Friday, December 09, 2011

Reading List for the Cold Days Ahead

Looking for a good read for your winter break? Check this list of development books shamelessly copied from by Chris Blattman awesome blog on international development. Also check out a similar list put together by the Guardian. Enjoy

1. The Anti-Politics Machine, James Ferguson. (“Sometimes markets don’t exist for a reason.”)
2. Peasants into Frenchmen, Eugen Weber (“Do not forget that French was recently a foreign language to most Frenchmen,” or “Nation building is a long and messy business.”)
3. Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell (“So you think we’re so far away from abject poverty ourselves?”)
4. African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, Nic van de Walle (“Everything you think about the African crisis and structural adjustment is wrong,” or “the aid and democratization folks seem to forget that incentives matter.”)
5. Seeing Like A State, Jim Scott. (“The perils of scientific approaches to planning and development.”)
6. and 7. Other Jim Scott must reads: Moral Economy of the Peasant (“Don’t overestimate the material.”) and Art of Not Being Governed (“Development usually means coercion, and underdevelopment is a strategy not a condition.”)
8. In the Company of Strangers, Paul Seabright (“The origins of market cooperation, industry and development are evolutionary.”)
9. Emergence of Autocracy in Liberia, Amos Sawyer (“Authoritarian politics are not solely the products of colonialism; seek checks and balances.”)
10. and 11. Party Games, Mark Summers, and Right to Vote, Alexander Keyssar (“Corruption and electoral mayhem — not so crippling to growth as you think,” or “Chill out, America, and remember you were recently much worse.”)
12. Coffee and Power, by Jeffrey Paige (“Five coffee producing nations, five different power structures, five very different democratic outcomes a hundred years later”)
13. and 14. Coercion, Capital and European States, Charles Tilly (“War makes the state”). See Jeffrey Herbst’s States and Power in Africa for the post-colonial converse (“An absence of war doesn’t make the state”).
15. Embedded Autonomy, Peter Evans. (“Most of the time state-led industrialization doesn’t work, but guess what? Sometimes it does.”)
16. and 17. Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Jane Jacobs. (“Seek healthy cities not healthy nations, and here’s how.”) which is interesting to read alongside Max Weber’s The City (“Man, are we lucky the merchants not the ruling classes lived in European cities.”)
18. Staples, Markets and Cultural Change, Harold Innis. (“Everything you need to know about New World development can be gleaned from cod, fur, and wheat.”) The most forgotten AEA President ever, and also a mentor to Marshall McLuhen.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Promising Trends in the African Continent

Le Grand Marche Lome. (C) Rafael Merchan 2008

In a time where developed countries continue to shrink their development aid portfolios, exciting things are happening in Africa that may hold the answer to solve the continent's chronic poverty. The news comes from South Africa's Standard Bank with the publication of an excellent series of reports about Africa's unprecedented potential to catch up to the rest of the world. A recent editorial and article by The Economist also cover this promising trend, citing some of the reports' findings.

The series, entitled "The Five Trends Powering Africa's Enduring Allure" provide a robust evidence about the continent's strategic position to meet the world appetite for food, natural resources, and manufacturing goods, all while reinvigorating local economies and bringing much needed revenue to the governments' treasures. More importantly, the report talks about how the urbanization process in the continent is resulting in a middle class with more disposable income. This extra cash is exactly what farmers need to market their product and diversified into more profitable activities.

Although those living in remote communities and/or subsistence poverty will likely be passed by the emerging local markets, with the spread of ICT, better rural infrastructure, and more committed local governments, their future does not seem as grim as a decade ago.  Finally, one of the reports highlights the central role of agriculture in this new development. Below are the main points made by the fantastic work of  Standar's Bank Simon Freemantle on his report about Africa's Dormant Resource Potential.

