We should not fear failure when looking for novel food security solutions, argues Christina Owen.
In the business world, the motto “fail early, fail often” is frequently hailed as the formula for success. It is also the key tenet behind one of the most effective learning methods in the history of humanity – trial and error.
One can imagine how many errors were made as humans learned how to make and control fire, sow and harvest plants, build sturdy shelters. And it is the systemic process of trial and error that has allowed science and invention to produce history-altering discoveries and innovations like antibiotics, incandescent light bulbs, and the cellular telephone.
Continue reading Freedom to innovate
A natural virus could control devastating pest outbreaks and improve food security for thousands of farmers. In a special video diary, Ken Wilson reports on a long weekend in Zambia.
“We have arranged for you to meet the Vice President at 10am on Sunday. Is this OK?”. That was it, my trip to Zambia was definitely on and I had just a few hours to prepare for my field visit and meet one of the country’s top politicians who was leading their efforts to manage a food security crisis.
But as you can see in the video below (which you can also watch on YouTube, or in a shorter 03:50 video feature), this visit turned out to be rather different from the rest.
Continue reading Video blog: The hunt for African armyworm
The Montpellier Panel launch their latest report at the Houses of Parliament. Ramadjita Tabo reports.
Only one country in Africa, Ghana, will meet the first Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger and poverty by 2015. New solutions to Africa’s food and resource scarcity challenges are thus being sought as the world develops the next set of global development goals post-2015.
One such solution, sustainable intensification, has proved controversial yet offers real promise, even to small-scale farmers, if it can be redefined and adapted to suit these farmers’ local contexts.
Continue reading Sustainable intensification: A practical approach to meet Africa’s food and natural resource needs
Agriculture is an eco-system, not a solo sector, says Robin Sanders.
There is a need for more public sector, private companies, organizations and donors to come together to share both resources and expertise to develop new approaches to sustainable and successful development.
Innovative thinking needs to be done particularly in agriculture to address food security since land, water, and environmental management are not separate from agriculture sector development or long-term food security.
Continue reading The 4P approach to food security
Geoff Tansey unravels the rhetoric at a food security conference at the Royal Institute for International Affairs, Chatham House.
The meeting in London on 10-11 December 2012 was held under the Chatham House Rule, which forbids identification of speakers, so you may find this a rather frustrating blog.
One speaker asked participants the key question: why was the meeting talking about the sustainable intensification of agricultural production when the world already produces enough for everyone; when one third of all food produced ends up as waste; when an estimated 40% of corn in the US in 2013 is going to biofuel; and up to 90% of soya produced globally is used for animals not humans?
Continue reading Sustainable intensification – miracle or mirage?
Agroforestry can lead to the sustainable intensification of tropical agriculture. Roger Leakey reports.
Numerous international reports (PDF) have concluded that ‘business as usual is not an option for agriculture’, but there seems to be no clear path forwards. Indeed there is a highly polarized debate in which biotechnology (GM) and organic agriculture are the two opposing candidates for most people’s affections and attention.
Continue reading Three steps to bridging the yield gap
Times have changed, and the world’s problems need a global vision for action, says the chair of the EU Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development Paolo de Castro.
The renewed position of food security at recent G8 and G20 Summits, from L’Aquila in 2009 (PDF) to Camp David in 2012, is an acknowledgement that a more sophisticated coordination at global level is needed to meet the new challenges, which are a sort of upside-down scenario in comparison to what prevailed in the last years of the 20th century, when food seemed relatively plentiful.
Continue reading The politics of food in the new scarcity
A new programme could mitigate climate change and adapt food production for the future. Tracy Gerstle reports.
Climate change is at the top of the United Nations agenda from 26 Nov to 7 Dec in negotiations at the Eighteenth Conference of the Parties (COP18) in Doha, Qatar. Since 1995, the annual climate talks of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have served as an important platform to focus global attention on identifying and starting to address the causes and impacts of climate change.
Continue reading Putting agriculture on the map at COP18
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’
All roads lead to Rome for the UN’s Committee on World Food Security. Morgane Danielou previews the action.
From 15-20 October, watchful eyes will be on Rome as the UN World Committee on Food Security (CFS) holds its annual session at the FAO headquarters. As an intergovernmental body, it serves as a forum for review and follow up of food security policies. Following a turbulent year for food security, in particular the US and African droughts, the CFS will look to address these crises, as well as long-term structural issues.
Continue reading Global food and agriculture takes centre stage