World grain production fell in 2010, exacerbating a global food situation already plagued by rising prices, according to new research published by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. Despite record rice and maize yields around the world, global wheat production dropped substantially enough to bring total grain output to just below 2008 levels.

Wheat harvesting in drought-plagued Russia. (Photo credit: MercoPress)

Maize, wheat, and rice provide nearly two-thirds of the global human diet and serve as critical inputs for both animal feed and industrial products. The significance of these crops guarantees that a decline in production will produce ripple effects throughout the global economy, particularly as increased food prices continue to take a toll on the world’s neediest populations. Overall, rice and wheat production have tripled since the 1960s, and maize production has quadrupled, despite global acreage of these crops increasing by only 35 percent.

Production increased worldwide, but there was greater reliance on irrigation, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides—all of which take resources, can be costly, and may cause substantial environmental degradation. As farmers have begun to witness these impacts, many have been forced to abandon their fields because of infertile soil.

Nevertheless, preliminary data for 2011 indicate that grain production is recovering from the 2010 slump. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently forecast that cereal output in 2011–12 will be 3 percent higher than in 2010–11.

Grain remains the foundation of the world’s diet, and the failure of harvests in recent years to keep pace with growth in meat consumption and population is worrisome. It’s important that we identify and implement more inventive and sustainable strategies in grain production. Reducing the proportion of grain harvests lost to weather disasters and waste or diverted for corn ethanol production and animal feed is among such strategies. It’s also important that we prioritize grain availability for those who need it most.

Recent growth in agricultural production has been uneven. In many regions, climate change has brought irregular weather patterns such as rising temperatures, violent storms, and flash flooding. In Russia, where severe drought has plagued large farming regions, overall wheat yields plunged 40 percent in 2010, compared to a decline of only 5 percent worldwide. Subsequently, Russia—the fourth largest wheat exporter in 2009—banned all wheat exports, severely disrupting world grain markets. Poor weather took its toll elsewhere as well: El Niño in the west Pacific, for example, brought rice production down significantly in the Philippines, already the world’s largest food importer.

Rising demand for ethanol fuel, which in the United States is produced almost exclusively from corn feedstock, is having an impact on grain prices as well. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about 20 percent of the increase in maize prices between 2007 and 2008 was due to domestic ethanol demand. Demand for grains is also rising in countries such as China and India, where growing middle classes are adopting more diverse diets.

Farming has always been an uncertain business that depends in large part on the weather, and it could be entering an even more difficult phase. As the global climate changes, the warmer, less stable atmospheric conditions could be detrimental for food production. In an already fragile economy, continued volatile prices and unpredictable weather-induced shortages are sure to negatively affect both producers and consumers in developing countries.

Further highlights from the research: 

  • Between 1960 and 2010, annual global grain production increased from 643 million tons to 2.2 billion tons.
  • U.S. maize (corn) production was down 5 percent in 2010 due to drought in the east and excessive rain in the west. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of maize, accounting for 56 percent of global exports from 2006 to 2010.
  • According to the FAO’s Cereal Price Index (CPI), which uses 2002–04 prices for wheat, rice and maize as its baseline (100), food prices increased to an index level of 185 in August 2010 and set a record at 265 in April 2011.
  • Forty percent of the global increase in maize prices in 2000–07 was due to worldwide demand for ethanol, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. Additional reasons for the jump in food prices include the weakening of the U.S. dollar, speculation on grain prices, and possible climate change impacts.
  • Stanford University researchers who created a model to determine how changing weather patterns affect crop yields found a 2.9 percent increase in global rice production as a result of greater precipitation, but losses of 3.8 percent for wheat and 2.5 percent for maize.
To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well-being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city.

Take a pass on food guides, ingredient pyramids, and with any diet books that feature pro-carb, anti-carb, low-fat or packaged solutions of any sort.

The emphasis of the food movement may be shifting towards nutrition and the fight against heavily processed foods. Go fresh! (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The whole field of nutrition – all the way from basic understanding of food make-up to consumer education to public regulation of healthy food choices – is about to get the biggest shake-up in the 200-year-old history of nutrition science as a branch of food chemistry.

