Farmer Martin Lumala (center) explaining a point to the press. Photo: Daniel Ajaku, ICRISAT
DROUGHT-TOLERANT CROPS TO THE RESCUE IN KENYA
Replacing maize with drought-tolerant crops such as sorghum, millets, pigeonpea, cowpea and green gram is helping farmers overcome the failure of rains and its damaging impact on maize in Busia county in western Kenya.
Lately maize had taken over traditional crops like sorghum and millets in Busia county. With the failure of rains in the March-July and August-December rainy seasons in 2016, farmers who planted maize have been most affected.
To promote drought-tolerant crops like millets and sorghum, farmers have been trained on good agricultural practices, post-harvest handling and value addition, and have been provided with quality seed of improved varieties. Capacity building of farmers and agricultural extension workers to promote production and utilization of sorghum, finger millet and groundnuts has resulted in 62.7 tons of quality seed of the three crops being accessed by farmers in three counties in western Kenya during the 2016/17 short rainy season.
This was possible due to a collaboration between the Busia county government, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and ICRISAT. This work has been going on over the past three seasons in eight counties in Kenya.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva last week visited some of the worst affected areas in Chad and northeastern Nigeria.
Lake Chad Basin: a crisis rooted in hunger, poverty and lack of rural development
The crisis afflicting the strife-torn Lake Chad Basin is rooted in decades of neglect, lack of rural development and the impact of climate change, and the only way to ensure a lasting solution is to address these including through investments in sustainable agriculture, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, said today.
“This is not only a humanitarian crisis, but it is also an ecological one,” Graziano da Silva said at a media briefing in Rome on his visit last week to some of the worst affected areas in Chad and northeastern Nigeria.
“This conflict cannot be solved only with arms. This is a war against hunger and poverty in the rural areas of the Lake Chad Basin,” the FAO Director-General stressed.
“Peace is a prerequisite” to resolve the crisis in the region, but this is not enough, the FAO Director-General said. “Agriculture including livestock and fisheries can no longer be an afterthought. It is what produces food and what sustains the livelihoods of about 90 percent of the region’s population.”
Some 7 million people risk suffering from severe hunger in the Lake Chad Basin, which incorporates parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and northeastern Nigeria. In the latter, some 50,000 people are facing famine.
While fighting and violence have caused much of the suffering, the impact of environmental degradation and climate change including repeated droughts, are exacerbating the situation, the FAO Director-General said.
He noted how, since 1963, Lake Chad has lost some 90 percent of its water mass with devastating consequences on the food security and livelihoods of people depending on fishing and irrigation-based agricultural activities. And while Lake Chad has been shrinking, the population has been growing, including millions of displaced people from the worst conflict areas.
Food assistance and production support urgently needed
FAO together with its partners including other UN agencies is calling on the international community for urgent support – a combination of immediate food assistance and food production support is the only way to make dent in the scale of hunger in the region.
Graziano da Silva reiterated the call he made last week during his visit to Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria: if farmers miss the coming May/June planting season, they will see no substantial harvests until 2018. Failure to restore food production now will lead to the worsening of widespread and severe hunger and prolonged dependency on external assistance further into the future.
Land degradation costs Africa about US$ 65 billion annually
The UNCCD has launched a campaign to fight land degradation and create jobs
An expert calls for African governments to reward those who conserve land
This year’s UN World Day to Combat Desertification will be celebrated on 17 June and the UN has launched a programme to combat land degradation to help create jobs and boost food security.
Africa has some of the most degraded lands in the world, and is only second to Asia in land degradation globally, experts say.
“Our land. Our home. Our Future,” is the slogan of this year’s UN World Day to Combat Desertification, according to a statement from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) released last month (9 February).
Monique Barbut, UN top advisor on combatting desertification and drought, says land is a timeless tool for creating wealth, but explains that there is no silver bullet to fixing land degradation everywhere.
“Investment in restoration of degraded lands is critical in enhancing household food and income security.”
Oliver Wasonga, University of Nairobi
“The solution depends a lot on a diagnosis of the local soil and climatic conditions, which can vary a lot even within short distances,” Barbut tells SciDev.Net.
Barbut notes in the statement: “This year, let us engage in a campaign to re-invest in rural lands and unleash their massive job-creating potential, from Burkina Faso, which will host the global observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification, Chile and China, to Italy, Mexico, St Lucia and Ukraine.”