  • Donor institutions have re-prioritised development assistance for African agriculture as a means to elevate socio-economic prosperity.  Meanwhile, programmes such as NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are gaining momentum.
  • Foreign land leasing deals are on the increase. Estimates vary, yet it is believed that between 50 mn and 60 mn ha of land in SSA has been purchased or leased since 2001. The majority of land leasing agreements are structured on a government-to-government basis. Unsurprisingly, Gulf States have been prominent. Meanwhile, Asian nations, particularly China and South Korea, are prioritizing Africa as a means to ensure long-term food security. 
  • Private and institutional investor interest is growing. For instance, London-listed Agriterra owns a variety of agricultural assets in Africa, including 14,000 ha of land for ranching, as well as a maize processing facility in Mozambique. And, Indian horticultural firm Karuturi Global has emerged as the world’s largest exporter of fresh cut roses on the spine of its investments in Kenya and Ethiopia.
  • While there are meaningful objections to the nature and structure of much of the new investment in African agriculture, it is clear that the introduction of new capital, skills, and technology is an essential component in unlocking the continent’s ultimate allure. Africa’s agricultural sector has persistently underperformed for much of the past half century—having been a net food exporter in the early 1960s, Africa is now a net importer. Between 1998 and 2008 the number of hungry people in SSA increased by 20%. And, between 1967 and 2007, farm output per person in SSA fell by one-quarter, even while it doubled in South Asia and tripled in East Asia.
  • The reasons for Africa’s poor agricultural performance are complex, and myriad. For one, on average, African countries allocate only 4% of their budgetary expenditures to agriculture, compared to 14% in Asia. Only around 6.5% of African farmland is irrigated, compared to 40% in Asia. And, according to the World Bank, SSA uses just 11.6 kilograms (kg) of fertilizer per ha of arable land, compared to a world average of 119 kg/ha. Meanwhile, post-harvest grain losses due to inadequate storage and transport facilities in SSA are equal to USD4 bn per year around 15% of total output.
  • Though much is required, and a collective inertia still in large part remains, there are increasing signs of how Africa’s agricultural fortunes are changing. Under CAADP, 22 African countries have committed to raise the budget share for agriculture to 10%. And, in partnership with AGRA, commercial banks are beginning to lend to small-scale farmers. According to OECD/Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projections, Africa’s production of wheat is expected to increase by 30%, rice by 75%, and milk and sugar by 35% within the next decade. Approximately 25% of the source of crop production growth in SSA between 2010 and 2050 will come from arable land expansion, 7% from increases in cropping intensity, and 68% from an increase in yields. Other estimates have posited that the value of Africa’s annual agricultural output could double by 2020, based largely on gains produced by new land placed under cultivation, yield growth, and the transfer to higher-value crops.
  • Africa’s agricultural allure is vast, yet central to the realisation of commensurate socio-economic benefits is an appreciation, on the part of African stakeholders, of how pivotal and intensely valuable this opportunity is—and to position accordingly.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A New Report on Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America

For those of you interested in CCT, make sure to check out this report just published by ECLA, the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, on Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America

The report sums up the experience with in Latin America and the Caribbean, over more than 15 years. During this period, CCTs have spread through the region’s various countries as a tool of choice for poverty-reduction policy. CCTs entails the transfer of monetary and nonmonetary resources to families with young children, living in poverty or extreme poverty, on condition that they fulfil specific commitments aimed at improving their human capacities. They are consider just one of many non-contributory social protection instruments in the countries’ poverty reduction toolkits, other can be social pensions, emergency jobs, educational scholarships and subsidies for home purchases etc. 

A couple of interesting points about the report:
  • CCT have worked sufficiently well and produced their expected outcomes in large countries with considerable resources at their disposal, such as Brazil and Mexico, but this does not mean that they can be exported to any country and produce the same results
  • Viewing the CCTs in terms of entitlement and rights makes it hard to interpret them as instruments of patronage that can be manipulated by different political actors
  • CCTs can help to create a “virtuous circle” for poor and vulnerable families. Income transfers, when constant over time, provide a basic safety net for the poor, who by having a guaranteed minimum level of subsistence will have greater opportunities to enter the labor market.

ICT in Agriculture Sourcebook and M-PESA

Finals are coming up and this blog is suffering from lack of updates -sorry for that folks. I promise to catch up with my weekly 'Seeds and Leaves' list of resources and links. I will also be writing about the Integrated Rural Development Projects of the 60' and 70's and more recent efforts for integrated interventions such as the Millennium Villages and others. Also, tomorrow I will be attending a presentation on Food Security in Latin America: Trends and Prospects. I'll report on that as well.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you an excited series of online forums to develop resources for "ICT in Agriculture" that the The World Bank and the e-Agriculture Community have put together.

Look at some of the modules titles:

  • Increasing Crop, Livestock and Fishery Productivity Through ICT"  
  • ICTs As Enablers of Agricultural Innovation Systems
  • Broadening Smallholders' Access to Financial Services Through 
  • Farmer Organizations Work Better with ICT
  • Strengthening Agricultural Marketing with ICT
  • ICT Applications for Smallholder Inclusion in Agribusiness Supply Chains

I seems that every day there are new developments in the area of technology and its potentials to help farmers. I recently read a study conducted by The IRIS Center at the University of Maryland, College Park on the impact of M-PESA's mobile technology in rural transactions. The study, titled Transforming Mobile Money into Food in Kenya, states:
M-PESA (receivers) appears to increase the likelihood of  being able to pay for seeds, casual labor, and other inputs at the time it is  most needed, and allows them to plant more of their fields.  An M-PESA shopkeeper mentioned that many of her customers receive money quickly and plant early and fully.  In the past, they might have missed the best  quality seeds, fertilizers, or might not have had money in time to plant  their fields completely.  In addition, many M-PESA receivers reported a  savings in travel time and transport costs to obtain remittance money  that they now could effectively use on productive agricultural activities.   This has enabled them to plant their fields more fully and hire more labor  when it can be most productive.
Exciting and promising things happening in ICT. As always, comment or email interesting articles in international food security.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Prabhu Pingali Talks About Gates Ag Agenda

Last week I attended a presentation on Feeding the World organized by the Chemistry Heritage Foundation. The keynote addresses was be given by Calestous Juma, Harvard University who just published a book title: The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa. You can download a PDF copy HERE.

Other panelist included Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, who maintain the awesome NYTimes blog Dot Earth, Nina Fedoroff, Pennsylvania State University and American Association for the Advancement of Science; Antonio Galindez, Dow AgroSciences; Rik L. Miller, DuPont Crop Protection; Prabhu Pingali, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Paul Rea, BASF Corporation; Gary H. Toenniessen, Rockefeller Foundation; and Jay Vroom, CropLife America.

Although Professor's Juma presentation was quite good, I was impressed with the insights of Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director of the Agriculture Development Division at the Gates Foundation. I tried to record his presentation but the audio didn't come up very good. Instead, I found a much better overview of his strategy to fight global hunger using agriculture as the main weapon. Enjoy

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Renewed Prosperity, Enhanced Security: The Case for Sustained American Leadership in Global Agricultural Development

THE CHALLENGE: Feeding the World
World population reached 7 billion on Monday, October 31. It is expected to exceed 9.5 billion by 2050. Today, while much of our attention is rightly focused on the glaring needs at home, another crisis is quietly brewing: the growing global demand for food and the deep poverty and hunger of 925 million people threaten the basic human condition and America’s national interests.

The solution to this crisis lies in the improvement of the agricultural systems in the developing world and so reducing poverty in the areas where it is deepest and making nations more economically secure – the twin foundations of international peace and prosperity. Growth in the agricultural sector is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. This solution also creates opportunities for American businesses while strengthening our national security.

The U.S. Congress and Administration have recognized these benefits and since 2009 have demonstrated transformative leadership on global agricultural development. Yet, the current commitment to global agricultural development is fragile. U.S. leadership is critical to sustaining renewed international attention to these issues.

At a time when it would be tempting to ignore the plight of those so distant, we must realize that they are not so far away. With demand for food expected to more than double in the next 40 years, our futures are tied together in a world facing formidable challenges, including scarce natural resources and the effects of extreme and fluctuating weather patterns amidst ever-growing populations.

THE NECESSITY: How Global Agricultural Development is in America’s Interest
Some Americans ask why the government should spend their hard-earned tax dollars on agricultural development abroad at a time of severe economic distress at home. The answer is simple: America’s prosperity and security will be improved by the reduced hunger, higher incomes, more vibrant markets, and stable societies that agricultural development will make possible

  • Increasing opportunities for American business
  • Hedging against failed states, violence, and extremism
  • Strengthening American institutions and advancing scientific frontiers
  • Harnessing the abilities and improving the lives of girls and women
  • Meeting the rising global demand for food
  • Protecting the environment and mitigating the impact of climate change
THE CALL: Sustaining American Leadership in Global Agricultural Development
The U.S. government must sustain American leadership for global agricultural development. This means preserving support for U.S. global agricultural development programs and fulfilling the commitment the United States made at the L’Aquila summit in 2009 to dedicate $3.5 billion to agricultural development over three years. In nearly every international policy arena, including agricultural development, America’s leadership has proven essential to global action. When America’s leadership in global agricultural development faltered at the end of the 1980s, efforts of most others faltered as well. More recently, when America challenged the global community to reinvigorate its commitment to agriculture, members of the G-8 pledged $22 billion. The lesson is that without American leadership little will happen.

