Telecommunication tools have the potential to provide Internet access for millions of people and connect farmers with digital agriculture.
FAO Director-General addresses agriculture during G20 summit
Promoting sustainable agriculture requires a renewed focus on innovation and investment in research, technology and capacity development, FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva said at a meeting of agriculture ministers of the G20 in China.
“ICT helps in the monitoring of crop growth, utilization of new techniques, field management and harvests,” the FAO Director-General stressed, adding that it has also become an essential tool for improving people’s livelihoods and welfare while advancing social justice and ensure equal access to opportunities, particularly in rural areas.
Telecommunication tools have the potential to provide Internet access for millions of people and connect farmers with digital agriculture. This includes the use of mobile phones to report animal disease outbreaks, which is one area FAO has been supporting in recent years.
Among the innovative ways FAO is using ICT, Graziano da Silva highlighted a new partnership with Google, whose satellite data and processing power will usher in an unprecedented level of environmental literacy, especially on forestry and fisheries, he said.
The partnership is part of a larger digital strategy FAO is developing to integrate a wide range of technologies, ranging from satellite data to mobile phones and social platforms, with the agency’s work to support the most vulnerable with access to information and bottom-up learning.
In the future, desertification could displace up to 135 million people by 2045. Land degradation could also reduce global food production by up to 12% and push world food prices up by 30%. In Egypt, Ghana, Central African Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Paraguay, land degradation could cause an annual GDP loss of up to 7%.
Pressure on land resources is expected to increase as populations grow, socio-economic development happens and the climate changes. A growing population will demand more food, which means that unsuitable or especially biodiverse land will be claimed for farming and be more vulnerable to degradation. Increased fertilizer and pesticide use related to agriculture will increase nutrient loading in soils, causing eutrophication and declines in fertility over time. Climate change will also aggravate land degradation—especially in drylands, which occupy 40% of global land area, and are inhabited by some 2 billion people. Urban areas, which are located in the world’s highly fertile areas, could grow to account for more than 5% of global land by mid-century.
Unless we manage our land better, every person will rely on just .11 hectares of land for their food; down from .45 hectares in 1960.
So how do we manage land better?
It will all come down to what we do with our soil, which is the most significant natural capital for ensuring food, water, and energy security while adapting and building resilience to climate change and shocks. The soil’s nutrient cycling provides the largest contribution (51%) of the total value (USD33 trillion) of all ‘ecosystem services’ provided each year. But soil’s important function is often forgotten as the missing link in our pursuit of sustainable development.
We must invest in applicable solutions that are transformative, and can be scaled up. Climate-smart agriculture is an alternative approach to managing land sustainably whilst increasing agricultural productivity. It includes land management options that sequester carbon and enhance resilience to climate change. Proven climate-smart practices such as agroforestry, integrated soil fertility management, conservation agriculture, and improved irrigation can ensure that land is used optimally, restored and managed in a manner that maximizes ecological, economic and social benefits.
International agencies, governments, private companies, local authorities and communities spend hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure and water services. However, ten per cent of those investments, equating to in excess of $US75 billion, is lost to corruption each year. This is the finding of a new reportWater Integrity Global Outlook (WIGO), the first publication to focus solely on corruption within the water sector. It concludes that corruption must be reduced or eliminated to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ‘availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’ will be achievable.
“There’s recognition that to achieve the SDGs we need to work on developing democratic institutions and increasing accountability,” explains Floriane Clement, a researcher in institutional policy and analysis at IWMI who contributed to the report. “It’s really a question of governance. From the agriculture point of view, if you look at large-scale water irrigation systems, for example in Asia, there have been several studies on how corruption and unethical practices have affected the performance of these systems, especially when managed by bureaucracies.
Whereas corruption reports often portray bureaucrats as the villains, corruption practices might also be prevalent among farmer managers and water user groups especially when these groups are dominated by rural elites, not accountable to farmers.”
The report finds that no part of the financing system, public or private, is immune from corruption or integrity failures. Often, corruption can be ‘built in’ to projects from the outset. “My research in Indonesia illustrates how corruption rules are embedded in project management procedures, with projects highly dependent on donor funding,” explains Diana Suhardiman, Senior researcher and Sub-theme leader in Governance and Political Economy at IWMI. “It highlights the existence of systemic corruption and the importance of social relationships and organizational culture in shaping institutionalized corruption. When corruption rules are perceived as social norms embedded in the broader political structures, there is a need to shape a more politically and culturally grounded anti-corruption strategy.”
