The United Nations has dedicated this year to a well-known substance that has incredible properties. The Soil Association’s Louise Payton digs deep.
It can support buildings, filter and store billions of tonnes of water, provides a home for a quarter (PDF) of all species on earth, and is used to produce around 95% of our food. It’s soil, and this is the International Year of Soils.
The reason for this grand title is the need for food security debates to better recognise soil. Soil isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about food security, but incredibly, 25% of agricultural soils (PDF) are severely degraded.
Continue reading The challenge of soil
Agricultural scientist Andy Whitmore from Rothamsted Research introduces a new network for scientists working on sustainable intensification.
The sustainable, secure and resilient production of food to feed our growing population in the face of environmental change is one of the most pressing problems of our age. And in keeping with other major scientific endeavours such as the search for the Higg’s Boson or deciphering the human genome, it requires a huge, concerted effort from the world’s scientists.
Following World Water day, three new reports on water use are launched by the Global Food Security programme. GFS Science Writer Theresa Meacham pours over the results.
After land, water is the most important resource for farmers. Agriculture accounts for 75% of global fresh water extraction, yet it is often taken for granted. Irrigating land, mixing liquid fertilisers and sprays, providing drinking water for livestock, and washing down and cleaning equipment all require water.
Increasingly water is being recognised as a critical resource under threat.
Continue reading Facing the future: water and agriculture
A major new report spells out what science can, and can’t, do to help provide nutritious food for all. Co-author and GFS Champion Tim Benton provides an inside eye on the Milan Expo 2015.
The first ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations’ famously took place at Crystal Palace in 1851. It spawned a regular series, of which the 99th Universal Exposition will take place in 2015 in Milan, Italy, on the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.
Continue reading The role of research in food and nutrition security
The word ‘nexus’ seems to be cropping up everywhere, but what does it mean for food security? Global Food Security Champion Tim Benton explains.
Following Christmas, often an annual festival of demand and excess, maybe January is the time to think about demand-management. At the end of last year, I was involved in a flurry of meetings with the term ’nexus ‘ in the title. Nexus essentially means interconnectedness, or binding together.
Continue reading Nexology for the New Year
Now is the time to build food security capacity, and there are funds to do it. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Christina Owen reports.
On the Agricultural Development team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’re working hard to put ourselves out of a job.
The primary way to ensure this happens is for individual countries to develop and own their own sustainable agricultural systems, and to make them work for their farmers.
But what does this sustainability look like?
Continue reading Pay dirt: Growing sustainable agricultural development systems
How can young agricultural entrepreneurs make the most of the continent’s opportunities? Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact reports on the Montpellier Panel’s latest report.
The time has come to debunk a common myth about agriculture. It is not a dead-end profession that requires eternal, back breaking labour on a farm. At least, it does not have to be. With the right investments to support entrepreneurs in agriculture beyond the production stage, in processing, retail, marketing and even business management, profitable careers await Africa’s young population.
Continue reading Why Africa’s youth should not shun agriculture
Politics and economics are getting in the way of better food. The Global Food Security programme’s Sarah Nicholson reports.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death globally and are predicted to increase by 15% between 2010 and 2020 (PDF), and the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as CVDs and diabetes are to a large extent determined by dietary factors. In Europe, our diets have changed to include higher levels of saturated fats, sugars and salt and lower levels of dietary fibres, fruits and vegetables.
Continue reading Do European agricultural policies encourage the adoption of unhealthy diets?
Food scarcity remains a fundamental cause of violent outbreaks across the world. Bryce Evans investigates the issue.
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.
Continue reading Let them eat carbines
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.
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.
Continue reading Linking African smallholder farmers to markets