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High-tech observations for food security

High-tech observations for food security

Public Release: 

High-tech observations for food security

Satellite, other remote monitoring can improve crop outcomes

American Society of Agronomy

Oct. 4, 2018–Satellites and other remote technology are able to gather information as varied as soil moisture, crop yields, and growing conditions. How will this improve food security world-wide?

The Special Session Symposium, “Advances in the Use of Earth Observations for Crop Modeling and Monitoring for Food Security,” will address the topic at the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society Annual Meeting. This year’s meeting will be held Nov. 4-7, 2018, in Baltimore, MD. The theme of the meeting is “Enhancing Productivity in a Changing Climate.” The meeting is held in collaboration with the Canadian Society of Agronomy.

“Crop failure, food shortages and food price spikes have occurred in recent years and can be expected to continue under a changing climate,” says symposium organizer Varaprasad Bandaru. “Governments and growers need timely information on crop condition and reliable forecasting.”

Details covered during the symposium include:

  • Recent improvements to agricultural remote sensing that now provide satellite data at more frequent intervals and with more detail, regardless of cloud cover
  • Advances in computing to make data processing and crop mapping widely available
  • Cutting-edge technology from NASA, the University of Maryland, and other sources to support a more efficient use of water and land resources

“Improved Earth observations and crop models can help farmers in management decisions. At the broad scale, this has the potential to increase food security and stabilize markets,” Bandaru says.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Source

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-10/asoa-ho100218.php

Seeds of Doubt, Harvest of Hope: Misguided Opposition to GM Crops Threatens a Vital Food Security and Environmental Savior

Seeds of Doubt, Harvest of Hope: Misguided Opposition to GM Crops Threatens a Vital Food Security and Environmental Savior

BY GRIFFIN SMITH

The world in 2100 will look and feel like a different place than the one we know today. The global population is projected to rise by three billion people—the population of more than two new Chinas. At the same time, extreme global weather events, precipitation variability, and mean temperatures will also increase. These changes will bring new challenges for the global food system.

But what if I told you that there’s a technology that could safely raise crop yields while also allowing for rapid adaption to changing environments? What if this same technology could also reduce the environment impacts of farming by reducing pesticide applications and water requirements; improve the health of millions in the developing world; and lower costs for farmers and consumers? Finally, what if I told you that the same environmental groups that are so adamant about protecting the planet are actually blocking the potential of this tool? This is no hypothetical scenario. This is the reality for genetically modified (GM) crops.

Vitamin A-enriched rice, virus-resistant cassava, and salt-tolerant barley are just some of the GM varieties that already exist but have not been made available. Why aren’t developing countries and food security organizations clamoring to distribute these and develop new varieties? It comes down to misinformation, fear, and poor choices by the biotech sector.

Much of the public worries about the consumptive safety and environmental impacts of GM products. A 2016 Pew public opinion poll found that 49% of the American public believes that GMOs are likely to create health and environmental problems (although concern decreases among groups with higher scientific knowledge). In response, retailers ranging from Whole Foods to Chipotle have stopped selling GMOs, and labeling organizations like the “Non-GMO Project” are thriving. However, a Harvard review of over 100 studies examining the health impacts of GM crops found no evidence that eating GM foods leads to health problems. A 2014 review in the Journal of Animal Science tracked the health effects of GMOs on over 100 billion livestock and also found no health implications. The World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science all consider GM crops safe.

Similarly, environmental alarmism foretelling GM genes spreading beyond the field has also proved unfounded. Scientists have debunked the most attention-grabbing environmental claim, which wrongly linked pollen from GM corn to the decline of the monarch butterfly population. Since farmers spray less insecticide on GM fields, this technology even has the potential to reduce harm to non-pest insect species. Moreover, criticisms levied against “GM” monocultures—agricultural systems with only one type of crop—unfairly target GMOs. In fact, monocultures are a product of industrialized agricultural systems, and farmers have cultivated monoculture systems since long before the development of GMOs.

Environmental groups have stoked fear through constant vilification of this  technology, and by making claims about the “unnaturalness” of GMOs. It is true that GMOs aren’t natural—but neither are corn, bananas, or Brussels sprouts. Most of the food we eat today is actually the product of millennia of selective breeding. Like many products of modern life—from lifesaving drugs to cosmetic tooth whitening—there’s little that’s natural about it. The advantage of genetic modification is that it allows scientists to make precise changes by targeting single genes, which means that far less occurs by chance than it does by throwing tens of thousands of genes together through “natural” crossbreeding. Moreover, when it comes to consumption, not all that is “natural” is good. Raw milk is natural, but it has sickened and killed many children; the apple you ate for lunch isn’t natural, yet we can all agree that it’s a nutritious choice.

