To facilitate discussion around its 2012 Innovation Challenges, The Rockefeller Foundation will host a Twitter Conference on Wednesday, from 9 AM to 4 PM EST.

Image credit: The Rockefeller Foundation

The Foundation’s 2012 Innovation Challenges seek submissions of innovations that focus on three major areas of global agricultural development: Farming Now, Irrigating Efficiency, and Decoding Data.

A Twitter Conference is an extended Twitter chat that allows real-time discussion focused on a specific theme. The Rockefeller Foundation invites “all innovators, practitioners, students, experts, journalists, activists, content creators, communicators, and any tweeps interested in these issues” to participate.

Click here to learn more about the Twitter Conference.

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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By Marissa Dwyer

The United Nations has declared 2012 as the “International Year of Cooperatives.” Co-operatives are business enterprises that are owned and controlled by the members they serve. The UN declaration aims to direct attention to the potential for co-operatives to contribute to socio-economic development. This is particularly significant for farmers because agricultural co-operatives are among the most common around the world. According to a recent report for Worldwatch’s Vital Signs Online on co-operatives, 29 percent of the largest 300 co-operatives in the world are agricultural. Co-operatives are also important for the world’s poor because they can enhance food production and lower prices for consumers.

Agricultural co-operatives can be especially beneficial in countries where agriculture makes up most of the economy, such as Ethiopia. (Image credit: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs)

High food prices and food price volatility are likely to continue over the long term and will likely have critical negative implications for both poor consumers and smallholder farmers because food is such a large share of their budgets and incomes. Food price volatility can exacerbate food security problems in the long term as well, because small-scale farmers are less likely to invest in ways to try to increase their productivity if food prices, which determine their incomes, are unpredictable.

But co-operatives can help minimize these risks. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) explains that agricultural co-operatives are important because they enable small-scale producers to take better advantage of opportunities offered in the market place and to make better use of natural resources. By improving access to technology and training, co-operatives can create new opportunities for individual farmers. IFAD points out that co-operatives can help farmers in developing countries to be more competitive in the global market.

In countries where agriculture makes up most of the economy, such as Ethiopia, agricultural co-operatives can be especially beneficial. Eighty to 90 percent of Ethiopians farm for a living. But the country will require US$122.3 million in the first half of 2012 for food aid alone. By creating and strengthening co-operatives, food production can be increased and farmers can improve their annual incomes.

Agricultural Cooperative Development International/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA), a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., launched the Agricultural Cooperatives in Ethiopia (ACE) project alongside USAID in 1999. The ACE project trained members from 285 co-operatives in Ethiopia to strengthen their operations. Market linkages were a key improvement from the ACE program, helping farmers both find a market for their products while getting higher prices. The program facilitated co-operatives to obtain lower input prices and access to loans, which resulted in farmers who were members of ACE-assisted co-operatives earning higher incomes than non-members.

Support for co-operatives goes hand-in-hand with current goals in the international development community. IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze recently announced a commitment to pull 90 million people out of poverty. He said that farmers need to be recognized as “small entrepreneurs,” who are important for our future, particularly as the world population is expected to exceed 9 billion by the middle of the century. Nwanze pledged to strengthen smallholder farmers’ business capabilities and to promote partnerships with the private sector.

Agricultural co-operatives can play an integral role in pursuing these accomplishments. By connecting farmers at a local level and giving them access to tools and bargaining rights, co-operatives can greatly enhance food production and poverty alleviation around the world.

Marissa Dwyer is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

Do you know of any co-opeartives that are helping farmers improve their livelihoods? Let us know in the comments section!

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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By Leah Baines 

For thousands of years, natural fibres have been at the core of the textile industry. From cloth, to paper and building materials, natural fibres were always the base material. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, natural fibres are substances produced by plants and animals that can be spun into filaments or thread. Natural fibres originate from either plant fibres, such as coir, cotton and flax, or animal fibres such as camel hair, alpaca wool, and cashmere. As a completely renewable resource, natural fibres provide many benefits both to the environment and to those involved in the market that they create.

