Posts Tagged ‘Funding’

Aug30

Innovation of the Week: Policy Analysis at Your Fingertips

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By Ronica Lu

The Farm Bill Budget Visualizer, recently released by the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is an innovative, web-based application that provides a visually pleasing, interactive breakdown of Farm Bill legislation spending.

A screenshot of the Farm Bill Budget Visualizer’s homepage (Photo Credit: Food and Tech Connect)

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive omnibus bill, first passed in 1973 and updated every four or five years, that deals with food and agricultural affairs under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Farm Bill is the primary food and agricultural policy tool of the U.S. federal government and addresses issues from numerous perspectives—including everything from food assistance and nutrition education, to efforts to improve access to fruits and vegetables.

With the upcoming release of the updated 2012 Farm Bill from Congress later this year, the Budget Visualizer helps the general public, advocacy groups, and policymakers make connections between the provisions of the bill and the amount of federal spending allotted to each program.

The visualizer displays Farm Bill programs in collapsible and expandable boxes. The sizes of the boxes are proportional to the amount of funding the programs receive. The use of the app does not require a software download, but does use the latest versions of Java and Adobe Flash.

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Feb25

Canadian Research Center Helps Fund Projects Addressing Global Food Security

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By Graham Salinger

In many developing countries, poor people spend more than half their income on food, but many of them are not getting enough nutrients to stay healthy. The International Development Research Center (IDRC) is working to change that problem. Founded by an act of Canadian Parliament in 1970, IDRC works with research institutions and universities to advance the well being of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. IDRC has provided CA$2.8 billion in grants since its founding with a focus on agricultural programs that increase food security in the developing world and grow local rural and urban economies. Research funded by IDRC is helping find ways to help small-scale farmers deal with shocks to food prices and utilize technologies to enhance agricultural productivity.

A woman and dairy goat in Kibosho, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Erwin Kinsey, LEISA Magazine)

In 2011, IDRC funded long term agricultural projects to help farmers deal with economic pressures and increased threats posed by climate change. In Kenya, IDRC funding has allowed researchers at McGill University and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute to identify and develop appropriate and durable farming techniques for dryland agriculture while increasing access to markets for Kenyan farmers.

In the Dodoma and Morogoro regions of Tanzania, IDRC is funding research that will help increase goat milk and meat production. The research, conducted by the University of Alberta and The Sokoine University of Agriculture, will test and analyze improved cassava and sweet potato varieties as part of a feeding strategy for dairy goats and efforts to strengthen food production. This research highlights the importance of livestock production in the region.  Goats rank second to cattle in the contribution of livestock to income and human nutrition, and 90 percent of rural households in Tanzania keep livestock.

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Nov26

Are Donor Countries Reneging on L’Aquila Promises?

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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.

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Aug30

New report urges the government to invest in farmers markets

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By Graham Salinger 

Every economist knows that there is no such thing as a free lunch, but if you buy the ingredients for your lunch–or breakfast or dinner–at a farmers market you could help provide a much needed boost to the economy.

Investing in farmers' markets could help boost the economy, according to this new report. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

A  report by the Union  for Concerned Scientists  stresses the importance of farmers markets in generating local revenue and creating jobs and identifies a number of steps the federal government should take to encourage the growth of farmers markets.  While the number of farmers markets nationwide more than doubled between 2000 and 2010 from 2,863 to 6,132, the report’s author, Jeffrey O’Hara, argues that more government resources could be used to support farmers markets. “On the whole, farmers markets have seen exceptional growth, providing local communities with fresh food direct from the farm,” O’Hara points out. “The fact that farmers are selling directly to the people who live nearby means that sales revenue stays local. That helps stabilize local economies,” explains O’Hara.

But If the government is going to make good on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s request  to help provide entrepreneurial training and support for farmers markets in efforts to get 100,000 Americans to become farmers by next year, the government is going to need to use the 2012 Farm Bill to prioritize funding for farmers markets.  Last year the USDA spent nearly $14 billion in commodity, crop insurance, and supplemental disaster assistance payments to support industrial agriculture, while less than $100 million was spent on supporting local food producers.