While the extent and strength of the pushback by consumers and environmental groups took biotech firms by surprise, they themselves made initial missteps that emboldened their critics. Although biotech firms couldn’t have predicted the significant wave of fear sparked by Mad Cow Disease that peaked at the same time that GM crops went on the market, they are to blame for poorly introducing the technology. The image of Green Revolution crops, such as high-yielding dwarf strains of wheat and rice, benefited from their deployment by respected nonprofits such as the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, and their direct mitigation of an impending global food crisis. Conversely, large agribusinesses developed GMOs during a time of relative food security and marketed the technology to wealthy Western farmers rather than consumers, which created a far less welcoming implementation environment.

Firms like Monsanto have focused on creating corn, soybean, and cotton varieties for Western markets and protected their technology with militant litigation. While this maximized their profits in the short-term, this approach has caused Monsanto and its peers long-term image and market penetration problems. Instead, biotech firms should have paired their strategy in the developed world with partnerships with foundations and research institutions to support the development of GM varieties most needed by farmers in the developing world. Rather than establishing a positive initial image, GM technology and firms must now face an uphill battle to access markets that would benefit the most.

The opposition to GM crops entails real, though asymmetric, costs. In the developed world, opposition to this technology translates into slightly higher costs for farmers and consumers, as well as greater pesticide application. Elsewhere, GM crops that are currently banned have the potential to decrease hunger, alleviate nutritional deficits, preserve scarce groundwater, protect nutritious staple crops from disease, and allow farmers on marginal land to escape poverty. Today, GM crops may seem superfluous, but in 50 years, they will be a necessity. While GM crops cannot end food insecurity alone, they can play a central role in a new generation of farming that marries biotechnological advances with industrial efficiency and sustainable agro-ecological practices. It’s time to give GM crops a chance.

Griffin Smith is a recent graduate of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning where he focused on environmental and social policy issues. Before graduate school, he worked for a negotiation and mediation consulting firm, helping find and build bipartisan solutions for divisive policy issues. Griffin is particularly interested in bringing divergent groups together to achieve environmental, electoral, and social policy victories. 

Edited by Jana Pohorelsky

Photo by Lukas Budimaier on Unsplash

The post Seeds of Doubt, Harvest of Hope: Misguided Opposition to GM Crops Threatens a Vital Food Security and Environmental Savior appeared first on KENNEDY SCHOOL REVIEW.

Odisha State Food Security Scheme (SFSS): poor to get rice at 1 rupee/kg

Odisha State Food Security Scheme (SFSS): poor to get rice at 1 rupee/kg

Odisha State Food Security Scheme (SFSS): poor to get rice at 1 rupee/kg

Odisha State Food Security Scheme (SFSS)

Costa Rica-trained graduates roll out initiative to boost food security

A group of local graduates has joined hands to help boost food security and increase sustainable farming practices in the country.

The trio of Annet Mukamurenzi, Gerard Ndayishimiye and Yvette Abizeyimana are graduates from EARTH University, Costa Rica, where they studied agricultural science and natural resource management. 

After identifying key challenges in the local agricultural scene, the youths set up Rwanda Youth Initiative for Agricultural Transformation (RYIAT) in 2015 while they were still students.

The idea was to help increase food production, provide clean energy to farmers, and create employment for youth through a sustainable farming model.

Over 80 per cent of the country’s population depends on agriculture for livelihood, and the sector is suffering from volatile weather patterns, use of traditional farming methods, and population pressure.  

“As young agronomists, we wanted to contribute toward efforts to address the challenges facing the country’s agriculture sector. When a team from the Ministry of Agriculture visited EARTH University in 2015, we saw an opportunity to share the knowledge gained in Costa Rica with our compatriots back home,” Annet Mukamurenzi said.

The organisation’s vision has caught the eye of several development partners, including MasterCard Foundation.

This was largely due to their academic know-how, the social consciousness of the initiative and vision, which targets opening at least one sustainable teaching farm in each of Rwanda’s four provinces as well as Kigali city.

In 2017, RYIAT won the Resolution Social Venture Challenge at the MasterCard Foundation Baobab Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, a competition that recognises compelling leadership and promising social ventures led by youth.

The trio earned a fellowship that includes seed funding, mentorship, and access to a network of young global change-makers to pursue impactful projects in their communities. 

The collaboration between the MasterCard Foundation and The Resolution Project, the Resolution Social Venture Challenge provides a pathway to action for socially responsible young leaders who want to create a positive change in their communities.

RYIAT has already put together a team of young Rwandan agricultural experts, which will be deployed across the country to equip farmers with sustainable and modern farming skills, roll out new strategies as well as the technologies to develop sustainable solutions to hunger while protecting the environment.

The training centre is based in Kigali, where a project prototype of an urban farm is being used to demonstrate different food growing techniques in small areas for maximum and quality yields.

“We believe it’s a sustainable model farm because it will be socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. You can use recycled materials like plastic bags or bottles. With this system, farmers may not need soil. Farmers can use rice husks mixed with organic fertiliser from animal waste and cultivate without a need for soil,” explained Gerard Ndayishimiye.

