August 28, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Farmers' Debt | Pepper Comeback | Soil Initiative

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Indebted Farmers Face High Interest Rates

Debt has long been a dire issue for farmers in India. A 2018 study found that over half of all agricultural households were indebted. Some 12,000 farmers die by suicide annually due to financial stresses. Although many states officially implemented debt waiver programs for farmers, few have seen relief. Most banks have yet to see the funds promised by state governments to pay off farmers’ outstanding loans. Until the banks actually receive the promised money from the state, farmers are seen as non-performing assets, financial liabilities. Now, the pandemic-induced economic downturn—projected to be the worst India has seen since 1979—has made banks more cautious to take on new loans. As a result, farmers are being turned away from financial institutions. The only option for many are illegal or private moneylenders, who charge exorbitant interest rates of up to 60 percent. With over half of India’s population employed in agriculture, lasting relief is needed to support rural communities. OF THE WEEK


Red, white, green, and black peppercorns. (REUTERS/Michaela Rehle)


CCGA Reading Group—Artificial Intelligence, Technology, and the Biopolitics of Modern Policing: What are the key technologies used today to secure territories and bodies? What are the benefits and costs of using artificial intelligence and other technologies to monitor populations and predict crimes? This 4-week, 4-session reading group will answer these questions, exploring contemporary technologies of power and policing. Led by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Women, Peace, and Security Fellow, Katelyn Jones, we will critically examine the emergent technologies that increasingly shape our daily lives, both visibly and invisibly. The group will meet virtually (via Zoom) from 2-3PM Central Time on Friday's: September 11, September 18, September 25, and October 2. If you're interested in joining, complete this form by September 4 COUNCIL EVENTS

Deep Dish Live: Thomas Piketty on Ideology and Inequality 
Date: September 1 
Time: 12 p.m. CDT 

VIRTUAL: 2020 YP Global Trivia Bowl 
Date: September 2 
Time: 6 p.m. CDT 

VIRTUAL: Private Sector Responsibility on Race, Equity, and Inclusion- Part 1 
Date: September 15 
Time: 8 a.m. CDT 

LIVE STREAM: How Korea Transformed the Cold War
Date: September 16
Time: 2 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. 


Avocado Ambitions: Nigeria could become the largest avocado producer in the Africa by 2030, according the former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. According to the Avocado Society of Nigeria in February, Nigeria is not currently a producer of avocados for exports, rather cultivating the crop as a locally consumed fruit. However, the organization says the fruit has the potential to generate upwards of $35 million annually.  

Kampot Pepper and Food Security: Production of traditional Cambodian Kampot peppercorn fell from 3,000 tons in 1960 to two tons in 2000. The 50 Million Meals Campaign is launching a Fairtrade distribution system for the Kampot pepper in Western markets. The Campaign says roughly 90 tons of pepper are marketable and is organizing 400 small pepper farmers to bring these to market, where a portion of the revenue from sales will be directed towards local food banks in the region. 

Rooting Out False Vaccines: Chinese authorities are inspecting provincial veterinary laboratories, drug producers, and pig farms for evidence of illegal African swine fever vaccines. Immunization records will be tested, as well as herds. As China gets closer to developing a legitimate vaccine, the government fears illegal distribution of early-stage products. DIVE

Spicing Things Up: Peppercorns are tiny fruit from the piper negrum vine in the Piperaceae family of plants. Originating in India as early as 4000 years ago, pepper has been a feature of international trade since 1200 BCE and was once worth more than gold. Black, white, green, and red peppercorns vary only in when they are picked and how they are processed. CRUNCH

Measuring Empowerment: The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics has partnered with the State Department for Gender, UN Women, and UNICEF to launch a national women’s empowerment index. According to the data, only 29 percent of Kenyan women between the ages of 15 and 49 are empowered. Policymakers now have the data to track progress on gender equality, crucial to closing the gender gap.   


Obstacles Turned to Motivation: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the flow of business for many women-led enterprises on the African continent. Yet pandemic-induced increases in food insecurity are providing further motivation for these businesses, such as Zambia’s Shais Foods, which uses local crops to make nutrient-dense cereals for children. Shais Foods and other business like it are adapting to restrictions by selling online and innovating product lines.  


Centering Soil: In Sub-Saharan Africa, soil degradation is stifling agricultural productivity and income growth while prohibiting the soil from carrying out its climate control functions such as carbon sequestration and water filtration. Governments, international organizations, and research institutions all have a role to play in rebuilding the continent’s soils. On September 7 at pre-session to the AGRF 2020 Virtual Summit, David Nielson, author of Considering a Soil Initiative for Africa, will speak on a panel of experts to discuss building blocks and identify gaps and challenges for achieving a scaled response.  


Clean Fuels, Green Jobs, Can’t Lose: The Senate Democratic Special Committee on the Climate Crisis released “The Case for Climate Action: Building a Clean Economy for the American People” report. In addition to focusing on rapid GHG emission reduction, economic growth potential, and job creation, the report highlights the role of farmers and rural communities in combating carbon emissions through the expansion of clean, affordable ethanol and other biofuels, which may not only accelerate a carbon-neutral future, but also open new doors for agricultural innovation. ACTORS 

Funding Food Security: South Sudan is pursuing a $250 million loan from the African Export-Import Bank which would be used to implement a peace agreement, combat COVID-19, and support food security. The country has also requested a loan from the IMF. South Sudan has historically kept dollar reserves at about two weeks' worth of imports however, they are currently believed to have reduced by half over the past month to only five days' worth. & COMMODITIES

Investing in Pollinators: More and more asset owners are seeking investments that will help the planet. HSBC is joining forces with the Pollination Group to start a new venture called HSBC Pollination Climate Asset Management to answer that call. The group is seeking capital from institutional investors to invest in “natural capital” such as regenerative agriculture and sustainable forestry. UPCOMING EVENTS

AGRF Virtual Forum
Date: September 8-11

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

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.