June 12, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Global Nutrition | Flooding | Mango Season

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Rattan Lal Named 2020 World Food Prize Laureate

This week’s announcement of the 50th World Food Prize Laureate centered soil health, an area that 2020 Laureate Rattan Lal pioneered since the 1970s. Lal began his career at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, where he studied how soil erosion and degradation in tropical climates reduced agricultural yields. In the decades since, he has brought soil health into the mainstream, and championed conservation agriculture. Dr. Lal’s research has benefits for the more than one-third of the planet’s land area currently affected by soil degradation.

The announcement featured Barbara Stinson, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Paul Schickler, Chair of the World Food Prize Foundation Council of Advisors, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Following their remarks, 2009 Laureate Gebisa Ejeta joined Dr. Lal for a digital dialogue on agriculture. The World Food Prize is accepting questions for Dr. Lal to answer in future dialogues.

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

Fading roses are discarded as they cannot be shipped to Europe due of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Maridadi flower farm in Naivasha, Kenya. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)


Inclusive R&D Toolkit Launches: Research and development (R&D) is a key component of any organization’s strategy—whether its deliverables lie in consulting, marketing, developing innovative technology, serving vulnerable communities, education, or generating knowledge and higher revenue. In addition, we know that human-centered design processes not only result in more impactful and beneficial products, but also save money. But what exactly does it mean to design and conduct human-centered research? The Council’s Women, Peace, and Security Fellow Katelyn Jones answers that question and many others through a toolkit which presents a list of steps that one can take to ensure that the entire R&D process—from the initial idea, to the dissemination of products/information, to the very consequences of R&D—uses equity, diversity, and inclusion as guiding principles at every stage. To learn more, register for a workshop launching the toolkit on June 17. 

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

LIVE STREAM: Should We Worry About the Deficit?
Date: June 16
Time: 12:00 pm CDT

VIRTUAL: Workshop on Bridging the Research Gap for Inclusive R&D
Date: June 17
Time: 11 am CDT

LIVE STREAM: Building Better, More Resilient Food Systems
Date: June 22
Time: 10 am CDT

LIVE STREAM: How to Understand our Globalized World
Date: July 14
Time: 1 pm CDTDid you miss one of our previous livestreams? Don't worry! They are all available on our website to watch at any time. 


Palm Oil and Labor: Although the palm oil industry has brought growth to Indonesia’s economy, the environmental and social toll is great. Along with environmental destruction, the social fabric of subsistence-based economies have acutely suffered as fish stocks and forest land has declined, creating labor vacuums for fisherman and small holder farmers.

Horticulture Wilting: Kenya’s horticulture industry has grown exponentially in the past 3 decades. However, fresh produce and flower exports have been greatly impacted due to international trade restrictions, down around 70 percent compared to before the pandemic. Loosening of restrictions in recent weeks have made some improvements, but barriers such as high shipping costs and in-country transport bottlenecks remain.

Funding Disparity: The disparity that African women farmers face in access to agriculture value chains compared to men farmers is an estimated $15.6 billion, according to The African Development Bank’s Technologies for African Transformation. The initiative supports women’s farm collectives by providing seeds and seed technologies and developing irrigation systems, while the Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa improves women’s access to financial resources to achieve higher positions within farming value chains.

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

Where do your flowers come from? More than a nice gesture, each bouquet of cut flowers is part of a billion-dollar global industry. The flower trade has historically been dominated by the Netherlands, which now accounts for 43 percent of exports. Over the past two decades, Colombia, Kenya, Ecuador, and Ethiopia have grown their share of this water-intensive industry

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

Black-Founded Food Tech: The field of tech is not known for its diversity. In food tech, however, five Black-founded companies are innovating for food system solutions. From connecting smallholder farmers and commodity buyers to turning air into protein, these companies are on the cutting edge of the future of food.      


Seeing the Forest for the Pollinators: A new FAO report finds forests are critical for promoting pollination in agriculture. Wild bees, bats, butterflies, and birds are vital pollinators for ecosystems, biodiversity, and crops. The report estimates that 88 percent of wild flowering plants are animal-pollinated globally, and more than 70 percent of global food crops benefit from animal pollination.


Catching Locusts for Chickens: Pakistan’s Food Ministry plans to expand a new project to curtail locust swarms, where villagers capture locusts in return for cash. The insects are then dried out and added to chicken feed. The method, which has previously found success in Yemen, was tested in February and resulted in the capture of 20 tons of locusts. 


Bipartisan Climate Action: A bipartisan effort has resulted in the Growing Climate Solutions Act, a bill aiming to establish USDA-certified protocols that help farmers, ranchers and landowners use climate friendlier practices to generate carbon credits. This bill is a rare collaboration on climate change and would offer new revenue streams for those suffering from the economic impacts of global trade tensions and the coronavirus. 

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

State vs. Pesticides: Pesticide manufacturers in India claim their products are safe for people and the environment and will keep input prices down for farmers as locust populations continue to destroy crops. Conversely, the Agriculture Ministry has found these pesticides to be highly toxic, causing farmers deaths and leading to a proposed ban, as have a number of other countries globally have done. India is the second largest exporter of pesticides, and pesticide manufacturers are threatening to take their case to court.

COVID-19 Food Insecurity: UN-Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for immediate action on food security as almost 50 million additional people may fall into extreme poverty due to the pandemic. For example, in the Central African Republic food insecurity has increased 11 percent throughout the pandemic, resulting in 2.4 million people facing crisis.    

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

Record Rice: Rice futures have risen 47 percent in the last two weeks, reaching a near decade peak. The rise in prices can be attributed to increased consumer purchasing of rice during the lockdown and the upcoming monsoon season will likely result in further price increases, especially in Southeast Asia. 

Soy Trade Increases: The USDA has confirmed the largest sale of US soybeans to China in the last 16 months. The purchase of 720,000 tons came as Brazil’s soy supply constricted. Although January’s trade deal came with the promise of dramatic increases in China’s purchase of US agricultural goods, sales of commodities like soybeans have yet to reach pre-2018 levels.  

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


Food System Resilience, Sustainability and the COVID-19 Crisis: Looking ahead to the German Presidency of the EU
Date: June 15
Time: 8 am CDT

Reimagining Food Systems: Driving Action for a Post-COVID World
Date: June 24
Time: TBD

A New Era for Food and Climate: Driving Transformative Actions 
Date: June 25
Time: 8:30 am GMT

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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.