The food movement, largely a force of the last 20 years, grew out of efforts to protect local family farms, address issues of hunger and want, promote environmental sustainability, conserve biodiversity, reclaim the spirituality, mindfulness, pleasures, places, cultures and terroir of food, and foster a new crop of food artisans with ambitions to combine community, health and economic benefits.

Nutrition has rarely been front and center of the food movement. Partly that worked to steer clear of turf wars with jurisdictionally jealous dietitians, who tended to see food through an exclusively functional and utilitarian lens – a carrot is a carrot is a carrot and its purpose is to supply Vitamin A and that’s about all we need to know. Partly it worked to build the food movement as a Big Tent movement that stood on its own ground – independent of the divisions identified by vegans, vegetarians, raw foodists, and so on, as well as nutritionists.

That strict boundary between nutrition and food movement concerns may soon end, and that will be a good thing, that may well help the food movement meet its primary task of connecting the dots and people in the whole enchilada known as the food system. It may be time to realize that food system thinking without a nutritional component is a bit like democracy without free speech or human rights.

What caught my attention about the possibility of a new approach to nutrition was an e-mail link that took me to the November issue of the World Nutrition journal , with an editorial proclaiming the “big issue is ultra-processing,” not specific ingredients or nutrients.

A few months away from wrapping up a year-long series by esteemed Brazilian epidemiologist Carlos Monteiro, the editorial claims that its process-centered approach “implies a revolution in thinking about food, nutrition and health at all levels.”

The revolution seems to be that enjoying simple meals with friends and family will displace preoccupation with specific nutrients as the framework for both personal appreciation and public evaluation of food choices. Occupy the meal table!!!

Among the changes to expect from this new processing-centered thinking will be a dramatic increase in the role of local governments in food and health regulations – an area now monopolized by dysfunctional national and international bodies beyond the reach of the populace and more or less captured by global food processing corporations. By any reasonable standards of a government’s duty of care and protection, the failure to provide legal restrictions around salt levels in processed foods or antibiotics in animal feed speaks to some level of failed states when it comes to food matters.

As processing-based food understandings take hold among food enthusiasts, I predict we’ll see a shift to more City Council support for vending of fruits, vegetables and multicultural dishes at farmers markets and by street vendors, less hounding by local health officials of the likes of street-based food vendors and unpasteurized milk advocates, and perhaps even stepped-up actions to use local zoning and taxing powers to protect people from junk food pushers.

The lengthy series in World Nutrition began a year ago, with an editorial claiming it was “time to start again” with a new nutrition paradigm that highlighted processing methods.

Three kinds of processing are identified, each with specific impacts on health, sustainability and other public benefits.

Stage 1 food processing is as old as humans, relative newcomers on the Earth. Few species adapted to human habits in order to use human eaters in the same way that flowers use bees and nut trees use squirrels. That’s why so few foods are perfectly “all-natural.” They require some bare minimum of processing to remove shells or make ingredients digestible. This is why fire, cooking and other tools have been so central to human survival, and why culture has been so intrinsically attached to foodways – in short, why food has always been about more than nutrition.

Most of what Nature provides as potential food for humans needs some treatment before it can be carried, stored, cooked or eaten – removal of husks from grain, cleaning of fish, or fermenting milk into yoghurt, for example.

Stage 1 processing might be viewed as “primitive” or might again be viewed as smart ways of preserving the optimal and authentic core of the original. Stone-ground grains retained the crucial bran and germ, for example, while fermented milk produced healthful yoghurt and mashed of sugar cane produced a sweet drink matching the nutritional treasure trove of blackstrap molasses.

The simple level of processing, more than the chemical composition of the actual foodstuff, determined the health outcome of the product. Likewise, the level of processing made do with technologies and divisions of labor that widely spread related tasks, skills and power  – what today might be termed “neighborhood technologies.”

