November 1, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Apples | Research Funding | Greenhouses

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Food Crisis in Southern Africa

UN agencies have warned that a record 45 million people across 16 nations in southern Africa will be severely food insecure in the next six months. Some areas of the region are experiencing the worst drought in at least 35 years. Back-to-back cyclones and flash flooding have exacerbated the situation, along with economic trouble in some countries. 11 million people already are experiencing “crisis” or “emergency” levels of food insecurity. UN food agencies will scale up food aid, while working to help smallholders boost productivity and resilience. OF THE WEEK

apples rot on a tree in a Kashmir orchard

Rotten apples are seen on a tree in an apple Ochard in Sopore, north Kashmir. (REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas) ACTORS 

Dutch Disturbances: Farmers in the Netherlands have been aggressively protesting proposed environmental regulations which would limit nitrogen pollution and severely harm farmers’ employment. Though initially peaceful, the farmers have taken more violent actions, driving tractors through road barriers and government buildings.

Darkest before Dawn: The World Organization for Animal Health says the ongoing African swine flu epidemic will get worse before it gets better. The Director General expects the disease to continue spreading from infected countries to their neighbors, and another top official predicts that approximately one quarter of the global pig population will perish.


Convening a Network of Agriculture Innovation: Chicago has a long history as one of the leading cities for the food and agriculture sectors. How can Chicago continue its role as a hub for food innovation and investments, and how can the Council’s global network and convening power best support their work? This event is open to members at the Directors' Circle level and above, but if you work in food and agriculture innovation or investments, we’d love to have you join us to discuss Chicago's leadership in this space. Please fill out our interest form.


India’s Apple Problem: The Kashmir region’s apple market, which produces 70 percent of India’s total apple supply and contributes $1.5 billion to its economy, has collapsed this year following India’s decision to strip the region of its administrative statues. A majority of the harvest has been destroyed via neglect resulting from threats of violence and a statewide ban on cellphone service.

Nigerian Food Loss: The government of Nigeria revealed an annual post-harvest food loss of $25 million, about half of which comes from fruits and vegetables. Officials underscored the need for better storage infrastructure, especially cold storage, in the country’s fight for self-reliance.

Good for You and the Planet: Researchers at the Universities of Minnesota and Oxford published findings from a study looking at the health and environmental impacts of 15 different food groups. The study found that foods that are associated with positive human health impacts are also often associated with positive environmental impact. There are some exceptions, however, including low environmental impacts from sugary beverages. DIVE

Measuring the Impacts of Food: There is no doubt about the deep links between agriculture and the environment. So why is it so hard to figure out if a food is “bad”— for example, is beef a problem, or not? Often this discussion centers around the methane that cows burp. However, land use and water are integral to the question. The problem is complex, and so should be the answers. CRUNCH

Computer Crash: MIT Media Lab shut down one of its flagship projects, the Open Agricultural Initiative. The Initiative attempted to develop food “computers” and “servers” that could grow crops without soil or sun, while facilitating open data sharing and machine learning to code growing conditions. Reports of falsified tests and environmental violations prompted the shutdown.


Greenhouses Providing Support: A program supported by the FAO and the Mexican government has turned the tide of rural poverty and migration for an indigenous Mexican community. The construction of greenhouses, a drip irrigation system, and a water tank have lifted the community from poverty through the increased productivity of farmers. The project aims to reach several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals while empowering traditionally marginalized communities.

Attacking Stunting From All Sides: The Philippine government is developing a multi-sector approach to breaking the inter-generational problem of stunting. Officials are using a mixture of loan programs, awareness campaigns and direct food supply to reduce the national stunting rate, which is at thirty percent.

Opinion - Cities Linked Through Food Security: Although Accra and Des Moines are miles away, they are connected through a common dream of global food security. Both places host events that show that dream is within reach.


Reframing Agriculture: Mia Amor Mottley, Barbados’ Prime Minister, has challenged the Caribbean to slash its annual food import bill in order to become more food secure and independent. Farming in the region has seen a decrease in employment but agricultural rebranding could be a solution to reposition the sector as a viable livelihood and address the region’s food security issues.

Changing Roles to Fight Poverty: A project in Kenya is taking on rural poverty by addressing gender roles at home. Participants of both genders report greater equality in household income and decision making. This has led to larger earnings for many, and more equitable inheritance of family farmland.  


Gaps in Funding, Gaps in Research: Fifteen years ago, reductions in USDA funding caused the agency to shutter a project developing an African Swine Fever vaccine. The disease is complex, as is the process for creating a vaccine. Although the project was started up again in 2010 some researchers wonder what could have been accomplished without the gap in funding. & COMMODITIES

USDA to lead Trade Mission to West Africa: USDA Deputy Secretary Censky led a trade mission to West Africa this week to link US exports to new opportunities in support of the Prosper Africa initiative. Representatives from US companies, trade organizations, and state agricultural departments have traveled with Censky. The mission will be based in Accra, Ghana but will include meeting buyer delegations from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal, and The Gambia.

Cocoa Investigation: Following recent reports calling cocoa certification schemes into question, a team from US Customs and Border Protection set out to investigate production in Côte d’Ivoire. If forced child labor is found, one consequence proposed is that the US block cocoa imports from the country as well as chocolate containing Ivoirian cocoa. This could upend global chocolate trade and production, as Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s leading cocoa producer. EVENTS

Youth Ag Summit 2019
Date: November 4
Location: Brasilia, Brazil
Smart Urban Food Systems Summit
Date: November 4-5
Location: Brooklyn, New York
International Summit on Agriculture & Food Science
Date: November 11
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Innovation and Investment in Food and Agriculture: Convening a Global Network
Date: November 14
Location: Chicago, IL

International Conference on Agricultural Statistics
Date: 18-19 November
Location: New Delhi, India

Please share any tips or thoughts on what we can do better here.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.