AND WHAT ABOUT THE GROWTH OF OPUNTIA IN AND AROUND THE REFUGEE CAMPS ? IT’S A SUCCESS STORY. IT’S COMMON SENSE !
One can eat the Opuntia cactus pads (see “nopales”), drink pad soup, eat the fruits (barbary figs), make jam, use it as fodder for the livestock, ground the seeds to produce an oil, produce cosmetics and medicine against blood pressure and cancer.
Look at the nice picture above. It could have been taken in any desert or desertification affected country. What do you need more to be convinced ? Well, maybe first read about Morocco’s initiative below !
Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)
Women farmers find cactus plants are a real money spinner
Cactus commerce boosts Morocco
By Sylvia Smith BBC News, Sbouya, Morocco
It is just after dawn in the hills above the Moroccan hamlet of Sbouya and a group of women are walking through the thousands of cactus plants dotted about on the hillside, picking ripe fruits whenever they spot the tell-tale red hue.
But these woman are not simply scraping a living out of the soil.
The cactus, previously eaten as a fruit or used for animal feed, is creating a minor economic miracle in the region thanks to new health and cosmetic products being extracted from the ubiquitous plant.
This prickly pocket of the semi-arid south of the country around the town of Sidi Ifni is known as Morocco’s cactus capital.
It is blessed with the right climate for the 45,000 hectares (111,000 acres) of land that is being used to produce prodigious numbers of succulent Barbary figs.
Every local family has its own plot and, with backing from the Ministry of Agriculture, the scheme to transform small scale production into a significant industry industry is under way.
Some 12m dirhams ($1.5m) have been pledged to build a state-of-the-art factory that will help local farmers process the ripe fruits.
The move is expected to help workers keep pace with the requirements of the French cosmetics industry which is using the cactus in increasing numbers of products.
Izana Marzouqi, a 55-year-old member of the Aknari cooperative, says people from the region grew up with the cactus and did not realise its true benefit.
“Demand for cactus products has grown and that it is because the plant is said to help with high blood pressure and cancer. The co-operative I belong to earns a lot of money selling oil from the seeds to make anti-ageing face cream.”
Women in Mozambique are carrying fuelwood that will be sold by the roadside to create additional income for the rural forest community.
Community-based forestry can be a driving force in boosting sustainability and people’s livelihoods
FAO calls on governments to take steps to unleash its full potential
Community-based forestry has shown itself to be a potent vehicle for promoting sustainable forest management, reducing poverty and generating jobs and income for rural communities, but unlocking its true potential will require greater support by governments through policy reforms and other measures.
Many community-based forestry regimes are showing great promise as engines for sustainable development but are still performing below their potential, a new FAO report released today at the start of Asia-Pacific Forestry Week says.
Under the approach, local communities partner with governments to play a lead role in making land-use decisions and managing the forestry resources they depend on for their livelihoods.
According to “Forty years of community based forestry: A review of extent and effectiveness”, almost one-third of the world’s forest area is now estimated to be under some form of community-based management.
Yet in many cases, while in practice policies may exist for the decentralization and devolution of rights and responsibilities to communities, the right conditions may not yet be in place for them to fully exercise their rights.
The report outlines a series of actions needed to make community-based forestry more effective, including providing communities with secure forest tenure, improving regulatory frameworks, and transferring appropriate and viable skills and technology.
Access to markets and knowledge of market mechanisms are also essential if communities and smallholders are to commercialize their forest products, which can significantly contribute to poverty reduction.
“Indigenous peoples, local communities and family smallholders stand ready to maintain and restore forests, respond to climate change, conserve biodiversity and sustain livelihoods on a vast scale”, said Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division. “What is missing in most cases is the political will to make it happen. Political leaders and policy makers should open the door to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of people to manage the forests on which the whole world depends for a better and sustainable future”.
Sharing best practices
The report also cites a number of successful examples of community-based forestry from around the world.
World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June
“Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.(See PRESS RELEASE below).
Willem Van Cotthem:We keep hoping that success stories and best practices will be applied at the global level. Priority should be given to methods and techniques providing daily fresh food to the hungry and malnourished. It cannot be denied that hunger and malnutrition are constantly undermining the performances of people. Application of existing success stories in local food production (kitchen gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, …) would positively influence the efforts to combat desertification (limiting erosion, stimulating reforestation, etc.). We keep hoping.