Stage 2 processing became the norm much more recently in human history, and can be dated to the early 1800s, about the time when capitalism was coming into its own in Europe and the military-industrial complex of the world’s first Industrial Revolution emerged.

Chemistry was the master science of early industrialism because it had a bag of tricks that allowed cheap, uniform and easily workable elements to be substituted for more costly, less predictable and time-consuming materials. As well, to meet the priorities of the new factories and assembly lines, chemically-based inputs corresponded well with the low levels of skill, independence, and power that employers favored in their workers.

Baby formula – the very term “formula” expresses the controlling, chemistry-inspired thinking behind it – was developed by a chemist named Nestle, and became the foundation stone of the world’s premier corporate food colossus. Margarine, cornerstone of today’s Unilever conglomerate, was another typical  innovation of stage 2 processing.

Other typical inventions owed their development to war and fear of war. Canned foods, which recently marked their 200th anniversary, were essential for armies on long marches. Hopped up beers were essential to imperial ships taking the long voyage to India, with ample stocks of India Pale Ale. Chemical fertilizers freed areas such as Germany, where chemical fertilizers were invented, from dependence on bird poop from South America (guano) to fertilize their fields with organic materials – an anxiety-producing dependence on ocean trade at a time when Britain ruled the seas.

Nutrition was the sidekick of stage 2 processing, which featured chemical lab- or factory-made substitutions for items that were once a product of agriculture or Nature.

Stage 3 processing, which provides today’s Europeans and North Americans with about 60 per cent of what they eat, is a hyper form of Stage 2, full of wondrous breads and miraculous whips beyond what Nature could ever provide.  Supermarket cereals, breads and pastries may have a foundation of grains once rich in nutrients identified by chemists, but the processes of refining, extruding, congealing, assembling and baking makes them more fit for long shelf life and compelling packaging, but squanders most of the original nutrients.

Oddly enough, such products are commonly referred to in the food sector as “value-added,” though it would be more accurate to describe them as “value-lost” or “value-subtracted.” In a typical formulation, the ratio of milk in a processed cheese slice or cheese food is reduced as the ratio of water, chemical flavor, binder and so on is increased – thereby saving corporations money and time thanks to cheaper ingredients and extended shelf life. Sometimes chuzzpah is the main ingredient added, as when bread that lost its inherent nutrients during refining is called “fortified” when chemical substitutes take their place.

Against this background of pervasive Stage 3 processing, food guides and diets that promote specific ingredients or classes of ingredients miss the processed forest for the chemical tree. Some dangerous trends have set in as a result of this scientific error in judgment, which is sometimes referred to as “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.”

Many people who avoided fat-laden meat and dairy products during the “carb craze” of the ‘90s have added 20 pounds of empty carbohydrates to their tummies and butts since. The same unhealthy results can be predicted for those who go to the other side of the chemical table and switch to high-protein foods, provided by a diet of cheap grains fed to livestock and grains and other substitute fillers that bring down the price of what was once known as meat. We need a new paradigm of foods, one recognizing that processing trumps biochemistry.

Fundamentally, Monteiro and his colleague Geoffrey Cannon, formerly one of the pioneers of the modern food movement in the U.K., call for a shift back to a higher ratio of foods provided by Stage 1 processing methods. Simply put: more artisan producers, more home cooking from scratch almost automatically means healthier food in all respects, from nutrients to environmental impacts and food access.

If public health regulations supported such a shift, the public health jihad against street vendors offering fruits, veggies, salads, soups and stews, or farmers providing on-farm processing, might be moderated while some measure of public responsibility is imposed on purveyors of Stage 3 processed foods. What’s called public health regulation has really been defined by Stage 2 realities, when hygiene was about all that mattered, and awareness of environmental and social determinants of health was very low. A new and more balanced synthesis is clearly called for.

There is plenty to discuss and argue about here, but it’s a whole new way to think about food in all its dimensions – which is, after all, what food’s robust healthfulness is all about.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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Today, Nourishing the Planet will be participating in the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN)’s Third Annual International Forum on Food & Nutrition.

