Approximately 21 percent of indigenous animal breeds around the world are in danger of extinction, according to the FAO. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)
Indigenous breeds of livestock have fed and clothed humans for thousands of years. Many of them have unique adaptations for survival in harsh environments and for tolerating specific diseases.
Regrettably, while it took millennia to create the rich genetic wealth of indigenous livestock breeds, that diversity is in danger of being lost forever as farmers are encouraged to switch to commercial livestock or cross-breed indigenous livestock with exotic breeds.
The following are five breeds of livestock in Africa whose genetic diversity deserves to be protected.
1. Ankole Cattle: The Ankole is a breed of cattle native to Eastern Africa that is not only beautiful but valuable because of its ability to survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions—a trait that is increasingly useful as sub-Saharan Africa becomes drier and hotter. These animals have striking, long, large-diameter horns, which help circulate blood and keep them cool in hot climes. The animals are renowned for their hardiness, allowing them to forage on poor quality vegetation and live off limited amounts of water.(more…)
The Global Food Security Index: An Assessment of Food Affordability, Availability and Quality (Photo credit: Economist Intelligence Unit)
The Global Food Security Index was commissioned by DuPont to address the need for “specific metrics to illustrate what food security looks like at the local level country by country.” Kullman began the launch by stating the amount of food grown in the world is twice the amount needed to provide the global nutritional need. She said that sustainable solutions are needed and DuPont’s goal is to find tangible means to address this global tragedy. According to Kullman, the Global Food Security Index is important to this mission because, “everyone describes food security differently and there needs to be a common language to achieve this mutual goal.”
The Global Food Security Index rates and ranks 105 different countries (only 105 were included based on available and reliable data). The index provides an interactive way to assess individual countries on where they rank based on a variety of indicators ranging from food consumption as a share of household expenditure, agricultural infrastructure, and food safety.
The Andes Mountains are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. Settled in the heart of these mountains near Cusco, Peru, lies Parque de la Papa (Potato Park), a park dedicated to preserving this biodiversity and protecting one of the world’s most widely-recognized crops—the potato.
Parque de la Papa is home to over 1,100 varieties of potatoes (Photo credit: Agricultural Research Service)
The potato is believed to have originated in the southern Peruvian Andes, where indigenous groups used 20 native varieties to domesticate the crop and create some 2,300 new varieties. The park itself is home to more than 700 local varieties, over 400 varieties repatriated from the International Potato Center, and 5 wild varieties.
Parque de la Papa is made up of more than 6,000 people who live in six communities. These six communities of native people used to be separate from one another, but now they are united in an effort to preserve and recover the biodiversity of their potatoes. Projects within the park are administered by the communities as a group, which ensures community participation and sharing of benefits. Legally, the communities comprise part of the Association of Communities of Potato Park, the administrative body of the park. This association forms the park’s internal organization and carries out important functions such as creating and promoting regulations and sustainable practices that protect that park’s character, environment, and natural resources.
Much of the way Andean natives treat their crops is influenced by their rich social and cultural beliefs. According to the Andean world view, one cultural and spiritual concept, Pachamama, unites everything in nature, including human beings, plants, earth, water, and valleys. Similar to the concept of Mother Earth, Pachamama emphasizes the sacred relationship with one’s surroundings and is celebrated regularly through year-round festivities. Adherence to this concept, in conjunction with the three core Andean Principles of Balance, Reciprocity, and Duality, helps maintain equity and preserve biodiversity within the park.
The panel at the launch of "Eating Planet" in New York City. (Photo credit: Leeann Lavin)
During the event, Samuel Fromartz, editor-in-chief of the Food & Environment Reporting Network, moderated a discussion where speakers debated some of the issues the addressed in the book: the paradoxes of the global food system, the cultural value of food, production and consumption trends, and the effects of individual eating habits on health and on the environment. “More than one-third of the food produced today does not even reach people plates—about 1.3 billion tons per year—placing unnecessary pressure on land, water, and soil resources,” said Bloom. “All of us; producers, consumers, policy makers, and those in the food industry need to make an effort to reduce the amount of food that is wasted and its environmental impact.”
Although agriculture is more productive and efficient than ever before, more than 1 billion people worldwide remain chronically hungry, and another 1 billion people are overweight or obese. “The fundamental problem continuing to cause both hunger and obesity is that it is difficult, almost everywhere in the world to access nutritious foods,” said Gustafson. “In the developed world, food is abundant, but the most abundant is usually the least nutritious and most calorie dense. In the developing world, you can often still access soft drinks or packaged processed foods, but not the diversity of healthy foods that are needed for good nutrition.”