Reply: Willem Van Cotthem: Hello Friends at the UNCCD Secretariat: It will be my pleasure to select a series of success stories in the literature. However, I am convinced that the UNCCD secretariat has the necessary documentation to compile even a book on this subject (to the best of my knowledge the documents, e.g. presentations at COPs and meetings of CST and CRIC, have been there during my active period in the CST and in Bonn). Please consider a consultancy to achieve top class work that would serve all member countries, the CST and the CRIC. To be presented at the next World Day June 17th 2016.
UNCCD’s Monique Barbut Calls for Long‐Term Solutions Not Just Quick Fixes To Drought Bonn, Germany, 22/02/2016 –
“Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People. This is the slogan for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June. I am calling for solidarity from the international community with the people who are battling the ravages of drought and flood. Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The droughts and floods beating down on communities in many parts of the world are linked to the current El Niño, which is expected to affect up 60 million people by July. In some areas, including in North Eastern Brazil, Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia, the El Niño effects are coming on the back of years of severe and recurrent droughts. It is impossible for households that rely on the land for food and farm labor to recover, especially when the land is degraded.
What’s more, these conditions do not just devastate families and destabilize communities. When they are not attended to urgently, they can become a push factor for migration, and end with gross human rights abuses and long‐term security threats.
“We have seen this before – in Darfur following four decades of droughts and desertification and, more recently, in Syria, following the long drought of 2007‐2010. It is tragic to see a society breaking down when we can reduce the vulnerability of communities through simple and affordable acts such as restoring the degraded lands they live on, and helping countries to set up better systems for drought early warning and to prepare for and manage drought and floods,” Barbut said.
Ms Barbut made the remarks when announcing the plans for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification, which will take place on 17 June.
“I hope that World Day to Combat Desertification this year marks a turning point for every country. We need to show, through practical action and cooperation, how every country is tacking or supporting these challenges at the front‐end to preempt or minimize the potential impacts of the disasters, not just at the back‐end after the disasters happen,” she stated.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 17 June as the observance Day to raise public awareness about international efforts to combat desertification and the effects of drought.
Ms Barbut thanked the Government and People of China, for offering to host the global observance event, which will take place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
“China has vast experience in nursing degraded lands and man‐made deserts back to health. This knowledge can and should benefit initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall, the re‐ greening in southern Africa and the 20 X 20 Initiative in Latin America. We can create a better, more equal and climate change‐resilient world,” she noted.
“I also call on countries, the private sector, foundations and people of goodwill to support Africa when the countries meet later in the year to develop concrete plans and policies to pre‐ empt, monitor and manage droughts,” Ms Barbut stated.
The 2016 World Day campaign is also advancing the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September last year. The Goals include a target to achieve a land degradation‐neutral world by 2030. That is, a world where the land restored back to health equals to, or is more than, the amount degraded every year.
Back in 2007, I have read with interest the following text published in Development Gateway’sdgCommunities :
“Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa”
“This collection of essays by key experts in the field of international development looks at the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa. This year has seen an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest. The report of the Commission for Africa, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Our Common Interest, set out the themes that dominated the G8’s discussions at Gleneagles over the summer, while a mass movement, in the form of the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, affirmed that the political agenda was matched by a widespread public demand for action. Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies.”
Calestous Juma, ed. The Smith Institute, London, November 2005.
Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
ISBN: 1 902488 97 0
Document Length: 129 pp.
For more information about this publication please contact:
Contributor: John Daly – Published Date: February 7, 2007
Going for Growth in Action: Smith Institute Report’s Ideas Applied to Africa’s Mining Industry
“Science, Technology, and Globalization Project Director Calestous Juma has sparked a serious debate about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry in Dr. Chris Hinde’s “Comment” column which appears in Mining Magazine. Juma is the editor of Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa (.pdf), a collection of essays published by the Smith Institute, a British think tank. “Going for Growth” emphasizes building Africa’s capacity to solve its own problems.
Juma starts his essay with “Most African economies have historically been associated with natural resources and raw materials. There is growing recognition, however, that a transition into modern economies will involve considerable investment and use of new knowledge.”
He has since called for the mining industry to fund and lend expertise to a school of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy — and be located in the African country that makes the best case for hosting it. The school would have places for approximately 100 students per year and would serve as a model for similar centers of learning all over Africa. See “African Lessons” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (February 2006) for the complete interview.
A later issue of Mining Magazine continued the discussion, focusing on the need for the proposed schools to teach how both the international risk-capital markets operate and mining ventures are financed. African mining operators and investors must be trained on how and where to obtain capital. See “Money Matters” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (June 2006).