Women milking goats on the outskirts of the village of Qardho, Somalia. Photo: FAO/Karel Prinsloo
UN approves $22 million loan to boost agricultural work to prevent famine in Somalia
The United Nations agricultural agency will be further scaling up its activities in drought-hit regions of Somalia thanks to a $22 million loan approved this week by the UN emergency response fund.
“More than 2.9 million people are at risk of famine and many will predictably die from hunger if we do not act now,” said the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, in a news release.
As under-secretary-general, Mr. O’Brien heads the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which manages the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
“CERF is one of the fastest ways to enable urgent response to people most in need,” he said, explaining that the loan will bridge a crucial gap and allow FAO to immediately save lives and livelihoods of farmers and herders until additional funds from donors are received.
Shown here in this 2016 photo from Siyephi Village, Bullilima District in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe, a 17-year-old girl is seen at the drying up dam where she and her family fetch water. Photo: UNICEF/Mukwazhi
‘Nothing can grow without water,’ warns UNICEF, as 600 million children could face extreme shortages
Warning that as many as 600 million children – one in four worldwide – will be living in areas with extremely scare water by 2040, the United Nations children’s agency has called on governments to take immediate measures to curb the impact on the lives of children.
“This crisis will only grow unless we take collective action now,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a news release announcing the report, launched on World Water Day.
“But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water – endangering their lives, undermining their health, and jeopardizing their futures,” he added.
According to the UN agency, 36 countries around the world are already facing extremely high levels of water stress.
Warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice affect the quality and availability of water as well as sanitation systems. These combined with increasing populations, higher demand of water primarily due to industrialization and urbanization are draining water resources worldwide. On top of these, conflicts in many parts of the world are also threatening access to safe water.
If scientists, farmers and policy makers could consistently work together, Africa will achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production in the very near future.
That was one of the central themes at a meeting convened in Nigeria recently to discuss wheat matters, including presentations of various studies.
From the participants at the 4-day international wheat conference of the Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) Project held in Abuja, Nigeria, 27 February to 2 March, it was quite clear to me that wheat is becoming a major staple on the continent.
It is an important source for vitamins and minerals as well as carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, vitamin B, folic acid, antioxidants and phytochemicals. These nutrients can help prevent many of the chronic diseases plaguing Africa, where the disease burden is great and overstretching the health infrastructures.
Growing the crop, I gathered from the meeting, has faced various challenges but in recent years, scientists working on the project including those at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture have been able to breed wheat varieties that are adaptable various African agroecological conditions, early maturing, pest and disease resistant as well as heat tolerant and thus ensuring farmers produced about five tons per hectare against 1.2 tons previously.
Organic is only one ingredient in recipe for sustainable food future
Many shades of gray: The context-dependent performance of organic agriculture
March 10, 2017
University of British Columbia
Many people choose organic thinking it’s better for humans and the planet, but a new study finds that might not always be the case.
“Organic is often proposed a holy grail solution to current environmental and food scarcity problems, but we found that the costs and benefits will vary heavily depending on the context,” said Verena Seufert, a researcher at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES).
In their study, Seufert and her co-author Navin Ramankutty, Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change and Food Security at UBC, analyzed organic crop farming across 17 criteria such as yield, impact on climate change, farmer livelihood and consumer health.
It is the first study to systematically review the scientific literature on the environmental and socioeconomic performance of organic farming, not only assessing where previous studies agree and disagree, but also identifying the conditions leading to good or bad performance of organic agriculture. [Explore their findings in-depth in the image]
A schoolgarden, one of the best solutions to improve the school meals
FAO joins celebrations for International School Meals Day
International School Meals Day, celebrated around the world today, is a timely reminder of the need to promote healthy eating habits for all children through sustainable policies, including sourcing food from family farmers.
Every day around 370 million children around the world are fed at school through school meals programmes that are run in varying degrees by national governments.
Each programme is different: beans and rice in Madagascar, spicy lentils in the Philippines, vegetable pastries and fruit in Jordan. In some countries it may be a healthy snack, or it could include take-home food such as vitamin A-enriched oil for the whole family.
School meals have proved successful in providing educational and health benefits to the most vulnerable children. School meals boost school attendance, and a full stomach can help students concentrate on their lessons.
Communities, particularly in rural areas, also benefit when family farmers and small and medium enterprises are the main source of healthy food for the schools.
