2018 Global Health and Development Symposium
September 18, 2018
Since the landmark Women’s March in 2017, seismic shifts have been underway, affecting everything from women’s political participation to their financial autonomy. Women can now drive in Saudi Arabia, US legislators can now bring newborns to the Senate floor, and companies in the United Kingdom are being mandated to address the gender wage gap. The eruption of movements like #MeToo has sent shockwaves across industries, setting new standards for accountability and regulation. But have we reached a tipping point? Can this watershed moment go beyond words to drive meaningful action?
Why Ravaging Heatwaves Matter to World’s Dinner Table, Bloomberg, August 14
To see the impact of record-breaking temperatures around the world, watch wheat. The biggest growers—Russia, Australia and the EU—have been hurt by high heat or widespread drought and as a result, the world is heading for the first deficit in six years. Poorer countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, are more sensitive to price fluctuations because they depend on food imports.
SEE ALSO: Scorching Heat Fries Canola Crop in Canada’s Heartland, Bloomberg, August 15
SEE ALSO: ‘One Crop in Seven Years’: Drought Plagues Australia’s Farmers, Wall Street Journal, August 14
SEE ALSO: Drought Raises Food Security Fears in Afghanistan, Al Jazeera, August 12
SEE ALSO: Red Cross Warns of Food Crisis in North Korea as Crops Fail in Heat, Reuters, August 10
The Next Generation 2018 – Addressing Food Security and Youth Unemployment Through Digital Technology, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, August 9
The recent emergence of mobile money in sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to pave the way for a more efficient and more profitable agriculture. Not only could it alleviate the hurdles of input financing, but it could also address the recurrent issue of market failure. Knowing when and where digital technologies are profitable can help design better policies around successful business models in agriculture and contribute to the fight against food insecurity.
Meet the Social Entrepreneur Behind Africa's Uber For the Farm, Forbes, August 14
Social entrepreneur Jehiel Oliver and his organization, Hello Tractor, have demonstrated another use of Uber’s ride-sharing technology: fighting poverty and scarcity in Africa’s remote rural communities. The company is helping engage the growing youth population in agriculture by connecting tractor owners to farmers through a digital app. In just a few short years, the organization has reached more than 250,000 smallholder African farmers.
Investment in Food Security Is an Investment in Global Stability. Here's Why, Opinion, Richard Leach, Devex, August 13
In a globalized world where instability does not respect borders, nontraditional security threats such as food insecurity are poised to play a more central role in global crises. Globally, hunger is on the rise for the first time in over a decade, currently about 815 million people worldwide. Unchecked food insecurity and growing poverty produce an inevitable outcome in a country: deteriorating security.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES
Nigerian Credit Agency Gives $373 Million to Boost Crop Exports, Bloomberg, August 14
Nigeria’s state-owned agricultural-lending facilitator said it disbursed $373 million to farmers in the past year to help boost production of export crops. The agency underwrites risk for credit going to farmers, part of the effort by the oil-rich country to increase revenue from farm exports and reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons
More than 2,000 scientists gathered in Rio de Janeiro to explore the increasingly complex, diverse role of soils; grappling with resilient agriculture practices to address environmental and climatic changes; and confronting threats to food security and sovereignty. The FAO stressed the importance of sustainable soil management as an essential part of the Zero Hunger equation.
In conjunction with USAID and the University of Tennessee, Donnie Smith, the former chief executive of Tyson Foods, is investing $2 million in a program to establish chicken farms in Musanze, a poverty-stricken district of Rwanda. But all has not gone according to plan. For starters, Rwanda lacks the infrastructure to support a modern chicken industry, and most Rwandans are goat-herders—many have never eaten chicken.
Lebanon’s Hashish Equation: If Farmers Gain, Does Hezbollah Lose?, Christian Science Monitor, August 9
In Lebanon’s impoverished and lawless northern region, the cultivation of cannabis has been revived after a government-sponsored transition to other crops faltered. It could help an indebted national economy. But many in the region believe the government deliberately keeps the area impoverished in order to keep locals dependent on the Iran-backed party for their social needs. It’s not clear if legalization would provide sufficient income to farmers to detract support from Hezbollah.
US GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES
What's Behind the Government's Unprecedented Move to Buy $50m in Milk, ABC News, August 15
The USDA said it's buying 11 to 13 million gallons of milk from dairy farmers for $50 million and planning to send it to local food banks. The acquisition is not related to the emergency assistance for farmers linked to President Donald Trump's tariff proposals, although dairy farmers have been hurt by trade issues related to NAFTA and declining demand for milk from cows.
US Foundations Sent $35 Billion Overseas in 5 Years, Half of It from Gates, Chronicle of Philanthropy, August 14
International grants grew by nearly one-third from 2011 to 2015, propelled largely by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which accounted for more than half of the global grants from US foundations during the five-year period.
US Wheat from Pacific Northwest Heading to War-Torn Yemen, AP, August 13
Seven ships loaded with wheat grown in America’s Pacific Northwest are sailing for Yemen, where a stalemated civil war has pushed more than 8 million people to the brink of starvation. USAID, which administers the Food for Peace program, purchased the wheat to benefit America’s wheat farmers and people in crisis. It was then handed over to the WFP to be shipped and distributed in Yemen.
French Cows Live to See Another Day Under Trump's Iran Sanctions, Bloomberg, August 11
Thousands of cows previously destined for Tehran slaughterhouses are stranded in the French countryside after the US imposed new sanctions against Iran. While the herds’ plight will have little impact on overall exports from Europe’s largest agricultural producer, it illustrates the far-reaching effects US sanctions against Iran will have on global trade.
BIG IDEAS AND EMERGING INNOVATIONS
Nigerian Biotech Startup Using Shrimp Shells to Save Food Wins Top Prize, Forbes, August 13
The Nigerian biotech startup Coating+ has created a transparent gelatinous coating that is sprayed onto fresh fruit and vegetables to prolong their shelf life. It’s made using a combination of chitosan—a sugar extracted from shrimp shells—along with soy protein and micronutrients, and its preservation qualities are set to save farmers money on unsold produce. Moreover, Coating+ is helping shore up waste in the aquaculture industry and combat micronutrient and protein-energy malnutrition in Africa.
The Future of Food: Scientists Have Found a Fast and Cheap Way to Edit Your Food’s DNA, Washington Post, August 11
Biotech firm Calyxt’s soybean oil, the industry’s first true gene-edited food, could make its way into products as soon as the end of this year. Unlike older genetic modification methods, the new techniques are precise, fast, and inexpensive, and companies hope they will avoid the negative reputation and regulatory hurdles that hobbled the first generation of genetically modified foods.
Bird Control Group started out in Europe, for the most part designing lasers to shoo pesky birds away from industrial sites and airports. In the US market, the agricultural industry appears to be the most promising.
The silent lasers proved a friendlier—and sometimes better—bird repellent than traditional tools such as propane cannons or squawk boxes. The lasers are also friendlier than using poison or a 12-gauge shotgun.
The Wonder Plant That Could Slash Fertilizer Use, Atlantic, August 9
For thousands of years, people from a mountainous region in southern Mexico, have been cultivating an unusual variety of giant corn. They grow the crop on soils that are poor in nitrogen and they barely use any additional fertilizer. And yet, their corn towers over conventional varieties, reaching heights of more than 16 feet. The secret of the corn’s success lies in its aerial roots which drop with a tick, clear mucus that’s loaded with bacteria.
SEE ALSO: Growth-Promoting Soil Microbes Could Be Key to Sustainable Agriculture, Lancaster Farming, August 14
SEE ALSO: Healthy Soils Are Essential to Achieve Zero Hunger, Peace and Prosperity, FAO, August 13
FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES
Firms That Bossed Agriculture for a Century Face New Threat: Farmers, Wall Street Journal, August 15
Across the US Farm Belt, the balance of power is swinging away from multibillion-dollar agribusinesses. For over a century, companies held sway over markets for US corn, soybeans, and wheat. Now farmers are increasingly calling the shots. Running expanded, consolidated farms, big farm operators are pushing grain giants for better prices or striking their own deals to directly supply manufacturers, cutting out the middleman.
Agriculture Minister Proposes to FAO to Declare the Year 2019 as International Year of Millets, Economic Times, August 15
Indian agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh has proposed to the FAO to declare the year 2019 as international year of millets. This will promote cultivation by amending cropping patterns of areas which are especially susceptible to climate change. The minister has requested the inclusion of this proposal in the agenda of the 26th session of the Committee on Agriculture meeting, scheduled for this fall.
