January 10, 2020

Global Food for Thought: Girls' Education | Food Packaging | Grain in Yemen

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Women and Girls as Change Agents

Educating girls has the power to break the cycle of poverty and transform societies. Catherine Bertini’s new paper examines the complicated and numerous barriers to girls’ education. Education for girls is not just a right, it is a responsibility of the global community. It has a powerful multiplier effect which cannot be ignored, improving health, community engagement, family incomes, and many other facets of life. Despite broad recognition of the importance of girls’ education, not enough is being done to advance girls’ education and empowerment.

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

Cobargo resident John Aish walks to pump water up to his cows in the top paddock at his destroyed home in Cobargo, as bushfires continue in New South Wales, Australia January 5, 2020. (REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy)

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

Milling Grain in Yemen: After a late December halt in activity due to artillery damage, the World Food Program (WFP) has resumed grain milling in Yemen. The mill and silo have become a target in the conflict in Hoeidah. Yemen is nearly five years into a conflict which has pushed millions to the brink of starvation. Thus far, the WFP has milled 4500 tons of grain into flour for distribution.


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Do your 2020 resolutions include being more proactive, financially savvy, or involved in global food security conversations? The Global Food Security Symposium early bird registration is your chance to start the year strong! Discounted early registration ends next week. Be an early bird, and sign up for something far better than a worm!


Fighting a 70-year Swarm: Kenya is taking actions to prevent a locust invasion that has already destroyed almost 200,000 acres in neighboring Somalia and Ethiopia. Aerial spraying of pesticides has begun in the hopes of mitigating the locust swarm. The FAO warns that the swarm could spread further to Uganda and South Sudan.  
SEE ALSO: Locusts Wreak Havoc on Key Indian Crops

Up in Flames: The animal toll of the Australian wildfires is estimated at 1 billion. Although most think of koalas and kangaroos, dairy cattle are included in that figure. Some of the nation’s main dairy regions have been struck by the fires, putting even more pressure on a sector already troubled by a three-year drought. Australia is the world’s seventh largest dairy exporter, mainly supplying neighboring countries in Asia.

(Bio)fortify Against Malnutrition: International institutions and researchers have long hailed biofortified crops as the essential ingredient in the global campaign to tackle hunger and increase nutrition. Yet barriers to adoption can prevent communities from benefitting. Programs like CGIAR’s HarvestPlus initiative are educating farmers to scale up adoption of new crops.

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

A Look at Locusts: More than a Biblical plague, locusts are considered a natural disaster. Although they belong to the same family as grasshoppers, locusts differ from their cousins in a key, social way. Both can be solitary, but locusts also experience what is called their gregarious phase. Generally prompted by a food shortage, swarms of gregarious locusts are responsible for crop devastation. 

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

A New Element of Food Waste: Thirty percent of the world’s food is wasted, but a new report challenges consumers to expand how they think about food waste. Food packaging has its own large and damaging environmental footprint. The chemicals present in plastic food packaging can cause long lasting harm not only to the planet, but also human health.


Traditional crops to the rescue: Farmers in Kenya are returning to indigenous crops like millet which have been forgotten in favor of newer staples such as maize. Millet is more resilient against the droughts and heatwaves being imposed by climate change. The crop is also well suited to popular snacks, generating income for farmers.
SEE ALSO: Wild Crops Boost Food Security in the Sahel

The Dirt on Dirt: Once taken for granted, soil is coming to the center of many food security conversations. If soil health is ignored, experts warn, potential food and water security problems will increase. One factor preventing investment in soil health is the prevalence of farmers renting, rather than owning the land they work—a problem for Iowan farmers just as much as global smallholders.


FFAR Innovator Award: The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) has announced that nominations for the 2020 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award are open. Up to ten awards will be granted to early-career scientists in one of six challenge areas: soil health, water management, crop development, animal systems, urban food systems, and the health-agriculture nexus. Unlike previous grants, no matching funds are required.

Pork 2.0: Plant-based meat companies are adding another frontier in their battle against traditional meat: pork. Impossible Foods has partnered with Burger King to introduce an imitation pork patty on its breakfast menu after rival Beyond Meat launched a similar product at Dunkin Donuts last year. Despite industry development, the faux meats face cultural and governmental barriers to entry in the Chinese market.


USMCA in the Senate: The Senate Finance Committee passed the USMCA deal with a bipartisan vote, moving the trade agreement closer to ratification. Seven Senate committees need to sign off on the deal before a floor vote. All but the Appropriations Committee have committed to doing so by next week.  

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

Disease Drives Change: The persistence of African swine flu throughout Asia and Eastern Europe has spurred wide-ranging change and disruption in the global meat industry. Robust Chinese demand has pushed production growth while also crowding out exports earmarked for other Asian countries.  

Tech in the Deere Lights: In pursuit of higher profits, manufacturer Deere & Co. has announced it will be cutting costs and investing more in data-driven agricultural technology and services. Deere is hoping to tap into the growing field of precision agriculture. The move is accompanied by a reevaluation of the company’s overseas footprint.

 https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/calendar_icon.pngUPCOMING EVENTS
Global Forum for Food and Agriculture
Date: 16-18 January
Location: Berlin, Germany

​​​​American Farm Bureau Federation Convention & Trade Show
Date: 17-22 January
Location: Austin, Texas

The Wisdom of Indigenous Foodways
Date: 22 January
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Edible Institute

Date: 25-26 January
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Trust in Food Symposium
Date: 29-30 January
Location: Chicago, IL

Interdrought 2020
Date: 9-13 March
Location: Mexico City, Mexico

Global Food Security Symposium
Date: 26 March
Location: Washington, DC

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.