In an interview in the Guardian, Luca Alinovi, the head of FAO’s operations in Somalia, talks about the coordinated resilience-building approach being implemented by the UN in the country.
“Somalis are entrepreneurial by nature and if they have enough support for some time, they can come out of their present situation. Stability comes from a willingness by people to share resources, but at the moment they have nothing to share.”
FAO’s new State of Food and Agriculture report, launched today, shows that farmers are by far the largest source of investment in agriculture, but their investments are often limited by unfavourable investment climates.
At the launch of the report in Rome, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva called for “a new investment strategy… that puts agricultural producers at its centre.”
“The challenge is to focus the investments in areas where they can make a difference. This is important to guarantee that investments will result in high economic and social returns and environmental sustainability.”
New data compiled for the report show that farmers in low- and middle-income countries invest more than $170 billion a year in their farms – about $150 per farmer. This is three times as much as all other sources of investment combined, four times more than contributions by the public sector, and more than 50 times more than official development assistance to these countries.
Investing in agriculture is clearly paying off, according to the report. Over the last 20 years, for example, the countries with the highest rates of on-farm investment have made the most progress in halving hunger, to meet the first Millennium Development Goal.
The regions where hunger and extreme poverty are most widespread – South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – have seen stagnant or declining rates of agricultural investment over three decades.
“Recent evidence shows signs of improvement, but eradicating hunger in these and other regions, and achieving this sustainably, will require substantial increases in the level of farm investment in agriculture and dramatic improvements in both the level and quality of government investment in the sector,” the report said.
Writing in today’s Guardian, Graziano da Silva said:
“To end hunger and malnutrition, feed the world’s growing population, and safeguard our food security and environment, we must invest more in agriculture. But we must also invest better.”
Contributors come from diverse backgrounds that include agricultural consulting, academia, farmers’ advocacy groups, and international organizations. The book begins with thematic chapters that examine the historic rise of large-scale land deals, as well as contributions focusing on their impacts. It then offers regional perspectives from practitioners on the ground in the parts of the world hosting the majority of the farmland investments—Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union.
Last week the Bread for the World Institute launched its annual Hunger Report. The report argues that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are within reach by 2015, and that achieving the hunger and poverty targets depends on investments in smallholder agriculture and social protection.
Calling the MDGs “the global community’s most holistic approach yet to human development”, the report looks ahead to the international development agenda beyond 2015, saying that the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty is possible within a generation:
“Whatever agreement emerges should have a bull’s-eye target of ending hunger and extreme poverty by 2040.”
The Greener Revolution
In a guest contribution to this year’s report, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva writes that the world will not end hunger if we do not shift towards more sustainable patterns of production and consumption.
“We cannot separate agriculture from the management and preservation of our natural resources, from food security and from sustainable development itself…. In agriculture, as soon as you pull on something, you find it is connected to everything else.”
Organized in partnership with SecureNutrition, the conference, which runs until Wednesday, 3 October 2012, is expected to provide inputs to prepare for upcoming nutrition and agriculture-related meetings.
If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?
Visit the FSN forum to weigh in on this and other questions related to supporting nutrition-sensitive agriculture programmes.
The Mexican fruit fly, Anastrepha ludens, is considered a significant quarantine pest that could cause billions of dollars in losses to citrus, peach, pears, avocado and other crops were it to move into the United States from Mexico.
But Mexico, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, has an aggressive programme in place to counter the threat posed by the pest and help maintain a “no-fly zone”.
Mexico uses the sterile insect technique, which involves sterilizing millions of male fruit flies with irradiation and releasing them en masse to mate with wild female flies. Such mating results in nonviable eggs that fail to hatch. Over time, repeated releases of sterile male flies cause the targeted pest population to collapse, diminishing or eliminating the need for insecticide spraying.
But the irradiation used to sterilize the flies weakens them, making it difficult for them to outcompete wild-type males for female mates.
Now, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service scientists and their collaborators have devised a hormone therapy for making sterile flies “more macho,” improving their chances of mating with female flies before their wild rivals do. Peter Teal, leader of the agency’s Chemistry Research Unit at Gainesville, Florida, developed the hormone treatment in conjunction with a team of scientists from Mexico, Argentina and Austria.
The team’s treatment uses a hormone analogue called methoprene to speed the rate at which sterile male flies reach sexual maturity while kept in specialized holding facilities. In studies, methoprene-treated flies were ready for release four days sooner than non-treated flies. And thanks to a dietary supplement of hydrolyzed protein, the sterile flies, once released, were also stronger and more successful at competing for mates.
FAO in cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has just published a new working paper titled Innovative agricultural finance and risk management. The publication looks into the issue of risk management in agricultural finance in transition countries. These countries – like Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia – have the potential to become major world grain exporters if their agricultural yields, with investment from the private sector, increase to reach the standards achieved in similar countries around the world. This would help address the problem of rising global food demand - which FAO estimates could grow 60-70 percent by 2050 as a result of population and income growth. But to attract private investment in agriculture, new financial and risk management instruments need to be developed.
