October 2, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Scaling Restoration | A Friendly Virus | AI Herding

This week we're serving up an amuse-bouche mini-edition of Global Food for Thought. If you're missing our usual version, have no fear--we'll be back next week with a full serving of the week's top stories in food, agriculture, and global development. Until then, please share any suggestions you may have on what we can do better. If you would like to have the Global Food for Thought news brief delivered to your inbox, please sign up here.


Uneasy Reform 

Farmers in India have blocked train tracks and highways across the country in protest of recent agricultural reform bills. The nation’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party pushed three farm bills through parliament to deregulate the trade in agricultural commodities. Coalition partners and opposition parties both unsuccessfully called for greater scrutiny of the legislation, which replaces socialist-era rules that required farmers to sell their crops to licensed middlemen at government market yards. While Prime Minister Modi insists the freer trade will allow farmers to earn higher prices by dealing with a greater number of potential buyers, farmers fear deregulation will leave them vulnerable to powerful corporate interests and in an even weaker negotiating position than with traditional traders. 

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


Join the Chicago Council, Catholic Relief Services, and the Colorado State University System for a World Food Prize side session on scaling actions for systems change.


Scaling Up to Systems Change: The Chicago Council co-hosted a successful soil health panel at the AGRF 2020 Virtual Forum in early September. Inspired by our issue brief Considering a Soil Initiative for Africa, the panel featured key voices from agricultural research across the African continent. Building on this momentum, we are co-hosting a side session at the World Food Prize 2020 Borlaug Dialogue on Thursday, October 15 at 7 am CT. The session examines how to scale an initiative to achieve systems-level change, featuring perspectives from researchers, implementers, and the donor community, with opening remarks from 2020 Laureate Dr. Rattan Lal. The event will be held via Microsoft Teams, with no pre-registration necessary. Simply click this link at 7 am CT on October 15, and you will be connected to the panel! 

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

LIVE STREAM: Decoupling or Recoupling US-China Relations
Date: October 7
Time: 6:30 p.m. CT

Scaling Soils Restoration: A Roadmap to Action
Date: October 15 
Time: 7 a.m. CT 

VIRTUAL: 2020 Global Leadership Awards
Date: October 28
Time: 5 p.m. CT

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


Big Gains from Small Grains: To fight food insecurity in the light of extreme draughts in Zimababwe, organizations have encouraged farmers to start growing drought resistant crops.  Not only are those crops monetarily beneficial, they are creating more space for women in farming. Those small grains like sorghum and finger millet are highly available and have the potential to contribute towards the food security of many of the world's poorest and most food-insecure agro-ecological zones. 

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

Finding Food with AI in West Africa: Herders in West Africa's Sahel region are using AI and tele-detection to find food for livestock and navigate droughts, heatwaves, bushfires, and even Covid-19. Created by the nonprofit Action Against Hunger with support from the World Bank, the Pastoral Early Warning System (PEWS) uses a combination of satellite information and survey data to aid remote pastoralists in Sahel's biogeographic region. PEWS provides updates via radio, SMS, and local bulletins for over 52,000 people on topics such as grazing areas and disease outbreaks.   


Mold + Virus = Thriving Plants: Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, also known as “white mold,” is a fungus deadly to about 400 plants, including soybeans. Researchers have discovered that a virus not only neutralizes the fungus, but actually turns it into a beneficial protection against other plant infections. This discovery could save farmers fungicide costs and spare them the hundreds of millions of dollars in damage that white mold infection can cause. 

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

Going Big on Little Bugs: The UK government is investing £10m in the construction of the country’s first industrial-scale insect farm to produce more sustainable animal food for big livestock suppliers. The Insect protein market could be worth as much as $8bn by 2030 as the global population increased, requiring protein sources with a smaller environmental footprint. Insects are estimated to be 300 times per square meter more efficient in terms of protein output than soy, which is the second-biggest cause of deforestation. 

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

A Chain of Weak Links: Widespread gasoline scarcity is preventing farmers from getting their products to consumers, worsening Venezuela’s food crisis. The nation is currently experiencing the world’s fourth worst food crisis, according to a recent UN report.  With the domestic food supply chain weakened, the nation has turned to food imports. Sanctions on the nation’s oil sector have dramatically reduced the nation’s export income and ability to procure gasoline, further threatening Venezuela’s food supply.  

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

The World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogues
Date: October 12-18

FFA2020 Online Live 
Date: October 26
Time: 3 pm CET

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.