August 7, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Decarbonization | Fly Larvae | First 1000 Days

If you would like to have the Global Food for Thought news brief delivered to your inbox, please sign up here.


Lebanon Faces Grain Shortage

This week’s devastating explosion in Beirut destroyed Lebanon’s only large grain silo, leaving the nation with less than a month’s reserve of grain. Lebanon imports nearly all of its wheat, with most coming through the Beirut port. Plans to construct an additional large grain silo in the nation’s second largest port, Tripoli, were shelved several years ago due to lack of funding. Lebanon’s economy minister, Raoul Nehme, believes the nation has enough flour to avoid crisis. Four ships carrying 28,000 tonnes of wheat are headed for Tripoli, and Lebanon’s private millers will have to work quickly to ensure a smooth supply chain. The World Food Program is monitoring the situation closely, hoping to avert a food security crisis. OF THE WEEK


Sisters walk together as they move a herd of goats on grasslands south-west of the Mongolian capital city Ulan Bator.  (REUTERS/David Gray) 


The Lives Behind the Statistics: The COVID-19 crisis is predicted to drastically increase rates of child malnutrition. For years, Senior Fellow Roger Thurow has reminded the world that these malnutrition numbers are human lives. His new interactive tells the stories of three mothers and their children fighting for nutrition in the first 1000 days of life and beyond. Thurow followed these families for years, tracking their successes and setbacks, providing a unique look at how family nutrition efforts interact with social and environmental factors.

SEE ALSO: Roger Thurow and Ertharin Cousin on the Global Hunger Paradox COUNCIL EVENTS

VIRTUAL: President's Club Conversation on US-Colombia Economic Relations
Date: August 11
Time: 12:00 pm CDT

LIVE STREAM: US-Pakistan Relations and South Asian Peace and Security
Date: August 13
Time: 10:00 am CDT

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

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


Plant-Based LAC? A recent joint study revealed that decarbonization would create 22.5 million jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2030—19 million of which would be in plant-based food production. The shift would occur primarily through a transition away from meat-heavy diets, creating more jobs in plant based food production. Such a shift would require significant policy support to succeed.

Nuts Against Erosion: Over half of global agricultural land is degraded, threatening rural livelihoods. In Bhutan, farmers are protecting their soil by planting hazelnut trees, which also boost household income. Another project in Mongolia is tackling the issue using satellite maps to guide herders to healthy vegetation, thus preventing overgrazing. 

Feeding Locusts to Plants: Pakistan is battling the worst locust infestation it has seen in 30 years. Although pesticides are often used to combat swarms, the national government is trying a new approach: turning locusts into fertilizer. Rural communities are paid to gather the insects, which get incorporated into compost to nourish new crops. DIVE

What is Decarbonization? A term gaining in usage, decarbonization is the transition to net-zero emissions. It can apply to whole economies or specific sectors—often energy and transportation. As climate change discussions increase in urgency, decarbonizing national and regional economies will hopefully accelerate. CRUNCH

Data + Synthesis: Data on agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa are imperative to prevent a pandemic-induced food crisis. Yet most data on production on the continent are collected at an aggregate, annual level via in-person surveys. Mobile phone surveys that disaggregate data by sex are crucial to gathering food security and agriculture information. But data alone are not enough—researchers are calling for a centralized evidence clearing house to analyze existing research, incoming data, and identify knowledge gaps.  


Feeding Nations with No Water: Pandemic-related supply chain shocks have affected most nations, but Gulf states are particularly vulnerable. With no permanent rivers or lakes, and very little rainfall, nations have spent years investing in high-tech indoor growing and other such measures. While these efforts are a good foundation for food security, diplomacy and global markets are vitally important for feeding the region as well.


Don’t Shoo These Flies: Black soldier fly (BSF) larvae are gaining popularity in Kenya as an alternative to fishmeal and soy for poultry and pig feed. The protein has been researched and promoted by the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology, which has partnered with 1,300 farmers and entrepreneurs in Kenya to learn BSF production. BSF feed reduces costs by 15 percent for pig feed, is 40 percent cheaper than fishmeal, and is comparable in nutrition to standard feed.


Pesticide Reform for Kids: The introduction of a new bill, Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2020 (PACTPA), represents the first comprehensive update to laws governing pesticide use in the US since 1996. Each year, the US uses over one billion pounds of pesticides, nearly a fifth of worldwide use, some of which contain ingredients widely considered to be dangerous. PACTPA would institute reforms to update protections for children, farmworkers, consumers, and the environment and close dangerous loopholes that prevent adequate pesticide review. ACTORS 

Support Falling Short: The WFP is seeking an additional $250 million to expand an emergency food aid in Zimbabwe in response to COVID-19 and the already weak economy. Subsistence farming families account for three-quarters of population, and many are unable to purchase inputs and supplies. WFP assistance is intended to reach up to 5 million people, but will only serve 700,000 this month. & COMMODITIES

On the Up and Up: World food prices rose for a second month in July. Vegetable oils, dairy products, and sugar were the primary drivers of the rebound. Cereal prices remained mostly stable, while meat prices dropped further. UPCOMING EVENTS

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

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.