Posts Tagged ‘investment’


Saturday Series: An Interview with Dr. José Daboub

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By Devon Ericksen

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Dr. José Daboub of GAIN (Photo Credit: GAIN)

Name: Dr. Juan José Daboub

Affiliation: The Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN). GAIN  is a non-profit made up of global leaders and climate scientists focused on the urgent need for adaptation in a changing world. By measuring what is at risk and supporting projects that are working towards adaptation, GAIN hopes to save lives and livelihoods around the globe.

Bio: Dr. Juan José Daboub is the Founding CEO of GAIN, as well as Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change. Dr. Daboub’s career began in El Salvador, where he became a respected business leader and from 1999 to 2004 he served as both the country’s Minister of Finance and the Chief of Staff to President Francisco Flores. In 2004 he joined Flores in starting the America Libre Institute, a non-profit that implemented projects in Latin America promoting liberty, stability, and growth. From 2006 until the creation of GAIN in 2010, Dr. Daboub was the Managing Director of the World Bank, where he oversaw operations in 110 countries around the world. Dr. Daboub brings his global experience to GAIN, and shares with us his thoughts on the Institute’s work.

How did the Global Adaptation Institute begin and what led to the creation of the GAIN Index?

The Global Adaptation Institute was created in 2010 in order to fill a gap in helping countries, especially those in the developing world, to be more resilient and have a better capacity to adapt to an ever-changing world. We brought together a group of world leaders in both the private and public sectors to encourage organizations, especially private ones, to be more conscious of the urgent need to adapt.

With that in mind, the Institute focuses on three areas that we believe are very effective at helping to save lives and livelihoods:

  1. We need to be able to measure what matters. We need a proper matrix to know whether policies and investments are helping to build resilience. Creating this matrix, called the GAIN Index, is a focus of the Institute. We believe the GAIN Index is the most modern and advanced tool out there for measuring a country’s readiness and vulnerabilities in order to improve their conditions.
  2. Identify what’s going on in the real world and highlight practical solutions that investors can focus on.
  3. Build strategic alliances with organizations such as universities and think tanks that are interested in the subject of adaptation.

What kind of response have you received to the GAIN Index? Have you had much success in convincing governments and private businesses to adopt climate adaptation measures?

Many companies, such as ABM, Caterpillar, Cargill, Pepsi-Cola, and Coca-Cola, are beginning to consider adaptation risks in certain countries and in certain parts of their production lines when making investments and building resilience in their supply chain. Any company that deals with food production, insurance, water, infrastructure, or energy in the international sphere must consider these factors, and many are beginning to do so.



Investment in Women Farmers Still Too Low

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Women farmers produce more than half of all food worldwide and currently account for 43 percent of the global agricultural labor force, yet few extension or research services are directed at women farmers, according to new research conducted for our Vital Signs Online service. Women produce as much as 50 percent of the agricultural output in South Asia and 80 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Women produce as much as half of the world’s agricultural output. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

In spite of women farmers’ essential roles in global and local food security, there is a persistent gender gap in agriculture. Cultural norms and restrictive property or inheritance rights limit the types and amount of financial resources, land, or technology available to women. Studies in South Asia and throughout the Middle East also show that women receive lower wages and are more likely to work part-time or seasonally than men in comparable jobs, regardless of similar levels of education and experience.

Recognizing the factors restricting women from receiving full compensation for their role in global agriculture is key to alleviating the gender gap in agricultural employment, resources, and development. Women produce 60–80 percent of the food in developing countries but own less than 2 percent of the land. They typically farm non-commercial, staple crops, such as rice, wheat, and maize, which account for 90 percent of the food consumed by the rural poor.

Fewer extension or research services are directed at women farmers because of perceptions of the limited commercial viability of their labor or products—and only 15 percent of extension officers around the world are women. Yet the Economist Intelligence Unit’s newly developed Global Food Security Index has a 0.93 correlation with its index of Women’s Economic Opportunity, showing that countries with more gender-sensitive business environments—based on labor policies, access to finance, and comparative levels of education and training—have more abundant, nutritious, and affordable food. This relationship provides evidence that when women have equal resources and opportunity, they can produce higher—and higher-quality—agricultural yields.



2007-2008 Food Crisis: Causes, Responses, and Lessons Learned

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By Jameson Spivack

The world food crisis of 2007-2008 caused a substantial rise in the cost of food, especially staple foods such as rice, wheat, and corn. This rise in price had a devastating effect on hungry people in the developing world.