The team plans on boosting the productivity of land using the latest agricultural practices.

For instance, a hectare of land produces 800 kilogrammes of maize yet with better practices, it can produce two to three tonnes, they say.

The training will empower women with skills to produce enough food that will allow them to sell the surplus.

Among the farming methods that the agronomists are introducing include the Mandala system, which originated in India and allows farmers to cultivate different crops in a circle form, with crop rings moving from the centre to the outside of the circle.

The project will also train families on how to use biogas as a clean energy source, helping communities to make the leap from wood fuel.

According to Ndayishimiye, up to 90 per cent of Rwandans depend on wood fuel as a source of energy, which contributes to deforestation and shifting rainfall patterns, creating conditions for environmental catastrophes like mudslides. Burning wood has also been cited as a contributor to air pollution and negatively impacting climate change.

Mukamurenzi is confident that the project will be self-sustaining as it will generate funds through several avenues, like farm produce, agri-tourism, internships and workshops, and funding from NGOs and government ministries.

“We teach by example. We set the example of how farming generates money. This will be done through efficient and market-oriented production, which also covers value addition for our products to ensure high income,” said Mukamurenzi.

“Youth have to develop an approach to farming that is profitable. We teach that approach with examples, showing farmers that their crops can generate revenue for them.

“We intend to work with farmers to get involved in other aspects of agricultural production, namely by getting farmers involved in all activities, from harvesting and processing to packaging and marketing. By creating greater value for farmers’ crops, they can earn a higher income,” she added.

The team is also sharing skills and best practices by hosting farmers, partners and experts at their demonstration farm.

They say they want to earn income by charging different fees to learn various agricultural skills, selling arts and crafts products made under their brand name, RYIAT Rwanda, and by adding value to products from their farm.

Profits generated by RYIAT will sustain the cooperative, they say, “laying the financial groundwork for the organisation to grant scholarships and teach deserving youth who may not otherwise have the means to learn the craft of farming.”

Young Rwandans who have been enlisted to participate in the initiative are upbeat about the initiative.

Thomas Simbankayo, a graduate in veterinary medicine from Umutara Polytechnic, said the initiative gives the youth involved in agriculture a chance to maximise the sector’s potential.

Source

http://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/costa-rica-trained-graduates-roll-out-initiative-boost-food-security

Mercy Corps Applauds Global Food Security Reauthorization Act Passage

Mercy Corps Applauds Global Food Security Reauthorization Act Passage

Image from the Gates Global Food Crisis Response Program grant to Mercy Corps in the Central African Republic. (Jenny Vaughan/Mercy Corps)

We urge the President to quickly sign it into law. Doing so will make a vital difference to meeting the needs of the 821 million people who go to bed hungry every night.

WASHINGTON (PRWEB)

In response to the final passage of the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act (S.2269) by the House of Representatives on September 28, 2018, Mercy Corps issued the following statement from Dina Esposito, Vice President of Technical Leadership:

“The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act reaffirms the United States’ commitment to leading the fight against global hunger and Mercy Corps welcomes the passage of this important bill. We applaud the bipartisan Congressional leadership that ensured its passage and we urge the President to quickly sign it into law. Doing so will make a vital difference to meeting the needs of the 821 million people who go to bed hungry every night.

“Mercy Corps is proud to partner with the U.S. Government in implementing the Global Food Security Strategy. Through our work in places like Nepal, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are working in partnership with governments, the private sector, civil society and communities to address the root causes of hunger, improving agriculture techniques, boosting production and ensuring better nutrition for households—so people no longer need aid. We prioritize work with communities that are regularly hit by shocks like drought, flood and conflict, so they can cope and adapt to these challenges without outside help.

“We look forward to continuing to help communities and families provide for themselves and thrive in the face of adversity.”

Source

https://www.prweb.com/releases/mercy_corps_applauds_global_food_security_reauthorization_act_passage/prweb15801398.htm

Without Food Security, There Is No Peace – Intercultural Resources

Without Food Security, There Is No Peace – Intercultural Resources

Without Food Security, There Is No Peace

AFRICA FOOD FOOD SCARCITY FOOD SOVEREIGNITY ICR NEWS 

Without Food Security, There Is No Peace

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Two mothers and their children look to shore after arriving by boat to Mingkaman, Awerial County, Lakes State, South Sudan. In 2014 in less than a month close to 84,000 fleeing the fighting in Bor crossed the river Nile. South Sudan has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO. Credit: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2018 (IPS) – Reversing years of progress, global hunger is on the rise once again and one of the culprits is clear: conflict.

A high-level side event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly brought together, U.N. officials, governments, and civil society to assess and recommend solutions to the pressing issue of conflict-based food insecurity.

