April 5, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Extreme Weather Crises | Criminalized Burmese Farmers | Water Maximization

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From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future


https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-09-21/5xdymt/557772/224304/quote2.pngTOP STORY

Food Crisis, Continued
In 2018, war, extreme weather, and economic woes were the main culprits that lead many countries into food crises. The Global Network against Food Crises recently reported that conflict and insecurity were responsible for the desperate situation faced by 74 million people, or two-thirds of those affected, and 113 million people experienced high levels of food insecurity during the world’s most severe food crises in 2018. This is the third year running where the number of people in food crisis hit more than 100 million

Nearly two-thirds of those facing acute hunger were in just eight countries where the primary driving force of the food crises were conflict and climate-related disasters. These countries were Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkyvc/557772/225998/camera_icon.pngPHOTO OF THE WEEK

An Afghan shepherd guides his herd of sheep in Bagram north of Kabul. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)​​​​​

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/globe_icon.pngBIG ACTORS

Land Laws: Myanmar farmers have been negatively impacted by a new Vacant, Fellow, and Virgin Lands Management Law which requires anyone living on land categorized as "vacant, fallow, and virgin" to apply for a permit to continue using it for the next 30 years. Land under this category adds up to more than 20 million hectares or 30 percent of Myanmar's land area. The law has sparked outrage among land-rights activists, who say it criminalizes millions of farmers.

Agri-coolture: WHYFARM, an NGO based in Trinidad and Tobago, uses agricultural-educational-entertainment tools such as comics and cartoons to deepen youth engagement in agribusiness and to address youth unemployment and agricultural underemployment. To inspire future feeders, it developed AGRIman, the world’s first food and nutrition security superhero.

Opinion - Ending Foreign Aid: In a collaboration with Agri-Pulse and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, William Moore of the Eleanor Crook Foundation argues that by investing in nutrition, societies across the globe can become stable and prosperous and therefore graduate from depending on international assistance.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkyvw/557772/226010/insights_icon.pngCOUNCIL INSIGHTS

Uncharted Waters: Water Resources Are Increasingly Strained – US Leadership Must Respond

At the 2019 Global Food Security Symposium, Gilbert Houngbo, president of the UN International Fund for Agriculture Development and former president of Togo, said that, “Water can be the solution for peace making but also a source of conflict.” As climates shift and global populations increase, paired with rising urbanism and more complex diet demands, agriculture will be increasingly vulnerable to water shortages. Without action, this resource competition is potentially poised to trigger conflict, food price instability, and tension in regions least equipped for adaption.

Read the final post in our series, Uncharted Waters, as we explore the challenges of feeding and nourishing a rapidly growing global population in the face of water scarcity.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkywr/557772/226026/grow_Icon.pngFOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES

China Attempts Disease Control: The Chinese agriculture ministry has added new laws requiring pork processors handling raw pork to test for the presence of African swine fever. In midst of the rapid spread of African swine fever in China, two new diseases have been detected within China’s livestock. The Chinese agriculture ministry has reported a case of food-and-mouth disease as well as an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu.
SEE ALSO: Ructions in China Knock Earnings at Cargill

Sustainable Spices: AGROPOLE, a government-run support program launched in 2014, was created to work with small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises in rural areas to tackle food security, forest conservation, and climate change. The program provides training and funds for farmers to process and market spices and other forest-grown plants, to boost incomes and jobs, while conserving trees and limiting climate change.

Opinion – How a Humble Seed is Helping African Farmers to Better Manage Both Food and Water: Mark Edge, director of collaborations for developing countries for Bayer, writes that we need both food and fresh water to survive, but growing food demands significant fresh water as well. The push-pull between food and water needs is felt most strongly today in developing countries, where the majority of food is produced by smallholder farmers who lack modern tools or irrigation infrastructure. But modern seed varieties can be far more water efficient.  

