement in market capitalism — that is largely absent in this region.

On one hand, we now see the most able-bodied hunters required to work for the dole every week day with their energies directed from what they do best.

On the other hand, the greatly enhanced police presence is resulting simultaneously in people being deprived of their basic equipment for hunting — guns and trucks — regularly impounded because they are unregistered or their users unlicenced.

People are being increasingly isolated from their ancestral lands and their hunting grounds.

Excessive policing, growing poverty, dependency and anomie are seeing criminality escalate with expensive fines for minor misdemeanours further impoverishing people and reducing their ability to purchase either more expensive healthy foods or the means to acquire bush foods.

A virtuous production cycle that until the Intervention saw much ‘bush food consumption’ has been disastrously reversed. Today, we see a vicious cycle where people regularly report hunger while living in rich Australia; people’s health status is declining.

Welfare reform and Indigeneity is indeed a toxic mix, poison, in remote regions like Arnhem Land.

I WANT to end with some more general conclusions.

On the regulation of Indigenous expenditure, we see a perverse policy intervention: the Australian government is committing what are sometimes referred to as Type 1 and Type 2 errors.

The former sees the government looking to regulate Indigenous consumption using the expensive instrument of income management that has cost over $1.2 billion to date, despite no evidence that it makes a difference.

The latter sees an absence of the proper regulation of supply in licences stores evident when stores with names like ‘The Good Food Kitchen’ sell cheap unhealthy take-aways.

In my view the racially-targeted and crude attempts to regulate Indigenous expenditure are unacceptable on social justice grounds.

Two principles as articulated by Guy Standing stand out.

‘The security difference principle’ suggests that a policy is only socially just if it improves the [food]security of the most insecure in society. Income management and work for the dole do not do this.

And ‘the paternalism test’ suggests that a policy like income management would only be socially just if it does not impose controls on some groups that are not imposed on the most-free groups in society.

Paternalistic governmentality in remote Australia is imposing tight regulatory frameworks on some people, even though the justifying ideology suggests that markets should be free and unregulated.

Sociologist Loic Wacquant in  Punishing the Poor shows how the carceral state in the USA punishes the poor with criminalisation and imprisonment; the poor there happen to be mainly black.

In Australia, punitive neoliberalism punishes those remote living Aboriginal people who happen to be poor and dependent on the state.

Once again there is a perversity in policy implementation.

Hence in Arnhem Land, people maintain strong vestiges of a hunter-gatherer subjectivity that when combined with deep poverty makes them avid consumers of western commodities that are bad for health (like tobacco that is expensive and fatty, sugary takeaway food that is relatively cheap).

At the same time commodities that might be useful to improve health, like access to guns and trucks essential for modern hunting, are rendered unavailable by a combination of poverty and excessive policing.

Australian democracy that is founded on notions of liberalism needs to be held to account for such travesties.

Long ago in 1859, John Stuart Mill, the doyen of liberals, wrote in  On Liberty: “…despotism is a legitimate form of government in dealing with barbarians, providing the end be their improvement and the means justified by actually effecting that end”.

In illiberal Australia today, authoritarian controls over remote living Indigenous people and their behaviour are again viewed as legitimate by the powerful now neoliberal state, even though there is growing evidence from remote Australia that things are getting worse.

I want to end with some suggested antidotes to the toxic mix that has resulted from welfare reform that is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people and impoverishing them.

First, in my view despotism for some is never legitimate, so people should be treated equally irrespective of their ethnicity or structural circumstances.

Second, the Community Development Programme is a coercive disaster that is far more effective at breaching and penalising the jobless for not complying with excessive requirements than in creating jobs. CDP is further impoverishing people and should be replaced, especially in places where there are no jobs, with unconditional basic income support.

Third, people need to be empowered to find their own solutions to the complex challenges of appropriate development that accord with their aspirations, norms, values, and lifeways. Devolutionary principles of self-government and community control, not big government and centralised control, are needed.

