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Droughts conditions this summer are threatening agriculture throughout Asia. In India, limited monsoon rains have reduced the area planted with crops by 7 percent from last year. Indonesia’s dry season has become so severe that the government is considering cloud seeding to trigger rainfall and avoid losses of $215 million from harvest failure. Thai farmers have been asked to delay rice planting, as pumping water for irrigation will dangerously deplete drinking water supplies.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Dairy cows stand in a field in Mesnil-Bruntel, near Peronne, France. (REUTERS/Pastcal Rossignol)
Linking Cities and Farms: The World Sustainable Urban Food Center launched this week in Spain. The Center, with technical assistance from FAO, is hoping to advise and coordinate cities across the world on managing sustainable local food systems.
A New Normal: In response to decades of rain deficits, India’s meteorology agency plans to lower its baseline level for a “normal” monsoon by one to two centimeters. Almost half of India’s workforce is employed in agriculture, and many farms depend on monsoon rains for water. Although India has been investing in more accurate weather prediction tools to help inform struggling farmers, the uptick in extreme weather events makes forecasting particularly challenging.
Addressing the Food Security Gender Gap: The latest FAO State of Food Security and Nutrition report found that globally more women experience food insecurity than men. And yet, many programs and foundations addressing food and nutrition issues include empowering women in their goals. The latest piece in our Policies of a Nourished Future series explores some of the factors driving the food security gender gap and several challenges facing gender-sensitive aid.
FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES
The Cost of High Prices: A recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute found that higher food prices in low-and middle-income countries contribute to undernutrition and stunting. Poorer countries face systematically higher food prices than wealthier ones. The study recommends nutrition-sensitive interventions that reduce fortified food prices and favor the production of nutrition-dense crops over staples.
Climate-Smart Cows: Dairy farms can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by adopting a set of best-management practices like no-till farming and high feed efficiency. A recent study found that if farmers worldwide cut their emissions by 25 percent over the next 30 years, they could reduce projected warming by 0.21 degrees. Small-scale dairy farms have the greatest potential to minimize emissions.
Unexpected Risks of Adaptation: According to a recent study, some climate adaptation efforts may have unintended consequences that could exacerbate global food insecurity. For example, more efficient irrigated farming in India may worsen drought in East Africa, as evaporation from irrigated Indian farms contributes up to 40 percent of East Africa’s rainfall. A global approach is needed to calculate and understand such unexpected risks of human activities.
How Cloud Seeding Creates Rain: Cloud seeding is the most common weather modification technique. It produces precipitation by spraying particles, such as silver iodide, into clouds, which provides a base for condensation so that snowflakes or raindrops form. This can be done using aircraft or ground-based generators that are operated remotely. Although cloud seeding has been in practice for years, a 2018 study was the first to show observations of silver iodide forming ice crystals in clouds which became precipitation.
Investments in the Future of Food: Investments in agrifood tech have been steadily increasing over the past seven years. Both the number and size of deals are on the rise. The number of public opportunities to invest have been declining, however. More companies are staying private longer, driving up valuations.
Mitigating Malnutrition: NGO African Women Rising is implementing permagardens in Ugandan refugee camps to reduce malnutrition among refugees from South Sudan. These intensive garden plots, managed by the refugees themselves, supplement World Food Programme food packages. Acute child malnutrition can be as high as 12 percent in these refugee camps, but the gardens allow families to harvest food three to four times per week and dry or sell any excess.
Friendly Fungus and Coconut Dust: A new study has found that although adoption of Trichoderma, a beneficial fungus, and cocopeat, the dust of coconuts, can reduce pesticide use and boost crop yields and farmer income in developing countries, uptake is varied. Working with communities through farmer advocates or extension programs can increase the adoption of these sustainable techniques.
Protein from Thin Air: In order to address future food demands and population growth, scientists are using gas-based fermentation to create proteins. They are using enzymatic reactions in order to convert carbon dioxide into edible proteins, using small amounts of water, energy, and nutrients. Companies, like Solar Food, are hoping that their flour-like protein can be integrated into new food products.
A Sharper Image: Several tech companies like Ceres and Prospera are using thermal imaging to help farmers better understand their crops. Thirsty crops are usually warmer than others, and new aerial and sprinkler-mounted imaging systems can identify precisely which plants need watering. This allows greater efficiency in irrigation, and imaging is also being used for targeted application of pesticides and herbicides.
Cuts to SNAP: USDA proposed new rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; also known as food stamps) which would cut benefits to 3 million people. USDA’s own cost-benefit analysis reported the changes may “negatively impact food security” in the United States, at a time when 12 percent of US households are already food insecure. US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stated the changes were aimed at saving money and reducing loopholes in the system.
TRADE & COMMODITIES
More Tariffs Coming for EU: Due to a WTO ruling, the United States is preparing to impose tariffs on EU food products including wine, olives, olive oil, cheese, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey, totaling $7 billion in imports. While there are American-made alternatives to many of those products, only 5 percent of olive oil consumed in the US is made domestically and the tariffs could create a shortage.
Huawei for Soy: In exchange for China agreeing to purchase 3 million tons of soybeans, around 35 companies were granted temporary permissions to sell computer hardware and services to Huawei. While this is good news for US farmers, this is far below the 10 million tons of soy that China chose to buy from Brazil last crop year, instead of from the United States.
Global Food Innovation Summit
Date: September 3-5
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Aid & International Development Forum Global Summit
Date: September 4
Location: Washington, DC
Feeding the Future
Date: September 26
Location: London, England
CGIAR Big Data in Agriculture Convention
Date: October 16-18
Location: Hyderabad, India
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