This Bolivian woman is using cotton and other natural fibres to weave a hammock. (Photo credit: American Museum of Natural History)

Over the last 50 years, natural fibres have started to become displaced by synthetic, man-made materials such as polyester, acrylic and nylon. These materials are much cheaper and easier to manufacture in bulk, and easily create uniform colors, lengths and strengths of materials that can be adjusted according to specific requirements. The production of synthetic materials, however, is a strong contributor to carbon emissions and waste. According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, it is estimated that every person in the world is responsible for 19.8 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in their lifetime, simply because of the clothes on their back that include synthetic fibres.

Unlike synthetic fibres, natural fibres not only come from the environment, but also benefit it. These fibres are renewable, carbon neutral, biodegradable and also produce waste that is either organic or can be used to generate electricity or make ecological housing material.

The onset of synthetic materials has not only been destructive towards the environment, it has also had a negative economic impact on those whose livelihoods depend on the production and processing of natural fibres. In an effort to raise global awareness of the “importance of natural fibres not only to producers and industry, but also to consumers and the environment,” the United Nations designated 2009 as the International Year of Natural Fibres. The year brought global attention to the important role that natural fibres play in alleviating food insecurity and poverty by allowing small-scale farmers a place in the international textile market.

According to the UN, natural fibres provide a multitude of human and environmental health as well as economic benefits. Each fibre has its own purpose in manufacturing, and provides better quality and more sustainable textiles than synthetic materials.

Natural fibres in clothing allow fabric to breathe, reducing the risk of skin rashes and allergic reactions, and also insulate the wearer against hot and cold temperatures. These fibres can also replace synthetics in industrial materials, for example, in home insulation panels. Insulation made from wool or hemp rather than fiberglass draw moisture away from walls and timber, and are safer because wool is naturally fire resistant.

According to the Australian Aid Global Education program, roughly 30 million tons of natural fibres are produced annually worldwide. Many small-scale farmers rely on this production process for their livelihoods and food security. Because synthetic fibres are taking over the textile industry, these farmers are suffering. Approximately 25 million tons of cotton is produced each year, but for the past 50 years the price of cotton has been driven down due to technological change and competition from artificial materials. Inexpensive synthetic materials drive small-scale farmers out of the textile market, because they cannot compete with the low prices.

Synthetic materials, while inexpensive to produce, can cause more harm to the environment and economy than they do good. In order to improve food security, the livelihoods of impoverished people, and the health of the global community, the shift back to natural fibres must be made.

To read more about natural fibres, please see: Where Would You Like to See More Agricultural Funding?, International Year of Natural Fibres, and 15 Natural Fibres.

Leah Baines 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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By Arielle Golden

The U. S. Grains Council has released a report highlighting predicted changes in food and agriculture in East Asia over the next three decades. The report, Food 2040: The Future of Food and Agriculture in East Asia comes amid a growing number of reports on the future of the world’s food supply.

Image credit: U. S. Grains Council

The report is a based on five main areas of research: consumer trends, competitive and regulatory landscape, food technology, agriculture and food distribution and packaging, and the environment and resources. The result is a forward-looking approach at how the interacting forces of the globe will drive the food system in the coming decades. It seeks to discover how ingenuity, technology, and resilience could create positive outcomes for East Asia.

The research considers trends like a predicted era of hyper-nichification in which specialty and value-added foods dominate the East Asian market, and the projected increase in demand for food as a result of a growing middle class throughout East Asia.

Click here for the full report.

Arielle Golden is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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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By Marlena White

Name: Peter Hammerstedt

Affiliation: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Bio: Peter Hammerstedt is a regular cast member of Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars,” which covers the anti-whaling efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He will also appear on “Whale Wars: Viking Shores,” premiering Friday, April 27, at 9:00 PM (ET). The series will focus on Operation Ferocious Isles, the Sea Shepherd’s campaign against whaling in the Faroe Islands of the North Atlantic. Peter is passionate about animal rights and has often put himself in harm’s way to protect them. When he is not working on Sea Shepherd campaigns, he is pursuing a degree in Media and Communications at Stockholm University and actively campaigning with the Swedish Animal Rights Alliance.

Peter Hammarstedt can be seen on Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars: On Viking Shores.” (Photo credit: Animal Planet)

How did the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society become involved with whaling in the Faroe Islands?