Fourth, the native title of remote living people should be protected to ensure that they benefit from all their rights and interests. There is no point in legally allocating property rights in natural resources valuable for self-provisioning if people are effectively excluded from access to their ancestral lands and the enjoyment of these resources.

Finally, governments should support what has worked in the past to improve people’s diverse culturally-informed views about wellbeing and sense of worth.

While such an approach might not close some imposed ‘closing the gap’ targets, like employment as measured by standard western metrics, it will likely improve other important goals like reducing child mortality and enhancing life expectancy and overall quality of life.

Brexit food security: An opportunity for vertical farming?

Brexit food security: An opportunity for vertical farming?

Farming in the UK is facing an uncertain time. The UK government recently announced that it intends to phase out farming subsidies, and a no deal Brexit has prompted food shortage scares. The UK has limited land to grow more produce, but could vertical farming improve the UK’s food security after Brexit?

Vertical farming is the growing of produce in vertically stacked layers. There are many variations, but what most of them share in common is an enclosed structure in which farmers can control the climate.

“The way to think about it is, we’ve cut a field up into six and a half meter trays, stacked them about six inches apart on top of each other and put them in a box in which we can make the weather,” vertical farming company Intelligent Growth Solutions CEO David Farquhar told Verdict.

“We are giving the farmer complete control of the weather.”

This includes the light, the heat, humidity, ventilation, air movement, nutrients and the rain. All of this means that UK farmers could grow crops that traditionally have only been possible to grow in overseas climates.

Farquhar gives the example of basil, which makes up 40% of the world’s production of herbs but cannot be grown outdoors in the UK. However, at their recently opened farm in Scotland, it can be grown throughout the year.

The UK relies heavily on EU imports

The prospect of a no deal Brexit disrupting supply chains has created fears that the UK will need to stockpile food and pharmaceuticals.

While Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has assured consumers that they will still be able to enjoy a BLT when the UK leaves the EU, it has highlighted the UK’s dependency on imports.

According to government statistics, more than half of food is sourced from overseas. With 30% of those imports coming from the EU, any disruption to trade will further expose Britain’s low food security.

Jon Woolven, Strategy and Innovation Director at food and grocery research charity IGD told Verdict that the UK’s level of food self-sufficiency has “varied considerably” over the years. It has gone through a series of cycles, but is currently at “a low point, determined by several factors”.

The EU’s Single Market, for example, makes it “easier and cheaper to source food from markets outside the UK”.

Part of this dependency lies in the consumer demand for foods that can’t be grown in the UK, as well as food that isn’t in season, says Woolven.

Brexit food security: a problem fuelled by land scarcity

But at its heart, land scarcity is the biggest factor. The UK currently uses 72% of its landmass for agricultural practices to provide just 50% of our food.

Britain’s housing, which requires an extra 240,000 houses per year to match demand, means that there is increasingly less land available for farming.

“There is intense competition for land use in a densely populated country,” says Woolven.

In addition to this, planning regulations, access to capital and business uncertainty are all barriers for new farms.

Vertical farms can be on a large scale, such as the planned 130,000 square foot vertical farm to be built in Dubai, a country that imports 85% of its food.

While there are no plans to build a vertical farm of that scale in the UK, it shows how vertical farms offer a potential solution to a lack of arible land.

“You can put them in cities, you can put them next to transport hubs to make it really efficient for the supermarkets,” says Farquhar.

“So absolutely we can create not necessarily more land, but we can create the area in which it’s possible to grow.”

Vertical farming is free from labour shortages

Since the UK voted to leave the EU, the number of seasonal workers has been in decline. In 2017, there was a 12.5% shortfall of workers required to work on horticulture farms, leading to some fruit turning rotten in the fields.

And with 99% of seasonal workers on British farms coming from Eastern Europe, the UK farming industry is particularly exposed to any limits on immigration.

“Brexit may well cause a further shortage of agricultural labour, whether you regard that as an opportunity or an issue, but it’s almost certainly going to do it and it’s already happening,” says Farquhar.

