August 31, 2018

This Week's GFFT News: Drones in Farming, World Water Issues, and Veganism

Are We There Yet?
Broken Barriers or Broken Records

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?


Dreams of ChangeChicago Council on Global Affairs, August 29

Dreams are built on what you’re exposed to, and what individuals are exposed to has great variation—this is why it’s so important to inspire the next generation of agriculture to dream big, writes Millicent Yeboah-Awudzi, 2018 Next Generation Delegate and PhD candidate in applied plant science at Louisiana State University.

Whatever Happened to…that Guy Who Wanted to Make Quinoa a ‘Thing’ in Rwanda?, NPR, August 27

Cedric Habiyaremye wanted Rwandan farmers to get excited about quinoa because of its nutritional punch. But now, he says, they're a little too excited. His efforts to bring quinoa to Rwanda have brought him to the international stage, as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has asked him to serve as the youngest member of a global agriculture task force.

The Plight of Small Organic FarmersChicago Council on Global Affairs, August 31

At a time where the organic market is booming, where consumer demand for organic products is increasing worldwide, it may sound bizarre to hear that small organic farmers are struggling greatly. However, it is true, write Sulav Paudel, 2018 Next Generation Delegate and PhD candidate in entomology and international agriculture and development at Pennsylvania State University.

A Post-American AfricaOpinion, Reuben Brigety, Foreign Affairs, August 28

Africa is transforming rapidly, and the United States’ approach to Africa is not keeping pace. While other countries are jumping at opportunities to invest in growing African economies, the United States is struggling to keep up. In fact, China’s commitments to the continent are stronger than ever.

Precious as Silver, Vanilla Brings Cash and Crime to MadagascarNew York Times, August 29

The lush mountains in Madagascar’s northeast produce about 80 percent of the world’s vanilla, one of the most expensive flavors. With the perfect climate and soil for growing vanilla, the Sava region of Madagascar is in the midst of an economic boom. But vanilla’s high price, combined with rampant poverty and a corrupt, weak state, has made the crop a favorite target of violent criminal networks.


Climate-Smart Agriculture is Taking Hold in Kenya, Financial Times, August 28

Although practices such as efficient irrigation and bio-gas production may be less ubiquitous in Kenya than in Iowa, climate-smart agriculture is taking hold in some of the most unexpected locations—and bearing fruit. Through targeted investments in infrastructure, along with strategic planting and feeding practices, Kenya has increased efficient water use and reduced the need for chemical preservatives.

Britain Will Use Aid Budget to Boost Trade in Africa: PM MayReuters, August 28

Britain will use its international aid budget to boost its own interests while also seeking to deepen trade ties with Africa, announced Prime Minister May, countering critics who say aid funds would be better spent at home. May said she wanted Britain to become the biggest investor in Africa out of the G7 nations, overtaking the US, by using the aid budget to help British companies invest on the continent.

SEE ALSO: UK’s May to Visit Africa to Boost Post-Brexit FortunesWashington Post, August 27

China Says Projects Not to Blame for Majority of Africa DebtReuters, August 28

Chinese development projects do not account for a majority of the debt on African countries, say senior Chinese officials ahead of an upcoming summit with African leaders in Beijing. China’s “Belt and Road” initiative has been praised by supporters for providing vital financing to infrastructure-starved countries. Critics, including the US, say the program is overloading poor nations with debt.

SEE ALSO: China Defends ‘New Silk Road’ Against Debt ComplaintsWashington Post, August 27

SEE ALSO: China’s Debt Traps around the World Are a Trademark of Its Imperialist Ambitions, Opinion, John Pomfret, Washington Post, August 27

Small Farmers Hit Hard by Fuel Crisis in Sudan, All Africa, August 27

A number of farmers in Sudan have expressed frustration at the continuation of diesel crisis and pointed out that only half of their quota has been received, while a large number of smallholder farmers have not received their quota at all. Sudan has suffered from a scarcity of fuel and cooking gas and flour crises last year. The cost of labor has risen as well, largely due to Ethiopian workers who are finding better prospects outside of Sudan


Trade Deal with Mexico Gives Workers More Rights Than NAFTA, but There’s a Catch, Vox, August 29

The White House is finalizing details of a new free trade deal with Mexico to replace NAFTA—with or without Canada. So far, the new US-Mexico Trade Agreement seems a lot like NAFTA, though Canada has yet to opt in as it continues negotiations. Agricultural products would remain tariff-free under the new deal. The new deal forces Mexico to adopt stricter labor laws but making sure they enforce those laws is very difficult.