When food prices rise, poor people in developing countries are hurt the most. (Image source: IFPRI)

Between 2005 and 2011, world prices for rice, wheat, and maize rose 102 percent, 115 percent, and 204 percent, respectively, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). With price increases, people with less disposable income must spend a larger percentage of their earnings on essential staple grains, and less on other food and non-food items. This can have a significant impact on nutrition.

In seven Latin American countries, this increase in price led to an average 8 percent decrease in the amount of calories consumed. Before the crisis, 35 percent of households in Ecuador received an adequate amount of calories; afterwards, only 22 percent were receiving healthy levels of calories. In developing countries, if prices rise 50 percent across the board, and there is no rise in income, iron intake will decrease by 30 percent, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). In the Philippines, this 30 percent decrease in iron consumption would mean that only 5 percent of women have adequate levels of iron.



UN Report Calls for a Realignment of Agricultural Reform

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By Laura Reynolds

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) has released a report entitled “Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability.” The report will provide input for UNDESA’s Sustainable Development in the 21st century (SD21) Report for Rio+20, which will serve as a roadmap during the UN Conference on Sustainable Development this June.

A new UN report calls for sustained investment in smallholder farmers. (Image credit: UNDESA)

The report sought contributions from four major groups working in the global food and agriculture system: a policy and trade group, a business specialists group, a rural livelihoods and poverty expert group, and an agricultural production and environmental sustainability group. Nourishing the Planet director Danielle Nierenberg coordinated the rural livelihoods and poverty expert group.

The central idea of the report is that during this century, farmers will need to produce more food per unit of land, water, and agrochemicals to feed the rapidly growing world population. But they will have to do this while facing climate change, market and social volatility, shifting nutrition needs, and an increasing scarcity of most of the factors involved in food production, including fertile soil, fossil fuels, and even farmers themselves.

The report’s contributors agree that one of the most problematic trends in the food and agriculture system is the misaligned focus on maximum production and yield. “The current ‘more production’ orientation is so outdated and unresponsive to our current needs that it is causing its own problems, particularly for our environment and natural resources,” states the report.

Partly as a consequence of this focus on production, 1 billion people are overweight or obese in the world while another billion are undernourished. Instead of focusing on production, policymakers and reformers must work to broaden access to food and improve the variety and nutrition of foods. “Rather than simply ‘more’ production, we must also consider what would be ‘better’ production and better food systems.”



Chicago Council Evaluates U.S. Support of Agriculture Abroad

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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 One Campaign Urges “Final Push” to Break Cycle of Poverty and Malnutrition

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By Laura Reynolds

As part of its THRIVE campaign, the grassroots organization The One Campaign has released a report, FOOD. FARMING. FUTURE. Breaking the Cycle of Malnutrition and Poverty. The report offers concrete steps to lift communities out of extreme poverty and food insecurity, and highlights success stories from Malawi and Tanzania.

Proper nutrition is vital for child development. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Malnutrition, or not getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals in one’s diet, can contribute to stunted physical development and shorter, less-productive lives. According to the World Bank, individuals suffering from malnutrition lose an average of 10 percent of their potential lifetime earnings.

Around 1.4 billion people, or 20 percent of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty, earning less than US$1.25 per day. One billion of these people also suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition. Children suffer disproportionately from malnutrition: 2.5 million children will die in this year alone from not getting enough food, and the development of 178 million children will be irreversibly impaired.

The report points out that reactive measures, such as early warning systems, safety net programs, and coordinated humanitarian responses have not been enough to eradicate the food crises and famines that result from drought and national disasters. A more preventative approach, beginning with increased investment in agriculture—and the financial and infrastructure systems that support it—is needed to increase incomes and eradicate food security.

Agricultural investment has proven to be the most effective means of lifting entire communities out of poverty. When connected to markets, smallholder farmers can generate income, send their children to school, and boost their community’s economy over the long-term. For this reason, investments in agriculture are estimated to be around two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than investment in other sectors.



Journalists Speak about How to Meet the World’s Food Production Needs

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By Eleanor Fausold

On April 5th, the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of International Studies (SAIS) hosted a discussion on hunger and food production with journalists Alan Bjerga and Roger Thurow. Bjerga covers agricultural policy for Bloomberg News and has received multiple awards for his work in regards to Ethiopia and U.S. food aid, and Roger Thurow served as a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal for 30 years and is currently a Senior Fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Both have recently written books on how to address hunger and the need to dramatically increase global food production.