Photo credit: Bernard Pollack

Project director, Danielle Nierenberg will be speaking on a panel on Geo-Agriculture”: Food Waste and Comparison of Agricultural Policies at 11:15 AM local time.

Please click here to watch it live and here to access Danielle’s presentation.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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Has community in the suburbs become shorthand for clusters of houses with people inside them not talking to each other, as philosopher Mark Kingwell wonders? And if so, how do we reclaim community? Musings from John Mulrow about living in the suburban community of Japantown, San Jose.
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World grain production fell in 2010, exacerbating a global food situation already plagued by rising prices, according to new research published by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. Despite record rice and maize yields around the world, global wheat production dropped substantially enough to bring total grain output to just below 2008 levels.

Wheat harvesting in drought-plagued Russia. (Photo credit: MercoPress)

Maize, wheat, and rice provide nearly two-thirds of the global human diet and serve as critical inputs for both animal feed and industrial products. The significance of these crops guarantees that a decline in production will produce ripple effects throughout the global economy, particularly as increased food prices continue to take a toll on the world’s neediest populations. Overall, rice and wheat production have tripled since the 1960s, and maize production has quadrupled, despite global acreage of these crops increasing by only 35 percent.

Production increased worldwide, but there was greater reliance on irrigation, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides—all of which take resources, can be costly, and may cause substantial environmental degradation. As farmers have begun to witness these impacts, many have been forced to abandon their fields because of infertile soil.

Nevertheless, preliminary data for 2011 indicate that grain production is recovering from the 2010 slump. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently forecast that cereal output in 2011–12 will be 3 percent higher than in 2010–11.

Grain remains the foundation of the world’s diet, and the failure of harvests in recent years to keep pace with growth in meat consumption and population is worrisome. It’s important that we identify and implement more inventive and sustainable strategies in grain production. Reducing the proportion of grain harvests lost to weather disasters and waste or diverted for corn ethanol production and animal feed is among such strategies. It’s also important that we prioritize grain availability for those who need it most.

Recent growth in agricultural production has been uneven. In many regions, climate change has brought irregular weather patterns such as rising temperatures, violent storms, and flash flooding. In Russia, where severe drought has plagued large farming regions, overall wheat yields plunged 40 percent in 2010, compared to a decline of only 5 percent worldwide. Subsequently, Russia—the fourth largest wheat exporter in 2009—banned all wheat exports, severely disrupting world grain markets. Poor weather took its toll elsewhere as well: El Niño in the west Pacific, for example, brought rice production down significantly in the Philippines, already the world’s largest food importer.

Rising demand for ethanol fuel, which in the United States is produced almost exclusively from corn feedstock, is having an impact on grain prices as well. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about 20 percent of the increase in maize prices between 2007 and 2008 was due to domestic ethanol demand. Demand for grains is also rising in countries such as China and India, where growing middle classes are adopting more diverse diets.

Farming has always been an uncertain business that depends in large part on the weather, and it could be entering an even more difficult phase. As the global climate changes, the warmer, less stable atmospheric conditions could be detrimental for food production. In an already fragile economy, continued volatile prices and unpredictable weather-induced shortages are sure to negatively affect both producers and consumers in developing countries.

Further highlights from the research: 

  • Between 1960 and 2010, annual global grain production increased from 643 million tons to 2.2 billion tons.
  • U.S. maize (corn) production was down 5 percent in 2010 due to drought in the east and excessive rain in the west. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of maize, accounting for 56 percent of global exports from 2006 to 2010.
  • According to the FAO’s Cereal Price Index (CPI), which uses 2002–04 prices for wheat, rice and maize as its baseline (100), food prices increased to an index level of 185 in August 2010 and set a record at 265 in April 2011.
  • Forty percent of the global increase in maize prices in 2000–07 was due to worldwide demand for ethanol, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. Additional reasons for the jump in food prices include the weakening of the U.S. dollar, speculation on grain prices, and possible climate change impacts.
  • Stanford University researchers who created a model to determine how changing weather patterns affect crop yields found a 2.9 percent increase in global rice production as a result of greater precipitation, but losses of 3.8 percent for wheat and 2.5 percent for maize.
To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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Check out this recent article in The New York Times, written by Samuel Loewenberg, a Nieman Foundation global health reporting fellow at Harvard University.