International School Meals Day marks these achievements and helps raise greater awareness of the value of school meals globally.
A generation of well-nourished children
FAO believes that consistent global investments in school meals will lead to a generation of children who develop healthy eating habits and who benefit from a diverse diet. Ultimately this effort will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger.
UN agriculture agency warns of water scarcity in North Africa and Near East
Accessible fresh water in North Africa and the Middle East has fallen by two-thirds over the past 40 years, posing a huge challenge requiring “an urgent and massive response,” the head of the United Nations agriculture agency said today.
Access to water is a fundamental need for food security, human health and agriculture, and sustainable water use for agriculture requires transforming food systems and diets, said Jose Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a news release on his visit to Egypt.
Per capita availability of fresh water in the region is now 10 times less than the world average, he said, underscoring the need for a significant overhaul of farming systems.
A recent FAO study showed that higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 per cent to 55 per cent less by the end of this century.
The rising sea level in the Nile Delta is exposing Egypt to the danger of losing substantial parts of the most productive agriculture land due to salinization.
Empowering rural women is a crucial ingredient in the fight against hunger, poverty and malnutrition. Women farmers walking through a field in Kaga-Bandoro, Central African Republic.
UN agencies in Rome step up on gender equality to end hunger and poverty
Empowerment of rural women is fundamental for achieving 2030 Agenda
FAO/IFAD/WFP Joint News Release
8 March 2017, Rome – Leaders from the three UN Rome-based agencies today marked International Women’s Day by reinforcing their commitments to step up efforts to invest in the capacities of rural women as key agents of change in building a world without hunger.
“Women play a critical role in agriculture and food systems – not just as farmers, but also as food producers, traders and managers,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva on the occasion of the Day. “However, women still face major constraints in rural labour markets and in agricultural value chains. They are more likely to be in poorly paid jobs, without legal or social protection. This limits women’s capacity to advance their skills, earn incomes and access employment opportunities.”
Graziano da Silva noted that the future of global food security depends on unleashing women’s potential. “Achieving gender equality and empowering women are crucial ingredients in the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition which is strongly recognized by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said.
Figure 3.1: Portulacaria afra Jacq. (spekboom) tree. Notice the skirt of rooted branches
Spekboom multiplication for combating desertification
by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM
Ghent University (Belgium)
One of the most interesting African plant species used to combat desertification, limiting soil erosion, producing a dense vegetation cover and a remarkable number of small, edible leaves (fodder, but also vitamin-rich food for humans), is the Spekboom or Elephant’s Bush (Portulacaria afra).
This plant species is swiftly covering dry, eroding soils and should be recommended to all global projects for alleviation of drought, combat of land degradation and halting of wind erosion.
My good friend Johan VAN DE VEN of Bamboo Sur was so kind to offer me some rooted cuttings. These are growing very well in pots and PET-bottles in my garden in Belgium.
In order to study different ways of multiplication of this Spekboom (with succulent branches and leaves), I started taking off small lateral shoots (cuttings) and planted them in some potting soil in a cake box. I also planted some of the succulent leaves (see my photos below).
Within the plastic cake box humidity is kept high (condensation of droplets on the cover). Therefore, I opened the cover from time to time to let some fresh air (oxygen) in.
Quite soon both the cuttings and the separate leaves started rooting. The cuttings swiftly developed some new leaves. A month later I transplanted them into small plastic bottles, twice perforated 2-3 cm above the bottom (for drainage, keeping a small quantity of water at the bottom for moistening the bottle’s content and the rootball).
Once fully rooted within the plastic bottle, I cut off the bottom of the bottle to set the lower part of the rootball free. Then I planted the young Spekboom in a plant pit without taking off the plastic bottle, sitting as a plastic cylinder around the rootball. That plastic cylinder continued to keep the rootball moistened (almost no evaporation) and it offered possibilities to water the sapling from time to time, whenever needed. Irrigation water runs through the plastic cylinder towards the bottom of the rootball, growing freely in the soil (irrigation water directed towards the roots growing into the soil at the bottom of the plant pit). Thus a high survival rate was guaranteed.
It is clear that multiplication of the Spekboom with rooting cuttings and leaves is very easy. It is another interesting aspect of this remarkable plant. I can only recommend a broader use of the Spekboom for reforestation, fodder production and even production of bonsais for enhancement of the annual income (export to developed countries).
Here are some photos of this experiment.
