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.

The Africa fertilizer gap

If 2014 is truly to be Africa’s Year of Agriculture and Food Security, then Africa’s production potential has to be addressed, says IFA Vice President for Africa Alassane Diallo.

Alassane Diallo

Africa has awoken. Ten of the world’s fastest growing economies are now in Africa, with around one third of our 54 countries seeing annual GDP growth of over 6%.

However, this momentum has not yet spread to all sectors. Cereal crop yields in Africa are only one-third as high as in developing Asia, and only one-tenth as high as the United States. When one in five Africans still goes to bed hungry – how can this sector be ignored?
Continue reading The Africa fertilizer gap

Vertical farming and friends

Jodie Clarke explores innovative projects that use unusual spaces and intriguing technologies to farm fresh produce for urban populations.

Jodie Clarke

Urban centres are expanding across the globe. Today, half of the world’s population live in urban environments, and by 2050 this figure will rise to 70%.

In countries such as China and India, this process is unfolding at an exceptional rate, with skyscrapers and highways appearing where farms and fields existed only a decade ago.
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An Insight on food price spikes

What causes sudden increases in commodity costs, and can we stop them in the future? Theresa Meacham introduces a Global Food Security publication.

Theresa Meacham

‘Banks making millions out of starving millions through food speculation’ was the headline in the Metro following the food price spikes back in 2012. Prior to this, the Telegraph was also asking ‘Should food be a protected commodity?’ following the 2007/08 price spike and 2010 price rises.

But how much can we blame bankers (or food commodity traders) for causing the food price spikes? And will there be more food price spikes in the future?
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Framing the big picture: going round in circles

GFS Champion Tim Benton explains how engaging with people has shifted his views.

Tim Benton

I am very privileged in the role of Global Food Security (GFS) Champion to meet many people and discuss the challenges raised by global demand for food outstripping supply. I have had such discussions with a large range of groups in different government departments: Health, Defra, DFID and the FCO in the UK as well as the Scottish and Welsh governments.
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The whole package for Africa’s women farmers

It’s not enough to sing their praises: let’s work on legal rights, market access, community-based support, and more equitable households say Melinda Fones Sundell and Marion Davis.

Melinda Sundell and Marion Davis

If you know anything about agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, you know that women grow the majority of food crops. In Ghana, for example, women produce 70% of the nation’s food crops, provide 52% of the agricultural labour force, and contribute 95% of the labour for agro-processing activities. Across the region, 62.5% of women work in agriculture, compared with 36.4% globally (report p.57, A8).

Yet women farmers often work under very difficult conditions. Many don’t even control the land on which they grow their families’ food, and their access to fertilizers, tools, equipment and other inputs is also constrained. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that if women had access to the same productive resources as men, they could increase their farm yields by 20-30%.
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Investing sweat equity to harness ecosystem services

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. Andrew MacMillan reflects on home-grown food.

Andrew MacMillan

A couple of months ago, the United Nations launched the International Year of Family Farming. Hopefully, by the end of the year many more people around the world will come to appreciate the enormously important role that family-run farms play in producing our food in sustainable ways.

When I was turning my compost heaps a few days ago to speed up the processes of decay and have lots of organic fertilizer available for the spring-time planting of vegetables, it struck me how often we risk creating confusion with the difficult words scientists and economists use to describe the kinds of things that small-scale farmers do, let us say naturally, every day.
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The need for science in food security

In this video blog, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney makes a case for research from the Oxford Farming Conference.

Simon Coveney

“My name is Simon Coveney, I am the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and I am here at the Oxford Farming Conference today with a very clear message about the importance of the linkage between science and agriculture and the agri-food industry generally.

The reality is that we have an enormous challenge, but also an enormous opportunity for this sector over the next 10-50 years, because globally we have to find a way of producing significantly more food from the same, in fact less, natural resources as we see the availability of agricultural land shrink by about a percentage a year.

And at the same time we see the consumption demand for food dramatically increasing.


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Waste not, want not

GFS Champion Tim Benton looks to the New Year and considers food waste on national and personal levels (including his own recipes).

Tim Benton

I enjoy cooking, so do the kitchen duty when I am at home. And, of course, Christmas is the most intensive cooking festival. I just totted up that I prepared 141 meals, spread over 32 mealtimes. No wonder coming back to work seems restful!

As food waste is such an issue, we worked hard to minimise waste over the period through a concerted effort of planning, inventorying and negotiation over how to eat left overs. As a result, we threw away very little that was avoidable, perhaps though at the expense of over-consumption!
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Christmas is traditionally a time of celebrating via food. GFS Champion Tim Benton explores the question of whether we should be more self-sufficient in producing it.

Tim Benton

One of the questions asked in Westminster is “should the UK be more self-sufficient in food production?” According to government (PDF) data about 62% of our food is produced in Great Britain.

Last August, 62% of the way through the year, the National Farmers’ Union had a Back British Farming campaign pointing out that were there no international trade our “larder would be bare” from August onwards – definitely a problem for the Christmas feast then  – and so growing more food locally would be benefit  our food security by increasing self-sufficiency.
Continue reading Season’s greedings: self-sufficiency and the UK food system

In pursuit of a common dream

What kinds of collaborations lead to increased food security? Anne Radl wants to hear your success stories.

David Hume

An economist, a lawyer and a community activist walk into a plant laboratory… it sounds like the beginning of a joke – one with a punchline that relies on the listener knowing that these three people have fundamentally different, irreconcilable ways of seeing the world.

But at the October 8 launch event of The Humanitarian Centre’s Global Food Futures Year, held at the Sainsbury Plant Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, economists, lawyers and activists (and many others) came together to mark our year-long focus on food security.
Continue reading In pursuit of a common dream