This year’s drought followed two failed rainy seasons, leaving farmers and herders fragile. (Photo credit: Reuters)

According to Lowenberg, “American attention to the hunger crisis has focused on the dire conditions of Somalis, but they account for just about a third of the 13 million people affected. According to the United Nations, hunger afflicts 4.5 million people in Ethiopia and 3.75 million people in Kenya, which has about half of Ethiopia’s population. An estimated half a million Kenyan children and pregnant or breast-feeding women suffer acute malnutrition.”

To see how you can end this cycle of hunger, please visit:  UNICEFCARE, or World Food Programme.

To read more about the famine affecting the Horn of Africa see: Early Warnings not enough, UN call for urgent aid, Somalia’s agony tests limits of aid, and Where is there a famine? 

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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The 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change begins today in Durban, South Africa (Source: UNFCCC).

This week the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) begins. In Durban, South Africa, delegations from countries around the world will continue negotiating greenhouse gas reductions in order to prevent global warming from spinning out of control. So it is just in time that the International Energy Agency (IEA) releases its latest statistics on global CO2 emissions.

The provided figures contain CO₂ emission source breakdowns by fuel, sector and region over the period 1971 to 2009. According to the data, nearly two thirds of worldwide emissions come from two sectors – electricity and heat generation (41 percent) as well as transport (23 percent). Remaining emissions come from industrial processes (20 percent), residential (6 percent), and a multitude of additional sources (10 percent). Regarding energy, coal is the leading CO₂ emission source, accounting for 43 percent of those emissions, followed by oil at 37 percent and natural gas at 20 percent.

The most interesting story the new numbers tell, however, is that of regional distribution of emissions. In 2009, CO2 emissions in developing countries grew at 3.3 percent, primarily due to continued economic growth and increased coal demand, while in developed countries emissions fell sharply by 6.5 percent, mostly attributable to the decreased use of coal, oil and natural gas as a consequence of the global economic recession and financial crises.  Emissions in developed countries in 2009 therewith fell 6.4 percent below their 1990 level. 1990 is often used as a reference year for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, for example in the 1992 UNFCCC and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This makes sense, as 1990 was the year when UN-steered climate change negotiations started, and when the issue first received prominence on the international political agenda.

A closer look at the IEA data reveals interesting trends. The five largest CO2 emitters – China, the United States, India, the Russian Federation, and Japan, in the order of emissions – account for about half of the world’s population, emissions, and gross domestic product (GDP); however, the CO₂ emissions per unit of GDP as well as per capita are not at all equal across the five.

The figure below gives a clear illustration of the trends in emission intensities for the five economies between 1990 and 2009: China has managed to significantly reduce the carbon intensity of its economy but the Chinese today emit more per person than 20 years ago. The United States has reduced its carbon output both in terms of per dollar generated as well as per American citizen, but still remains by far the dirtiest country amongst these big five in terms of per person output. The two largest emitters, China and the United States, together contributed 41 percent of the world’s emissions in 2009, and both almost have the same share compared to one another. On a per capita level, though, the average American emitted more than three times as much CO₂ as the average Chinese citizen.

Russia reduced emissions both on a per capita and a per ruble base, mostly due to the breakdown of energy-intense industries after the country opened its economy and political system in the beginning of the 1990s. Still, emissions per unit of GDP in the Russian Federation are 3 times that of Japan, despite a much lower living standard. The numbers clearly show that carbon emissions are not necessarily related to a nation’s development status. Japan’s economy and population are significantly less reliant on the emission of CO2than the United States, despite a similar living standard. The divergent numbers are, it is clear, the result of both different development in individual industry sectors as well as a consequence of alternative political goals, decisions, regulations and measure. Economies nowhere in the world exist in a vacuum. They are influenced by political frameworks as well as different norms and cultural orientations.