Vertical farming has the advantage of being free from the effects of labour shortages because many of the processes are automated.

“If you can reduce the requirement for labour, then clearly that’s something that specifically a vertical farm (as opposed to other indoor ones) can certainly do because we are using robotics for pretty much every stage of what we do here,” says Farquhar.

In fact, Farquhar estimates that compared to a traditional greenhouse operation, vertical farming takes out 80% of the headcount. In Intelligent Growth Solutions’ recently opened vertical farm, the only human that enters the farm is the maintenance man once every few months.

Instead, robots plant the seeds, harvest and package the produce.

“We’re not going to take away the crop scientists and those kind of guys, but actual labourers? You can remove most of them,” he says.

Not yet ripe

One analysis predicts that the vertical farming market will be worth nearly $10bn by 2025. However, others warn that the technology is overhyped, with many aspects that still need to be refined.

Critics also point to the large amounts of capital needed to set up a vertical farm and the large amounts of energy required to operate them.

However, in a closed loop vertical farm, resources such as light and air are recycled. Their increased efficiency means that while power consumption is high, farmers can produce a greater yield per watt of power.

“Will we ever see fields of wheat grown in this way? I think that’s a fair way off,” says Farquhar.

However, technology moves quickly, and Farquhar points to the differences between a mobile phone 25 years ago compared to the high tech pocket computers of today.

Notably, vertical farming does not provide a solution to livestock , which would still feel the effects of any supply chain disruption in the event of a no deal Brexit.

A government approach to Brexit food security

The UK government has published several blogs about vertical farming and farming innovation. However, environment minister Michael Gove’s recent announcement focused on phasing out EU farming subsidies.

Instead, government policy will focus on protecting the environment.

“The bill will allow us to reward farmers who protect our environment, leaving the countryside in a cleaner, greener and healthier state for future generations,” he said.

Some have praised this move, scrapping a system which typically benefited rich landowners. However, others warned that many farmers will struggle to stay afloat without EU funding.

According to the Times, UK farmers made an average profit of £39,000 in 2015. One study warned that 25% of English farms could go bankrupt when they lose the subsidy, which could force traditional farmers to rethink their approach.

While there are no government plans or incentives for vertical farms, there are plenty of older buildings and factories that could be converted into vertical farms.

“I think what’s going to happen in the UK is I think most of the vertical stuff is going to go urban or suburban next to transport hubs,” says Farquhar.

All of this would require a completely new approach to the economic model of farming, from supply chains to price, meaning it is unlikely to happen any time soon.

But Farquhar believes that the pace the technology is improving at means vertical farming will become mainstream within the next ten years.

“The simple fact is we’re going to want to be less reliant on our neighbours,” he says.

“Whether Brexit in and of itself necessarily creates the opportunity – frankly the opportunity is already there.”

The post Brexit food security: An opportunity for vertical farming? appeared first on Verdict.

SatSummit: Disaster Response, AI, OpenData, NASA, and Food Security from Space

SatSummit: Disaster Response, AI, OpenData, NASA, and Food Security from Space

We’re down to the final 10 tickets. SatSummit will be sold out again because of the amazing cross-section of leaders who understand the potential of imagery and maps to solve some of our biggest problems: Sarah Muir from the UN World Food Programme, Christoph Koettl from the New York Times, Yotam Ariel from, Catherin Andrea Alvarez Hernandez from Bogota’s Habitat Department, astronaut Cady Coleman, Megan Smith, CTO under Obama. Folks from DigitalGlobe, The World Bank, NASA, MIT, Amazon Conservation Team — the list goes on. The caliber and diversity of speakers and participants coming this week is humbling.

Nine years ago this month, I landed in DC after my first trip to Kabul. Where we started mapping, the maps were blank so we got good at making tools to make maps. Fast forward to today and advances in imagery, cloud computing, and AI—combined with the powerful sensors sitting in all of our pockets—allow planetary scale analysis of a living map, and the ability to gain insight and make traction in areas of massive humanitarian importance: preventing food crises, detecting gas leaks, disaster response.