On June 22, 2006, Professor Calestous Juma resumed the discussion by addressing the Human Rights & Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C. The Roundtable is comprised of representatives of the extractive industry (oil & mining companies), human rights organizations, and development agencies. They meet regularly in invitation-only, confidential sessions to discuss issues of common cause and concern — specifically the promotion of the rule of law and open societies. Over the last few years the group has focused increasingly on community and economic development projects and issues surrounding community engagement.
This session, entitled “Bain or Blessing: Can the Extractive Industry Help Reinvent African Economies?”, focused on how resources can be utilized to “extract growth” for Africa, as well as other developing countries. Professor Juma discussed how the extractive industry, which is becoming dominant in many African economies, can be used as an engine of sustainable growth, breaking the widely held view that natural resource extraction is associated with corruption and environmental non sustainability. The Roundtable explored the direct links between community/development activities, including corporate partnerships with international donor agencies and the larger strategy of economic development. As companies invest to increase the local content of their work and managerial force, they are promoting (and could further promote) higher technologies in the fields of business, communications, engineering, and the environment.
MY VIEWS ON “GOING FOR GROWTH IN ACTION” (Willem Van Cotthem)
What an interesting text about “the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa”!. This is what we were looking for since long: “a problem solving approach development cooperation in Africa”, and all other developing regions of course, in particular when entering a period of “an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest” (Make Poverty History campaign).
It sounds like a dream-come-true when we read:
“Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies”.
Let us go a bit deeper into the “serious debate” about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry, sparked by Director Calestous Juma (see above) when he starts his essay with …
“Most African economies have historically been associated with natural resources and raw materials. There is growing recognition, however, that a transition into modern economies will involve considerable investment and use of new knowledge.”
We learn that Juma “has since called for the mining industry to fund and lend expertise to a school of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy — and be located in the African country that makes the best case for hosting it. The school would have places for approximately 100 students per year and would serve as a model for similar centers of learning all over Africa.
That is the turning point where I am not following anymore the heartbeat of the “serious debate”. Looking for “a problem solving approach development cooperation in Africa”, a continent where drought, desertification, hunger, poor public health and poverty are the main obstacles for a swift development, shall we now turn to funding and lending expertise to schools of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy?
I would rather think that transfer of Science, Technology and Innovation should first concentrate on funding and lending expertise in agriculture, horticulture and health sciences, used as drivers for sustainable economic growth and as “as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies” in those basic fields mentioned above.
I can never believe that it will be possible to educate good entrepreneurs in schools of excellence (100 students a year!), as long as the stomachs of those students will be empty or only partly filled. But maybe we are not speaking about the same students, members of the poor rural communities?
Let us not put the horses before the carriage of the rural population!
If we really want to focus “on community and economic development projects and issues surrounding community engagement”, it will be necessary to first solve the problems of the community’s primary needs, like food and health care, before spending mountains of financial resources on creating “top managers for the mining industry”.
Instead of discussing “…how the extractive industry, which is becoming dominant in many African economies, can be used as an engine of sustainable growth, breaking the widely held view that natural resource extraction is associated with corruption and environmental non sustainability”, it would be better to discuss possibilities to create first an engine for sustainable growth in agriculture and public health, where environmental sustainability can be the crux of the matter.
If it is really true that “… companies invest to increase the local content of their work and managerial force, they are promoting (and could further promote) higher technologies in the fields of business, communications, engineering, and the environment”, I would rather invite those companies to promote higher technologies in the fields of agricultural and environmental engineering, without thinking too much at “extracting or mining natural resources”, because that almost never happens with the clean objective to improve the daily life of the local people.
Funding shortfall threatens UN efforts to counter El Niño-exacerbated drought in southern Africa
With 14 million people facing hunger in southern Africa as the El Niño weather pattern, the worst in over three decades, exacerbates drought, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that it faces critical funding challenges in scaling up food and cash-based aid.
“The number of people without enough food could rise significantly over coming months as the region moves deeper into the so-called lean season, the period before the April harvest when food and cash stocks become increasingly depleted,” WFP said in a news release. “Particularly vulnerable are smallholder farmers who account for most agricultural production.”
The cyclical El Niño pattern of devastating droughts on some regions and catastrophic floods in others that can affect tens of millions of people around the globe, is already leading to even worse drought across southern Africa, affecting this year’s crops.
With little or no rain falling in many areas and the window for the planting of cereals closing fast or already closed in some countries, the outlook is alarming.