Trends in CO2 emission intensities for the top 5 emitting countries. Source: IEA

Similar socio-economic indicators analyzed by IEA, such as CO₂ per total primary energy supply, and CO₂ per kWh electricity and heat output, allow us to look at countries’ carbon footprints from a variety of perspectives. As Durban draws near, these indicators provide important reality checks regarding how absolute emission numbers and carbon intensity levels of one country compare to the rest of the world. With the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expiring next year, how do we use the current snapshot of emission trends to renew a global climate treaty? Are we able to move forward to sustainable and low-carbon development post-2012?

 

Watch out for a follow-up blog next week on how the current trends can inform negotiations in Durban.

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By Matt Styslinger

Until a few decades ago, the now popular African wild vegetable eru—the common name used for two very similar vines of the species Gnetum africanum and Gnetum buchholzianum—remained an obscure forest food in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But after the prices of major export crops in Cameroon—cocoa and coffee—plummeted in the 1980s and 1990s, and subsequent food price spikes, farmer’s lost their ability to buy food. Cameroon’s rural population turned to the forests for its food and income, and poor farmers began harvesting and selling eru on mass. Originally consumed by Cameroon’s forest-dwelling Bayangi people, eru is now one of Cameroon’s most widely consumed vegetables. Hundreds of tons of eru are exported every week to Nigeria—where it is known as okazi—and overseas for consumption by Central and West Africans living abroad.

The eru leaves are eaten raw, or shredded and added to soups, stews, porridges, and fish and meat dishes. (Photo credit: R.R. Schippers, PROTA)

The eru leaves are eaten raw, or shredded and added to soups, stews, porridges, and fish and meat dishes. Both species of eru are highly nutritious and an  important source of protein, essential amino acids, and minerals. Although not formally traded, the fruits and seeds that grow sparsely on mature vines are also edible. Forest cultures also eat the eru tubers  during periods of food scarcity.

Eru has traditional non-food uses as well. In Nigeria, the leaf of Gnetum africanum is used in the treatment of an enlarged spleen, and sore throats. In DRC, it is used for nausea and in an antidote for poison from traditional poison darts. In Congo-Brazzaville, the leaves of both species are used to dress warts and boils, and the stem is cut-up and eaten to reduce pain in childbirth. In Cameroon, the leaves are sometimes chewed to lessen the effects of drunkenness. The supple vine is often used in rope-making.

Eru has now become an important source of income and nutrition for many impoverished Central African communities. Unfortunately, the popularity of the wild vine has meant that it has been harvested from the forest at an unsustainable rate. Destructive harvesting methods often mean that there is no re-growth. Ripping the vine from the forest trees that it grows on often causes the  roots to be pulled up, or damaged. In some cases, entire trees that eru vines are growing on are felled in order to collect them. Many rural communities have to go further and further into the forest to find eru, and some can no longer find it at all. Eru is becoming increasingly endangered and has been pushed to regional extinction in some areas.

Sustainable cultivation of eru has the potential to reduce poverty and increase food security in Central Africa’s poor communities. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has been training women near Lekie, Cameroon to cultivate eru and other non-timber forest products (NTFP) to improve incomes and restore degraded forests. The forest in their area has been seriously affected by a Central American invasive species—Chromolaena adoratum, called kodengui locally—that can now be found in much of West and Central Africa. The women remove the kodengui and plant eru and other NTFPs in its place—providing harvestable resources for the future and discouraging the invasive from growing back.

Eru could also be planted in fallow crop fields, secondary forests, and on community trees, shrubs, fences, and buildings. The leaves can be harvested regularly—rather than pulling the entire vine—providing a steady source of income and nutrition in rural communities. Including eru on fallow fields and in re-grown forest areas improves biodiversity and staves off invasion from destructive invasive species. By maintaining a valuable source of sustainable income, eru can reduce the temptation to cut down trees to sell as timber or clear forest to expand cropland.