SatSummit is a reflection of the moment we’re in. At a time when truth can feel increasingly subjective, the powerful truth of earth observation is more valuable than ever. Last week, while some were debating whether coverage of Hurricane Florence was part of a climate hoax, satellite imagery and AI were allowing NASA to conduct real-time analysis of Florence’s windspeed — as fast as the images arrived.

We’re just scratching the surface of our potential. That’s why we’re aiming to deepen the conversation this year. SatSummit is two days and incorporates panels and workshops — so we can do more than talk about problems, we can work together to solve them. And of course, this year’s after-party will be next-level. It’s at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum — under the satellites and spaceships in the Space Race Gallery. I hope to see you there.


Afghan Food Security and Nutrition Agenda stakeholders study tour to Bangladesh

Afghan Food Security and Nutrition Agenda stakeholders study tour to Bangladesh

Afghan Food Security and Nutrition Agenda stakeholders study tour to Bangladesh

David Martin   |   SUN Country Network, SUN UN Network

With the support of FAO and EU, the afghan delegation composed of 12 people from the Afghanistan Food Security and Nutrition Agenda (AFSeN–A) stakeholders composed of representatives from Government Ministries, Technical Secretariat and FAO representatives paid a study tour to Bangladesh. The delegation headed by H.E Nasrullah Arsalai, the Director General of the Council of Ministers, Secretariat, the Afghanistan Focal Point to SUN movement and Government Coordinator for the AFSeN-A.

The purpose of this visit was to learn from experiences of Bangladesh in Food Security and Nutrition areas. The delegation met with Bangladesh government food and Agriculture ministers, authorities research and training institutes, research council, laboratories and agriculture university of Bangladesh.

The constitution, policy and regulatory environment in Bangladesh favors food and nutrition security. Strong constitutional provision ensures citizen rights to food, good number of policies and regulations such as food policy, food safety act and country investment plans are tools that offer legitimacy, legal power and back-up to food and nutrition related structures and interventions.

Linking Research, education and extension work is another good example for agricultural integration, inclusiveness and continuity. This is another example which we must learn from.

This study tour was very useful and Bangladesh experience could be copied to Afghanistan context. The multi stakeholder coordination mechanism in scaling up nutrition, strong training and research institutes extension, food safety authority fortification, bio fortification are examples which we can learn from and apply.

Fortification, bio-fortification, GMOs, plant tissue culture, targeted programs for vulnerable people, developing stress tolerant crop varieties, developing local technology to help farmers are few interesting examples to mention.


Northern food security key to Canada’s future

Northern food security key to Canada’s future

Northern food security key to Canada’s future

By Mary Buhr      

For the sake of our global future, food security in the North is an issue requiring thoughtful investment now.

Last year, Statistics Canada released an analysis of 2012 information: between 33 and 55 per cent of Nunavut residents over the age of 25 had experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

True or False: The Arctic is thawing, uncovering land that can grow food and eventually feed the world. Answer: both. Another answer: We don’t know—because so much is changing. And it has serious implications for food security in the north. What we do know is that permafrost—ground that remains at or below zero degrees for at least two consecutive years—is diminishing, with losses of about 30 to 70 per cent through the next century. Permafrost holds a huge

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Political observers expect to start seeing policy trail balloons floating this fall, and the beginning of ‘persuasion advertising,’ with the next federal election almost a year out.

‘Coming up in the first few weeks and months it’s going to be a heavy trade-focused session,’ says NDP House Leader Ruth Ellen Brosseau.

The court rejection of the Trans Mountain pipeline is set to loom large over debate on the Liberals’ impact assessment bill in the Upper Chamber this sitting.

As much as those talks are consuming the Trudeau government’s bandwidth, it has also sent the signal to stakeholders that it’s hoping to reorient some of its resources to other files as it lays the groundwork for 2019.

