September 27, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Climate Commitments | Health Equity | Photosynthesis

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UN General Assembly  Brings New Commitments to Agriculture:

The UN General Assembly’s Climate Action Summit saw two major new pledges for funding agriculture. More than $650 million was pledged to the international agricultural research system CGIAR to help 300 million smallholder farmers adapt to climate change. The African Development Bank pledged to increase funding for climate change adaptation by $12.5 billion, including supporting the continent’s smallholder farmers. OF THE WEEK

Pigs are seen at a farm outside Hanoi, Vietnam. (REUTERS/Kham) ACTORS 

Youth in Revolt: Young people took to the streets across the world to protest climate change ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit. Demonstrations occurred on every continent, and organizers estimated total turnout around four million.

Scaling Up Resilience: The Netherlands donated $28 million to support an FAO program aimed at increasing the resilience of food systems in protracted crises in Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan. The goal of the program is to demonstrate the feasibility of and scale up long-term development intervention, rather than the usual focus on meeting immediate and urgent needs.


Reimagining Global Health Equity: Agnes Binagwaho is coming to the Council to discuss her work rebuilding Rwanda’s health system in the wake of the 1994 genocide. By prioritizing investments in public health and social welfare, Binagwaho worked to create an equitable system for all Rwandans. She will speak on lessons we can learn from Rwanda, in order to bring health equity to more nations.


The Fever Spreads: African swine fever continues to spread through Asian countries, with indications that its reach has arrived at South Korea’s border. The disease, to which there is yet a cure or vaccine, first arrived on the continent a little over a year ago and is particularly harmful to small farms—like those that make up 60 percent of the Philippines pork industry—that lack expertise or resources to protect their livestock.

Opinion – Leapfrogging into the Future: There is significant evidence to suggest that Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Agriculture (AGRA), was correct in stating that the African continent is “leapfrogging into the future” at the African Green Revolution Forum.  Many nations in attendance have committed to agriculture as a central feature of their development policy.

Improving on Nature: Researchers in Australia are working in cooperation with scientists and universities across the world to improve the photosynthesis efficiency of crops. Crop physiologists believe that a 5 percent improvement in efficiency could result in 20 percent higher yields. One project hopes to have a more photo-efficient variety of rice field ready by 2030. DIVE

How does anaerobic digestion work? This is the natural process of microorganisms breaking down organic materials, such as food and animal waste. Anaerobic digestion occurs in the absence of oxygen. The process generates biogas, which can be used for natural gas, and a nutrient-rich liquid called digestate. Digestate can be used as a fertilizer for crops, transforming food waste into future meals as well as fuel. CRUNCH

The Next Pig Thing: Chinese technology companies such as NetEase and Alibaba are turning their attention to pig farming. Companies are using technologies such as artificial intelligence and facial and voice recognition to improve efficiency and reduce costs. This could help the nation’s pork industry, currently facing a shortage due to African Swine Fever.


Farmers Change Their Ways: From California to Kenya, farmers are rushing to adapt to climate change. California pistachio growers are searching for trees designed for warm winters, which are currently threatening the billion-dollar industry. Kenyan herders are choosing camels over cattle, and Costa Rican farmers are switching from traditional coffee to oranges.  

A New Farmers’ Market: A new carbon market could help farmers generate credits worth almost $14 billion, estimates a recent report. Improved farming methods that capture carbon or reduce water pollution would earn farmers carbon credits that they could sell to industrial corporations that would be required to meet environmental goals, a setup that would unlock a significant revenue stream for participants.


A Different Kind of Wall: The FAO’s Director-General Qu Dongyu announced the Great Green Wall for Cities initiative, aimed at creating nature-based solutions to climate change. The program would support cities in 30 countries through Africa and Asia and see the creation of 500,000 hectares of new urban forests while restoring up to 300,000 hectares of existing forests.

Waste Not: Bubbly Dynamics, a Chicago based company, is one of several in the city attempting to transform the food production system into a circular economy model. The company uses an anaerobic digester to decompose waste into useful compost, thereby creating a closed-loop system that can reduce waste while contributing to local gardens.


US - Japan Deal: At the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe reached a trade agreement. Japan has agreed to limit tariffs on beef, pork, and other commodities. This agreement could provide economic relief to farmers suffering under President Trump’s trade war with China. The administration hopes this is the first phase of a more comprehensive agreement with Tokyo. The new agreement will take effect once it is ratified by Japanese legislature. & COMMODITIES

Pricey Protein: Global pork prices are on the rise as China, the world’s largest consumer of pork, has expanded its pork imports in response to the fall in local supply caused by African Swine Flu. Meat suppliers in South America and Europe have ramped up their sales to China, while US companies, subject to restrictions set by the US-China trade war, are yet to benefit.

Wheat Quota: Brazil has announced plans to implement a 750,000-ton tariff-free quota for wheat imports from non-Mercosur nations. The ministry of agriculture hopes that the move will open Brazil to new suppliers, including Russia and the US. EVENTS

Agnes Binagwaho on Reimagining Global Health Equity in Rwanda
Date: October 3
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture
Date: October 8-10
Location: Bali, Indonesia

US-Africa Forum on Agricultural Technology
Date: October 15
Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium
Date: October 16-18
Location: Des Moines, Iowa

CGIAR Big Data in Agriculture Convention
Date: October 16-18
Location: Hyderabad, India

Smart Urban Food Systems Summit
Date: November 4-5
Location: Brooklyn, New York

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. 

| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.