Sea Shepherd has a long history of both bringing attention to and intervening in the pilot whale slaughter on the Faroe Islands, known as “The Grind.” Captain Paul Watson launched two ship-based campaigns to oppose the hunt in 1985 and 1986 and again in 2000. On all three occasions, no pilot whales were killed while Sea Shepherd patrolled the islands. In 1986, Sea Shepherd brought a film team from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) to the Faroe Islands in order to capture the cruelty of the hunt, resulting in the award-winning documentary Black Harvest. The film captures a dramatic confrontation of when a Faroese gunboat pursues the Sea Shepherd’s vessel and attacks them with tear gas, in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the ship and arrest the crew.

Whale Wars until now has focused on illegal whaling in the Antarctic by Japanese fishermen. Whale Wars: Viking Shores, however, focuses on a form of whaling that is both legal and part of a long tradition and cultural identity. What were some of the unique challenges of this mission?

I would argue that whaling in the Faroe Islands is not legal. The long-finned pilot whale is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species because there is no information on global trends in population. Additionally, the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats classifies the long-finned pilot whale as “strictly protected” under Appendix II. The Faroe Islands are not a member of the European Union; however, Denmark is and the Faroe Islands are a Danish Protectorate, which means that although the Faroe Islands are self-governing, Denmark still controls police, defense, foreign policy, and currency. Denmark is a signatory to a convention that makes the slaughter of any cetacean illegal within the European Union—therefore the Faroe Islands should have to abide by it.

Regarding tradition, I don’t think that tradition can ever be used as a justification for cruelty, or for not abiding by international conservation law.

Since the Faroese have been slaughtering pilot whales for hundreds of years, dating back to the 1500s, opposition to the hunt always raises a very emotional reaction from them. From having visited the Faroe Islands, I know that there is a lot more to Faroese culture than the pilot whale slaughter and I would much rather that they be known internationally for their music, poetry, and beautiful landscapes.

What do you think was the biggest achievement of Operation Ferocious Isles?

I think that the biggest achievement of Operation Ferocious Isles was that no pilot whales were killed while Sea Shepherd patrolled the islands. We heard through unofficial sources that the hunt leaders had all agreed not to hunt while we were present during July and August. These are traditionally the bloodiest months of the season. We estimate that our intervention saved the lives of at least 500 pilot whales.

The show aimed to give more of a face to your opposition, who are local villagers participating in a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Did the interaction with the locals and the more extensive coverage of their side of the story challenge any of the crew’s preconceptions or make them look at the issue in a new light? Do you think it will challenge the show’s viewers in any way?

“Viking Shores” is different from past seasons of “Whale Wars” because the whalers themselves participated in the show. For many years now, Animal Planet has approached the Japanese about putting a film crew aboard one of their whaling ships; the Japanese have always refused. Whaling in the Antarctic is strictly commercial, differentiating itself from “The Grind” in the Faroe Islands, where the pilot whale meat is shared among the community. Regardless, this does not excuse the killings and I would still argue that both hunts are a violation of international conservation law.

We were in a unique position to have an open dialogue with the local Faroese population, an opportunity that we’re not afforded with the poachers in Antarctica. Those interactions proved to me that there is a growing body of younger Faroese who have no interest in the pilot whale hunt. Unfortunately, those voices are not always heard.

How effective do you think the Sea Shepherds’ efforts were in changing the mindset of the local whalers? What do you think the most effective strategies are in changing hearts and minds in regards to whaling, especially among those actively involved in it?

Faroese children grow up hearing stories of Captain Paul Watson’s previous campaigns in the Faroe Islands, almost painting him as some kind of boogie-man! So when Captain Paul Watson wandered around the capital, Torshavn, it must have been pretty mind-boggling for these whalers to actually see him in person. By meeting him and his crew, I think that a lot of the Faroese realized that we’re not that much different from them. I hope that they also realized that we’re not anti-Faroese, we’re only anti-whaling.

I also thought of our campaign strategy as one where we would speak softly, but carry a big stick. In other words, as long as a hunt was not underway, then we could easily engage in discussion and debate about the issue of the pilot whale slaughter. However, the minute anybody showed an inkling of movement towards hunting, then we were ready to mobilize our two ships, our helicopter, our small boat, jet skis and even our lightweight aircraft (purchased specifically for this campaign and shown for the first time in “Whale Wars”) to intervene and shutdown any effort to hunt.

How would you like to see others getting involved to stop whaling?