“Unfortunately, what we all need is more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins for good nutrition,” added Nourishing the Planet project director and Eating Planet contributing author, Danielle Nierenberg, who convened the panel. “Until those foods are the focus of agricultural systems all around the world, both sides of the malnutrition coin—hunger and obesity—are likely to persist.” Nourishing the Planet and BCFN hope for Eating Planet to contribute to sustainable food and agriculture development in many ways. “The study’s conclusions represent a major step toward ensuring that agriculture contributes to health, environmental sustainability, income generation, and food security,” said Paolo Barilla, Vice President of the Barilla Group. “The ingredients will vary by country and region, but there are some key components that will lead to healthier food systems everywhere.”
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, India, Brazil, 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.
Across the globe, the food system is broken. Worldwide, 30 percent of food is wasted, 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night, while another 1 billion suffer from health problems related to obesity and agriculture contributes roughly one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Meanwhile, people are increasingly disconnected from how their food reaches their plate, making solutions to the global agricultural system seem even more difficult to attain.
The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, in collaboration with Nourishing the Planet, is releasing its book, Eating Planet, today. (Image credit: Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition).
The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) is collaborating with the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project to release their report, Eating Planet, today, April 22, (Earth Day). Eating Planet will highlight the challenges facing the food and agricultural system, as well as the numerous benefits that reform could bring.
The book incorporates findings from the report with contributions from many renowned experts and activists worldwide. “The study’s conclusions represent a major step toward ensuring that agriculture contributes to health, environmental sustainability, income generation, and food security,” said Nourishing the Planet project director Danielle Nierenberg. “The ingredients will vary by country and region, but there are some key components that will lead to healthier food systems everywhere.”
The report is divided into four sections: Food for All, Food for Sustainable Growth, Food for Health, and Food for Culture. Each section describes the challenges we face in providing safe, healthy, and environmentally sustainable food and offers concrete recommendations, proposals, and actions to help solve the global food crisis. The book also draws upon experts’ specific suggestions for food and agricultural reform, including healthy eating and lifestyles, fair food prices, and transparent and responsible food trade.
For the last 40 years, Earth Day has been celebrated around the world to call attention to some of our most pressing environmental and social problems, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and dwindling natural resources. This year, the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet highlights 15 agricultural innovations that are already working on the ground to address some of those problems.
Agriculture is already working on the ground around the world to protect the environment, while improving people's livelihoods. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)
The 15 innovations are used by farmers, scientists, activists, politicians, and businesses and promote a healthier environment and a more food-secure future.
Guaranteeing the Right to Food. Some 1 billion people worldwide experience chronic hunger, and 98 percent of these people live in developing countries. To combat hunger in rural or remote communities, the Brazilian government operates the Food Acquisition Program, which funds local organizations, including community kitchens, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and schools, to buy and distribute fruits, vegetables, and animal products from smallholder farmers in their region.
Harnessing the Nutritional and Economic Potential of Vegetables. Micronutrient deficiencies, including lack of vitamin A, iodine, and iron, affect 1 billion people worldwide and stem partly from a lack of variety in people’s diets. Slow Food International works to broaden diets, and preserve biodiversity, by helping farmers grow local and indigenous varieties of fruits and vegetables, organizing cooking workshops, and helping producers get access to traditional seeds.
Check out this article in Voice of America that features our new research on rising farm animal populations and the increase in factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
The demand for meat products is rising sharply in developing nations as their economies improve. (Photo credit: Voice of America)
The demand for meat, eggs, and dairy products in developing countries has increased at a staggering rate in recent decades, according to the report. Although industrialized countries still consume the most animal products, urbanization and rising incomes in developing countries are spurring shifts to more meat-heavy diets. To meet this demand, animals are often raised in factory farms, which produce high levels of waste, use huge amounts of water and land for feed production, contribute to the spread of human and animal diseases, and play a role in biodiversity loss.
Nourishing the Planet is collaborating with a team of graduate students at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design (ID) to research the problem of global food waste. In February, the ID research team hosted a workshop in which participants shared photos and talked about their experiences implementing bottom of the pyramid projects in India, Thailand, and Africa.
An ID team member takes notes on a projected photograph of a Botswana farmer as Danielle Nierenberg shares her story. (Photo credit: ID)
This workshop, along with other design research and analysis methods, will be used to identify opportunities for addressing food waste in developing countries. Patrick Whitney, Dean of the Institute of Design, is the faculty adviser to the project. Whitney has published and lectured around the world on ways of making technological innovations more humane, the link between design and business strategy, and design for the bottom of the pyramid.
The result of the students’ work will be included in an upcoming e-book on food waste co-authored by Nourishing the Planet Director Danielle Nierenberg and journalist Jonathan Bloom. The report will highlight agricultural practices that aim to reduce post-harvest losses obtained through NtP’s existing research on food waste and insights from field experts.
Stay tuned for more updates on the report.
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.
In this week’s episode, we discuss a program helping farmers in Tanzania work together to earn a sustainable living, while healing the land. CARE International’s Equitable Payment for Watershed Management (EPWM) program encourages, and works closely with, smallholder farmers to use intercropping and terraces to help restore—and hold in place—the soil.