Pesticide Studies Won EPA’s Trust, until Trump’s Team Scorned ‘Secret Science,’ New York Times, August 24

A project, run by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, and funded in part by the EPA, has linked pesticides sprayed on fruit and vegetable crops with respiratory complications, developmental disorders, and lower IQs among children of farm workers. But the Trump administration wants to restrict how human studies like this one are used in rule-making.

Trump Wades into South African Land Debate, Financial Times, August 23

The President waded into an emotional debate on land reform in South Africa with claims about “large-scale killings” of white farmers amid the nation’s renewed debate over land ownership and agriculture policy. The South African government rejected Trump’s claim and studies have disproved claims of widespread killings on farms.

SEE ALSO: Land Reform in South Africa is Crucial for Inclusive Growth, Financial Times, August 23

SEE ALSO: South Africa Calls Trump ‘Misinformed’ Over Land PolicyAl Jazeera, August 23

SEE ALSO: Why South Africa Needs Land Reform LegislationFinancial Times, August 26


Kenya’s Dairy Farmers Use Solar Rays to Keep Milk Cool, Christian Science Monitor, August 29

Kenyans often struggle with the country’s unreliable electricity supply, with the problem particularly acute in rural areas. Local governments are buying solar-powered milk-cooling plants and then handing over ownership to the community, thereby enduring the electricity blackouts without spoiling milk. The dairy industry is an important part of the Kenyan economy, worth about 3.5 percent of GDP.

In a Posh Bangkok Neighborhood, Residents Trade Energy with BlockchainReuters, August 28

Residents in a Bangkok neighborhood are trying out a renewable energy trading platform that allows them to buy and sell electricity between themselves, signaling the growing popularity of such systems as solar panels get cheaper. The pilot project in the center of Thailand’s capital is among the world’s largest peer-to-peer renewable energy trading platforms using blockchain.

Realize the Promise of Gene-Edited CropsEditorial, Bloomberg, August 27

Europe and the US should avoid an all-or-nothing approach to regulating plants made with CRISPR, the gene-editing tool. It could lead to hardier, more plentiful crops and tastier, cheaper, more nutritious food. The problem is that the US and Europe are both pursuing flawed approaches to regulating CRISPR products. The EU is overregulating, but the hands-off approach of the US is likewise reckless; not reassuring the public of Crispr’s benefits does little to quell consumers’ fears.

Technology Could Soon Revolutionize Agriculture In Africa, Forbes, August 26

There is enormous potential for innovation to transform African agriculture, which would bring jobs and strengthen food security. Debisi Araba of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture believes that the biggest question facing Africa is why a green revolution has not yet taken place. He explains that inadequate funding and not adopting the view that agriculture is a business has contributed to this lack of progress.


Despair for Australian Farmers as Drought Kills Livestock, New York Times, August 29

The worst drought in living memory is sweeping through Australia's east, the country's main food bowl, decimating wheat and barley crops and leaving grazing land parched. Australia's government has pledged several billion dollars in aid for drought-afflicted farmers. But many farmers have been forced to shoot starving cattle.

Outbreak of African Swine Fever Threatens to Spread from China to Other Asian CountriesFAO, August 28

The FAO has warned that the recent, rapid onset of African Swine Fever across China could mean the deadly pig virus may soon spread to other Asian countries. There is no effective vaccine to protect swine from the disease. While the disease poses no direct threat to human health, outbreaks can be devastating, causing up to 100 percent mortality for infected swine.

