The University of California, through its Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will convene some of the world’s leading experts April 9 at the Global Food Systems Forum to address how to sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025.
The daylong forum, which will bring together farmers, researchers, policymakers, economists, environmentalists and other experts, will feature two moderated panels and keynote addresses by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, and Wes Jackson, founder and president of The Land Institute.
Michael Specter, global issues writer for The New Yorker magazine, will moderate the first panel, which will focus on the geopolitical, ethical, economic, environmental and technical challenges facing food systems from a global perspective. Award-winning author and journalist Mark Arax will moderate the second panel, which will address the implications, responsibilities and innovative opportunities from a California perspective.
Women make up more than 40 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Improving equality in women’s access to agricultural inputs (such as seeds, tools, fertilisers), education and public services would contribute significantly to achieving food security and better nutrition for all.
The graphic below illustrates the gender gap in land rights in developing regions:
Quinoa, the Andean “superfood” known by the Incas as the “mother of all grains”, is getting a promotional boost from the United Nations, which has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.
The spotlight is overdue for this long-neglected crop, for centuries grown almost exclusively by indigenous communities in the Andean highlands but now being heralded by foodies and nutrition-conscious consumers around the world.
Why? Because quinoa packs a potent nutritional punch. In fact, it’s so rich in nutrients that NASA chose to include it in astronauts’ diets. Rich in protein and minerals, Quinoa is the only plant containing a complete range of amino acids. It’s also gluten free. What’s more, it is able to adapt to different ecological conditions and climates. Resistant to drought, poor soils and high salinity, it can be grown from sea level to an altitude of four thousand meters and can withstand extreme temperatures.
At the recent ceremony to kick off the International Year at UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized quinoa’s potential to contribute significantly to the “Zero Hunger Challenge” he launched in June 2012, while helping counter the effects of a warming planet.
New ally in hunger fight
FAO head José Graziano da Silva declared quinoa “a new ally in the fight against hunger and food insecurity” and noted that the crop was already showing potential in Kenya and Mali and could also be developed in other arid regions of the world.
The effort to promote quinoa is part of a broader FAO strategy to promote traditional or forgotten crops as a means to combat hunger and promote healthy eating.
“The International Year of Quinoa will serve not only to stimulate the development of the crop worldwide, but also as recognition that the challenges of the modern world can be confronted by calling on the accumulated knowledge of our ancestors and the small family farmers who currently are the major producers of the crop,” said Graziano da Silva.
FAO hopes that the yearlong series of cultural, artistic and academic activities, as well as scientific research, will contribute to the well-being of thousands of smallholder farmers and to consumers worldwide.
Gift of the Andes
Quinoa was of great nutritional importance to pre-Colombian Andean civilizations, second only to the potato. Traditionally, quinoa grains are roasted and then made into flour for bread. It can also be cooked, added to soups, used as a cereal, as pasta and even fermented into beer or chicha, the traditional drink of the Andes.
Quinoa production now extends beyond the Andean region and – besides Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Argentina – it is also produced in the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Kenya and India.
Simple actions by consumers and food retailers can dramatically cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year. Think.Eat.Save. – a new campaign launched today by FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme – aims to cut food waste worldwide and help shape a sustainable future.
Wasted food also means wasted energy, land, water and lost opportunities to improve lives. Learn more about ways to reduce your foodprint.
In Syria’s neighbouring countries, food vouchers help refugees keep hunger at bay. After decades of excessive logging and reduced water flow, Mount Kenya is becoming green again. And a new plant breeding technique helps farmers in the high Andes of Peru.
“The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.”
UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
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.”