The paper identifies effective ways for international finance institutions like the EBRD to adjust their investment portfolio in order to support the creation and development of agricultural finance and risk management products, mechanisms and institutions. These include pre- and post-harvest financing instruments, price risk management and the development of trading platforms. According to the report, these advances could help reinforce the entire agriculture supply chain so that it is more profitable and secure for all parties involved, and consequently food production could be substantially improved.
Brendan Rice, a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is currently working as an intern in FAO’s Washington office.
The Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development’s (AIARD) annual conference, held here from 3 to 6 June, focused on inclusive agriculture and rural development.
I attended the first day of the conference in order to better understand how smallholder farmers can be integrated into value chains. As a student profoundly moved by the issue of hunger, I see the importance of ensuring that smallholder farmers have the proper support to be able to participate in markets. The majority of hungry people live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for subsistence. If smallholder farmers had access to the proper tools and resources, such as inputs, financial services and better infrastructure, food production would increase and hunger would be greatly reduced.
Recently, the focus of development agencies has been on market-led approaches. Indeed, the attention given to the development of value chains does provide opportunities, but poor households risk being left out of the equation. Some development activities focus on poor smallholders, where market inclusion is a challenge, while other activities focus on value chain development, which often overlooks the needs of resource-poor smallholders. The conference I attended argued that these two approaches are not mutually exclusive.
The conference brought together important thinkers to grapple with the topics of inclusive agriculture, rural development, making markets work for all, and integrating public- and private-sector extension services.
Doyle Baker of FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division moderated the first two panels. He opened the conference with a discussion on how to realistically and sustainably enable inclusiveness in conjunction with a market-based approach. This development paradigm is effective only when a broad range of actors and initiatives are utilized, which explains the multi-faceted representation at the conference. For example, the Assistant Administrator of USAID spoke of how Feed the Future is working with value chain development and smallholders; the president of Heifer International touched on the importance of developing social capital; and other experts spoke on the importance and potential of extension services. These speakers and others highlighted the challenges in making markets work for all, and their presentations were followed by small group discussions related to how these challenges can be overcome.
The most inspiring portion of the conference was when AIARD’s Future Leaders – a select group of students chosen for their sincere interest in international agriculture and rural development issues – were introduced to the conference attendees.
As a student (admittedly younger than all of the Future Leaders), witnessing the energy and knowledge that these young people bring to the issues that confront our world was invigorating. Faced with the prospect of 9 billion people on the planet by 2050, natural resource constraints, and climate change, the abundant energy that these future leaders bring is not only motivational but absolutely essential for achieving a world where the scourge of hunger is no more.
Calling food security a moral, economic and security imperative, President Obama today announced a new G8 initiative that he called “a major new partnership to reduce hunger and lift tens of millions of people from poverty.” The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition brings together G8 and African governments and the private sector with the aim of reducing hunger and lifting 50 million people out of poverty by 2022 through greater agricultural investment.
The partnership builds on the commitment leaders made during the 2009 G8 meeting in L’Aquila to put the fight against hunger at the top of the development agenda – a fight that is about more than aid, the president said.
The President made the announcement at a Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on the eve of the G8 Summit at Camp David:
Fifty years ago Africa was an exporter of food. There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again.
President Obama said that 45 companies, “from major international corporations to African companies and cooperatives”, have pledged to invest more than $3 billion to kick-start the initiative.
The heads of FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme welcomed the initiative.
FAO Deputy Director-General Ann Tutwiler, in attendance at the symposium, said that the New Alliance provides an opportunity to build on successful and encouraging approaches that are already under way and can play a catalytic role.
“African farmers invest three times as much as governments and vastly more than development partners or foreign investors, yet their investments still remain constrained by lack of resources and unfavorable policy environments,” Tutwiler said. “Facilitation of private sector investment should benefit smallholder and family farmers, herders and fishers and in particular the needs of women and youth.”
Through its wide decentralized network and work with government ministries concerned with agriculture, forestry, fisheries and natural resources, FAO is well positioned to assist countries in prioritizing agriculture and getting their policy frameworks right, she said.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva hailed today’s endorsement by the Committee on World Food Security of voluntary guidelines to improve the way countries govern access rights to land, fisheries and forest resources as a “historic milestone not only for the way in which land tenure is managed, but also for international consensus-building”.
Agreement on the guidelines shows that effective, concrete co-operation on sensitive issues central to food security and economic development is possible, offering cause for optimism as we address other challenges on the path to a world free from hunger.
Next up on the global agenda: establishing principles for responsible agricultural investment.
Read Graziano da Silva’s post on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog. Participants in the process leading up to today’s announcement discuss the significance of the guidelines and the next steps in the video below: