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Land Conflicts Threaten Food Security
According to the FAO, about only half of Nigeria’s available farmland is in use. Despite the potential for agricultural expansion, land already in use is under fire. Across Nigeria’s fertile Middle Belt, violent conflict between Fulani herdsman and farmers has led to reduction in agricultural production. The Fulani traditionally migrate south during the dry season. Climate change and desertification are pushing the Fulani further and further south, pushing them into direct competition over land currently farmed. The government’s National Livestock Transformation Plan, meant to manage some of these issues, has yet to produce results.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
A worker places plants inside Venesia Mukarati's hydroponic garden in Harare, Zimbabwe. (REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)
Gates Expand: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a new nonprofit, Gates Ag One, focused on bringing agricultural innovations to smallholders. Smallholder farmers are extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change and Gates Ag One will work to provide them with the latest adaptation innovations and resources.
Pakistan Breaks for Bread: An acute shortage of flour has forced the Pakistani government to approve the import of 300,000 tons of wheat. The shortage in supply has raised questions and left experts confused as the country exported 600,000 tons of the product in 2018-2019.
Addressing Barriers to Soybean Yields: Many soy-producing farms in the tropics of the African continent operate under a low input – low output model. This is due to high costs of inputs and a lack of access to credit. The Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab has developed a step-wise approach to the problem, creating input bundles that incrementally advance producers towards higher yields and profits.
FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES
Potatoes under Pressure: Dry weather in Colombia has brought heavy frosts to the fields of potato farmers in the country’s high-altitude regions, laying wasted to crops. The extended dry weather is connected to climate change. The frosts have affected regional dairy farmers as well, ruining grasses that the cows depend on for food.
Butter Reveals Economic Weakness: Israel is almost a year into a nation-wide butter shortage. Despite a technologically advanced dairy sector, farm and trade policies have converged to create a commercial shortage amidst bountiful production.
Fertilizer boom, for whom? Fertilizer is used in Africa at some of the lowest rates globally, both due to farmer adoption and lack of local production. Fertilizer businesses are taking off across the continent, but their products have trouble reaching the remote small and medium sized farms that would benefit the most from the input. Public-private partnerships, which have driven the increase in production, may hold the key to enhanced distribution.
The Mighty Potato: The potato is more than your simple side dish. With over 5000 varieties, the tuber sustained ancient Andean civilizations. Before European colonization, Andeans cultivated different varieties of potato based on elevation. Although widespread European adoption of the potato was slow, its ultimate integration into the continent’s farming is credited with helping create modern industrial agriculture.
Online Food Sovereignty: Many of the world's most beloved and consumed crops, such as corn, potatoes, and tomatoes, are native to the Americas. Yet indigenous preparations of these crops are not well known or recognized. A new online cooking show, Indigikitchen, seeks to reverse this phenomenon through traditional and fusion recipes. The online platform is allowing indigenous knowledge to reach new audiences.
Zimbabwe Hydroponics beat drought: In a nation facing extended drought and economic woes, one woman, Venesia Mukarati, produces 2600 plants per growing cycle—including lettuce, cucumbers, and spinach—in one hydroponic greenhouse. Using a system that reduces water consumption by 90 percent has allowed for large harvests-and profits.
India Mitigates Locusts: A combination of action and luck have prevented desert locusts from spreading in India. Targeted pesticide applications and specialized equipment received a boost from a well-timed shift in the wind may have spared the worst damage for farms in Gujarat and Rajasthan, two key oilseed producing states.
Ancient Aquaculture: The raging wildfires in Australia have uncovered new parts of Budj Bim, an immense ancient Gunditjmara aboriginal aquaculture site. Dating to before Stonehenge, the UNESCO World Heritage site provides evidence of sophisticated agricultural techniques.
Lettuce Grows Up: Vertical farming is beginning to take hold in Japan after startups indicate they may have reached the critical scale needed to make the model viable. The company Spread has taken over empty factories and retrofitted them with agricultural technology with plans to grow 30,000 lettuce heads per day.
An End to Trade Aid: Sonny Perdue said that the US government would not be providing a third year of farm aid in 2020, given the current phase one trade deal with China. Secretary Perdue confirmed the third tranche of 2019 farm aid will be released shortly, noting that China’s commitment to $40 billion in agricultural purchase agreements prevents the need for additional US government support. China’s condition to purchase US agricultural products based on market conditions has raised some concerns.
TRADE & COMMODITIES
Brazil Takes Stock of US-China Deal: The battle of tariffs between the US and China lead to a $10 billion increase in Brazilian exports to China. Much of this surplus trade came from agricultural products, particularly soybeans. Some worry that the new trade deal between the US and China will jeopardize the surge in trade, while some officials believe that Brazil will find new markets once more American products are directed to China.
Olam Reorganizes: Singapore-based commodity trader Olam International has announced a plan to split into two separate businesses. One will specialize in food ingredients, and the other will focus on agricultural supply.
Date: 25-26 January
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Trust in Food Symposium
Date: 29-30 January
Location: Chicago, IL
Foster our Future
Date: 5 February
Location: Washington, DC
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