SEE ALSO: UN: China’s African Swine Fever Outbreak Could Cross Borders, AP, August 28

Poland Expects Drought to Have Minor Impact on Food Prices, New York Times, August 27

Droughts that hit Poland over the last few months were not severe enough to inflate food costs significantly, but prices of grain used in bread may rise more than 10 percent. A sizzling summer has damaged crops in the European Union, leaving some farms struggling to survive.

SEE ALSO: Sizzling Weather May Help 2018 UN Climate Talks in PolandReuters, August 28

If you would like to have the Global Food for Thought news brief delivered to your inbox, please sign up here.


Climate Change Will Make Hundreds of Millions More People Nutrient Deficient, Guardian, August 27

Rising levels of carbon dioxide could make crops less nutritious and damage the health of hundreds of millions of people, with those living in some of the world’s poorest regions likely to be hardest hit. By the middle of the century about 175 million more people will develop zinc deficiencies, while 122 million people who are not currently protein deficient could become so.

SEE REPORT: Impact of Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions on Global Human Nutrition, Nature Climate Change, August 27

SEE ALSO: Rising Carbon Levels Threaten Diets of Hundreds of Millions of PoorReuters, August 27

If You Want to Save the World, Veganism Isn’t the AnswerOpinion, Guardian, August 25

Calls to switch to an entirely plant-based diet ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate the ills of meat consumption: grazing and browsing animals. Rather than being persuaded to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production conservation grazing.

SEE ALSO: Rising Veganism in the West Has a Downside, Guardian, August 26

Cargill Says 25k Pounds of Ground Beef May be Tainted¸ AP, August 25

Cargill Meat Solutions is recalling nearly 25,300 pounds of ground beef that might be contaminated with E. coli. The meat was shipped to warehouses in California and Colorado. E. coli can cause dehydration, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, and it can cause a life-threatening form of kidney failure in young children and the elderly.

No Amount of Alcohol is Good for Your Health, Global Study Says, New York Times, August 24

Countless scientific studies have espoused the idea that a glass of red wine a day can be good for the heart, but a sweeping global study rejects the notion that any drinking can be healthy. The report urges governments to revise health guidelines to suggest lower levels of consumption.

SEE REPORT: Alcohol Use and Burden for 195 Countries and Territories, 1990-2016¸ Lancet, August 23

SEE ALSO: Posters Suggesting that Women Can Drink while Pregnant Stir Backlash, New York Times, August 29


Why Ravaging Heatwaves Matter to World’s Dinner TableWashington Post, August 30

To see the impact of record-breaking temperatures around the world, watch wheat. Found in everything from bread to noodles, biscuits to cereals, beer to cakes—there is no more widely grown staple crop and more than 170 million metric tons trade every year. So when the weather ruins harvests in one spot, it can shock markets and economies that are thousands of miles away.

Investors Increasingly Engaged on World Water IssuesOpinion, Forbes, August 29

Growing competition for water, poor water management, aging infrastructure, and climate change are exacerbating water risks across the global economy. As population growth, water pollution, and hotter, more volatile weather events strain the world’s freshwater supplies, companies and investors can no longer ignore the critical water issue.

Soy Boom Devours Brazil’s Tropical SavannaReuters, August 28

Industrial farming in South America’s largest savanna has turned Brazil into an agricultural powerhouse. And it has lured producers away from the Amazon rainforest. But destruction of the so-called Cerrado—Brazil’s tropical savanna—biome is hastening global warming, damaging watersheds and putting wildlife at risk.

EU Agrees Total Ban on Bee-Harming Pesticides, Guardian, August 27

The EU will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees. The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses. The ban on the three main pesticides has widespread public support despite opposition from major farm lobbies.

SEE ALSO: 'Like Nicotine': Bees Develop Preference for Pesticides, Study Shows, Guardian, August 28

SEE REPORT: Foraging Bumblebees Acquire a Preference for Neonicotinoid-Treated Food with Prolonged Exposure, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, August 29


Indian Peacekeepers in South Sudan Impart Farming Training to WomenTimes of India, August 29

Indian peacekeepers deployed with the UN Mission in South Sudan are teaching women how to grow their own nutritious food, helping to develop entrepreneurial skills. Nearly 30 thousand are still displaced in South Sudan, and the peacekeeping team believes that inter-communal farming activities provides women with an opportunity to rebuild social fabrics.