The cost to America to sustain its support for development is approximately $1 billion a year – less than 1/10th of 1% of total U.S. spending. Even this small investment, when coupled with political leadership on the international stage, enables the U.S. to leverage the international community’s collective effort and advance U.S. political, economic, and security interests. The Congress and the Administration have already taken the first, critical steps. This leadership must now be sustained: the long-term gains far outweigh the costs.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Signs of Hope in Senegal

"Maison des Regles"
The picture in this post was taken back in 2008, when traveling around Dogon country in central plateau region of Mali. The mud hut, called Maison des Regles, is used to house women when they are menstruating.

Gender roles are very rigid in Dogon Country, with men preventing women from participating in communal meetings or taking any leadership or decision-making roles in the affairs of their communities. But perhaps the most striking thing I learn while traveling around this region is that most villages practice female genital mutilation

This is why initiatives like the one below reported by the NY Times are worth spreading, hoping for a much faster paste in the elimination of this inexcusable practice:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Food Security in Colombian Indigenous Communities

Although I usually question the scalability of concepts such as food sovereignty or food autonomy, it's feasible to make exceptions when dealing with indigenous population in which cultural values play a central role in their life. This video, produced by IPS, shows how indigenous communities of the Colombian Andean regions are ensuring food security by diversifying the crops they grow.

Grains and Leaves: Weekly Ag-Related News, Events, and Others

Here is this week's edition of Grains and Leaves;

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Columbia's MPA in Development Practice

Check this short video about Columbia's MPA in Development Practice. I'm currently enrolled and I love it. Email if you have any questions about it. Also, here is a brochure that describes the program's main components.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Development Studies Books

Below is a good list of must reads for students interested in development studies. The list was compiled by The Guardian which also has other resources for students interested in development:

• Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy
• Jagdish Bhagwati, In Defence of Globalisation
• Joseph Hanlon, Armando Barrientos, David Hulme, Just Give Money To the Poor: the Development Revolution from the Global South
• Adam Przeworski, Michael Alvarez, Jose Antonio Cheibub, Fernando Limongi, Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990
• Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom
• Joseph Stiglitz, Globalisation and Its Discontents

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bringing Nutrition to the Forefront of Agriculture

From the folks at the Infant & Young Child Nutrition (IYCN) Project and the Alliance to End Hunger, here is a great list of resources on  Bringing nutrition to the forefront of agriculture: A forum for agriculture project designers. Please click on the links below to view presentations and download resources from the event.  

Resources for agriculture project designers:

Grains and Leaves: Weekly Ag-Related News, Events, and Others

Agricultural and rural development news and other relevant information: week of September 26th

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gordon Conway on the Legacy of Chambers and a must have Practicioner Guide

One of my many class assignments of my masters program, is a paper on a rural development theme. I decided to take a closer look to the issue of integrated development and its many semantic variations one comes across when reviewing the literature. I'm particularly interested in researching how the integrated approach to development has evolved since the post-war era.

Some questions I want to answer are:  why was big push for integrated development of the 70s, promoted by the World Bank and others, put aside for a more sectoral approach? What has changed in terms of technology, knowledge, governance, and other micro and macro factors that merit a closer reexamination to this approach as perhaps the most viable when implementing development interventions today? Has the debate followed a similar path in the humanitarian field? I'll be blogging about these questions and others, as I try to link my academic assignments to this blog. 

In any case, I wanted to share with you two things that I came accross today while doing research for the paper:

1) The first one is a wonderful guide put together by the Women's Refugee Commission, on Building Livelihood. This guide is one of the best toolkits practicioners working on both humanitarian and development context can use to access applicable information on steps to follow when implementing livelihoods strategies. One of the chapters is on supporting agricultural interventions. It describes the different assessments and analysis one must carry out to ensure a successful implementation of the program.

2) The second link I wanted to share is a lecture professor Gordon Conway, an expert on agricultural ecology and professor at the Imperial College of London, gave on the work of Robert Chambers. Chambers, one of the most renowned development scholars and author of the seminal "Rural Development: Putting the First Last" was one of the leading voices on the importance of engaging farmers in a significant way - one in which their voice shapes the nature of the intervention. In the video below,  Conway discusses the legacy to Chamber's work and presents the current challenges the world faces in issues of food security.