“The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need.” — Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux

“Conflict-related hunger is one of the most visible manifestations to human suffering emerging from war…this suffering is preventable and thus all the more tragic,” said United States’ Agency for International Development’s (USAID) administrator Mark Green.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016, levels unseen for almost a decade.

The Global Report on Food Crises found that almost 124 million people across 51 countries faced crisis-level food insecurity in 2017, 11 million more than the year before.

Conflict was identified as the key driver in 60 percent of those cases.

The report predicts that conflict and insecurity will continue to drive food crises around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Panellists during the “Breaking the Cycle Between Conflict and Hunger” side-event noted food insecurity is often a tell-tale sign of future potential conflict and can lead to further insecurity.

“Building resilience…is indeed fundamental for strengthening social cohesion, preventing conflict, and avoiding forced migration. Without that, there is no peace,” said Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) director-general Jose Graziano da Silva.

World Food Programme’s executive director David Beasley echoed similar sentiments, stating: “If you don’t have food security, you’re not going to have any other security. So we have to address the fundamentals.”

In an effort to address conflict-based hunger and the worrisome reversal in progress, the U.N. Security Council for the first time recognised that armed conflict is closely linked to food insecurity and the risk of famine earlier this year.

The group unanimously adopted resolution 2417 condemning the use of starvation as a weapon of war and urged all parties to conflict to comply with international law and grand unimpeded humanitarian access.

While participants lauded the historic resolution, they also highlighted that it alone is not enough.

“Humanitarian action and technical solutions can mitigate the effects of food crises but we desperately need political solutions and we need to implement [resolution] 2417 if we are to reverse the shameful, upwards trajectory of hunger primarily resulting from conflict,” said Action Against Hunger’s CEO Veronique Andrieux.

In order to prevent food crises and thus conflicts from escalating, the international community must take a holistic, preventative approach and strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011. This is a picture dated August 2014 of the then rebel-held Aleppo city, Syria. The government has since taken control of the city. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

Beasley pointed to the case of Syria where a seven-year long conflict has destroyed agricultural infrastructure, local economies, and supply chains and has left over six million food-insecure.

“The cost for us to feed a Syrian in Syria was about 50 cents a day which is almost double the normal cost because it is a war zone. If that same Syrian was in Berlin, it would be euros per day,” he told attendees.

“It is a better investment if we address the root cause as opposed to reacting after the fact,” Beasley added.

Before the long-running war began, Syria faced a drought which caused a spike in prices and led to food shortages. Many theorise that it was these very conditions that set off the civil war in 2011.

“Early action response to early warning is critical. We cannot wait for the conflict to start. We know that it will start,” said Graziano da Silva.

And it is data that can help establish early detection and prevent such crises, Graziano da Silva along with the other panelists stressed.

Related IPS Articles

The Global Network against Food Crises (GNFC), which publish the Global Report on Food Crises, brings together regional and national data and analysis to provide a comprehensive picture of food insecurity globally.

It was the GNFC that enabled agencies to mitigate food crises and avert famine in northern Nigeria and South Sudan.

Just prior to the side event, FAO and the European Commission partnered to boost resilience and tackle hunger by contributing over USD70 million.

Panelists stressed the importance of such partnerships in addressing and responding to the complex issue of conflict-based food insecurity.

“At the ground, when we work together, it’s not only that we do better…we are much more efficient,” Graziano da Silva said.

Andrieux highlighted the need to uphold respect for international humanitarian law and that the U.N. and member states must hold all parties to the conflict to account.

“The use of hunger as a weapon of war is a war crime. Yet, in some conflict settings, parties to conflict use siege tactics, weaponise starvation of civilians, or impede life-saving humanitarian supplies to reach those desperately in need,” she said.

“We believe this is failing humanity,” Andrieux added.

Green pointed to the conflict in South Sudan where fighters have blocked desperately needed humanitarian assistance and attacked aid workers.

The African nation was recently ranked the most dangerous for aid workers for the third consecutive year.

“All the parties to the conflict are culpable, all the parties to the conflict are guilty, and they have all failed themselves, their people, and humanity,” Green told attendees.

Though the task of tackling conflict-based hunger is not easy, the solutions are there. What is now required is commitment and collective action, panelists said.

“All of us working together with effective solutions—we can truly end world hunger,” Beasley said.

Agric production key to Zim’s food security

Agric production key to Zim’s food security

The coming in of President Mnangagwa as the first leader of the Second Republic has revived hopes among Zimbabweans that a new era has dawned on the country.

People are looking forward to a new economy that brings in a new way of doing business, and the President has demonstrated that this is possible judging by the positive movements recorded in various sectors in the short time he has been at the helm.

Of course, there is nothing that stops Zimbabweans from moving forward considering the goodwill that has been demonstrated from various quarters both internally and externally.

What is needed now is to refocus the country’s attention on achieving those goals that seemed to be elusive in the past.

One such a goal is to end hunger that has been stalking the nation for some years now.

