Tag: productivity

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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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

Open source solutions for food security

We need to share high- and low-tech technologies to diversify production, says Tyler Reed.

Tyler Reed

con·straint  /kən’strãnt/

noun

  1. a limitation or restriction.

“the availability of water is the main constraint on food production”

An internet search for the word constraint returned this definition. The example usage is surprisingly apropos considering the nature of this post, because water is certainly a constraint on food production. Traditional farming techniques, with plants growing in open plots of soil, can require substantial amounts of water while other techniques require less.
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A new Global Food Security programme paper tallies votes to focus action. John Ingram reports.

John Ingram

As part of its work to understand the drivers of food security, colleagues and I in the UK’s Global Food Security programme (ably assisted by colleagues from the University of Cambridge) launched a six-month project to identify priority research questions (PDF) for the UK food system. The full results are published online in the journal Food Security.
Continue reading What are priority research questions for the UK food system?

Let them eat carbines

Food scarcity remains a fundamental cause of violent outbreaks across the world. Bryce Evans investigates the issue.

Bryce Evans

The use of food as a strategic weapon is well established. Texts as ancient as the Chinese Art of War and the Roman De Re Militari advocate denying the enemy food. The contemporary conflict in Sudan provides a case in point in the cynical application of this ancient wisdom. There, the government intensifies bombing in rebel areas at harvest time, destroying food. In turn, the country’s rebels seize humanitarian food supplies intended for refugees.
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Linking African smallholder farmers to markets

Agricultural markets in sub-Saharan Africa are fragmented for the people who need them most. Two new reports set out the solutions, says Michael Hoevel.

Michael Hoevel

Population in Africa is set to almost double to two billion by 2050, and current food production systems in Africa will only be able to meet 13% of this increased demand (PDF).

At the same time, across Africa it is estimated that 80% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. Transforming this sector’s markets will not only help address food insecurity and undernutrition, but it can also unlock Africa’s trade and development potential more broadly, if implemented responsibly and sustainably.
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Aquaculture, protein production and efficiency

The SEAT project is aiming for major gains in fish and shellfish farming, says Dave Little.

Dave Little

Feeding people requires a lot of energy. Production, distribution and consumption of food accounts for 20-25% of the energy consumption in developed countries. The largest energy investments are made in the production of protein-rich produce, such as meat and fish. In beef production (PDF), for example, energy used (per kilo of whole animal produced) ranges from 38-48 MJ/kg-1 compared to meat derived from pigs (PDF) at 16-18MJ/kg-1.  
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Protecting nature’s harvest

We need to stop pests eating our food. Richard Pywell and Ben Woodcock argue that supporting native wildlife on farms is part of the answer.

Ben Woodcock
Richard Pywell

Farmers have always been in a running battle with pests. We estimate using Defra statistics that in 2010, UK crops worth £715M were lost to insect pests. Chemical pesticides are crucial to controlling them, but the development of pest resistance, and key products being withdrawn amid fears about human and environmental health mean that alternative methods are increasingly important.

One solution is to promote native biodiversity that will kill pests within crops. Many native species have the potential to increase crop yields, so supporting biodiversity on farmland has more to offer than simply beautifying the countryside. For example, bees pollinate crops and predatory beetles eat pest aphids. In any case, the UK has signed the Convention on Biological Diversity, which requires that “by 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity”.
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Food producers: experts in their fields

Two new schemes from the Soil Association aim to put farmers at the forefront of research. Tom MacMillan reports.

Tom MacMillan

There is hardly a year that starts without at least somebody at the Oxford Farming Conference lamenting the gulf between agricultural research and practice, and calling for it to be bridged. The difference this year is that these calls may now be getting some answers.

The past few months have seen an upsurge in efforts to address this gap including Feeding the Future, a review of research priorities for farmers and growers up to the year 2030 which was commissioned by four organisations at the heart of UK food production:
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Putting agriculture on the map at COP18

A new programme could mitigate climate change and adapt food production for the future. Tracy Gerstle reports.

Tracy Gerstle

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.
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