"We have to keep remembering that there is a huge private sector in Africa and Asia; is called farmers...and they deal in the private sector, and they need incomes. It's not just sustainable existence, it's sustainable development we are after" Gordon Conway 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Somalia and the Need for Agricultural Investments

The crisis continues to unravel in the Horn of Africa. A recent  NY Times piece, argues that 750,000 people could perish in the famine, and there seems to little resources, commitment, and coordination in the international community to prevent the crisis from reaching catastrophic proportions. In an excellent commentary from Project Syndicate, Sam Dryden, the Director of the Agricultural Development Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, argues that investments in small holders farmers can prevent future famines from happening again (the caveat being situations of extreme weather fluctuations and violence). 

Meanwhile, at an African Ministerial conference on climate-smart agriculture, in Johannesburg, Andrew Steer, World Bank's special envoy for climate change, articulated the importance of increasing investments in agricultural and food security research.  According to Mr. Steer, the WB is increasing its support for agriculture, from $4-billion invested in 2010 and previous years, to $6-billion earmarked for 2011, and plans to increase Ag investments to $8-billion in 2012.  See a clip of his speech below:

This comes at a time when the members of the G20 recently incorporated agricultural research as a center piece of their agenda to ensure global food security. The meeting took place in Montpellier, France from September 12 to 14. 

Three years have passed since the World Bank published its World Development Report on "Agriculture for Development." Now, funds are starting to trickle down to projects in the field. If there is anything positive from the horrendous tragedy unfolding in Somalia, it is the opportunity for governments and policy makers around the world to accelerate agricultural projects, and put on center stage the vital role of food security interventions in preventing future crisis. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rice, That's What's for Dinner: Columbia University Hosts Bob Zeigler to Discuss Global Food trends and the Importance of Rice and Agricultural Research in Addressing World Hunger

On Friday September 9th 2011, SIPA and the Earth Institute kicked off the beginning of the semester with an enlightening presentation by Dr. Bob Zeigler, Director of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the world’s leading center for the study of rice. The presentation marked this fall’s first of a series of weekly Development Practitioner Seminars organized by SIPA’s MPA in Development Practice program. Speakers from around the world come to Columbia University to share their work with the campus community.

The timing for Dr. Zeigler’s presentation couldn’t be better. Recent figures from the FAO estimate that 925 million people in the world are undernourished. With 50% of the world’s population eating rice as their main staple, ensuring that there are enough cereal stocks for everyone is a global priority. The images of the food riots of 2008 and the long lines of people waiting for food aid remind us that the world needs more food and better and more comprehensive development strategies.

But the challenges to feed a famished world are multiple and complex. According to Dr. Zeigler, the shrinking number of workers for the labor-intensive cultivation of rice, combined with declining water levels for a crop that needs swampy conditions to thrive, is making it difficult to keep production of this precious staple above global demand. Moreover, as Asian cities and industries continue to expand, land availability for rice fields is becoming scarcer.

As we enjoy our sushi and arroz con leche, it’s important to reflect on the progress made over the past 4 decades. IRRI is credited for saving the lives of millions of people in the 60s and 70s during the Asian Green Revolution. Due to the development of improved rice varieties and advances in fertilizers, irrigation, and pest control methods, Asian countries were able to nearly triple rice yields from 1.5 tons per hectare to 4 tons. The abundance of rice lowered consumer prices significantly, laying one of the foundations for robust economic growth in what later became known as the Asian Miracle. The impact was also felt in Latin America but to a lesser extent in Africa.

Today’s challenges are different from those in the 60’s. However, Dr. Zeigler stated that technology and innovation continue to play an important role. Under his leadership, the center is developing vanguard research with promising results. One example is golden rice, a variety of the staple that contains beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A. With millions of children suffering from micro-nutrient deficiencies, golden rice holds enormous potential to bring Vitamin A into their diets. The center is also working hard to develop other creative solutions.  Such innovations include the cultivation of rice varieties that can be grown in Africa, the utilization of mobile technology to support poor farmers, and a reduction in the amount of water required for rice cultivation, among many other projects. One of the most exciting projects is the development of rice varieties that can withstand extended submergence, an increasing hazard in the river deltas of Asia, made worse by global warming.