It is time that Zimbabwe becomes food secure, because with the availability of food, many other things are likely to fall into place.

Hunger can easily capture the people’s minds and lead them to do the unthinkable.

In fact, there is something ultimately wrong with a person who thinks and makes decisions on an empty belly.

But Zimbabwe’s Second Republic under the tutelage of President Mnangagwa has so many opportunities at its disposal to end hunger and restore the country’s food security.

To achieve that, a number of issues need immediate decisive action by Government.

There should be a marked movement away from the rhetoric of the past few decades where food security became a buzzword, but with very little showing on the ground.

Of course, this excludes the last two seasons when Government started implementing Command Agriculture, which has resulted in the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) starting to re-stock the Strategic Grain Reserves.

The programme was led by President Mnangagwa, who was Vice President then, which makes it easier for further implementation because he is hands on.

President Mnangagwa has set vision 2030 for the attainment of an upper middle-income economy for Zimbabwe, a vision in which food self-sufficiency plays an important role.

Critical questions should now start to be asked around land reform, which achieved a lot by availing land to the landless majority.

The programme was crucial to correct the land ownership imbalances that relegated locals to the periphery, with white settlers taking the most fertile land by force.

While the land reform succeeded in correcting the land tenure injustices, it appears it wasn’t resoundingly successful in achieving food security for the country, that is in the short term.

There are also new farmers holding on to land who are realising they got too much of it. Also gone should be the days when people pride themselves in waving their workmates goodbye on a Friday, going to spend the weekend at the farm where nothing of note is taking place.

Before heading for that farm, one should ask themselves if they are worth owning it in the first place, because owning a farm, whether acquired under the land reform programme or bought by private funds, should not be about bragging, but production.

It is time to let production do the talking because food sufficiency will be determined by a lot of hard work on the part of those who benefited from land reform.

This is why one of the priorities for Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Perrance Shiri should be pursuing the land audit with much vigour.

The land audit should not be about only identifying excess land held by farmers and multiple farm ownership, it should delve deeper into what the farmers are doing to contribute to food production.

Farmers identified to have a potential to do well should be capacitated by Government so that they increase production on their pieces of land.

Those who now view land as a burden should let go and instead take up smaller pieces which they can manage.

In other countries, land is the most expensive property one can buy, but in Zimbabwe, there are some who take the commodity for granted.

There is need for tight monitoring to ensure optimal use of the land, especially in areas that receive good rains and are known to produce more food.

A lot of re-arrangement and re-aligning of land systems is needed to ensure that production becomes the sole reason behind one owning a farm or a plot.

The private sector should also be encouraged to fund agricultural production, but this can only be achieved if there is a clear land tenure.

In this regard, Government should quickly finalise the 99-year leases and make them bankable to enable farmers to borrow from the market.

Apart from refocusing land reform to production, what should be done to uplift agriculture is already known, with some of it laid in agricultural blueprints that never got to be implemented by the previous administration.

Blueprints such as the Comprehensive Agricultural Policy Framework (2012-2032) should be revisited for implementation of provisions that can take the country’s agriculture forward.

Zimbabwe’s weather patterns have not been predictable in the last few decades, with some experts blaming the erratic weather on climate change.

But the fact remains that the country is blessed with numerous water bodies like dams and weirs, with each province hosting one or two big dams.

This means that one of the priorities for Government should be the development of irrigation schemes in all communities where these water-holding structures are found.

A number of such irrigation schemes already exist, but they need urgent rehabilitation and modernisation of equipment to achieve maximum yields.

There are also a number of underutilised dams where new irrigation schemes need to be developed, and this calls for an aggressive approach to ensure investment is attracted to these areas.

The giant Tugwi-Mukosi Dam shared by Chivi and Masvingo districts has the potential to irrigate more than 25 000 hectares, a development that would drastically change the food security situation.

The whole country could benefit from such a massive irrigation project.

What is needed is for Government to move fast, not only on Tugwi-Mukosi, but other areas that require either rehabilitation or establishment of irrigation schemes.

Command Agriculture has been the mainstay of agriculture in the last two seasons, with farmers harvesting more than 1,2 million tonnes of maize in 2016.

In support of Command Agriculture has been the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme, which this season targets to benefit at least 1,8 million households.

Government has been funding these programmes with the help of a few corporates, with Command Agriculture being done on a commercial farming scale.

An option should be available for Minister Shiri to open up Command Agriculture to financial institutions so that as many farmers as possible benefit from the noble programme.

The programme should be viewed as a stop-gap measure, which will in the near future result in farmers being able to achieve high levels of production on their own.

There is no doubt that Command Agriculture performed well beyond expectations in the last two seasons, as it ensured food security and maize self-sufficiency for the country.

There is no more reason why Zimbabwe should regress to food deficit situations again.

