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
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
Tara Garnett tackles the thorny and complex issue of growing more with less.
‘Sustainable intensification’ is one of those phrases regularly bandied about in discussions about agriculture. What does it actually mean?
The shorthand definition: ‘producing more food with less negative impact’ – seems hard to dislike. But considering what it might mean in practice, all sorts of questions arise.
Does sustainable intensification imply a particular system or philosophy of agriculture? What about the ‘more food’ issue – how much more, what kind of food, produced where and for whom? How much weight does one attach to the ‘sustainable’ as opposed to the ‘intensification’ part? And what happens when ethical concerns such as animal welfare are added to the mix?
Continue reading The semantics of sustainability and food security
UK hosts meeting to highlight agricultural innovations that deliver improved nutrition for women and children. Tim Wheeler reports.
On 12 August 2012, the last day of the London Olympic Games, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron will bring together government, business and civil society leaders to define a set of actions to reduce global hunger and undernutrition rates. He will seek to gather support for a global legacy for the London Games, looking ahead to the next Games in Rio in 2016. Ensuring that the growing global population can be fed sustainably and equitably is an unprecedented challenge for the global food system and the UN Secretary General recently pressed the global community to act with urgency on hunger.
Continue reading The Global Hunger Event
Engineering innovation is a must for modern life – and the same goes for sustainable intensification, says Bill Day.
For agriculture, biological innovation will be of fundamental importance, but does not deliver in isolation. In the gap between Gregor Mendel and the frozen pea, many engineering advances have contributed to the realisation of a staple, high quality food.
So, escaping from damp and dismal England to the sunny climes of Valencia for the Agricultural Engineering International Conference gave every opportunity to feel warm about the future.
Continue reading Food production: what about engineering?
Fresh from the Rio+20 conference, Tim Benton ponders the paradox of producing more with less.
In the last weeks, I have attended an unsustainable flurry of meetings and discussions about sustainable intensification, sustainable agriculture or sustainable development (or all three together).
So what does “sustainable” mean, in the context of environment?
Agriculture, the world’s biggest industry, is rightly seen as the engine of development. It also generates the fuel, literally, that we all require.
Continue reading Sense and sustainability