As Japan’s Farmers Age, Drones Help with Heavy LiftingChristian Science Monitor, August 23

The next generation farmhand in Japan’s aging rural heartland may be a drone. For several months, developers and farmers in northeast Japan have been testing a new drone that can hover above paddy fields and perform backbreaking tasks in a fraction of the time it takes for elderly farmers. Developers say it offers high-tech relief for rural communities facing a shortage of labor as young people leave for the cities.

Sierra Leone Wants More Girls in School - but Not If PregnantReuters, August 23

Pregnant schoolgirls in Sierra Leone will be banned from classes and exams despite sweeping new government measures to improve access to education for all. The West African country introduced the ban on pregnant girls in 2015 after a rise in rape, abuse, and poverty during the deadly 2014 Ebola outbreak. The new government announced this week that it will make education free for all starting in September, hoping to reduce drop-out rates that are driven by girls.


Can Land Rights for Farmers Save Ghana’s Cocoa Sector?Reuters, August 30

Cocoa yields are declining across Ghana, the world’s second-biggest producer after neighboring Ivory Coast, where about 800,000 family farmers supply cocoa beans to global chocolate companies. Smallholder farmers, however, have avoided making investments that could increase production, like planting new trees, because cutting down older trees can me losing rights to the land.

On Britain’s Farms, a Shortage of EU Workers Squeezes Harvests, Wall Street Journal, August 29

The prospect of tightening immigration rules after Brexit, along with a weakening pound, has deterred farm laborers from working on Britain’s farms. In a country where droves have left the farming industry due to low unemployment and a developed economy, Bulgarians and Romanians have primarily picked up the slack. EU migrants account for more than a third of the workforce in food manufacturing.

SEE ALSO: Santé! French Wine Output Set for Rebound as Harvest Races AheadReuters, August 24

Global Unease, from Commerce to Currency, Rattles Raw MaterialsEconomist, August 23

From the Midwestern farm belt to the commodity markets of Chicago, New York, London and Shanghai, this is a tricky time to be producing and trading commodities. A rising dollar, higher American interest rates, sliding emerging-market currencies and fears of a tariff-induced blow to exports to China have taken a toll on commodity prices in recent months. In the background lurks climate change, fears of which have grown with the heat and drought battering Europe’s wheat crop this summer.

SEE ALSO: China Says Seasonal Fluctuations, Not Floods, behind Vegetable Price Rise, Reuters, August 27

Political Tension Frays US and Turkey Cotton Trade, Financial Times, August 23

The sharp decline in Turkey’s lira and worsening tensions between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump are fraying one of the most important trade relationships between the two countries—cotton sales. Turkey is the third-largest market for the cotton farmers of the southern US, but some buyers are holding back on signing contracts after the currency plunge, while some international merchants fear existing deals could fall apart.


African Green Revolution Forum

Date: September 5-8

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

The International Civil Society Conference on the Sustainable Development Goals

Date: September 11-13

Location: Yaoundé, Cameroon

2018 SCRA Nuts and Bolts Workshop

Date: October 3-5

Location: Riverdale, Maryland

2018 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue

Date: October 17-19

Location, Des Moines, Iowa

International Phytobiomes Conference 2018

Date: December 4-6

Location: Montpellier, France


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 Kat Sisler

You Should Know: Global Fragility Act of 2019

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to announce a new blog series, Policies for a Nourished Future, which reviews domestic and international policies meant to address issues of global food security. Over the next two months, we will discuss areas of importance to the future of food such as technology, waste, and resilience, and the policies meant to address them. Without robust and proactive policy frameworks, nourishing our growing world will become increasingly difficult and expensive. The first piece in this series explains the Global Fragility Act and how it relates to food security.

| By Khristopher Nicholas

Next Generation 2019 - We All Gotta Eat

Our first post in the Next Generation blog series is by Khristopher Nicholas, PhD candidate in nutrition science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.