The vine could also be developed into a formally cultivated crop. According to research conducted by FAO, both eru species are easily domesticated and have considerable potential in agroforestry and smallholder agriculture systems. The Centre for Nursery Development and Eru Propagation (CENDEP) in Cameroon is training local people in the domestication, sustainable production, and marketing of NTFPs. CENDEP has a nursery where they are conducting propagation trials to improve the technique. The organization trains farmers in eru propagation and shares processing techniques so that eru farmers can add value to their product.

Do you know of any wild plants that have suddenly become more popular? Let us know in the comments!

Matt Styslinger is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To read more about indigenous vegetables, see: Star Apple: Prized Fruit and Timber, Shalakh Apricot: Protecting a Species’ Diversity and a Local Culture, False Yam: A Famine Prevention Trifecta, and Tamarind: Not Jsst for Sauce.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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The Santa Fe New Mexican recently published Nourishing the Planet’s op-ed on reducing food waste.

Donating excess food to Albuquerque’s Roadrunner Food Bank is just one way New Mexicans can help cut back on environmentally detrimental food waste. (Photo credit: Roadrunner Food Bank)

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, industrialized countries waste 222 million tons of food annually. But there are easy–and inexpensive–ways to reduce food waste, including composting, recycling, and donating excess food to those in need.

Click here to read the full article.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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By Kamaria Greenfield

According to the anti-poverty group The ONE Campaign, the Group of Eight (G8) and other rich nations have donated only a fifth of the US$22 billion promised to impoverished countries in July 2009. This reflects a larger trend of the decrease of foreign aid for agricultural development. Aid was at a high point in the mid-1980s, reaching US$20 billion, but has since declined. In the early 2000s, the number was around only US$3 billion. By 2009, it had crawled back up to around US$9 billion.

Investment in agriculture has significantly declined over the past decade. (Image credit: OECD DAC)

Two years ago, the world’s wealthiest nations gathered at the G8 plus meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, where they committed to “take decisive action to free humankind from hunger and poverty through improving food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture”. It was an important move in support of smallholder agriculture, with money going to categories like transportation and storage, food security assistance, and rural development. The L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, as it was named, was backed by 27 countries and 14 international agencies.

In May, ONE specifically targeted Germany, France, and Italy for blame in the US$7 billion shortfall. In July, the organization pointed out the deficits in donations from the United States, United Kingdom, and, once again, France. The US has donated only $73 million of a promised $3.5 billion. The UK government, which has contributed around 30 percent of its pledge, was recently criticized for what some believed was a prioritization of security concerns over aid.

Organizations, including the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) have expressed their doubts about the lack of aid, as well. Having agreed to give annual progress reports, the donor countries have reported projects that have been created since 2009 and are outside the original plans. “This suggests that governments are re-categorising commitments, in order to mask their lack of progress. Moving the goal posts halfway through the game is not fair play,” says a March 2011 accountability report from FANRPAN.

These recent shortfalls are not unanimously accepted as accurate. The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) says that the country is on track with its spending and that it is additionally giving emergency food relief to approximately 1.5 million people in Ethiopia. The confusion, DfID alleges, is that the figures do not account for the 2010-11 updates, which will be available later in the year.

Meanwhile, ONE has set up an Agricultural Accountability website, which allows viewers to use an interactive “pledge tracker” by scrolling across a world map and clicking on any of the L’Aquila participant nations. Each country’s profile includes statistics of donations, both disbursed and outstanding, and eight categories of non-financial progress. These include comprehensive approach, environmental sustainability, and transparency. The possible grades in the eight categories are On Track, Somewhat On Track, and Needs Improvement.

According to ONE, Canada and Italy are both close to completing their disbursements, with 89 percent and 82 percent given, respectively. The U.S., though significantly behind in donations, has been frank about its shortfall—onee of its three on track grades is for transparency.

There is still a year remaining for the donations to be completed, and the famine in East Africa and pressure for accountability from organizations like ONE will ensure that the much-needed funds are given in full.

Kamaria Greenfield is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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