—————-Considering that people working at the Great Green Wall in Africa (or any other interested group on other continents) are looking for practical solutions to cover as soon as possible huge areas of a desertified region, one is tempted to believe that setting up nurseries to produce a sufficient number of plants should not be a problem (as these plants only need a minimum of water).
I keep dreaming of successes booked with this nice edible plant species in the combat of desertification. The day will come that the Elephant bush will be growing in all the drought-affected regions of the world. Animals will eat from it, but also malnourished children and hungry adults will find it an interesting supplement to their food.
Allotment gardens in Indonesia are successful initiatives for local communities (optimal survival gardens)
SURVIVAL GARDENS OR VICTORY GARDENS
By Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM
Ghent University, Belgium
In 2012 I read an article, published by Dean FOSDICK in The Seattle Times, entitled:
‘Survival gardens’ can help save cash
Patches deliver high yields from small spaces and produce wholesome foods that store well
I took note of the following important parts in this interesting article:
(1) Many cash-strapped families are turning to “survival gardens” to help dig out from the
(2) ‘They were called ‘victory gardens’ during the world wars because they helped ease
shortages, ‘…… ‘We call them ‘survival gardens’ now because they help families cut spending.’
(3) The term is part of a larger do-it-yourself trend toward growing more backyard veggies andeating locally grown food.
(4) Survival gardens are used mainly to raise the kind of produce that you can grow for less thanwhat you would pay at a grocery store – …………..
(5) People new to gardening can get help from county extension offices, churches and
community groups. Some offer training, others provide growing sites and a few distribute
supplies — all for little or no charge.
(6) Survival gardens can do more than put fresh, nutritious food on the table, ……….‘Families have told us they sell some of their overage (from the starter kits) to pay bills and get medicines,’ ……….
(7) …………sells ‘survival seed’ packets, and said their sales have more than doubled in the past year. Each package contains 16 easy-to-grow heirloom vegetables, from beets to pole beans, cabbage to sweet corn. They come triple-wrapped in watertight plastic, designed to increase storage life.
(8) ………… gardening with seed is one way to save on food dollars, particularly if it’s the right kind of seed.
The fact that more than 800 million people on this world are hungry or malnourished is generally attributed by the international media to the economic crisis (the food crisis), all those poor people supposed to be unable to afford the expensive food at the market. That’s probably why nowadays “Many cash-strapped families are turning to “survival gardens” to help dig out from the recession”.
During World Wars I and II, not the food prizes, but simply the lack of food caused huge hunger problems. All the war-affected countries reacted on these emergencies in exactly the same way: by offering the hungry population small spaces or allotments for gardening. Those allotment gardens or ‘victory gardens‘ helped ease the food shortages, people eating their locally grown food (my own grandparents in WW I and parents in WW II did).
Do you know that most of those allotment gardens still exist all over the world and that millions of people still avoid malnutrition and hunger, producing fresh vegetables
and fruits in their small ‘victory garden‘? A success story to be multiplied all over the world, don’t you think?
I appreciate very much the term ‘survival gardens‘ used in this Seattle Times’ article, as these small patches really help families to cut spending by producing food in a cheaper way than the one at the market or the grocery store.
The applicability of this ‘survival garden strategy’ at the global level is clearly shown (see
(5) People new to gardening can get help from county extension offices, churches and
community groups. Some offer training, others provide growing sites and a few distribute
supplies — all for little or no charge.
If county extension offices, churches and community groups can help these people, it should also be easy for international organizations and foundations to do this – all for little or no charge – for the 800 or more million hungry people, living mostly in the drought-affected, desertified countries. It’s undeniable that in extreme conditions of drought, people will find a lot of advantages in applying container gardening to reduce tha volume of irrigation water needed
Let us keep in mind that ‘Survival gardens can do more than put fresh, nutritious food on the table, …‘, but that families can also enhance their annual income by taking their ‘overage‘ of vegetables or fruits to the market, particularly in developing countries (see what happened in the refugee camps in the Sahara desert of S.W. Algeria after installing small family gardens by UNICEF in 2005-2007).
To offer a ‘survival or victory garden‘ to all the hungry families of this world, is such a noble task that no one can ever believe that aid organizations remain blind for the value of the positive experience of World Wars I and II, the extraordinary success of allotment gardens or ‘victory gardens‘ to alleviate hunger and child malnutrition in times of crisis.
May the light come for all the hungry adults and undernourished children ….!