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Aug11

A call for increased financial aid to end the famine in the Horn of Africa

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Earlier today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. to discuss the current food security issues in eastern Africa.

The Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) shows the severity of eastern Africa’s food crisis (Image Credit: USAID)

“What is happening in the Horn of Africa is the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today,” Secretary Clinton said. Over 12 million residents of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti are currently at risk of starvation. Compounding problems in Somalia, the only part of the continent in which famine has been declared, is the absence of central governance and the presence of a regional paramilitary organization hostile to Western organizations in the country.

Secretary Clinton is confident that increased financial assistance, in-country aid work, and policy tools can all be used effectively to end the short-term crisis and establish long-term governmental and agricultural self-sufficiency.

Click here to watch Secretary Clinton’s remarks.

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.

Jul21

Climate-Proofing the Solomon Islands

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By Kamaria Greenfield

The Solomon Islands—992 of them in total—form a low-lying archipelago in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. The total land area of the islands is slightly less than that of Maryland, and the inhabited third of the islands are home to over a half million people. Because the islands are so close to sea level, rising water levels—likely a result of climate change—are taking their toll on both the people and the geography of the Islands.

Small, low-lying islands like the one in the background are among the most vulnerable. (Photo credit: AFP)

Increasing soil salinity, for example, is killing taro roots, ferns, and other subsistence crops that coastal communities in the Islands depend on for food and income. Erratic weather patterns mean more of the droughts and floods that can compromise the productivity of inland fields. Tropical cyclones such as Namu, which devastated the Solomon Islands rice industry in 1986, are another issue. Rising sea levels and the gradual erosion of coasts also reduce the amount of land that can be cultivated.

But efforts are underway to “climate-proof” the islands, ensuring food security as both the temperature and the waters rise. Earlier this month, the Solomon Islands received a US$4.3 million grant from Australia. This money will be used to repair infrastructure, such as the roads destroyed by floods in 2010, and make them less vulnerable to extreme weather in the future. “Strengthening infrastructure against climate change is critical to ensuring rural communities easily have easy access to their workplaces, farms, schools, and other essential services,” said Robert Wihtol, Director General of the Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Department.

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Jun09

Investing in India’s Small-Scale Farmers

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By N.N. Sachitanand

Nourishing the Planet reader N.N.Sachitanand recently wrote this article about the challenges of falling wholesale prices for Indian farmers. The author highlights three areas for increased investment to protect small-scale farmers against price fluctuations and improve their livelihoods. Increasing the availability of storage facilities especially for fresh produce, investing in transportation infrastructure, and focusing on value-added products can help raise incomes of small-scale farmers who comprise the majority of agriculturists in India.

If Tata Motors had to sell the Nano at Rs.10 lakhs one month and Rs.10 thousand in the subsequent month, what would Mr. Ratan Tata do ?  Most probably he would close down production of the Nano. Unfortunately, the Indian farmer does not have the luxury of stopping cultivation when wholesale prices for the crop that he brings to the market collapse to less than the transport cost from the farm to the market. That is because by the time the crop is harvested it is too late.  And, if he does not sow for the next harvest, he will have no income and his family will starve.

There’s a need to improve storage facilities, invest in transportation, and promote value-added products for Indian farmers. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Time and again, the Indian famer has been plagued by this dilemma: “damned if he sows and damned if he doesn’t”.  He rides a roller coaster ride of pricing, with no controls over the coaster. At least the grain farmer has some sort of cushion in the Minimum Support Price offered by the government. For farmers of perishable produce – fruits and vegetables – it is a story of either making a killing or being financially killed. Some months ago onions were fetching the prices of silver; now they are bringing tears to the eyes of the grower. Yesterday tomatoes were ruling at Rs.30 per kilo in Karnataka; today farmers are dumping them on the roadside at the mandis (markets).

Unlike in industry, where the factors of production can be controlled, agriculture is a different ball game where variables like atmospheric moisture, temperature, intensity and duration of sunshine etc. are totally out of the farmer’s control. He has to sow and reap as per seasonal dictates.  Sure, the farmer can create his own micro-climate using greenhouses but the cost is prohibitive and in a price-sensitive market like ours, he will find it almost impossible to recover his costs. We want more agricultural production to meet the rising demands of an increasingly better – off humongous population. But how will agriculture be able to attract the necessary additional investment if the returns on investment are so uncertain and volatile?

