January 31, 2020

Global Food for Thought: Underreported Crises | Indigenous Conservation | Feeding a Quarantine

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Highlighting Underreported Crises

Nine out of ten of the most underreported humanitarian crises of 2019 occurred in Africa, according to Care International’s fourth annual Suffering in Silence report. Malnutrition and food insecurity were key elements in each of the crises, which in total affected an estimated 47.1 million people. Drought and extreme weather events, both due in part to climate change, contributed to six of the ten crises. Conflict and displacement made up half of the crises.  

The report analyzed news coverage of 40 global humanitarian crises that affected more than one million people. English, Spanish, French, German, and Arabic online media sources were included in the analysis. Duration of crises was identified as a contributing factor in underreporting. This is underscored by the fact that six out of the ten crises had already appeared in the ranking at least twice in the past three years.

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

Asha Khalif Ali, 35, an internally displaced Ethiopian carries her youngest son in her wheat field that was damaged by heavy rains and desert locusts​. Displacement and hunger in Ethiopia was the 9th most underreported crisis ​​​​of 2019. (REUTERS/Giulia Paravicini)

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

Swine Fever Vaccine: Scientists at the USDA say they have developed a vaccine against African swine fever, the disease responsible for the death of one quarter of the world’s pigs last year. While not yet ready for commercial use, the drug has proved 100 percent effective in trials carried out and could hold the key to guarding against the epidemic.


Why is Food Security Important for US Farmers? Instability and food insecurity often accompany each other. In our most recent collaboration with Agri-Pulse, Pierre Ferrari, president and CEO of Heifer International, argues that in an age of cross-border innovation, consumption, and conflict, solving hunger is more important than ever.


Feeding a Quarantine: Farmers and grocers in and around the city of Wuhan are scrambling to ensure its 11 million residents do not go hungry during the lockdown to contain the coronavirus. China’s largest vegetable production hub was asked to send 600 tons of fresh produce daily, feed producers have been asked to speed up production, and rice and meat suppliers have increased deliveries. Restrictions on travel in Wuhan and neighboring cities have caused difficulties in delivery and access for some citizens.

Shipping Conditions for Livestock: In 2017, nearly 2 billion live animals were transported globally, many by sea. The average age of livestock carriers in use is 38 years old, more than twice the average for container ships. These out of date ships put livestock at risk, and by extension risk the health of humans who consume them.   

Fishy Potential: A recently commissioned report by the Panel for A Sustainable Ocean Economy found that the ocean could supply six times the amount of food it currently does with proper regulation of the fish supply. Due to the low carbon footprint of fishes and their high protein content, an increased focus on seafood may represent a nutritious and sustainable option for feeding the planet.
SEE ALSO: FAO Announces Reduction of Overfishing in International Waters 

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

Plenty of Fish in the Sea? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), over eighty percent of the ocean is unexplored. This poses a challenge for understanding how many fish are on the planet—crucial for assessing conservation efforts. The FAO reports that 90.9 million tons of fish were captured in 2016. Satellite imagery and machine learning are being used to estimate the health of fish stocks worldwide, and although we don’t know exactly how many fish there are, it is known that 90 percent of commercial fish stocks are fully exploited.

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

Taking Inventory: International capacity development support for forest monitoring will be easier to track now, thanks to a new data portal from the FAO. The Global Forest Observations Initiative has launched an Inventory of Activities, which maps out forestry initiatives across the world. Projects can be searched or chosen by several filters, including implementing partner organization and geographic scope.

Sharp-Sighted AI: Researchers say computers with advanced machine learning capabilities could help reduce the world’s food waste. Enhanced sensors and imaging techniques can monitor the quality of produce to guard against premature disposal in the post-harvest supply chain.


Endangering the First 1000 Days: Breastfeeding in the first six months of life is recognized as crucial to children’s health and development. Reports on preliminary research from Kyambogo University in Kampala and the University of Kent are shedding light on a little-discussed phenomenon of men breastfeeding before their children. The practice could jeopardize infants’ health, and more study is needed to determine how widespread it is. 

Flooding in Madagascar: b have raised concerns over food security and hunger in the country. Drought, hunger, and a measles outbreak in Madagascar already ranked as the number one underreported crisis by Care International. Flooding in lowlands and rice-growing areas could deepen the ongoing problem.

From Bad to Worse: Crop disease is plaguing Venezuela’s farms while the country continues to suffer from political and economic instability. Growers are unable to afford pesticides and other basic agricultural inputs. Rice output has dropped by almost half and potato production has fallen by more than 30 percent in the last year, which could exacerbate existing food shortages.


A Hostile Environment: The International Union for Conservation of Nature released a new report finding evidence to suggest that climate change is increasing gender-based violence. Illegal extractive practices have been linked to increases in sex trafficking. Researchers call for environmental projects to consider gender dimensions in planning and implementation.  
Indigenous Conservation: Globally, 40 percent of ecologically intact landscapes are under the care of indigenous peoples. In Central Africa, community forests are being created as a way to give more ownership to the indigenous people who have ancestral claims to the land. Agricultural products such as honey and “shade-grown” cocoa can serve as economic alternatives to logging the protected land.


USMCA Signed Into Law: President Trump signed the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) replacing NAFTA today, after bipartisan Congressional support. USMCA focuses on new environmental and labor standards, encourages greater auto production in North America, and increases access for US dairy farmers to export more to Canadian markets, among other changes. The agreement only awaits Canada’s ratification before implementation.

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

What are Friends For: The United States and Brazil are pushing the Indian government to update import restrictions in the interest of closer trade cooperation. In particular, India’s 100 percent import tariff on chicken products is preventing foreign players from taking part in the country’s poultry industry, which is growing at more than 10 percent per year.

It’s Science: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue called on EU leaders to loosen restrictions on hormone-treated beef and chlorine washed chicken as the United States looks to decrease its cross-Atlantic trade deficit by increasing agricultural exports. The European Union’s stringent quality standards could hold up efforts to strike a US-EU trade deal in coming weeks.

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

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

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.