Posts Tagged ‘production’


Investing in the Future of Livestock: An Interview with Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson

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Worldwatch Institute’s Supriya Kumar spoke with Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, projects coordinator for the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development (LPP).  LPP supports people in marginal areas to encourage socially sustainable livestock production.  

“We want to focus on animal culture, not animal industry,” said Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, while on a visit to Washington, D.C. last year.

“Everyone is worried about a growing human population, but what no one is paying attention to is the fact that livestock populations have grown twice as fast as human population has in the last 50 years. Even more concerning is the fact that the rate of culling is 7 times higher than it was 50 years ago,” said Koehler-Rollefson.  These are just a few signs of how unsustainable current methods of livestock production are.

The League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development supports people in marginal areas to encourage sustainable livestock production. (Photo Credit: The Ark of Livestock Biodiversity)

LPP was started in 1992 by a small group of veterinary and other concerned professionals, including Koehler-Rollefson, to support pastoral societies and other small-scale livestock keepers through research, technical support, advisory services, and advocacy. “Many government policies are now focused on industrial and factory farms. Our mission is to address any gaps between the needs of the small-scale livestock keepers. We also work with family and smallholder farms as well.”

Koehler-Rollefson visited Washington, D.C. to advocate for livestock keepers in national and international agricultural policy decisions at the High-level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020. Other groups at the meeting represented big names and organizations in the livestock sector, including the International Livestock Research Institute, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. But no one, other than Koehler-Rollefson, was present to represent smaller-scale livestock producers and pastoralists.

LPP uses three main approaches in their advocacy efforts. One approach is the Biological Community Protocol (BCP), which aims to empower livestock keepers as stewards of biological diversity under the protection of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Under this Convention, countries are committed to support and protect local and indigenous communities who are helping to improve biodiversity.



Innovation of the Week: Aqua Shops

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By Eleanor Fausold

Aquaculture has potential to stimulate economic growth and increase food production in Kenya. (Photo credit: Lilian Kamola Kaivilu)

In Western Kenya, where nearly 60 percent of households depend on fish as a source of income, dwindling fish supplies are hurting the economy and those who rely on fish as a source of food. Lake Victoria currently provides over 90 percent of Kenya’s fish supply, but a combination of overfishing and pollution have led to a decline in fish stocks, causing prices to rise because supply is not keeping up with demand.

As a solution, Kenya’s government is supporting the development of aquaculture in an effort to promote economic growth and stimulate food production. In addition to providing basic infrastructure and supporting research and development, the government is also providing funding for the construction of 46,000 fish ponds in 160 of the country’s 210 constituencies and has given farmers catfish and tilapia fingerlings, or very young fish, and fish feed to help get them started. Despite these governmental efforts, however, many farmers still lack access to the support and inputs required for long-term success.

In an effort to supplement and further the Kenyan government’s initiatives, FARM-Africa, in partnership with Natural Resources International, the University of Stirling, Imani Development, the U.K. Department for International Development Research Into Use Programme, and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, has established a series of six Aqua Shops in western Kenya. These shops provide farmers with technical advice about aquaculture practices and give them the materials, including fish feed and manure (for fertilization), needed to set up and maintain healthy fish ponds and lakes.



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.”



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.



World Scientists Tackle Food Insecurity

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By Dr. Christine Negra

Dr. Christine Negra is the Secretariat of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change.

Nearly one billion people in the world are undernourished, while millions suffer from chronic diseases due to excess food consumption. Global demand for agricultural products is growing and food prices are rising, yet roughly a third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Climate change threatens more frequent drought, flooding, and pest outbreaks, and the world loses 12 million hectares of agricultural land each year to land degradation. Land clearing and inefficient practices make agriculture the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution on the planet.

Investments in sustainable agriculture, such as financial and technical assistance to improve smallholder food production, are needed to address food insecurity in the face of climate change. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Clearly, humanity must transform the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed in response to changes in climate, global population, eating patterns, and the environment. “To operate within a ‘safe space’ for people and the planet, we need to balance how much food we produce, how much we consume and waste and how much agriculture contributes to further climate change,” explains South African Commission Professor Bob Scholes of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

To address these alarming patterns, an independent commission of scientific leaders from 13 countries released today a detailed set of recommendations to policymakers on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change. In their report, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change proposes specific policy responses to the global challenge of feeding a world confronted by climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes, and degraded ecosystems. The report highlights specific opportunities under the mandates of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Group of 20 (G20) nations.



Olivier De Schutter Discusses the Right to Food and the Need to Unite Food Movements

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By Jameson Spivack

In a video addressing the importance of uniting food movements, UN Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter emphasizes the “right to food.” According to De Schutter, the idea of a “right to food” is essential in transforming our broken food system into a sustainable, ethical institution.

Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur, advocates reforming the current global food system. (Photo credit: Die Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung)

Acknowledging the right to food will help bridge the gap between the many food movements calling for a change in our broken system. De Schutter highlights four main objectives shared by all food movements—returning to localized food production, addressing imbalances in the food chain, transitioning to more sustainable and agro-ecological practices, and creating a stronger role for citizens in shaping and controlling the food they eat.

Re-localizing food systems, includes linking local producers to local consumers, which fosters a relationship between farmer and buyer. When local food ties are strengthened, the transportation of food becomes much simpler and resource strain is minimized. In poor areas that depend heavily on expensive food imports, a return to local production and consumption means not only more employment opportunities, but also cheaper food prices and greater availability.

Currently, agricultural production is controlled mainly by large agri-business corporations that have the leverage to bully local farmers into selling at lower prices. By prioritizing local markets, says De Schutter, and empowering farmers to organize cooperatives, a higher value is placed on producers, and a more ethical food system can be established.



Innovation of the Week: A New Addition to the Uruguayan Potato Family

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By: Kaia E. Clarke

Potatoes are enjoyed in various authentic international cuisines, specifically in Latin America countries. For centuries, the potato has been the main source of income for farmers and their families. In Uruguay, potatoes help to improve the countries economic status by being a major exporting crop in their agriculture market.

Scientists used a 75-year-old technique to save the Uruguayan potatoes. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

In 2001, Uruguayan’s exporting began declining because of a plant disease called Bacterial wilt (Ralstonia solanacearum). It was found in 39 percent of samples from Uruguayan potato farms and forced the country to import potato seed. This fungus is extremely difficult to get rid because it multiples quickly in high moisture environments such as South America. It has also been found to infect other crops such as sweet potato and cassava, which are common in other developing countries.

In order to completely eliminate the fungus, farmers have to suffer the loss of their main source of income for their families and make the difficult decision to remove their entire yield. It is necessary for farmers to quickly choose their plan of action because the permanent wilting of the crop causes crops to die in a short period of time. Otherwise, the fungus has the potential to spread among farming supplies, soils, and water irrigation systems.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) recognize that sufficient funding is an impediment for many poverty-stricken countries. In addition, implementing sustainable agricultural development is very challenging when their economic status is at risk.  In 2008, the ITPGRFA Treaty Benefit-sharing Fund Project  granted funding for 11 projects, including the Uruguayan potato research which was the first project to be approved.