Top researchers gather to tuck into global food matters. Tim Benton relishes the chance.
I have recently returned from a Meeting of the Agricultural Chief Scientists (the ‘MACS’) of the G20, held in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Each time we left the hotel for a venue, I couldn’t get over the security involved in our bus escort which at one stage included 11 or 12 vehicles: motorbikes, police cars, machine-gun mounted jeeps, an army vehicle and an ambulance! And it wasn’t all work, one day’s meeting was held in the grounds of the Jose Cuervo distillery in the town of Tequila, including a fascinating tour involving vision, audio and (of course) taste(s).
Continue reading A meeting of the big ‘MACS’
Utilising satellites as insurance loss adjusters could help to some of the poorest farmers in Africa. Michael Baron is watching.
Things happen, and sometimes bad things happen, like my house catching fire.
About 4000 years ago, people invented the concept of insurance, to share risks so no one lost everything when a bad thing happened. But my house catching fire is preventable – the things that are most important to insure against are the unpreventable bad things, such as extreme weather.
Continue reading From insecurity to food security
The poverty that many women suffer in the developing world is no laughing matter, but tackling a deadly livestock disease could help. Michael Baron explains.
On June 22 this year a number of UK celebrities, including Cilla Black, Cherie Blair, Rajashree Birla and Baroness Floella Benjamin, drew attention to International Widows’ Day by walking a small herd of goats across London Bridge.
The link between these two groups (the widows and the goats, rather than the celebrities) is poverty. Widows are among the poorest households in developing countries where there are no benefit systems to provide income support or pensions.
Continue reading A goat, a widow and a celebrity walk into a bar…
Is science the only answer to climate change and food security challenges? Andrée Carter reports from the Planet under Pressure conference.
A major international conference held at the end of March, Planet under Pressure, focused on solutions to the global sustainability challenge.
First, we need to recognise a shared vision of what a truly sustainable world will look like, and to do that, we need to cooperate across disciplines and with a wide variety of stakeholders.
Continue reading Visions for a sustainable world
Improving post-harvest technologies will enhance food security and health, says Asgar Ali.
In the midst of a perpetual population boom and conscious awareness of the limited and diminishing resources such as land, fertilizers and water availability, how will governments, organizations and people respond? And how should they respond?
Significant effort has been dedicated at increasing agricultural productivity. But is it time to focus more on protetcing these gains from post-harvest losses?
Continue reading Grow not waste not
Muhammad Akbar reviews the problems and potential of a populous food producing nation.
Agriculture plays a major role in Pakistan’s economy; it accounts for 21% of GDP and 45% of the workforce is employed in agriculture. But agriculture in Pakistan faces numerous difficulties and despite its importance to the country, food security is not guaranteed for significant portions of the country.
Pakistan’s population in 2011 was 177 million – the sixth largest in the world – and is predicted to reach 191.7 million by 2015. Yet the agriculture sector has been suffering from decline for the past three decades. Productivity remains low; yields per unit area are low, and critical investments in developing new plant varieties, farming technology and water infrastructure are not being made.
Continue reading Food security in Pakistan: past and present
A focus on the link between energy and food production in Africa at the Durban Climate Change Conference is much needed, says Robin Sanders.
The recent Durban Climate Change Conference is a follow on from Cancun which did not move a lot of things forward on key environmental issues ranging from CO2 emissions, carbon sequestration and credits), to land and water resource management.
The important fact that the conference is taking place on the African continent for the first time should not just boil down to its mere presence in Durban. But just like key sub-Saharan African economies are emerging, Africa’s emerging voice on climate change policy is vital to a number of future developmental areas, not least of which is food security – including all of its pillars from food production to improving the continent’s ability to feed itself and using renewables to spur better agricultural energy use.
Continue reading Africa, climate change and food security
It’s time to rebalance the scales for African researchers in agriculture, says Jo Seed.
During the launch of the Montpellier Panel Report last year I was inspired by the talk on women in agriculture presented by Vicki Wilde. She is the Director of the CGIAR’s Gender and Diversity Programme and the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) project – a professional development program that strengthens the research and leadership skills of African women in agricultural science.
After Vicki’s speech, something inside me seemed to click and I decided from this point that I really wanted to help make a difference for women in African agriculture.
Continue reading Food, families, and women in science
Anita McCabe reports from the field on efforts to improve food security in Malawi
As the hot dry breeze wafts through the lakeside district of Nkhotakota, Malawi, a group of women sing as they take turns to water their near-ripe crop of maize. Further downstream, another group is busy making seed beds in preparation for another crop.
Like many women in developing countries, these women face a particular set of responsibilities and vulnerabilities when it comes to providing food for their families. Not only are they the primary caregivers, they are also the food producers and income earners.
Continue reading Women and the fight against hunger
Developing agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa involves tackling political problems as well as the scientific ones, says Sara Delaney.
Bold orange signs decorated the brightly lit rooms, each proclaiming ‘New Directions for Smallholder Agriculture’ and offering a taste of keywords to come: ‘finance, migration, accessing markets, youth…’, serving as an inspiring backdrop for the two day conference held at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in Rome, on January 24-25.
Continue reading Elephants in the conference room