Source :

The Herald

Why vertical farming isn’t a miracle solution to food security

Why vertical farming isn’t a miracle solution to food security

A company in Scotland has unveiled what it claims is arguably the world’s most technically advanced indoor farm. Intelligent Growth Solutions’ vertical farm uses artificial intelligence and specially designed power and communication technologies. The firm says this reduces energy costs by 50 per cent and labour costs by 80 per cent when compared to other indoor growing environments, and can produce yields of up to 200 per cent more than that of a traditional greenhouse.

Vertical farms like this aim to minimise water use and maximise productivity by growing crops “hydroponically” in small amounts of nutrient-rich water stacked in a climate-controlled building. But it’s important to recognise that the increased productivity of indoor vertical farming comes at the cost of much higher energy usage due to the need for artificial lighting and climate control systems.

By 2050, global food production will need to increase by an estimated 70 per cent in developed countries and 100 per cent in developing countries to match current trends in population growth (based on production information from 2005 to 2007). But in countries that already use the majority of their land for farming, this is easier said than done.

food security and prevent natural habitats from being destroyed for new farmland, countries such as the UK need to consider new methods of food production.

Urban farming presents a unique opportunity to grow food on already developed land, increase domestic food production and minimise the distance food travels. Since the publication of Dickson Despommier’s 2010 book The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century, vertical farming has become synonymous with urban farming. Although the agricultural skyscrapers illustrated in Despommier’s book are yet to be realised, the idea of growing food vertically has captured the minds of designers and engineers alike.

Aquaponic systems that grow food with the help of fish are a naturally lit option (Andrew Jenkins)

The energy demand associated with vertical farming, however, is much higher than other methods of food production. For example, lettuces grown in traditionally heated greenhouses in the UK need an estimated 250kWh of energy a year for every square metre of growing area. In comparison, lettuces grown in a purpose built vertical farm need an estimated 3,500kWh a year for each square metre of growing area. Notably, 98 per cent of this energy use is due to artificial lighting and climate control.

Even with the reductions promised by Intelligent Growth Solutions, the energy demand associated with most vertical farms would still be very high, which positions vertical farming in a grey area. On the one hand, the world needs to produce more food, and on the other hand, it needs to reduce energy use and the production of greenhouse gases.

Australia’s drought – the cancer eating away at farms

Australia’s drought – the cancer eating away at farms

Farmer Ash Whitney stands atop a tree as he cuts off branches to feed his cattle

A cow walks away from a water tank on father Tom Wollaston’s land bear the town of Tamworth in New South Wales

Farmer Scott Cooper drops hay for his cattle next to a dried-up creek on South Park farm

Tyre tracks from farmer Jimmie McKeown’s truck can be seen on his drought ravaged land near the town of Walgett in New South Wales

Dead trees on Scott Cooper’s South Park farm

Farmer Ash Whitney stands on the back of his truck as he feeds his cattle on his land near the town of Gunnedah in New South Wales

An irrigated paddock can be seen next to a ploughed paddock on a farm located on the outskirts of the town of Mudgee in New South Wales

A windmill and solar panels on Scott Cooper’s South Park farm

An old bus used for storing farming equipment stands on farmer Ash Whitney’s land near the town of Gunnedah in New South Wales

A kangaroo casts a shadow as it drinks from a water tank on Ash Whitney’s farm

An old Sydney tram sits on Jimmie and May McKeown’s land near the town of Walgett in New South Wales

Patterns created by a plough can be seen on Ash Whitney’s farm

Farmer Ash Whitney stands in the middle of a dried-up dam

Sheeps eat grain on a farm near Tamworth in New South Wales

A road can be seen next to tracks leading to a water tank on Ash Whitney’s farm

A lone tree stands near a water trough on Jimmie and May McKeown’s farm

Farmer Ash Whitney stands atop a tree as he cuts off branches to feed his cattle

A cow walks away from a water tank on father Tom Wollaston’s land bear the town of Tamworth in New South Wales

Farmer Scott Cooper drops hay for his cattle next to a dried-up creek on South Park farm

Tyre tracks from farmer Jimmie McKeown’s truck can be seen on his drought ravaged land near the town of Walgett in New South Wales

Dead trees on Scott Cooper’s South Park farm

Farmer Ash Whitney stands on the back of his truck as he feeds his cattle on his land near the town of Gunnedah in New South Wales

An irrigated paddock can be seen next to a ploughed paddock on a farm located on the outskirts of the town of Mudgee in New South Wales

A windmill and solar panels on Scott Cooper’s South Park farm

An old bus used for storing farming equipment stands on farmer Ash Whitney’s land near the town of Gunnedah in New South Wales

A kangaroo casts a shadow as it drinks from a water tank on Ash Whitney’s farm

An old Sydney tram sits on Jimmie and May McKeown’s land near the town of Walgett in New South Wales

Patterns created by a plough can be seen on Ash Whitney’s farm

Farmer Ash Whitney stands in the middle of a dried-up dam

Sheeps eat grain on a farm near Tamworth in New South Wales

A road can be seen next to tracks leading to a water tank on Ash Whitney’s farm

A lone tree stands near a water trough on Jimmie and May McKeown’s farm

But indoor vertical farming isn’t the only way to grow food in cities. A plethora of naturally lit methods also exist, from raised beds in communal gardens to rooftop aquaponic systems that grow food with the help of fish. These methods all require less energy when compared to vertical farming because they don’t need artificial lighting.