“Driving through southern Zambia, I saw fields of crops severely stressed from lack of water and met farmers who are struggling to cope with a second season of erratic rains,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said at the end of a visit to drought-prone southern Zambia.
“Zambia is one of the biggest breadbaskets in the region and what’s happening there gives serious cause for concern not only for Zambia itself but all countries in the region.”
Worst affected by last year’s poor rains are Malawi with 2.8 million people facing hunger, Madagascar with nearly 1.9 million, and Zimbabwe with 1.5 million and last year’s harvest reduced by half compared to the previous year due to massive crop failure.
In Lesotho, the Government has declared a drought emergency and some 650,000 people, a third of the population, do not have enough food. As elsewhere, water is in extremely short supply for both crops and livestock. Also causing concern are Angola, Mozambique and Swaziland.
The World Bank says 75 per cent of the poorest nations are in Sub-Saharan Africa
The17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) could transform the continent
But this can happen mainly through embracing and financing the SDGs
Embracing and financing the sustainable development goals could help Africa develop, writes Alberto Leny.
Africa is in the limelight as the world ushers in the post-2015 development agenda.
The World Bank statistics indicate that 75 per cent of the world’s poorest countries are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, including ten with the highest proportion of residents living in extreme poverty. 
SDGs aim to end extreme poverty, hunger and inequality, tackle climate change and build resilient infrastructure to meet Africa’s urgent priorities — economic growth, achieving access to safe drinking water and energy, and investments in agriculture.
Growing cowpea creates new business opportunities for small scale outgrowers
Quality cowpea seed production offers Zambian women farmers opportunities for quality lives
In economies like Zambia, where maize-based farming is predominant, grain legumes – such as cowpea and soybean add the much needed fertility to the soils degraded by monocropping. Legumes are widely grown as intercrops or in rotations on maize-based farming systems. They fix substantial amounts of atmospheric nitrogen through biological nitrogen fixation in the soil, help improve soil fertility and also contribute to improved crop productivity. However, one the main challenges to growing legumes is the fact that their seeds are not easily available to farmers. But thanks to an emerging breed of bold farmers who have taken to producing seeds for their colleagues in Eastern Zambia, this challenge is being mitigated.
Mrs. Tichoke Phiri with her son, Kenneth, at their homestead in Kawalala Camp, Katete District
Mrs Tichoke Phiri, a woman farmer from Kawalala camp in Katete district, Zambia is one such farmer. She is part of a group of farmers involved in the SIMLEZA-Africa RISING Project activities to promote the cultivation of legumes.
“I was attracted to the idea of producing cowpea instead of soybean seed because we don’t have sources of improved cowpea seeds in my community and also because there are already a lot of farmers producing soybean seed. Cowpea seed will give me an advantage in the legume seed market.”
To establish their seed multiplication farms, the project gave Phiri and her fellow “seed producing farmers” each a 2 kg of cowpea basic seed for multiplication after a training on how to effectively raise quality cowpea and soybean seeds. Mrs Phiri planted those and took extra care of the crop, ensuring that her seed multiplication farm passed all field inspection tests.
The Chicago Council provides the Food for Thought blog and email subscription as a platform for news dissemination.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Agriculture as a Gateway to Poverty Alleviation
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs seeks to provide insight and impact discourse on important global issues. The Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative aims to promote policy innovations and accountability, as well as food security as a strategy for poverty alleviation. In addition, the Council facilitates discussion on global food security issues by hosting an annual symposium.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Louise Iverson, research associate, at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?
Louise Iverson (LI): The Chicago Council on Global Affairs provides a forum for world leaders, policymakers, and other experts to speak to its members and the public on global issues. The Chicago Council’s global agriculture and food security project aims to inform and build support in the U.S. Administration, Congress, policy and business circles for a long-term U.S. commitment to agriculture as a tool for poverty alleviation, food security, and economic growth. The Council aims to build long-term support for U.S. investments in global food systems in low-income countries and spurs dialogue on U.S. global agricultural development and food security policy.
FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?
LI: Each year, the Council produces a study on a prominent issue related to global agricultural development for release at its annual Global Food Security Symposium. The Symposium has become a landmark event for the discussion of global food security issues. The event has featured major keynote addresses from Heads of State such as President Barack Obama and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and global philanthropists such as Bono and Bill Gates. It serves as a platform for key international and U.S. announcements, including the release of the 2014 U.S. Global Nutrition Strategy, the roll out of the 2012 G8 New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition, and the release of the 2010 U.S. Feed the Future Guide.
You must be logged in to post a comment.