After decades of neglect, funding for agricultural research is starting to come back to the donors’ agenda. Today, there is a strong scientific consensus about the central role that agricultural research must play in addressing issues of global food insecurity. But that scientific consensus must advance to a public policy debate. This seminar was an excellent platform to inspire the next generation of policy makers and development practitioners, and ensure that the legacy of Dr. Zeigler, the IRRI, and the many other organizations working on reducing poverty and hunger throughout the world, endures until every child gets a plate of rice and vegetables for every meal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Food Prices and What to do About it

Indigenous Corn: Guatemala 2006. R. Merchan
The World Bank's Food Price Watch continues to show that global food prices remain significantly higher than last year -about 25% for all commodities and 36% for grains-. There are many factors that can explain these increases, some are fundamental changes in global demand and others are the result of panic-motivated international markets and short-term domestic trade policies that make everyone else worse off.

However, there are two underlying factors that help us explain the higher demand for food commodities: a) societies are getting richer -and likely to consume more protein-based diets which demand more grains for fed- and b) grains and other commodities are being transformed into fuels, decreasing the amount of food available in the world market.

So what to do as the number of hungry people continues to grow to more than a billion? Essentially there are two ways of addressing the issue and both boiled down to increasing the availability of grains, cereals, and roots. The first one is by intensifying the use of land already in agriculture. This means means incorporating irrigation, fertilizers, hybrid and GMOs seeds, mechanization, and other modern practices that essentially result in increased yields.

The second way to tackle the increasing price of foods is to extend the area of agricultural land. A recent World Bank publication concluded that there are close to half a million hectares of land suitable for agricultural expansion all over the world. Most of these lands, about 200,000 ha, are located in Sub-Saharan Africa where large swaps of depleted lands have been abandoned, but could easily be brought back to production with the right mixture of fertilizer use and irrigation. Another area to take into account in its potential for agricultural increase is the Matto Grosso in Brazil. Although these soils are poor and mainly use for cattle, they have tremendous potential for large soy-bean crops. Environmentally, however, this could threaten the amazon by pushing further into the forest clearings for cattle.

The road, however, to increasing agricultural productivity is filled with blocks. In a recent  article, NY Times, commentator Ninia V. Fedoroff, a professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, argues that the Obama administration and the EPA's 'regulatory burden [is] slowing down the development of genetically modified crops.'

Another interesting point made recently by at The Guardian in light of the G20 meeting in Montpellier, France, on agricultural research and development is the lack of consensus among donor countries regarding the best way to increase agricultural production:
With an alphabet soup of organisations involved in agricultural research at national and international level, developing a coherent approach, setting out priorities and fulfilling objectives is problematic.
Regardless of which strategy is followed, it's clear that both donor and host countries must truly commit to devoting the needed funds to the agriculture sector. Yet, given that the commitments made at L'Aquila by the G20 continue to be largely unfulfilled, the prospects of food prices coming down due to increase in food availability are very dim.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Farming for Women Victims of Rape in DR Congo

Check this short documentary produced by Al Jazeera Engligh about women victims of rape in DR Congo and how through agriculture they can get back in their feet.
Field of Hope - Witness - Al Jazeera English

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Article: The New Geopolitics of Food

Check out Lester's Brown article on the Foreign Policy: The New Geopolitics of Food - By Lester R. Brown | Foreign Policy

Gates Foundation Challenge: Small Farmers are the Answer

Today, Bill Gates announced a challenge: let’s help the world understand how helping small farmers in the developing world grow more and sell more is the solution to reducing hunger and poverty. 

Join the challenge! Use your creativity and imagination to help the world understand why investing in small farmers in the developing world is so important.

There are four ways to participate:
1.       Join the challenge – build a game; create an infographic, poster or video; share photos; or write a tweet.  If it rises to the top, Bill may blog or tweet about it!
2.       Blog about the challenge – repost Bill’s blog or write your own. Sample text is below.
3.       Tweet or retweet about the challenge.  Here are some ideas:
·         Share your ideas about how small farmers reduce #poverty and #hunger worldwide:
·         Bill Gates issues “Small Farmers Are the Answer” challenge: #hunger #poverty
·         Use your creativity to show that small farmers are the solution to reducing #hunger and #poverty:
4.       Email – just forward this to your contacts to spread the word.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

New Resources for Agriculture Project Designers

USAID's Infant and Young Child Nutrition Project recently launched a set of resources to help agriculture project designers maximize nutritional benefits for women, children, and other vulnerable groups. IYCN’s Tom Schaetzel shared the new materials at the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health Conference in New Delhi, India, February 10–12, 2011.