Crop-Munching Armyworm Could Threaten Millions of Farmers in Asia: UN, Thomson Reuters Foundation, August 14
A voracious crop-chomping pest which has wrought havoc in Africa could threaten millions of farmers in Asia, UN experts warned. India now battles the continent’s first reported infestation of fall armyworm. FAO regional representative Kundhavi Kadriresan said, “Fall armyworm could have a devastating impact on Asia’s maize and rice producers...This is a threat that we cannot ignore.”
New Native American Farm Fund to Distribute $266 Million in Landmark Civil Rights Settlement, Washington Post, August 12
The largest US philanthropy serving Native American farmers and ranchers has been established to distribute $266 million from a landmark 2010 civil rights settlement in which the US government agreed to pay for almost 20 years of official discrimination. The Native American Agriculture Fund held its first meeting after a court gave its final approval in late July.
NUTRITION AND HEALTH
The Pacific Islands Have an Obesity Problem. The Tongan Leader Thinks a Weight-Loss Competition Could Help., Washington Post, August 15
For years, Pacific Island nations have struggled to address obesity in the region. The top 10 nations with the highest prevalence of adult obesity were all in the Pacific. Experts cite an increase in the consumption of processed food as a major factor in the region’s struggle with obesity. Tonga’s prime minister apparently plans to suggest a new way to fight obesity in the region: a competition to see who can lose the most weight over the next year.
A Simple Way to Save Millions of Lives, Editorial, Bloomberg, August 15
Some 4.5 billion people live without proper toilets. People continue to die needlessly from diarrheal infections when fecal germs pollute the environment, contaminating food and drinking water. Investing in toilets with sewage infrastructure can be money well spent, provided the toilets are used for their intended purpose. This often requires a significant change in behavior; Tanzania, for instance, has experimented with airing a reality TV show which features outhouse makeovers.
Ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), a paste made of peanuts and milk powder, is widely accepted to be a safe and effective way to treat children with severe acute malnutrition. Average full course of treatment for a child costs between $41 and $51, putting it out of reach of most health programs. Almost two dozen of UNICEF’s RUTF suppliers have already come up with local formulas, many of which substitute peanuts and milk powder with cheaper alternatives.
The War on Sugar’s Biggest Casualty: Global Prices, Wall Street Journal, August 12
Sugar prices are hovering near a three-year low as food companies around the world reduce the commodity in their products and move toward alternative sweeteners amid health concerns including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. This raises the possibility of a long-term reduction in demand even as the world’s largest producers of sugar are notching record production.
ENVIRONMENT, WATER, AND CLIMATE
Very Fishy: China Rules Rainbow Trout Can Be Sold as Salmon, Guardian, August 14
In a move that customers have labelled very fishy, the Chinese government has ruled that rainbow trout can now be labelled and sold as salmon. The seemingly bizarre move comes after complaints earlier this year that rainbow trout was being mislabeled. Customers also floated concerns that trout, when eaten raw, could pass parasites onto humans.
How Hacked Water Heaters Could Trigger Mass Blackouts, Wired, August 13
In a power network large enough to serve an area of 38 million people—a population roughly equal to Canada or California—researchers estimate that just a one percent bump in demand might be enough to take down the majority of the power grid. That demand increase could be created by a botnet as small as a few tens of thousands of hacked electric water heaters or a couple hundred thousand air conditioners.
Nexus of Climate and Conflict Exacerbates Sahel Food Security Crisis, Devex, August 13
As a result of poor rainfall, livestock losses and pasture shortages are threatening food security across six West African Sahel countries. An estimated 7.1 million people in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Senegal, Chad, and Niger are in need of urgent food and livelihood assistance. The WFP, UNICEF, and the FAO have developed a joint response to cover immediate food needs, protect livelihoods, and fight malnutrition
Local Fishers in France Struggle Along with Mediterranean Ecology, Al Jazeera, August 10
Climate change and pollution have taken their toll on the fish population in the Mediterranean and the effect of tourist fishing is not even being calculated. The Mediterranean is now the most over-fished sea in the world. As the state of the marine environment worsens, local fishers have begun looking for alternatives to make ends meet and preserve the dwindling fish populations.
GENDER AND GENERATIONAL INCLUSION
Kids Living near Forests Have More 'Diverse' Diets, Better Nutrition: Study, ABC News, August 15
Children who live near forests appear to have better nutrition, according to a large-scale study across four continents. In their analysis, the authors found that the children living close to forest edges had 25 percent greater dietary diversity. The study showed it also increased the chances children would be eating vitamin A-rich foods by at least 11 percent and iron-rich foods by 16 percent.