Their challenge is to differentiate themselves from the Liberals and say why they’re better, strategists say, to build a ‘compelling narrative.’

NDP MP Georgina Jolibois says she’s surprised the Liberals are hoping to win her riding, as she’s heard that constituents are satisfied with her work as an MP.

Trade and Food Security Are Linked — and Both Are In Danger

Trade and Food Security Are Linked — and Both Are In Danger

This article originally appeared on Brink.

2018 has been a tough year in agriculture. Heat, drought, wildfires, and poor wheat crops in Russia, China, and Ukraine reduced exports and in-country stocks and contributed to soaring prices. In countries such as Egypt, which imports more wheat than any other country, bread prices skyrocketed. Tensions boiled over in the Middle East as people added hunger to their long list of grievances.

Climate change didn’t cause the Arab Spring, but it hastened its arrival. The lesson that many took away from this period is the role of food security in national security. What many missed is the role of climate change in food security.

Barriers to Trade Leave Us Vulnerable to Food Insecurity

We enjoy record levels of trade, and we’ve never needed it more. As climate change continues to disrupt food production, we need to foster more trade to absorb the inevitable shocks that will come with greater and greater frequency in the decades to come.

Erecting barriers to trade, which many in the world now seem intent on doing, will only leave us more vulnerable to food insecurity and, with it, political and economic instability and population displacement.

While climate skepticism still drives the US government’s policies, it’s inarguable that the climate is changing. We can see telltale signs in the production of fresh fruits and vegetables in places such as California, but also in global breadbaskets such as the American Midwest, Brazil, Australia, India, China, and Southeast Asia. Whether or not one accepts the need to mitigate climate change, we should all be able to agree that adaptation is critical.

How Do We Go Forward?

First, we should recognize that some countries have comparative agricultural advantages that are not only to the advantage of their people, but also to the advantage of the planet. We need to produce food where we can and with the fewest impacts possible and then ship it to where it is needed. We need trade to fill the gaps in a global food system where production will be increasingly variable and where the gaps are likely to get bigger over time.

Second, we need to keep innovating.

America continues to lead in food and farming, but there are no guarantees we’ll retain this position. And, that’s not a problem. In a world of increasing weather variability, we need Brazil, China, India, and other agricultural powerhouses to do more. This is not about competition. This is about precompetitive approaches to food security in high-growth markets in Africa and Asia.

Transition Agriculture

As average temperatures rise, crops are migrating toward the poles. Cotton is now growing where soy was dominant, with Kansas doubling cotton production from 2015 to 2016. American corn and soy are chasing wheat toward the Canadian border—and pests are migrating, too, creating new risks for producers.

Trade has brought our world closer together and made it more prosperous and peaceful. It can also provide a unifying framework to combat climate change.

We need to respond to these trends more quickly. Producers need platforms that allow them to compare notes about what works and what doesn’t, what is coming and how fast. Such platforms aren’t just expenses, they are investments that yield productivity, producer income, food security, economic growth, and global stability.

We need to take advantage of the information technology the US is known for and ensure that producers can use it to learn faster. As climate change challenges us to produce food under more variable conditions, we need more innovation, not less.

WTO Needs To Factor In Climate Change

Third, we need more consistent and uniform global standards for safe, sustainable food. Food standards and regulatory frameworks in emerging countries are inconsistent, and the rule of law in some countries—or lack thereof—creates uncertainty and enables illegal production to undercut producers that raise food sustainably and legally.

Multilateral trade agreements can help address these challenges and set a level playing field for responsible actors.

International trade agreements should anticipate climate change and foster greater resilience. These agreements should allow for the unimpeded short-term movement of food to fill the gaps created by weather and yield variability and should include controls on export restrictions. The World Trade Organization, specifically, should incorporate climate change adaptation and resilience into its work program on food security.

