January 24, 2020

Global Food for Thought: Land Conflict | Hydroponics | Fertilizer Boom

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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.

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

A worker places plants inside Venesia Mukarati's hydroponic garden in Harare, Zimbabwe. (REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

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

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.


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.  

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

Food Talk Live
Date: 18 February
Location: Chicago, IL

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

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

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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


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