I would love to see the Faroese who oppose the hunt, not to fear for their own personal safety if voicing opposition to the hunt. There is this idea that there is a dichotomy between us and them, between the Faroese and so-called outsiders who want the hunt to end. In reality, this separation is misleading because there is a growing group of Faroese people that are opposed to the pilot whale slaughter. Sadly, because the Faroe Islands are so small, opposing voices are quickly quashed and many are fearful of stating their true opinions.

Outside of the Faroe Islands, I would encourage people to support groups like Sea Shepherd, which are on the frontlines, year after year, defending and protecting whales and dolphins. Sea Shepherd is entirely dependent on donations from the public and we are very good at translating that money directly into whales saved.

Marlena White is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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 Laura Reynolds

The Chicago Council on Global AffairsGlobal Agricultural Development Initiative launched its 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development in Washington, D.C. today.

The report assesses how successfully the United States has been in sustaining support for global agricultural development. (Image credit: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs)

The report assesses how successfully the United States has been in reinvigorating and sustaining international support for global agricultural development and food security. It details changes in funding and activity on agricultural development by U.S. departments and agencies, by the U.S. Congress, and in three focus countries—Ghana, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh—between 2009 and 2012.

Both the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development receive an “outstanding” evaluation in the report, for their leadership in advancing agricultural issues amid challenging budget restrictions. The report specifically commends Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her development and support of the Feed the Future initiative, which has pledged US$3.5 billion to address the root causes of hunger and food insecurity.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture receive “good” evaluations. The report gives the Peace Corps a “satisfactory” evaluation, noting that its agriculture and environment volunteers still make up only 7 percent of the total number of volunteers in the field.

Stating that “problems of rural hunger and poverty cannot be overcome quickly,” the report urges that “the challenge in the years to come will be to maintain this strong leadership, and sustain the bipartisan support for food security and agricultural development initiatives.”

The report comes at a critical time for renewing interest in global agricultural investment: the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, a 2009 pledge by 13 of the world’s wealthiest countries to invest US$22 billion into global agricultural development, is set to expire in May. The ONE Campaign reported in 2011 that only 22 percent of the pledges have been fulfilled, and argued that this was largely due to a lack of political will and momentum. As of December 2011, the U.S., however, is on track to meet its commitment for the L’Aquila Initiative.

Speakers at the launch event included co-chairs Dan Glickman, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Catherine Bertini, former executive director of the UN World Food Programme.

Glickman stated that U.S. development strategies are “built on helping people to help themselves.” This has led to “implications on long term development, as well as had an impact on humanitarian and U.S. political implications.” Through programs like Feed the Future, the U.S. has been careful to invest in local initiatives and small-scale farmers.

Although the report presents an overall positive view on U.S. efforts in agricultural development, Bertini concluded that there were still areas of improvement. One major area of improvement she cited was to substitute current practices of monetization, where food aid is sold in local markets by NGOs and other food aid distributors, and replace it with cash transfers. She also called for enhanced participation from higher levels of leadership, such as ambassadors, in agricultural development. Finally, she emphasized the need for increased focus on women and girls, since women contribute to a large population of farmers in developing countries.

Click here to read the full report.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. government’s foreign agriculture development activities?

Laura Reynolds is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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 Dow Jones Sustainability Index is the only sustainability index for investors and remains the Oscar of corporate sustainability. But does it employ an effective definition of sustainability? (Photo Source: hms.harvard.edu)

On April 22nd 2012, more than 1 billion people from 192 countries celebrated Earth Day in some fashion. In an age where environmental awareness and climate mitigation are becoming central priorities, this is particularly encouraging. However, what exactly are the most effective steps to take on Earth Day and every other day of the year to truly reach sustainability? Metrics and best practices for achieving a sustainable planet are failing to develop concretely. So when I discovered a webinar – “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index” – discussing the methodology behind the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), I was intrigued to find out how the for-profit world defines and ranks businesses achieving sustainability.

History of DJSI

The DJSI launched in 1999 and was the first global benchmark for sustainability. I had the perception that the DJSI would rank companies based on their business practices, supply chains, or some other method that would determine which companies are practicing the most environmentally and socially responsible business activities. Instead, however, the main priority of the DJSI is to rank sustainability-driven companies based on how viable of an investment option they are according to their long term fiscally sustainable growth.

