Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon
March 13, 2017
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
Logging that happens today and potential future rainfall reductions in the Amazon could push the region into a vicious dieback circle. If dry seasons intensify with human-caused climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss would increase even more, an international team of scientists finds. If however there is a great variety of tree species in a forest patch, according to the study this can significantly strengthen the chance of survival.
Senegal currently has a complex and poorly regulated system of land governance, which — combined with an urbanisation trend and increasing outsider interest — is leading to land privatisation and a consequent reduction in the availability of cultivable land for small producers. Young farmers in particular are struggling to gain sufficient access to land to maintain viable enterprises. Here we draw on field research to understand the drivers and impacts of trends in land use and ownership in rural Senegal, and suggest that government-backed land reform offers the best immediate chance of addressing the power imbalances that threaten rural livelihoods.
Agriculture is an important engine for economic growth in Africa, but effective agricultural strategies to support rural development and poverty alleviation are scarce. State investment in the small-scale farming sector is minimal and the entrepreneurial family farm sector remains underrepresented. Meanwhile, large-scale land investments are advocated as means to bring capital to rural areas and stimulate development. However, the investigation of soya production in Central Mozambique presented here suggests small-scale farming can produce similar profits to large-scale operations and better social outcomes. Concentrating only on large-scale investments can mean forgoing opportunities for rural development and poverty reduction. With the right support, poorer households can develop market-oriented farming that contributes to local value chains at many levels.
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]
Adoption of new technologies depends significantly on whether potential users are willing to pay a premium for the associated benefits. The new study explores farmers’ willingness to pay for drought tolerance (DT) in maize, a crop playing a leading role in the food security in southern Africa. Focusing on Zimbabwe, this research aimed at estimating the implicit prices farmers would be ready to pay for this trait compared to other preferred traits, such as, for example, grain yield, cob size, and texture.
Drought is a widespread phenomenon across Africa south of the Sahara with an estimated 22% of mid‐altitude/subtropical and 25% of lowland/tropical maize growing in regions affected annually by seasonal water shortages. Climate change is likely to increase average temperatures by of 2.1 °C in the region, which will lead to even greater water scarcity, particularly in Southern Africa, in the coming decades. Studies have indicated that an increase in temperature of 2 °C would result in grain yields decrease by 13-20%. For every day with temperature about 30 °C yield is reduced by 1% under normal conditions and by 1.7% under drought conditions.
There is evidence that the use of new crop varieties, such a drought tolerant maize, and improved management technics can offset yield losses by up to 40%. While the development of these new varieties and related technologies is laudable, their impact depends very much on the extent to which they are adopted by farmers.
This study was conducted across all geographical districts of Zimbabwe and included 1400 households.
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.
Strengthening African women’s participation in wheat farming
Gender inequality is a recurring feature of many agricultural production systems across the wheat-growing regions of Africa, and women farmers often lack access to credit, land, and other inputs. The result: limited adoption of new innovations, low productivity and income, and a missed opportunity to enhance household food security and prosperity.
In contrast, enhancing women’s involvement in agricultural development generates positive impacts beyond the lives of individual women – with benefits felt across entire communities and nations.
Action research to integrate women beneficiaries into the SARD-SC project in Sudan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia has helped identify actions and approaches that can be applied more widely to enhance women’s integration within diverse wheat production systems.
The main objectives were: increasing women’s income generation and contributions to food security, while addressing structural inequalities in access to inputs and services such as information, training, and microcredit.
Our project employed context-specific interventions for growing grain, demonstrating technologies, adding value, and facilitating access to microcredit. Women’s involvement (65% in Sudan, 32% in Ethiopia and 12% in Nigeria) was often facilitated by gaining the trust and approval of male kin and support at the institutional levels – for example, recruiting women beneficiaries through the inclusion of female field staff: 4 in Nigeria, 4 in Sudan, and 6 in Ethiopia, all trained on gender integration.