Lufa Farms makes use of vacant roof space to grow food in naturally lit hydroponic greenhouses (Wikimedia Commons)

When viewing cities from above, it is clear to see just how many flat roofs are left vacant and the agricultural opportunities they represent. In the city of Manchester in the UK, unoccupied flat roofs account for an area of 136 hectares, representing one-third of the city’s inner urban area.

Gotham Greens in New York and Lufa Farms in Montreal, for example, are both commercial farms that use vacant roof space to grow food in naturally lit hydroponic greenhouses. Given the success of such projects and the area of roof space available, it seems strange that so many companies would skip ahead to methods of food production that still need a lot of costly development, as well as more energy to operate. Although they can’t grow as much food, rooftop greenhouses need at least 70 per cent less energy for each square metre of growing area than artificially lit vertical farms.

agriculture in the future. But when considering any method of food production, we need to understand the impact and energy use of the practice to ensure it is a sustainable and comprehensive response to global food demands. Vertical farming currently requires a lot of energy, which will hopefully decrease over time as companies like Intelligent Growth Solutions make technical advances. But for the time being, the practice of vertical farming is still a long way from being a sustainable method of agriculture.

Andrew Jenkins is a research fellow at the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast. This article first appeared on The Conversation

Source

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/vertical-farming-solution-food-security-hydroponics-aquaponics-urban-agriculture-a8547561.html

Africa: Recognising the Debilitating Nature Conflict Has On Food Security

By Busani Bafana

Bulawayo — Nyalen Kuong and her daughters fled to safety after an attack on their village in South Sudan in which Kuong’s husband and two sons where killed and the family’s cattle lost. Kuong, her daughters and other families from their village fled to islands surrounded by swamp land. There, she had little to eat. And soon began suffering from diarrhoea, brought on by acute malnutrition.

Eventually she was taken to a hospital camp where she was treated and was placed on an intravenous feeding drip. This is Kuong’s story as told by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). When she recovered she was given fishing equipment by FAO, which she now uses to supply her own food.

South Sudan is Africa’s newest state, but it has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO.

The debilitating nature of conflict

Kuong’s experiences continue to be replicated in conflict zones around the world. Conflicts cost livelihoods and drive hunger and malnutrition, some of the most pressing development challenges today.

In May 2018, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2417 (2018), explicitly acknowledging the link between conflict and hunger and calling on all partners to protect civilians as well as their means to produce and access food.

Hunger has been on the rise for three years in a row, the U.N. found in a new report published this September. The global body says 821 million people are now hungry and over 150 million children stunted, putting the goal of hunger eradication at risk.

FAO is using its mandate to end hunger and malnutrition and to cultivate peace. This will ultimately enable food and nutritional security, which are linked to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2030.

“Agenda 2030 clearly links sustainable development and peace and calls for improved collaboration on conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution and recovery,” Enrique Yeves, director of communications at FAO, told IPS. “Sustaining peace encompasses activities aimed at preventing outbreak and recurrence of conflict.”

Yeves emphasised that interventions in support of food security, nutrition and agricultural livelihoods for conflict prevention and sustaining peace, are fundamentally important as they address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict.

As the world marks the International Day of Peace on Friday, Sept. 21, the impact of conflict on humanity is a call to build a peaceful world. Sustainable Development Goal #16 underscores promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

“It is time all nations and all people live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognises the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, in a message ahead of the International Day of Peace. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For many people affected by conflict, agriculture is their only means of survival, according to FAO.

The U.N. body says agriculture accounts for two-thirds of employment and one-third of GDP in countries in protracted crises. Since 2000, 48 percent of civil conflicts have been in Africa where access to rural land underpins the livelihoods of many. In 27 out of 30 interstate conflicts in Africa, land issues have played a significant role.

In 2018, FAO partnered with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to facilitate peaceful livestock movement between Kenyan and Ugandan cross-border areas.

In 2017, FAO signed a USD 8.7 million agreement with Colombia’s Rural Development Agency to help boost agricultural competitiveness and restore rural areas affected by armed conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government of Colombia.

FAO believes promoting food security and livelihoods can help address some of the conflict drivers.

“In conflict and post-conflict situations the humanitarian agenda takes the place of states that have failed, including welfare issues such as food, but also to some extent security functions in refugee camps. For example, thus the driving forces for it become global rather than local, with all the problems that it will entail,” David Moore, a researcher and political economist at the University of Johannesburg, told IPS.

