March 13, 2020

Global Food for Thought: Bees | Subsidies | Farmer-Led Extension

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Global Food Security Symposium Postponed

Due to concerns for the health and well-being of our attendees, the Global Food Security Symposium, planned for March 26 in Washington, DC, has been postponed. Registered attendees will receive event-specific notifications regarding postponement and event refund information via email. We are working to identify a new date and will announce additional details once available. Read the Council's latest Coronavirus update. OF THE WEEK

A woman sorts through fish at an artisanal fish processing facility in the coastal town of Joal-Fadiouth, Senegal. (REUTERS/Sylvain Cherkaoui) ACTORS 

Farms Under Lockdown: In Italy, the government's strict restrictions on citizens' movement has many farmers worried. The lockdown is happening just as planting ought to begin. Seasonal workers from Eastern Europe are now blocked from entering the country, putting planting, harvesting, and processing of food in jeopardy.


From the Bottom Up and a European Perspective: This week our blog series, Breaking Ground, offers up two new posts. The first is from the Forum on the Future of Agriculture, a Council partner, which offers up a European perspective on the potentials of regenerative agriculture. The second is a Field Note from the new Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement. It maps out their plan for empowering National Agricultural Research Institutes in Feed the Future countries.


Subsidy Review: A group of scientists published a paper calling on the European Union to overhaul its $65 billion farm program. The experts argued in favor of phasing out arcane and harmful metrics to calculate subsidy assistance and developing new measures that incentivize investments in sustainable agricultural productivity. The European Union aims to be the first carbon neutral continent by 2050.

Troubled Waters: The more than 7 million people on Western Africa's coastline that depend on fish for their livelihood are in competition with foreign fishing operations. That includes both illegal fishing and subsidized EU vessels. Although the latter are there legally, critics argue that the EU ships pay just 8 percent of the value of the fish they extract. 

Bees Protecting Trees: Malawi is losing an estimated 33,000 hectares of forest per year. One man is taking an unconventional approach to combatting deforestation-bee keeping. The presence of beehives discourages logging, while the honey they produce adds a new revenue stream for locals. DIVE

What's the buzz about bees? Up to 75 percent of the world's crops producing fruit and seeds for human consumption rely on pollinators such as bees. Bees face many challenges, including climate change, theft, and hive collapse. Although commercial honey bees receive most attention, wild species are most at risk. 50 percent of Midwestern native bee species have disappeared in the last 100 years, and four bumblebee species declined 96 percent in 20 years. CRUNCH

Plant-based Euphoria: An increasingly flexitarian consumer diet continues to fuel the expansion of the plant-based foods industry. Propelled by popular plant-based meat and milk offerings, the segment grew 11 percent but remains a small percentage of the larger US retail food market. 


Adapt, Improvise and Overcome: Farmers in China are turning to e-commerce solutions to source necessary inputs as the coronavirus continues to disrupt traditional distribution networks and supply chains. From fertilizers and chemicals to machinery and animal feed, mobile-first services are catering to every demand and helping to mitigate the pandemic’s repercussions as growers prepare for the upcoming planting season.


Farmer-Led Extension: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa is partnering with local governments in Kenya to fill the market gap for agricultural extension services. The sector is severely underserved by existing government programs and the new farmer-led model developed by AGRA could go a long way in equipping farmers with the necessary tools and information to sustainably secure their livelihoods.

Snails to the Rescue: Scientists have discovered a new, natural potential solution to coffee leaf rust, a pest that has hit coffee farmers hard. An invasive species of snail feeds on the spores of coffee leaf rust. Although there are other insects which feed on the rust as well, the Asian trampsnail appears to be the most voracious. 


Locust Response: The US government announced an additional $10 million through USAID to go towards desert locust control in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.  Specifically, the funds will contribute to ground and aerial-based operations to detect and mitigate locusts. The swarms have put millions of people at risk of starvation over the last several months. & COMMODITIES

Trade Aid Pt. 3: The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has delayed the implementation of the US–China trade deal and could force the US government to extend its financial assistance program for farmers. An uncertain outlook and dampened demand has undermined Chinese purchase commitments and left growers in need of resources for the upcoming planting season.

Soy Surge: China's soybean imports in January and February 2020 are up 14.2 percent year-on-year. Import rates are expected to rise slowly as containment measures ease up within China. EVENTS

Food Talk Live
Date: 30 April
Location: Chicago, IL

African Green Revolution Forum
Date: 8-11 September
Location: Kigali, Rwanda

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.