The DJSI is the only sustainability index for investors, and according to the webinar, a rank within DJSI remains the Oscar of corporate sustainability. The index only looks at the largest of the 2,500 companies in the Dow Jones Global Total Stock Market Index. Last year, of the 2,763 companies that were invited to submit an application to be considered in the DJSI, 1,443 were analyzed and approximately 320 were listed on the DJSI.

(Photo Source: "Unlocking the Mysteries of DJSI" powerpoint)

On April 10th, companies were sent the extensive survey required to be considered for the DJSI. Each question in the survey has a predetermined score for the answer, a weight for the question, and a weight for the overarching criteria questions are placed into. When filling out the assessment, a company does not know the point value given to different questions and criteria. While this allows for every question to be answered as honestly as possible, it also makes it difficult for companies to focus their resources towards areas within their company that would make them more sustainable, at least in the eyes of the DJSI.

This lack of transparency also prevents an accurate and effective evaluation of the tool. For example, it has been argued that one of the most effective ways to reduce energy needs while addressing climate change mitigation is to improve energy efficiency, although it’s not clear how building efficiency plays a role in the DJSI rankings.

One can get a sense of the index’s priorities when looking through DJSI’s guidebook. The DJSI lists many reasons for why a company may be removed from the DJSI list even after they have been awarded it. The first reason is poor business practices: (e.g., tax fraud, money laundering, antitrust, balance sheet fraud, and corruption cases) followed by human rights abuses, (e.g., cases involving discrimination, forced resettlements, child labor, and discrimination of indigenous people) layoffs or workforce conflicts, (e.g., extensive layoffs and strikes.) and finally, catastrophic events, which include ecological disasters.

Examples of companies being taken off the list are BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and most recently Olympus due to an internal financial scandal. The fact that poor financial conduct – not careless environmental and social behavior – is the very first reason given for why a company may be removed from the DJSI shows just how relative the definition of sustainability is.

Even though it is more than 20 years since the Brundtland Commission defined “sustainability” as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” the fact that a financial investment tool that values economics more than environmental and social impacts remains the largest sustainability metric currently in existence shows we are not yet at a point where we need to be. Investments deemed worthwhile by the DJSI are based on expectations of long-term growth and expansion, which if done irresponsibly, are largely counter-productive to what environmental sustainability is.

Despite the well-intentioned effort of the DJSI, a lack of transparency in how the questions are weighted and a focus on underlying financial priorities contradictory to environmental sustainability make it difficult to determine if a company is truly sustainable and if it is being labeled correctly. For investors attempting to invest intelligently and sustainably, there is a need for a clearer and more all-encompassing definition of sustainability in the DJSI.

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By Eleanor Fausold

What if we could take better care of the world’s marine ecosystems and boost the global economy in the process? A recent report, Green Economy in a Blue World, released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), WorldFish Center, and GRID-Arendal suggests that by promoting practices such as renewable energy generation, ecotourism, and sustainable fishing, we can improve the health of the world’s marine ecosystems while also boosting their potential to contribute to economic growth. 

Small-scale producers must also benefit from industry improvements. (Photo credit: USAID Bangladesh)

For each of six marine-related economic sectors, Green Economy in a Blue World lays out a series of recommendations based on the current state of the resource including:

1. Fisheries and Aquaculture

With 50 percent of the world’s fish stocks fully exploited and another 32 percent overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion, aquaculture is growing in popularity as a way to meet the rising global demand for fish. But aquaculture can also be harmful when it is poorly planned, and in such cases it can actually increase stress on suffering marine and coastal ecosystems. Technologies that encourage low-impact and fuel-efficient fishing methods, as well as aquaculture production systems that use environmentally-friendly feeds and reduce fossil fuel use, could reduce the sector’s carbon footprint and strengthen its role in reducing poverty and improving economic growth and food and nutrition security. The report also recommends strengthening regional and national fisheries agencies and community and trade fishing associations to encourage sustainable and equitable use of marine resources. It also suggests that there is a need for policies that ensure that the benefits of these industry improvements also impact small-scale producers and traders, particularly in developing nations.    

2. Marine Transport

Although international shipping is already a relatively safe, secure, efficient, and environmentally sound method of bulk transportation, Green Economy in a Blue World stresses the importance of implementing and enforcing standards, converting ships to environmentally sound fuel sources, preventing the transfer of invasive aquatic species (which often happens via ships’ ballast water or hulls), and addressing the technical, operational, and environmental implications of increasing ship size.