Providing farmers with basic inputs such as seed and training can help increase crop yields. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The event was held as part of SAIS’s Year of Agriculture, a year-long theme that examines the important role that agriculture plays in international relations. The program aims to encourage discussion on topics such as food production and security, development of biofuels, the impact of global climate change, fresh water shortages, and decreasing availability of land for food production.

According to Bjerga, the global food crisis is a serious problem that has only been exacerbated by increasingly volatile food prices over the past several years. In order to address the current problem of hunger and meet the needs of a growing population, Bjerga and Thurow stressed food production will need to double by the year 2050. To meet this goal, said Thurow, “smallholder farmers of Africa are going to be indispensable.” These farmers, he explained, are far behind those in the developed world in terms of crop production, but this also means that they have huge potential to vastly increase yields.

Both journalists stressed that for smallholder farmers to be able to increase their yields, they need access to inputs and training. Inputs, including seed, fertilizer, storage, financing, crop insurance, and education can all make a dramatic difference in crop production and farmer livelihoods. Thurow noted that he had seen first-hand the benefits that such inputs can bring: during a visit to western Kenya, he met with one farmer who saw her maize yields in 2011 grow to 10 times what they had been in 2010 because she received inputs and training from the One Acre Fund.



UN Calls for More Greenbacks to Grow Green Agriculture Globally

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By Philip Newell

Recently, the United Nations Development Policy and Analysis Division (UN DPAD) released their annual World Economic and Social Survey. This report calls for an increase in government support to aid small-scale farmers and reduce environmental damage from conventional agriculture.

Drip-irrigation systems, like this one in Niger, use significantly less water than conventional sprinklers. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The report finds that the Green Revolution practices of the last century have had harmful effects on the environment, leading directly to land degradation, loss of biodiversity, and climate change. But supporting small-scale farmers, according to the report, can encourage the use of local innovations and experience, and mitigate the consequences of conventional agriculture. “Evidence has shown that, for most crops, the optimal farm is small in scale and it is at this level that most gains in terms of both sustainable productivity increases and rural poverty reduction can be achieved.”

According to the report “global food production needs to increase by 70 to 100 percent from current levels by 2050,” but this increase does not need to come from a doubling of the acres of farmland currently under production. Instead, investments in transportation and storage could reduce the amount of food that is wasted. A reduction in post-harvest losses—the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates a 50 percent loss of crops globally—could ease pressure on farmland already under production by maximizing the utility of their current yield.

Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of worldwide water use. Any significant increase in conventional agriculture could exacerbate looming water shortages because conventional irrigation systems are usually inefficient —up to 40 percent of water pumped never reaches crops. By employing drip irrigation and other watering techniques, such as a buried clay pot system that stores water and treadle pumps, farmers can improve agricultural yields while decreasing water consumption.



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.



How Wealthy Nations Drive Food Insecurity

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By Daniel Bornstein

Daniel Bornstein is a sophomore at Dartmouth College interested in global food security. He has written columns on international development issues for, the Merrick Herald (Merrick, N.Y.), and College News Magazine. He was named a national semifinalist in the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search for his research on poplar’s viability as a biofuel—a potential alternative to the corn-based ethanol that drives up world food prices. Daniel, a native of Merrick, NY, graduated as salutatorian from John F. Kennedy-Bellmore High School.

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Biofuels have become interlinked with investor land grabbing, which deprives locals of precious farmland. (Photo credit:

World leaders can talk all they want about the need for investments in agricultural productivity in Africa, but food insecurity will only worsen unless countries confront this harsh reality: wealthy countries’ land use strategies only increase the vulnerability of the world’s poorest people, and our global food system neglects the human right to food and favors capitalist wealth accumulation. Countries have responded to resource scarcity and climate change through biofuel production, land grabbing, and the United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program (REDD) — all signs of the injustices embedded in the international politics of food.

U.S. farmers have diverted cropland toward fuel production, driving up global food prices. We have already seen the disastrous impact on poor countries: Demand for biofuels played a role in the 2008 food price spike that spurred riots in over 30 countries. Amidst the effort to wean America off oil, the entrenched farm lobby found in biofuels another way for its farmers to profit by marginalizing developing countries. It is as if generous subsidies to American farmers — which enable them to sell their surplus cheaply on the international market — were not enough.