Moore noted that conflicts are complications that a simplistic “helping hand” cannot resolve — but where there are local actors influencing and acting with global agencies, like FAO, some issues can be addressed and perhaps alleviated.

Strengthening government and private sector engagement for food and peace

Recognising that food security can support peace building, the FAO-Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance for Food Security and Peace was established by the director general of FAO Jose Graziano da Silva and currently there are 10 Nobel Peace Laureates as members, said Yeves.

He added that the aim of the Alliance is not only to raise awareness and champion the links between food security and peace building, but also highlight the leadership of FAO in agricultural and food security policies and actions that promote peace, rural development and food security.

The Alliance members include Muhammad Yunus, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Tawakkol Karman, Betty Williams, Juan Manuel Santos, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jose Ramos-Horta and Mairead Maguire.

This year, on Sept. 24, the Alliance is inducting a new member from Africa during the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, a U.N. General Assembly high-level plenary on global peace

Graça Machel, humanitarian and widow of former South African president Mandela, will be named an honorary member of the Alliance this month in recognition of her late husband’s struggle for freedom and peace.

Source

https://allafrica.com/stories/201809240427.html

There’s a Serious Problem With The Way We Measure Global Food Security

There’s a Serious Problem With The Way We Measure Global Food Security

The way that we currently measure food security severely underestimates the enormous scale of global hunger.

“There are two main issues with how we currently talk about food systems,” says lead author Hannah Ritchie, a researcher in malnutrition and sustainable food systems at the University of Edinburgh.

“The first is that we focus our measure of food security in terms of calories (energy), when micronutrient malnutrition (‘hidden hunger’) affects more than ~2 billion people across the world.”

“The second issue,” she continues, “is that aspects of our food system are reported in tonnes or kilograms, and it’s very hard to put these numbers in the context of how many people this could feed.”

The new study is the first of its kind to quantitatively map how calories, protein, fat, essential amino acids and micronutrients make their way through the supply chain and onto our plates.

Gathering data on food balance, nutrient composition and food waste from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the authors of the paper converted all measurements to average per person per day (pppd) for the sake of comparison.

The findings clearly show that we are collectively producing more than enough calories, protein and micronutrients to sufficiently feed the world’s burgeoning population. In fact, the results reveal that some nutrients were produced up to five times more than the average requirement.

But despite the abundance of global food production, problems in the supply chain, like food waste, distribution and nutrient losses, ensure that many people in the world remain hungry.

“With large inequalities in food availability, we know that many people will be deficient in several essential nutrients,” explains Ritchie.

Today, approximately one billion people suffer from protein deficiency, two billion suffer from hidden hunger and close to 800 million suffer from caloric hunger. All the while, over two billion people are estimated to overconsume.

“This challenge exists across countries of all income levels, with a growing number of developing nations experiencing a “triple burden” – an increase in the prevalence of obesity in parts of the population alongside the wide prevalence of undernourishment and micronutrient deficiencies,” the authors write.

Tackling this issue will not be easy, especially in the face of climate change and a rapidly growing population.

“With population growth, intensifying climate change impacts and rapidly changing diets, the need for evidence-based, holistic assessments of our food system has never been more urgent,” says co-author and climate scientist David Reay, also from the University of Edinburgh.

The challenge of malnourishment is made even more difficult when problems in the supply chain differ for each specific nutrient.

For instance, the study reveals that we lose most micronutrients, like Vitamin A and C, in post-harvest waste of fruit and veggies, while energy and protein is lost the most when crops end up being used as animal feed and biofuel.

“This is important information to understand,” says Ritchie. 

“Knowing that the highest-impact interventions for maintaining micronutrients may not be the same as for calories, which may not be the same as for protein, will help to focus our efforts for food security and nutrition.”

The paper does not put forward any solutions. It is simply meant to inform and point out areas where sufficiency can be improved and trade-offs can be made.

Dairy farming, for instance, is identified as a particularly difficult conundrum because it simultaneously helps and hinders global malnourishment.

“When you consider that more than ~80 percent of farmland is used for grazing or animal feed production, livestock are clearly an inefficient way of producing food,” explains Ritchie.

“But, while livestock are an inefficient converter of feed, they remain the only natural dietary source of vitamin B12 and an important source of high-quality protein and lysine (an amino acid) for many people,” she continues.

The authors acknowledge that their data does not zoom in on regional, national or local dynamics. Nevertheless, they maintain that it is replicable and useful on a broader scale.

“This study is just the start,” concludes Reay.

“In the future, this replicable framework can be used to map food pathways for specific regions and countries. Our hope is that governments and development agencies can use it to assess food security risks and develop locally specific solutions.”

Source

https://www.sciencealert.com/insufficient-measure-global-food-distribution-masks-hidden-hunger

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