July 24, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Rice Revolution | Yemen | Geospatial Data

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A Looming Famine in Yemen

The UN is ringing the alarm that famine is once again a pressing concern for Yemen. Eighteen months ago, when the nation faced a food security crisis, the world responded with increased aid. Without a similar response now, the number of malnourished children under five could rise by 20 percent. An additional 1.2 million people could face acute food insecurity by December. That would mean that the lives of 40 percent of Yemen’s population would be in immediate danger due to inadequate food access. A number of circumstances are contributing to the crisis, including pandemic restrictions, reduced remittances, desert locusts, floods, and lower levels of aid to the nation.

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


Workers prepare food rations to be handed out at a charity kitchen in Sanaa, Yemen. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)


What Makes a Resilient System? SOFI 2020 confirmed that the number of hungry people in the world is rising. This is but one symptom of a food system working at its limits, as COVID-19 revealed. The need for a more resilient system is clear, as panelists discussed in our June 22 program. But what makes a resilient system? In this month’s collaboration with Agri-Pulse, Liam Condon of Bayer discusses three components necessary to ensure a food system in which farmers thrive, the planet is healthy, and hunger becomes a worry of the past.

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

LIVE STREAM: Members-Only Conversation on Voting Rights, Access, and Integrity
Date: July 30
Time: 12 p.m. CDT

LIVE STREAM: Twitter, Tear Gas, and the New Global Protest Movements
Date: August 5
Time: 10 am CDT

Did you miss one of our previous livestreams? Don't worry! They are all available on our website to watch at any time. 


Pork Under Pressure: Global pork production is expected to decline by 8 percent compared to 2019. This figure is revised from earlier projections of just 5 percent. A number of factors contribute to the lowered expectation, including pandemic restrictions. African Swine Fever remains a top concern, from a suspected outbreak in northern Zambia to ongoing outbreaks in China.

A Rice Revolution? India’s pandemic lockdown prevented hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers to travel for the rice planting season. Farmers in the nation’s grain belt are adapting by using machines to sow seeds directly, rather than hand-planting seedlings. The technique saves farmers money, water, and time. If it brings larger yields, direct seeding could revolutionize Indian rice agriculture.

SEE ALSO: Thai Rice Prices Rise, Indian Exporters Face Challenges

Second Wave: A new swarm of locusts has entered Argentina from bordering Paraguay. Thus far the swarm has remained in a predominantly cattle-ranching region, sparing the nation’s grain belt. This is the second locust swarm to enter Argentina in as many months, and the government is monitoring the situation closely with neighbors Brazil and Paraguay.

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

The Most Consumed Meat: About one-third of all meat consumed in the world is pork, making it the most commonly eaten meat. Half of the world’s pork is produced and consumed on the Asian continent, particularly in China. Poultry is the second most consumed meat in the world and may overtake pork if African Swine Fever continues to wreak havoc on pig farms around the world.

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

Data in Hand: The FAO launched the Hand-in-Hand geospatial platform this week. Hand-in-Hand brings together statistical data on food and agriculture with geographic information to help data-driven decision making. The platform is available to anyone and includes FAOSTAT data on over 245 countries from 1961 to the present.   


Mining New Opportunities: More people are transitioning from mining to farming in Zambia, in response to COVID-19-induced drops in global copper prices. This shift is supported by the Agriculture Productivity and Market Enhancement Project (APME), part of a long-term plant to diversify Zambia’s economy beyond copper. The APME provides grants to develop irrigation schemes, increase mechanization, and promote conservation and crop diversity. So far, more than half of the program’s beneficiaries are women.


Improving Nature: As climate change intensifies, scientists are looking to redesign the photosynthetic process of many food crops for optimal future performance. An enzyme referred to by the acronym Rubisco is responsible for converting sunlight into plant tissue. Many labs are working to “hack” this enzyme to improve its efficiency, thereby creating crops better suited to a warmer world.


Conservation through Climate Mitigation: Lawmakers approved the most ambitious conservation package in a generation on Wednesday, sending the measure off to President Trump, who is expected to sign it. As part of the draft platform, Democrats aim to make the US agriculture sector the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, which will not only have a positive effect on the conservation of America’s great outdoors, but also its contributions to a changing climate. 

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

Dairy Prices: Dairy prices are on the rise as the pandemic begins to slow down in Asia and China’s economy improves. Global dairy prices hit an 18-month low in May, driven by expectations of lower demand. US dairy exports have seen a corresponding increase, a boon for farmers hit hard by the pandemic.  

OPINION: Unintended Consequences of Closing Wet Markets: In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the US and other countries are pressuring China and other ASEAN countries to permanently close their wet markets. However, some social scientists argue that closures could lead to food insecurity and economic instability. The wildlife farming industry in China is valued at $74 billion and is a source of income for more than 14 million people.

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

Catching Carbon: Bayer is launching a new carbon capture program that rewards farmers for carbon sequestering in return for either cash or purchasing credits. The program will reward farmers in the US and Brazil for adopting climate-smart practices such as no-till farming. A digital platform will verify farmers’ practices via satellite imagery.

Investing in Kenya: Vital Capital, a private equity fund focused on companies in sub-Saharan Africa, has announced a collaboration with the US government initiative Kenya Investment Mechanism (KIM). KIM is a five-year program funded by the USAID to unlock financing for agriculture and other businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Central Bank of Kenya warned that 75 percent of the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises face collapse without funding from banks or equity partners.

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


Medium term effects of COVID-19 on poverty and food security – What are we learning from China?
Date: July 28
Time: 8:30 am CDT

Building Forward Better with Aquatic Foods
Date: July 29
Time: 9:30 am 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. 

| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.