Global Food Security blog

Contributors to this blog include academics, policy makers, farmers and end-users. To join the community of authors please email web@foodsecurity.ac.uk including details of your expertise, experience and a short synopsis of your proposed article.

Saving soil with intelligent machine use

Did we really run over our fields at random in 30 ton farming vehicles? Agri-consultant Tim Chamen wants to stop it happening now.

Tim Chamen

Speak to any experienced garden vegetable grower about the acceptability of running a car over their vegetable plot and I guess they would look at you in horror!

And yet this is what farmers worldwide have done with their machines for many years because of the difficulty of doing otherwise. As the drive for improved production efficiency has risen together with labour costs (PDF, 41pp), farm machines have increased dramatically in size and crucially in weight.
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The protein problem

Population growth and more meat-intensive diets require an increase in global protein production. NERC’s Jodie Clarke tucks into the issue.

Jodie Clarke

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) agricultural outlook for 2015-2030
total world meat production will continue to increase in this period by 1.5% per year while milk production is estimated to increase at 1.3% annually.

More meat and milk has escalated the demand for animal feed – a trend which has had some devastating
environmental effects in recent years.
Continue reading The protein problem

Insights on aquaculture: technology and development

How can fish-producing technology scale up to feed more people? GFS science writer Theresa Meacham casts the net wide.

Theresa Meacham

Having just launched the latest GFS Insight about Aquaculture (PDF), I have been thinking a lot about the role that fish have in our food system. For a start, in the UK we sell most of the fish we catch and eat imported fish mostly caught abroad!

Aquaculture production has increased at an average rate of 8.9% since 1970 in the UK. But in fact our industry is tiny compared to Asian production which is 89% of the global total. Some of the drivers behind this growth (despite exquisite taste!) have been the health benefits associated with eating fish and shellfish products, environmental pressures on land and wild fisheries as well as an increasing world population.
Continue reading Insights on aquaculture: technology and development

Raising food prices to end hunger

The doctrine that food prices should be kept as low as possible to end hunger is wrong, says former FAO agricultural economist Andrew MacMillan.

Andrew MacMillan

Most governments prefer to keep food prices “affordable” for their people. Many subsidise their farmers’ incomes to let them make a decent living while they sell their output for little more than it costs them to produce it. Countries justify these measures and relatively low taxes on foods as means of preventing poor people from suffering from hunger.
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Milking it in Malawi

The ‘white revolution’ could bring food security and economic benefits to Africa. Cesar Revoredo-Giha from Scotland’s Rural College reports from the field.

Cesar Revoredo-Giha

In recent years there has been talk of a ‘white revolution’ in milk production in Africa. Countries such as Tanzania and Uganda have looked to follow India in increasing per capita consumption of milk and dairy products.

We take the white stuff for granted in the West. It is so cheap and plentiful that it has even become derided as a source of modern ailments like allergies. But so long as you are not genuinely lactose intolerant, the balance of evidence favours milk as a good source of sugar, fats and nutrients. And in developing countries, this can be the difference between health and malnutrition.
Continue reading Milking it in Malawi

How can young agricultural entrepreneurs make the most of the continent’s opportunities? Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact reports on the Montpellier Panel’s latest report.

Gordon Conway

The time has come to debunk a common myth about agriculture. It is not a dead-end profession that requires eternal, back breaking labour on a farm. At least, it does not have to be. With the right investments to support entrepreneurs in agriculture beyond the production stage, in processing, retail, marketing and even business management, profitable careers await Africa’s young population.
Continue reading Why Africa’s youth should not shun agriculture

Fertilizers: quality over quantity

Indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals must be chosen with care, says Jørgen Ole Haslestad of the International Fertilizer Industry Association.

Jørgen Ole Haslestad

When considering the sustainable development of our planet, one sector sits squarely at the cross section of protecting natural resources, feeding the world and reducing carbon emissions: agriculture.

Within that sector, it is often the role of natural and especially mineral fertilizers that could yield the greatest benefit, but also attracts the most criticism. 
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More than food for thought

At the launch of a new report on food security and climate change, the British Consulate in Chicago’s Jack Westwood is optimistic.

Jack Westwood

Having previously worked in a laboratory trying to find solutions to prevent and control the spread of crop disease, food security issues are often on my mind. However, being a scientist often means focusing on a very specific problem, so when the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA), an independent think-tank committed to educating the public and influencing policy debate, launched its latest report ‘Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of Changing Climate’ on May 22 in Washington DC, it put my previous work into sharp relief.  
Continue reading More than food for thought

Politics and economics are getting in the way of better food. The Global Food Security programme’s Sarah Nicholson reports.

Sarah Nicholson

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death globally and are predicted to increase by 15% between 2010 and 2020 (PDF), and the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as CVDs and diabetes are to a large extent determined by dietary factors. In Europe, our diets have changed to include higher levels of saturated fats, sugars and salt and lower levels of dietary fibres, fruits and vegetables.
Continue reading Do European agricultural policies encourage the adoption of unhealthy diets?

Why a mother’s nutrition is so important

Diet before conception affects a baby’s genes. Paula Dominguez-Salas from the MRC International Nutrition Group reports from the field.

Paula Dominguez-Salas

In recent years evidence has been accumulating that nutrition during pregnancy can have a profound effect on the offspring. Our group, the MRC International Nutrition Group, works in maternal and child nutrition and is particularly interested in this ‘fetal programming’ idea, because a child’s health (and possibly even its children) could be effected throughout its whole life – not just its early years.
Continue reading Why a mother’s nutrition is so important