August 21, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Dam Woes | Forgotten Foods | ASF Vaccine

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Dam Worries Egyptian Farmers 

Water worries are growing for Egyptian farmers, as Ethiopia moves to fill the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile is the Nile’s main tributary and source of 80 percent of Egypt’s water. Egypt has asked for a guarantee of a minimum annual release of 40 billion cubic meters of water from the dam. That is 15 billion cubic meters less than the current yearly average flow from the Nile. For a nation with one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, uncertainty over water is especially fraught—it has been estimated that a 5 billion cubic meter drop, if permanent, would result in the loss of 12 percent of the country’s farmland. For Egyptian farmers in the agricultural communities established by the government in the 1960s, the dam is a continuation, rather than start, of water supply problems. Decades of mismanagement and population growth have taken their toll, leaving behind barren fields. Shape OF THE WEEK


A worker stands near freshly baked bread at a bakery in Beirut, following this month's blast in city's port area. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)


Policy Insights: Food systems are complex and involve a broad range of actors. The new, easy-to-navigate Food Systems Dashboard is meant to help decision makers quickly understand those complexities. In our latest collaboration with Agri-Pulse, Jess Fanzo and Lawrence Haddad explain how the Dashboard helps policy makers describe food systems, diagnose priority areas, and decide on interventions. COUNCIL EVENTS

LIVE STREAM: Post-Pandemic Travel and Tourism
Date: August 24
Time: 10:00 a.m. CDT

LIVE STREAM: Resetting Global Supply Chains in a Post-Pandemic World
Date: August 26
Time: 12:00 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. 


Hunger in Lebanon: The UN believes $47 million is needed in the immediate future, and $250 million over the next six months, to avert a hunger crisis in Lebanon. This month’s explosion in Beirut not only destroyed the most of nation’s wheat reserves, but also damaged the port in which 85 percent of the nation’s food imports enter. While aid may see Lebanon through the immediate aftermath of the blast, long-term solutions are needed to establish food security in the country.  

Bringing Plots Together: About half of Armenia’s arable land is abandoned, according to government estimates. This stems from a post-Soviet land distribution lottery which left many farmers with fragmented holdings. Proposed land reforms would unify abandoned plots and rent the larger units to farmers. 

Vaccine Advances: After a series of positive tests, a Chinese vaccine for African swine fever (ASF) has been approved to move to the next phase of clinical trials and production. The experimental vaccine resulted in at least 80 percent immune protection and did not produce negative reactions. While a hopeful sign, there are still many steps before the vaccine can go to market. DIVE

A Complex Virus: Scientists have worked on a vaccine for ASF since the 1960s with no success. This is in part due to the complex structure of the virus, which has up to 24 times as many proteins as other viruses. The virus has thwarted the traditional vaccine approach of injecting an inactive or dead virus into animals, driving researchers to try using less virulent or genetically modified strains of the virus instead. CRUNCH

Early Bananas: A 2000-year-old banana farm has been discovered off the coast of Australia, challenging the predominant view of the region’s indigenous peoples as solely hunter gatherers. Archeologists found fossilized traces of fruit, stone tools, and retaining walls in terraced sites. Bananas are not native to the site, suggesting early agricultural trade.    


Forgotten Foods: One quarter of studied plant groups are threatened with extinction, according to a recent UN report. The Forgotten Food Project sets to recover lost ingredients from South Indian cuisine, such as elephant tusk okra and the decalepis root. The project represents the bigger picture of food knowledge preservation and how food diversity is central to food security.Shape 


A Return to Tradition: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the economies of Caribbean nations usually dependent on tourism. To adapt, indigenous communities are returning to traditional fishing and farming methods. For many, the move is a chance to celebrate cultural heritage and reevaluate local economies. 


Taking Extra Precautions: The Mexican government is following in the footsteps of the EU, implementing “precautionary principle” inspired restrictions on US farm commodities that, in addition to a confirmed glyphosate ban due by 2024, proves ominous for the future of US-Mexico agricultural trade. This change in Mexico’s regulatory philosophy threatens hundreds of millions of dollars in pesticides trade, as well as billions of dollars of US corn, wheat and soybeans that cross the southern border every year. ACTORS 

Playing Chicken: Brazil is sending government agriculture officials to Shenzhen, China to inquire on the allegations that Brazilian chicken wings had been contaminated with corona virus upon entry. The Philippines has taken similar measures after the report out of Shenzhen by imposing a temporary ban on poultry from Brazil, from which the Philippines imports 20 percent of its poultry from.  

SEE ALSO: China’s chicken production surges & COMMODITIES

High Prices, Higher Buying: Corn prices in China are spiking due to higher than expected demand and lower supply. The Chinese pig herd has recovered from last year’s ASF devastation quicker than expected, prompting higher demand for animal feed. This comes after some years of government efforts to reduce domestic corn stockpiles. To adjust, buyers in China have increased purchases of US corn. UPCOMING EVENTS

The Science of Scaling
Date: August 25
Time: 3 pm CEST 

AGRF Virtual Forum
Date: September 8-11

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.