FAO in North America

Bull’s-eye target on hunger and poverty

Submitted by Teresa Buerkle on November 27, 2012

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.”

Read more>>

Health, wealth and…agriculture?

Submitted by Rachel Friedman on August 7, 2012

When it comes to health, modern society faces a dichotomy: on the one hand, nearly one billion people still suffer from hunger and malnutrition, while on the other hand the Western diet, lifestyle and environment are driving a surge in obesity and diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and cancers.

But according to a special feature in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these health concerns cannot be addressed in a vacuum by the health system alone. The eleven articles of the July 31 edition provide perspectives, research and case studies that bring together the paths of health, economy and agriculture. The focus is on integrating smallholder farmers into national and global food systems, value chains and markets, and health systems.

Introducing the theme and the rest of the articles in the issue, Laurette Dube, Praghu Pingali and Patrick Webb call for a broader “solution-oriented” approach to science, policies and on-the-ground actions, cutting across disciplines. This includes making use of the private sector to reduce hunger and poverty, while also curbing the spread of noncommunicable chronic diseases. The authors argue for a development paradigm that fosters common interests among multiple sectors to strengthen urban-rural links and support innovation, policies and institutions that promote healthy lifestyles and environments.

Read the introductory article online.

‘Survival strategy’ from hell

Submitted by Teresa Buerkle on July 10, 2012

As millions of people across the Sahel region of West Africa struggle with a food crisis brought on by drought, high food prices, displacement and chronic poverty, The Washington Post reports on a devastating side effect of the crisis in Niger – a potential increase in what is already the world’s highest rate of child marriage, as parents marry off their daughters for the dowries such arrangements bring.

UNICEF child protection expert Djanabou Mahonde says:

“The fear is, if the food crisis continues, that more parents will use marriage as a survival strategy and that we’ll see more girls married before the age of 15.”

Hunger jeopardizes African growth, new report says

Submitted by Teresa Buerkle on May 15, 2012

Photo credit: FAO/Alessandro BenedettiSub-Saharan Africa cannot sustain its present economic growth unless it eliminates the hunger that affects nearly a quarter of its people, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) argues in the newly released Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future.

Launching the report today, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said:

“Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition. Inclusive growth and people-centred approaches to food security are needed.”

Read more>>

Monitoring global trends towards development goals

Submitted by Rachel Friedman on May 9, 2012

A report released by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund last month suggests that good progress has been made on reaching some of the Millennium Development Goals, such as reducing extreme poverty, while progress on other targets, such as those related to child and maternal mortality, has been much slower.

Global Monitoring Report 2012: Food Prices, Nutrition, and the Millennium Development Goals places particular emphasis on high food prices as a significant contributor to continued poverty and undernourishment.

Read the blog post and press release on the report.

To eat meat, or not to eat meat

Submitted by Rachel Friedman on April 26, 2012

That is the question raised by a number of recent articles exploring meat in the human diet from an evolutionary, ethical, environmental and culinary perspective. According to a recent FAO report, by 2050 an expanded world population will be consuming two-thirds more animal protein than it does today.

NPR’s food blog, The Salt, takes a look back at our meat-eating origins. The article explores the evolutionary advantages (and some disadvantages) of generalist omnivores, consuming a varied diet without the risks inherent in specialization. And although a recent study cited in the article also notes that it takes longer for omnivores to diversify into new species, another study demonstrates the link between diet, nutrition and human development in our evolutionary past.

The New York Times Well blog posted an article on The Challenge of Going Vegan, which focused primarily on the barriers in terms of social norms, cultural traditions and taste preferences that those choosing to avoid animal products face.

Taking on the ethics of an omnivorous diet, the New York Times Magazine published a collection of essays titled Put Your Ethics Where Your Mouth Is. Thousands of readers took up the challenge of addressing this issue. From this pool, a panel of prominent writers who have themselves considered the ethics of meat eating, narrowed down the essays to six contributors, including two farmers with experience in mixed crop-livestock systems.

Finally, Mark Bittman published a New York Times Opinionator piece on famed food writer Colin Spencer. Although not a vegetarian, Spencer has been vocal on the topic of better practices for animal agriculture.

One fish, two fish, big fish, small fish

Submitted by Rachel Friedman on April 2, 2012

Photo: © FAO/Olivier Asselin

Small fish populations are being depleted too quickly, according to a new report issued by the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force. Forage fish, as they are known, serve as the basis for diets of top marine predators such as large fish, marine mammals, and seabirds. Fish like sardines and anchovies also contribute to human diets. A New York Times article notes how the overfishing and depletion of forage fisheries could undermine the commercial viability of many larger, valuable species. The Task Force offers recommendations for ecosystem-based standards for sustainable fishery management.

Read the Summary of Scientific Analysis online.

Storing agrobiodiversity

Submitted by Rachel Friedman on March 20, 2012

Just as backing up the contents of a computer on an external hard drive is a way to ensure important data and files are not lost, so too is creating a back-up of the world’s crop genetic diversity an important way to manage the risk of losing important seed varieties. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault serves that role, housing the resources from 1,750 seed banks from around the globe.

A recent article in The Economist explores the role the vault has played in preserving seed diversity, noting that approximately two-thirds of the world’s stored crop genetic resources are maintained in the Nordic facility. Moreover, a new effort may soon be under way to collect seeds of crop wild ancestors. The article discusses the significance such a comprehensive gene bank may have in terms of dealing with future crop diseases and pests. But at the same time, the authors recognize that preserving genetic diversity in the field, through proper land management and the use of multiple crop varieties, is an critical step to reducing long-term risks.

National Geographic profiled the so-called “doomsday vault” and other efforts to preserve seed diversity in an article last year. Read more>>

Benefits of bamboo

Submitted by Teresa Buerkle on March 15, 2012

It’s not just for pandas – and may provide a solution to the problem of deforestation and soil degradation in Africa, according to The New York Times’s Tina Rosenberg.

“Under the right conditions, [bamboo] can grow a full meter a day — you can literally watch it grow….

“Its roots grab onto soil and hold it fast.  Plant bamboo on a steep slope or riverbank and it prevents mudslides and erosion. And bamboo is parsimonious with Africa’s most precious resource:  water.”

Read more>>

Landscapes for people, food and nature

Submitted by Rachel Friedman on February 3, 2012

On Monday, the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative launched a new blog to highlight efforts to support integrated agricultural landscapes. As one of the nine co-organizing agencies, FAO will be contributing to various components of the initiative, including the new blog. Intended to serve as a forum for discussion and to showcase the work of the initiative partners and other practitioners of landscape approaches, the blog is organized around three themes: Landscape of the Week, Exploring the Evidence, and Voices from the Field. With a variety of authors from community organizations and NGOs to research institutions and development agencies, there should be  a variety of perspectives.

Check out today’s blog post by Ann Tutwiler, FAO’s Deputy Director-General for Knowledge, to read about FAO’s work related to integrated landscape approaches.

Readers with experience in integrated agricultural landscapes and related areas are invited to share their perspectives with the blog community.

Subscribe via RSS