SEE REPORT: Impacts of Forests on Children’s Diet in Rural Areas across 27 Developing Countries, Science Advances, August 15
Farming Ideas to Make a Fortune: Inside Brazil's Food Security Festival, Guardian, August 14
Agriculture startups from around the world gathered at Rio de Janeiro’s vibrant Food Security conference sponsored by Syngenta, the pesticide manufacturer. It’s an unusual conference that has attracted several hundred young people from across the world to pitch and discuss ideas on how to feed the world’s booming population with agriculture startups—and make their fortunes doing so.
The Student Trying to Solve the Food Waste Crisis, BBC, August 14
Lawrence Okettayot is a 23-year-old engineering student hoping to tackle the issue of food waste. His invention, the Sparky Dryer, is a dehydrator that runs on garden waste and dries fruit and vegetables quickly, making them last for months instead of days. The starting price is $80 and each unit can dehydrate 10kg of mangoes in just 2 hours.
Meet Seeks Increased Youth Participation in Agriculture, New Times, August 14
Agriculture policymakers will convene in Kigali as they seek for ideas on how to increase youth participation in the sector by using technology to boost job opportunities and strengthen efforts against food insecurity. More than 60 percent of Africa’s estimated 1.2 billion people are below the age of 25 and challenged with unemployment. The FAO has expressed concern over the continent’s growing uncertainty on jobs for the youth, especially those in rural areas.
Young Leaders from Around the World Take Part in the Y20 Summit in Cordoba, G20 Argentina, August 13
The Youth 20, or Y20, is the engagement group that brings together young leaders from G20 member countries. Over 80 representatives aged between 18 and 30 are taking part in the packed event. With a focus on the future of work, one of the priorities of the Argentine G20 presidency, the agenda includes discussions on education, entrepreneurship, and the skills required for the twenty-first century, among other issues.
MARKET ACCESS, TRADE, AND AGRIBUSINESS
US Farm-Export Prices Drop Most Since 2011, Bloomberg, August 14
Prices for US farm exports dropped in July by the most in more than six years as a trade war with China heated up. Agricultural export prices fell 5.3 percent from the prior month as soybean prices plummeted 14.1 percent. Export prices for corn, wheat, fruits, and nuts also slumped in July. China, the world’s biggest buyer of soybeans, has continued to shun US supplies amid the trade conflict, threatening to curb exports after the harvest.
SEE ALSO: Farmers’ Anxiety Grows as Details on Federal Aid Remain Unclear, Wall Street Journal, August 15
De-risking Agricultural Investments in Africa, Opinion, Evan Girvetz, Financial Times, August 14
Agricultural lending interest rates in Africa are frequently in double digits and less than three percent of total bank lending in Africa goes to a sector that accounts for about 70 percent of employment and more than 40 percent of GDP. By using science to guide investment decisions in climate-smart agriculture, we can de-risk farming to help promote the much-needed investment in African agriculture.
Textiles, Agriculture, Pharma, IT: Moldova Beckons India, Economic Times, August 14
Moldova is wooing Indian investors in the areas of textiles, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and IT as it is set to open an embassy in this country in 2019, 28 years after attaining independence following the dissolution of the USSR. Moldova imports much more from India than it exports, and both countries have agreed to synchronize the certification of food and agricultural products.
Times are tough on dairy farms around the country, with milk prices declining for the fourth year in a row. But 72 farms that supply Ben & Jerry's earn a little more. Farms enrolled in the Milk with Dignity program commit to providing five annual paid sick days, five paid vacation days, and to meet housing health and safety standards.
SEE ALSO: New CEO at Ben & Jerry’s Plans to Whip up Activism, ‘Whirled Peace’, Wall Street Journal, August 15
Date: August 17-20
Location: Debrecen, Hungary
Date: September 5-8
Location: Kigali, Rwanda
Date: September 11-13
Location: Yaoundé, Cameroon
Date: October 3-5
Location: Riverdale, Maryland
Date: October 17-19
Location, Des Moines, Iowa
Date: December 4-6
Location: Montpellier, France
If you would like to have the Global Food for Thought news brief delivered to your inbox, please sign up here.