View the new materials:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Excellent Special Report on Feeding the World

 A must read from The Economist: The 9 billion-people question
There are plenty of reasons to worry about food: uncertain politics, volatile prices, hunger amid plenty. Yet when all is said and done, the world is at the start of a new agricultural revolution that could, for the first time ever, feed all mankind adequately. The genomes of most major crops have been sequenced and the benefits of that are starting to appear. Countries from Brazil to Vietnam have shown that, given the right technology, sensible policies and a bit of luck, they can transform themselves from basket cases to bread baskets. That, surely, is cause for optimism.

Also, do you know what this is? I tried it at Guatemala's City Central Market but I can't remember its name:

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

McGovern Remarks on Food Security

Below are some powerful remarks from Congressman Jim McGovern (a key player in the establishment USDA Food for Education program) who talk the floor to talk about the importance of mataining our commitments to international food security and agricultural development. Also, check out the recent NYTimes editorial on the food crisis, making a similar argument for investments in international ag.

M. Speaker.  At the end of January, the United Nations reported that the cost of basic food commodities – basic grains, vegetable oils, sugar – were at their highest levels since the UN created this index in 1990.

Two weeks ago, World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced that the Bank’s Food Price Index shows food prices are now 29% higher than they were a year ago.

Zoellick warned the G-20 to “put food first” when they next meet.   The World Bank estimates that these recent food price spikes have pushed about 44 million people into extreme poverty.  That’s under a dollar and twenty-five cents a day.

This is a global security crisis.

The lack of food security contributes to political instability – food was a primary reason people first took to the streets in Tunisia.  Food and poverty were right at the top of the list in the squares of Egypt, right next to the call for political freedom.

In 2007 to 2008, the last global food crisis, there were major food riots in nearly 40 countries.

In May 2008, my fellow Co-Chair of the House Hunger Caucus Congresswoman Emerson and I were briefed by the GAO about the lack of coordination and continuity in U.S. food and development programs.  We started calling for a comprehensive approach to address global hunger and food insecurity.

Under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and USAID Administrator Raj Shah, the U.S. government responded to that call – and over a two-year period of time initiated a comprehensive, government-wide approach to reduce global hunger and increase nutrition and food security.  Not because it feels good.  Not even because it’s the right and moral thing to do.  But because it’s in our national security and economic interests to make countries food secure, more productive, healthier and more stable.

This strategy is known as the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative.   It includes our bilateral programs and efforts with other governments and multilateral institutions.  To be successful, everyone has to pitch in.

Feed the Future is the signature program of the U.S. strategy.  It works with small farmers and governments to increase agricultural production and strengthen local and regional markets in order to reduce hunger and grow economies.

Other key elements include the McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program that brings kids to school and keeps them there by making sure they get at least one nutritious meal each day at school.  This program has proven to be especially effective at convincing families to send their daughters to school.

And finally, there is our Food for Peace Program, which provides food to millions of women, children and men caught in life-threatening situations brought on by natural disasters, war and internal conflict.  This program provides U.S.-grown commodities and locally purchased foods that literally keep people trying to survive the world’s most dangerous situations alive.

M. Speaker, I have never heard anyone say that they would like to see more hunger in the world – that they would like to see children too weak from hunger to be able to learn, or young girls forced to work long hours because they are no longer being fed at school.

But that’s what the budget cuts that passed the House one week ago would do.  The House cut $800 million out of the food aid budget and over 40 percent from Development Assistance, which is where Feed the Future is funded.

If these short-sighted and callous cuts are allowed to stand, we would literally be taking the food out of the mouths of over 2 million children.  We would be depriving over 18 million people the food that keeps them alive – in Haiti, Darfur, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Kenya and elsewhere.

We would be turning our backs on countries where we made commitments to help boost the production of their own small farmers so that they could finally free themselves of having to depend on U.S. and international food aid to feed their own people.

Enough, M. Speaker!  Enough!  This isn’t a question of charity.  It’s an issue of national security – of what happens when desperate people can’t find or afford food, and the anger that comes from people who see no future for their children except poverty and death.

I ask President Obama to stand up for his programs and fight for them.

I ask the White House to hold a Summit on hunger, nutrition and food security – both here in the U.S. and globally.

I ask the media to wake up and grasp the consequences of these short-sighted cuts.

I call upon my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to fund these programs so that they can be successful.  It really is a matter of life and death.