September 18, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Cultivating Hope | SDG Backslide | Helpful Ducks

Global Food for Thought will be taking a break for the next two weeks. We’ll be back with the latest buzz on food, agriculture, and global development on Friday, October 2. Until then, please share any suggestions you may have on what we can do better. If you would like to have the Global Food for Thought news brief delivered to your inbox, please sign up here.


Celebrating Feed the Future Week

Just over ten years ago, the Chicago Council published a white paper urging the US to invest in agricultural development, rather than relying on food aid. That provided a blueprint for Feed the Future (FTF), USAID’s food security initiative. This week, USAID’s Jim Barnhardt joined our Deep Dish podcast to explain why there’s still hope to end hunger in our lifetime. Additionally, we’ve been sharing stories on our blog about how FTF Innovation Labs cultivatie hope.

The Innovation Labs for Integrated Pest Management, Crop Improvement, and Legume Systems Research shared stories following up on their participation in our Field Notes blog series earlier in the year. The Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab is working to diminish the chain reaction between invasive species and climate change to protect food security and natural resources. In Niger, a Legume Systems Research project to find natural pest deterrents spurred an important local industry. Taking a new approach to supporting crop improvement research, the Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement has announced four new Centers of Innovation around the world. OF THE WEEK


Ears of wheat are seen on sunset in a field in Omsk Region, Russia. The nation supplied most of Egypt's recent wheat imports. (REUTERS/Alexey Malgavko)


Improving Nutrition Security: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of good nutrition to support health.  Micronutrient deficiencies make populations more vulnerable to infection and other conditions. On September 28, Senior Fellow Roger Thurow will moderate a panel featuring experts from HarvestPlus, the International Potato Center, World Vision Canad, and Self Help International on how biofortified crops can strengthen nutrition security. COUNCIL EVENTS

Improving Nutrition Security with Biofortified Crops
Date: September 28
Time: 8 a.m. CDT

LIVESTREAM: The Geopolitics of a New Decade
Date: October 1
Time: 12 p.m. CDT

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


Food Shortages in Nigeria: Floods and maize shortages in Nigeria are compounding the challenges of a food system already struggling under the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited crop yields from this spring are exacerbating price spikes and challenging efforts to support domestic farmers. Economists and farmers worry that these difficulties could push Nigeria into a food crisis in coming months. 

Beefing Up Wheat Reserves: The Egyptian government is working to maintain a six-month strategic reserve of essential goods. This has prompted the nation—already the global leader—to bin the past two months by more than 40 percent over last year. Over 80 percent of the wheat imports are from Russia, which is considering grain export quota for the beginning of 2021.  

Ducks Lend a Beak: After the rice harvest in Thailand, it is common to see thousands of ducks flooding rice fields. The traditional practice provides chemical-free pest management for farmers, and the ducks also flatten rice stubble which eases plowing. Duck farmers also benefit, feeding their ducks at lower cost. DIVE

Let’s Get That Bread: Egypt has imported 2.4 million metric tons of wheat in the past two months. That’s approximately 88.2 million bushels. So what does that mean? 88.2 million bushels of wheat can make 7.9 billion loaves of whole wheat bread. With Egypt’s population of 98.42 million, that wheat could provide 80 loaves of bread per citizen. If each person ate one loaf per week, they could have guaranteed bread for one and a half years. CRUNCH

Biofuels: A Climate Change Solution? New studies examine the complex trade-offs between biofuel production and its usage as a “carbon neutral” energy source. In theory, plants used to produce biofuel remove carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, preventing additional carbon being introduced when biofuel is burned. However, land use practices in biofuel production raise concerns about the reality of the product’s carbon neutral status.    


Collapsing Biodiversity: A new UN report indicates that the world needs to do much more to address a global biodiversity collapse with the potential to endanger humanity’s food supply, health, and security. In 2010, every country in the world agreed to 20 goals intended to protect global biodiversity, yet as of 2020, only six of these 20 goals have been partially achieved. Empowering women to make decisions about the land they work is critical to progress on global biodiversity goals.  


Africa Food Prize Winners: A soil scientist and a remote sensing specialist were jointly awarded the Africa Food Prize at the African Green Revolution Forum. The winners pioneered a micro-dosing technique for applying fertilizer and the use of remote sensing for agriculture and drought monitoring, respectively. The winners will share a $100,000 prize for their efforts to promote food security in Africa. 


Troubled Waters: Mexican farmers continue to occupy La Boquilla dam on Chihuahua’s Conchas river to protest the government’s continued deliveries of water to the United States under the 1944 Water Treaty. Severe drought in the region this past summer threatens the region’s spring produce crop and has exacerbated tensions between local activists, the López Obrador administration, and the United States. ACTORS 

SDG Backslide: A new report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation states that the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled and even reversed progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Decreases in vaccine coverage and decreased food security were highlighted as particularly concerning. Financial inclusion, however, has progressed as governments work to provide support for communities during the crisis. 

Limited Impacts of EU Aid: Between 2014-2020, Kenya received $515 million from the EU for developments in food security, sustainable agriculture, and accountability of public institutions. Yet a new report from the European Court of Auditors raises concerns about the effectiveness of this aid. To increase impacts of development spending, the report recommends that aid be focused on fewer areas, with an emphasis on manufacturing to increase job creation. & COMMODITIES

Cotton & Tomatoes Allowed: The US is implementing a new set of restrictions on imports from China but is stopping short of banning cotton and tomatoes produced in the Xinjiang region. The Trump administration was poised to announce restrictions on these crops last week but stalled over concerns about the security of American cotton exports. The restrictions come in response to growing concern over human rights abuses in Xinjiang. UPCOMING EVENTS

The Root of It: Rejuvenating the Ag Ecosystem
Date: September 17, 24 & October 1 
Time: 2 pm CDT 

The World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogues
Date: October 12-18

FFA2020 Online Live 
Date: October 26
Time: 3 pm CET

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.