With respect to agriculture, while our planners and researchers have done a lot of work on improving productivity, little attention has been paid to stabilizing and enhancing returns. This has kept the small farmers, who form the majority of agriculturists in India, on the fringe of poverty. Industrialists club together to form informal cartels, the so-called “associations,” to control aggregate output commensurate with demand and thus prevent steep price dips. The farming community, because of its widespread and disaggregated nature, cannot do likewise.   This is particularly true of the “fruit and vegetable” farmers, whose produce is rapidly perishable and cannot be withheld for long from the market.

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Jun04

All the World’s a Stage: Theater Programs to Alleviate Hunger are Counting on It

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By Molly Theobald

Broadway symbolizes the art of live theater around the world and is an integral piece of New York’s identity. In one of the most high-tech and highly touristed cities in the world, the classic entertainment of a Broadway play manages to remain a main attraction. Even in the tough economy of the 2009-2010 theater season Broadway shows grossed around $1.02 billion. And starring on Broadway has long been seen as the pinnacle of acting. Generations of dreamers have come from far and wide—risking everything—for the chance to act in a Broadway play.

FANRPAN uses theater to help women farmers and influence agricultural development policies. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

That’s the power of theater; it provides an intimacy and immediacy of message that is lost in the perfect storm of television, online media, and portable music devices that we are caught up in during our day to day lives. And it makes one wonder how that could be harnessed to do more than just entertain. Maybe, for example, it could be used to help end world hunger.

With the population of people going hungry worldwide near 1 billion that might seem like a bold statement, but one organization, Food and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), in Southern Africa, believes it is one bold statement worth some investment.

FANRPAN’s Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project is using theater to infuse it’s more ambitious main goal—to strengthening the capacity of women farmers’ influence in agriculture policy development and programs in Southern Africa—with a little of the impact and immediacy that audiences have come to enjoy at the Fringe Festival every year.

It’s especially important that FANRPAN get creative in its methods because women in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa—the epicenter of world hunger—make up 80 percent of the small-scale farmers and produce 60 percent of food. Yet, women throughout sub-Saharan Africa are often even more disadvantaged than their male-counterparts, usually lacking access to the credit, land, training, education, markets and tools they need to properly feed their families.

Furthermore, funding for agricultural development as a whole has been steadily declining for the past fifteen years. And women farmers receive the least amount of what little attention the funding community is paying to agriculture. For example, only 5 percent of extension services are targeted specifically at women. It leads one to believe that the donor and policy making community may have lost its way a bit in the fight to alleviate global hunger.

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May29

Small Farmers are the Answer

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Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people directly depend on small plots of farmland for food and income, yet they often do not have access to the right resources in order to be successful. If provided with the right tools and extension services, these small scale farmers could grow more and sell more food, feed their families, send their children to school and improve their livelihoods.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has created a challenge to encourage investment in small holder farmers in the developing world as a means of reducing global hunger and poverty. Through the use of visual media, the Foundation is challenging individuals and organizations to show the world how small scale farmers are growing more, earning more, and gaining access to more markets, and how investing in them is good for the world as a whole.

Click here to find out more about the challenge and how you can participate!

Here is Nourishing the Planet’s entry for the challenge. It is a photo essay of 15 innovations that are helping small scale farmers improve their food security and better their livelihoods.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

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.

 

Apr21

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture on Earth Day

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The Nation, one of the largest daily newspapers in Malawi, published this article highlighting Nourishing the Planet’s call for agriculture to be seen as a solution to our global environmental challenges.

Photo credit: The Nation

Agriculture is a source of food and income for the world’s poor and a primary engine for economic growth. It also offers untapped potential for mitigating climate change and protecting biodiversity, and for lifting millions of people out of poverty.

As the negative impacts of climate change take hold, and food prices continue to skyrocket, sustainable agricultural practices are more important than ever.

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.