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/news_icon.pngDEEPER DIVE

Water Reuse in Agriculture: As water continues to become more precious and valuable, we need to find ways to make the most of this limited resource. Water is crucial for both agriculture and health, intertwined in complexity and each depending on the other. While agriculture is the foundation of good nutrition and health, 70 percent of all water withdrawals are agriculture related. Finding ways to maximize water usage not only protects the environment, but also has a significant impact on nutrition.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/chart_icon.pngDATA CRUNCH

Water Quality for Agrifood Production: Dr. David Zilberman, professor of agricultural and resource economics, UC Berkeley, writes that there is a need to raise agricultural production methods and provide access to nutritional food to large sectors of the population. In many developing countries, farmers are frequently using sewage or contaminated water, mostly in its untreated form, for irrigation which can spread disease.


Cyclone Idai: Much of Zimbabwe’s agricultural land has been destroyed due to flash floods and landslides triggered from Cyclone Idai heightening food insecurity. The government has called upon their army to distribute food and other forms of aid to survivors. Zimbabwe has approximately seven months’ supply of maize and will need to start importing grain as soon as possible to avert shortages from the cyclone.

Floods and Drought: As Afghanistan recovers from floods and the worst drought in decades, the upcoming summer’s harvest of wheat will be extremely important. Farming accounts for one-third of the country’s economy, yet many worry that more floods could negatively impact food security. Floods and heavy rains in March have killed at least 63 people and affected 119,600 people.
SEE ALSO: Iran Reports Massive Flood Damage to Farms

Low Tech, Big Impact: As a small, landlocked country, Malawi faces considerable challenges in food security and nutrition. For many smallholder farmers in rural areas, the Clinton Foundation is working to empower, educate and connect communities through WhatsApp – and while it may seem a basic means of communication for those living in the United States, it is revolutionary for farmers in Malawi.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkzwh/557772/226054/big_ideas.pngBIG IDEAS

Sustainable and High-tech Farming: A growing body of research suggests that consuming less meat from ruminant animals can mitigate the climate change impact but given the rising demand of livestock products in developing countries, improving the sustainability of beef production is a popular solution. Data-gathering technology and precision farming can help beef producers improve traceability and transparency and become more effective in reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.

Revolutionize Livestock Management: An Australian agtech startup, Agersens, has developed a grazing control tool known as eShepherd to improve productivity and profitability for livestock farming. It is a GPS-enabled, solar powered smart collars. With eShepherd, farmers can track their animals’ location and regulate where they gaze simply by clicking their phone.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkzwt/557772/226058/dc_icon.pngDC REPORT

US Proposed Aid Cuts to Central America Include Agricultural Programs: The US State Department said that any aid cut would be total $450 million from 2018 and an undisclosed amount from 2017. These cuts threaten programs such as Feed the Future’s $36 million investment in Guatemala—which works to improve farmers’ incomes, rural nutrition, and strengthen food security—and $60.6 million for Alliance for the Dry Corridor in Honduras, which promotes agricultural diversity and aims to decrease poverty and malnutrition.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/market_icon.pngTRADE & COMMODITIES

FAO’s March Food Index: The FAO food price index tracks monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar. In March, the index averaged 167.0 points, up from 166.8 in February. The 0.2 uptick was marked by an increase in dairy and meat products but counterbalanced by reductions in cereal, vegetable oil, and sugar prices.
SEE ALSO: Commodity Prices, Investment Poised to Extend Upswing

Cargill Taps New Leader: Longtime executive Gert-Jan van den Akker is preparing to retire from the agricultural commodities company and Joe Stone will lead the organization’s agricultural supply chain business. Mr. van den Akker spent 30 years at Cargill, and Mr. Stone currently runs Cargill’s animal nutrition business.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/calendar_icon.pngUPCOMING EVENTS

FFA 2019
Date: April 9
Location: Brussels, Belgium

Ending Global Hunger Colloquium
Date: April 10-11
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Innovation in Agrifood Supply Chains: Finance, Profitability, and Sustainability
Date: April 10-11
Location: Berkeley, California
FAO/WHO/WTO International Forum on Food Safety and Trade
Date: April 23-24
Location: Geneva, Switzerland

2019 Water for Food Global Conference
Date: April 29-30
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
EAT Stockholm Food Forum 2019
Date: June 12-13
Location: Stockholm, Sweden


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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.