May 29, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Arid Agriculture | Sustainable Almonds | Child Labor Report

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Locusts Invade India and Pakistan

Desert locusts have hit India and Pakistan in the worst invasion they have experienced in decades. While the South Asian nations were affected by the first wave of locusts in 2019, this second wave is much larger. In Pakistan, which declared a national emergency due to the locusts in February, the insects have covered more than 50,000 square kilometers of farmland and devoured winter crops. States are appealing to the federal government for support in spraying efforts.  

Seven Indian states have been affected, with Rajasthan seeing the worst infestation. Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have been hit hard as well. Treatment of the pests is ongoing, using drones, tractors, and cars to spray pesticides on infected areas. Delhi is preparing for an invasion as well, as residents grapple with a heat wave and pandemic lockdown. The locust swarms pose a threat to the nation’s summer crops such as rice and sorghum, and the agricultural ministry hopes to get the infestation under control before monsoon season hits affected states at the end of June. OF THE WEEK

A farmer is seen at his chard plantation from which he couldn't sell the harvest, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Piedade, Sao Paulo State, Brazil. (REUTERS/Rahel Patrasso)


Late Blight Spurred Early Science: When the late blight reached Ireland, it caused total potato crop failure. Many poor farmers depended on potatoes for sustenance, and the losses continued year after year. The Irish Potato Famine took at least one million lives and led to a million more emigrating to North America and Australia. The disaster also inspired advances in plant science, as people sought the source of the crisis. In their latest guest post, the 2Blades Foundation dives deep into the history of plant pathology, born out of famine. COUNCIL EVENTS

LIVE STREAM: Paul Krugman on Pandemic Economics and the Path to Recovery
Date: June 3
Time: 12 pm CDT

#HeiferTogether Live Chat with Dan Glickman
Date: June 2
Time: 12 pm CDT

LIVE STREAM: Building Better, More Resilient Food Systems
Date: June 22
Time: 10 am CDT

Did you miss one of our previous livestreams? Don't worry! They are all available on our website to watch at any time. 


Report Rejected: Côte d’Ivoire is rejecting a report set to be published next month on potential increases of child labor in the West African cocoa sector. The US Labor Department funded the report, using survey data collected from 2018-2019. Both the Ghanaian and Ivoirian governments have raised objections to the report’s methodology.  

A Pandemic Under-reported: Experts are predicting that African Swine Fever will be even worse in 2020 than it was last year. Current overall counts of outbreaks have surpassed what was reported in May of last year, and the number of deaths due to infection or culling in 2020 so far are at or above levels for all of 2019.  

Rice Washed Out: Repeated flooding in Kenya has ruined rice harvests in key production areas which account for almost 40 percent of rice grown in the country. The crop is the third most consumed food staple in the country, largely in cities. Increasing imports of rice to make up the difference would be extremely difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic, raising fears for urban food security. DIVE

What makes African Swine Fever so Persistent? The disease that once dominated agricultural news has received little attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it hasn’t gone away. That is because the virus can stay on clothing, equipment, or in pork products for months. It can be spread by pigs live or dead, domestic or wild, and in contaminated feed. Without a vaccine or cure, farmers hope to contain the virus via sanitary measures and herd culling. CRUNCH

Automation Pays: Deere & Company’s recent earnings call discussed triple digit growth in connectivity services. This indicates rapid growth of the use of data connectivity and automation of agricultural machinery. Deere is working towards complete automatization of their machinery, and it is likely other companies will follow suit.     


Nutrition Delivered: A network of farmers in Brazil have begun delivering their excess crops, which would normally go to waste, to favelas around Sao Paulo. Favelas, or poor urban neighborhoods, have been hit hard by COVID-19 both economically and in health. Farmers are hoping their food donations will provide healthy options as well as combat the increased food insecurity that has been experienced due to lost jobs.  

Fishing for Nutrition: Although a half-island nation, many inland residents of Timor Leste consume as little as 4 kg of fish per year. A project led by WorldFish, a CGIAR center, aims to change that by scaling aquaculture and promoting integrated aquaculture-agriculture systems. The project also aims to boost child nutrition by working with the Ministry of Education to include fish in school feeding programs.   


Investing in Almonds: Almond farmers in Southern Spain are increasingly utilizing regenerative practices in the hopes of restoring soil health while also increasing profits. While global markets have suffered in recent months, an almond marketing company from the region--Almendrehesa—hopes consumers will become more receptive to ideas like regenerative agriculture due to the current disruptions to the global food chain. 

Arid Agriculture on the Rise: While the significant majority of the UAE’s food is imported, recent years have seen large increases in the agriculture sector’s contribution to the GDP. This is largely due to investments in high-tech methods to overcome the challenge of limited arable land in the country. These investments have especially paid off in recent months when available food imports have decreased and the agriculture sector has been able to contribute to maintaining food supply.    


Deal in Development: The US is a step closer to negotiating a trade deal with Kenya. The US International Trade Commission has begun investigating the impact of eliminating tariffs on imported Kenyan goods, and has released objectives for the negotiations. In addition to the machinery already sold to Kenya, experts anticipate greater trade of farm goods if the countries can come to a deal. ACTORS 

Gold for Food: The Venezuelan Government has reached a deal with the UNDP allowing them to use gold reserves to purchase food and medicine. Venezuela had previously been unable to access their funds due to the Bank of England’s disapproval of the Venezuelan President. The lack of funds has hampered the government’s ability to provide food supplements to the increasingly hungry population.  

Building Self-Sufficiency: In a recent webinar, the African Development Institute encouraged African countries to increase their food reserves, maintain their food supply chains, and boost their agricultural budgets. African governments are also being encouraged to increase technology presence in agriculture in order to build resilience and self-sufficiency.  The calls are in response to growing concerns of a hunger pandemic due to COVID-19. & COMMODITIES

Blow to Barley: Following their calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus, Australia has been hit with restrictions on some of their key exports to China. Barley and beef, both of which are important parts of the Australian export market, are either banned or highly tariffed, which will likely cause a significant blow to the Australian agricultural sector.  

Caffeine Decrease: Tanzania’s coffee production has decreased significantly in the last 5 years, from 6706 tons in 2014 to 5882 tons in 2018. The country’s Ministry of Agriculture is attributing the fall in production to the growing population, which has resulted in a decrease in land available for cultivation as more area is converted into residential areas or converted into land for horticulture or fruit production. UPCOMING EVENTS

Generating Resilience+ to Reduce Poverty and Spur Agricultural Growth 
Date: June 3 
Time: 9 am CDT 
SEE ALSO: Resilience+ Explained

The Power of Nutrition Expert Opinion Series: A Conversation with Dr. David Nabarro 
Date: June 3 
Time: 9 am CDT  

2020 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement
Date: June 11
Time: 9 am CDT 

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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.