3. Marine-based Renewable Energy

Although marine-based renewable energy, which includes wind, wave and tidal systems, has high potential to significantly contribute to global energy production and green job creation, much of this technology is still in the development phase or facing cost barriers. The report recommends consistent long-term policies that stress specific development targets and governmental financial support for such projects. Governments’ active guidance and encouragement for these developments is essential if the industry is to reduce social, environmental, and legal conflicts and coexist with other marine system users.

4. Ocean Nutrient Pollution

Although fertilizers such as nitrogen and phosphorous can be big contributors to crop yield increases, inefficient use of these products is harming marine ecosystems and groundwater. The report recommends an approach that encourages recovery and recycling of waste nutrients, furthers regulation of nutrient removal from wastewater, mandates nutrient management plans in agriculture, and enhances regulation of manure.

5. Coastal Tourism

Because of an increase in travel and consumer preferences for trips involving further distances, shorter time periods, and more energy-intensive activities, global tourism is becoming a less environmentally sustainable industry. But there are ways for the tourism industry to become more sustainable while also encouraging growth. By pursuing strategies that encourage local product sourcing (such as through sustainable fisheries and agriculture) and protecting local cultures, the coastal tourism industry could grow: according to the report, one job in a core industry creates one and a half jobs in tourism-related sectors, so there is significant potential to boost green tourism jobs while also protecting the environment.

6. Deep-sea Minerals

Deep-sea minerals represent a potential new source of revenue that could support national development goals. This environment is still one of the least understood on the planet, however, so sound science and application of the best environmental practices should be applied to create a management system that recognizes present and future human uses of this environment as well as the ecosystem services it provides.

 The report also outlines several more general key steps that can be taken to protect marine and coastal ecosystems and boost the economy. These steps focus on improving waste management, encouraging cooperation between sectors, investing in energy efficiency, and generating cross-sectoral consultation between governments, communities, and businesses, suggesting tangible ways to take advantage of, and protect, some of our world’s greatest resources.

Click here to read the full report.

What other strategies do you think could both protect the environment and improve the economy? Comment below!

Eleanor Fausold is a research intern for 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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By Laura Reynolds

In its first annual Global Food Policy Report, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reflected on the major policy developments of 2011. The report analyzed the year’s food policy progress made and setbacks encountered at the global, regional, national, and local levels.

IFPRI's new report highlights the increased role agriculture and food security has on national and international decision-making. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The report focused on seven areas of change, both positive and negative, in the agriculture system over the last year. These include rising food price levels and volatility, natural and human-caused disasters, biofuels policy changes, land management changes, new players entering the food-system reform debate, new commitments to addressing climate change, and an increased recognition of the links between agriculture and nutrition, health, water, and energy.

One reason for optimism highlighted in the report is the increased role agriculture and food security has on national and international decision-making. “After many years of neglect, agriculture and food security are back on the development and political agendas,” according to the report. It pointed out that some 20 African countries, as part of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), have adopted national agricultural and food security investment plans, in which they will devote 10 percent of their national budget to agriculture.

In addition, for the first time, in 2011, the agriculture ministers of the Group of 20 (G20) countries met and agreed to collaborate to tackle food price volatility and food insecurity. I emerging economies, including Brazil, China, and India, gained a stronger voice in international decision-making while also pursuing their own national agricultural development plans.

IFPRI concluded that agriculture and food security will need to remain high on the global agenda in 2012 to avoid renewed crises. It warned that without preventative action, several hot spots of food insecurity could erupt into food crisis in 2012, especially in Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Senegal. These and other countries will need investment and planning help from the international community, to prevent famine, socioeconomic unrest, and backward progress in their food and agriculture systems.

What do you think? In what ways can agriculture help to reduce food security? Let us know in the comments section!

Laura Reynolds is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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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In this week’s episode, Nourishing the Planet discusses the Better Cotton Initiative—an international membership association made up of cotton retailers, producers, and non-profit groups—that is working in Pakistan, IndiaBrazil, and West and Central Africa (Benin, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso) to promote sustainable cotton cultivation that is less damaging to the health of farmers and the environment.

Video: http://youtu.be/TnVt_Y6Ysdg

To read more about the Better Cotton Initiative, see: Innovation of the Week: Better Cotton, Better Livelihoods.

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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