Smart Use of Farm Subsidies

As the largest financiers of global food production—spending more than $560 billion annually—governments should shift subsidies and support programs to help producers adapt, using long-term contracts and off-take agreements as collateral. As the United States Congress nears the deadline for passing this year’s Farm Bill at the end of this month, the US should maintain incentives that promote more efficient and resilient farming and ranching practices and promote innovation in risk-management products, as previous bills have begun doing.

Of course, we can’t effectively fight climate change through national governments and trade alone.

Companies and producers must also be part of the solution. But, we need to get real: No matter what companies or producers do, they can’t solve this problem by themselves. No single group can. The fight against climate change isn’t solely a top-down, UN-driven effort. It’s a global challenge that requires all of us—from presidents to mayors, CEOs to ranchers—to act.

Trade is one tool, albeit an important one. It has brought our world closer together and made it more prosperous and peaceful. It can also provide a unifying framework for governments, businesses, producers, and consumers to work together to weather the challenges ahead of us.

Agrilinks Announces Young Scholars Food Security Blog Contest

Agrilinks Announces Young Scholars Food Security Blog Contest

What did you discover this summer – a breakthrough in the lab or the classroom? Have a great story from the field to share? If so, wants to hear from you!

The Agrilinks Young Scholars Food Security Blog Contest is a great opportunity for students around the world to get published and showcase their work to a global community of 14,000+ professionals in food security, agricultural development and beyond.

The contest is co-sponsored by the Feed the Future Innovation Labs, which leverage U.S. university research to advance agricultural science and reduce poverty in developing countries, in cooperation with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger, and food security initiative.

What: In an original blog post of 750 words or less, share a personal insight, idea or research finding on global food security and agriculture in the development context. You are encouraged to include photographs, charts/graphs and supporting links within your blog post.

Recognition: Winning blog posts will be determined by a panel of USAID/Agrilinks judges. The winning entry and two-second place finalists will get top placement in the Agrilinks newsletter and social media, and will be included in communications from Feed the Future on World Food Day. Up to 10 entries will be featured on and its affiliated communications channels in October.

Who: The contest is open to any university student enrolled in 2018 (graduate or undergraduate, U.S. and abroad).

When: Contest entries will be accepted from September 12 – October 10, 2018 (11:59 pm EDT). Winners will be announced on World Food Day, October 16.

 by October 10 to enter! 
Questions? Contact . We hope to hear from you!

Photo: grass. Photo credit:
Adaptive Management


University of WA student Sabrina Davies could hold key to world food security

“Agriculture is the big one,” Ms Davies said.

“All the stats on feeding the world say that by 2050, we’re going to have to double current crop yields.

“Our limited land and resources means we’re going to need more innovation and more sustainable agriculture.

“Being in Australia where we have access to food, and knowing other countries are without this access, is a big driver for me.”

The work involves determining the structure of the proteins that govern all processes in living things.

In the lab, Ms Davies derives proteins from plant DNA samples, purifies them then grows crystals from them, a process called crystallography.

“It’s kind of like when you’re making a salt crystal in primary school,” she said.

“But once you have that nice regular structure you can fire X-rays at it. The way those rays scatter tell you about the shape of it and from that you can work out more about the protein structure.

“Or, once you’ve purified that protein, you can conduct other experiments on it, seeing how it binds to things, its stability, its responses to other interventions.

“There are many unknowns in all these steps; many variations, a lot of trial and error.”

Ms Davies is one of 17 young Australians recently awarded a Westpac Future Leaders scholarship –$120,000 for lab equipment and materials, as well as a nine-month tailored leadership development program and opportunities to travel, including an upcoming trip to work with Californian scientists working in this field.

“I’m hoping this research will give us the opportunity to collaborate with industry on developing a real-world application,” Ms Davies said.

“This has the potential to put Australia on the world stage … to contribute to solving a global problem.”


Drying Ganga could stall food security and prevent achieving SDGs

Drying Ganga could stall food security and prevent achieving SDGs

Drying Ganga could stall food security and prevent achieving SDGs

By Sahana Ghosh

Posted 14 Sep 2018

Millions of people residing in the lower reaches of the Ganga basin in India may face food shortage in the next three decades if the much revered river continues to lose water due to factors that include unsustainable groundwater extraction, a study has claimed.

Researchers associated with the study added that low river flows could also have implications for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But experts, not associated with the study, also pointed to the combined blow of surface and groundwater misuse that has beleaguered the Ganga river basin, sheltering around 10 per cent of the global population. Agricultural inefficiency is a chink in the chain, they say, when it comes to sustainable water use.

The modeling study forecasts that in the absence of interventions, groundwater contribution to the river’s water flow would continue diminishing in the summer for the next 30 years.

The analysis was conducted by Abhijit Mukherjee at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur, Soumendra Nath Bhanja (formerly at IIT Kharagpur) and Yoshihide Wada from Austria’s IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) on the stretch of the river from Varanasi to the Bay of Bengal.

“The impacts of groundwater depletion on Ganga river flows are very complex. However, our study found that there is significant concern that ongoing groundwater pumping over the basin is unsustainable, leading to not only lowering groundwater levels but also reduction in river flows during summer time,” Wada told Mongabay-India.

This problem is more serious downstream of the Ganga river, Wada said.

Mukherjee, lead author of the study, said: “So far, in the last three decades we have seen the groundwater input to the river decline by 50 percent during summer. This decline could go up to 75 per cent compared to the scenario in the 1970s in the summer months.”

Although the modeling study doesn’t factor in climate change impacts, the authors argue that if they were to do so, the situation could be worse than predicted.

The Ganga’s 2,525 km watercourse is sustained by rainfall in the hinterlands of the Ganga basin, Himalayan glacial melt as also groundwater discharge. In summer (non-monsoon months), this groundwater contribution (baseflow) to the river can be 30 percent in some sections and can even swell up to 60 to 70 percent, informed Mukherjee.

“The combination of groundwater (around 70 percent) and river water (30 percent) availability actually runs the farming system that yields the food crops,” Mukherjee said.

The researchers assess that at present, surface water irrigation for cropping accounts for 27 percent of the total irrigation in the study area.

Hence, the dwindling of the Ganga would also severely affect water available for surface water irrigation, with potential decline in food production in the future.

“Our prediction shows that about 115 million people can be impacted due to insufficient food availability in the next few decades. In a status-quo scenario, this reduction would enhance in the future and there is a possibility that there would be reverse flow of the river water to groundwater. This is called stream flow capture,” Mukherjee said.

Apart from ongoing reduction in summer river flows heightening vulnerability of regional food production and water supply policy, Wada observed that low river flows also influence dilution of water pollution in the Ganga river, which is one of most contaminated transboundary rivers worldwide.

This is a “huge concern” for regional water supply and sanitation, he said, adding the issue could have implications for achieving United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets.

“South Asian countries are working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim towards improving water sanitation and reducing water scarcity, but decreasing summer river flows and increasing groundwater depletion will make only more difficult for regional policy makers to achieve the targets by 2030,” Wada elaborated.

The researchers also observed that low river flows influence dilution of water pollution in the Ganga river, which is one of most contaminated transboundary rivers worldwide.

“The lower the river flow, the more concentrated the pollutants become, making it difficult to wash them out,” Mukherjee remarked.

Wada batted for more co-operation between India and Bangladesh, where the Ganga eventually flows, in regional water resources allocation.

“Local excessive groundwater pumping over two countries is affecting the river flows of the entire basin. Regional policy makers from the two countries can cooperate for better monitoring and regulation of groundwater pumping and water use at larger,” Wada said.

He noted that it is vital to understand that both upstream and downstream regions need to share the burden of better water allocation policy. “Two countries need to work very closely to establish how to improve the situation. Water scarcity will get only worse under climate change, if the situation continues,” Wada reiterated.

(In arrangement with , a source for environmental news reporting and analysis. The views expressed in the article are those of . Feedback: ) – IANS

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