August 24, 2018

This Week's GFFT News: Overpopulation of Pigs, The Plastic Problem, and Using Drones to Destroy Cocaine

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?


Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General, Dies at 80Wall Street Journal, August 18

Kofi Annan, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat who served as the United Nations’ first black African secretary-general, died August 18 at the age of 80. Known for his cool manner, noble posture, and charismatic personality, Mr. Annan served as the United Nations' leader from 1997 to 2006. He campaigned to protect people everywhere from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.

SEE ALSO: Kofi Annan Harbored Plans for Reform, but Encountered BacklashWall Street Journal, August 19

SEE ALSO: The Death of the Gentle PeacemakerForeign Policy, August 20

Next Generation 2018 – Youth and Agriculture All Around the World, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, August 23

Cultivating young people to be involved in agricultural production is as important as motivating young people to study agricultural sciences, so that future generations can sustain agricultural production by providing new knowledge and innovative ideas to on-farm production. By linking science and production through the large agroecosystem scale approach, we can make positives changes to global food security challenges.

Global Wheat Supply to Crisis Levels; Big China Stocks Won't Provide Relief, Thomson Reuters Foundation, August 22

A scorching hot, dry summer has ended five years of plenty in many wheat producing countries and drawn down the reserves of major exporters to their lowest level since 2007, when low grain stocks contributed to food riots across Africa and Asia. Although global stocks are expected to hit an all-time high of 273 million tons at the start of the 2019 grain marketing season, the problem is that nearly half of it is in China, which is not likely to release any onto global markets.

As Food Crisis Threatens, Humanitarian Aid for North Korea Grinds to a Halt, Reuters, August 20

Humanitarian aid for North Korea has nearly ground to a halt this year as the United States steps up the enforcement of sanctions, despite warnings of a potential food crisis and improving relations with Pyongyang.

Total funding for UN and NGO activities in North Korea has dropped from $117.8 million in 2012 to $17.1 million so far this year.


Q&A: The Greatest Challenges for Global Nutrition and Health, Devex, August 22

Different jurisdictions are taking action across important aspects of the food agenda. For example, leadership is emerging at the city level on issues of health and nutrition, and with more people living in cities by mid-century, this is an important avenue to solve growing health issues. The worrying thing is that the most profitable forms of food are the ones that are least healthy.

Deadly Cattle Raids in Zamfara: Nigeria’s ‘Ignored’ Crisis, Al Jazeera, August 20

A lesser-known conflict is brewing in the northwest, and casualties are rising. Cattle thieves are carrying out daily killings and kidnappings in Zamfara state and hundreds have died this year alone. Zamfara is one of Nigeria's poorest states and everything that spells cash—gold, cattle, kidnapping—feeds into the conflict.

Cuban Farmers Meet Land Ownership Opportunity with a Shrug, Christian Science Monitor, August 20

Cuba's decision to allow private property ownership has been shrugged off by small farmers, who says the island will never feed itself without far broader reform of state-run agriculture. Though older Cubans are wary of change, younger farmers have indeed welcomed the recent reforms to recognize private property ownership, even if few expect huge dividends.

Venezuelan Crisis Escalates as President’s Economic Plans Fuel TensionsWall Street Journal, August 19

The exodus of Venezuelans gained pace as the government’s plans to address the collapsing economy fueled anxiety, while tensions grew in neighboring countries that have strained to absorb refugees. About 2.3 million have fled since 2014, according to UN estimates.

SEE ALSO: Venezuelans Skeptical of Maduro’s Latest Measures to Salvage EconomyWall Street Journal, August 21

More Heavy Rains Likely in India's Kerala as Flood Death Toll JumpsReuters, August 18

India deployed thousands of soldiers and dozens of helicopters to rescue people marooned by the worst floods in a century in the southern state of Kerala, where the death toll could rise fast as rains continue. People trapped without food, water, and electricity worried about being left without help as their phone batteries were dying. An adviser to the state’s chief minister put the initial loss estimate at $4 billion.

SEE ALSO: Damage Wreaked by Kerala Floods to Cost $2.7bnFinancial Times, August 19


Exclusive: Iraq to Ask US for Exemptions on Some Iran SanctionsReuters, August 21

Iraq’s economy is so closely linked to Iran that Baghdad is going to ask Washington for permission to ignore some US sanctions on its neighbor. Iraqi officials fear shortages of key items if Baghdad complies with all the sanctions, which could lead to political turmoil. Iraq imports a wide range of goods from Iran including food, agricultural products, home appliances, air conditioners, and spare car parts

Cooperative Extension Adapts to a Less Agricultural America, AP, August 21

In its century of existence, the Cooperative Extension System has been a valuable resource distributing university-driven, science-based information—mostly about farming and gardening—to the public. But over the past few decades, Extension's funding has gone flat or been slashed, its offices closed or consolidated, and its staffing reduced. If it's to thrive, it must go to where the people are.

White House Opens New Front in War on US Aid BudgetDevex, August 20

An open question has been whether President Trump’s White House would find enough satisfaction in demonstrating a desire to slash US foreign aid spending, without seeing that desire translated into real budgetary policy.Rumors have begun to circulate in recent weeks about a new plan to escalate the administration’s war on foreign aid and circumvent the budget appropriations process.

Scientists Are Raising the Alarm That Upcoming USDA Overhaul Will Slash Research FundingWashington Post, August 16

A plan to overhaul two federal offices tasked with food and agriculture research would relocate the Economic Research Service into the Office of the Secretary, a political branch of the USDA, and to a new location outside of Washington. The administration believes the reorganization would save taxpayer money, but a number of leading agricultural scientists say the move risks gutting both agencies and stifling important research.


With Sensors and Apps, Young African Coders Compete to Curb HungerReuters, August 21

Eight teams competed in the first Africa-wide hackathon in Kigali this week. From an app to diagnose disease on Zambian farms to Tinder-style matchmaking for Senegalese land owners and young farmers, the young coders are finding solutions to hunger. Experts say keeping young people in farming is key to alleviating hunger in Africa, which has 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land.

How the Internet of Things Could Help Feed the WorldForbes, August 19

Beyond modern-day conveniences, how might the Internet of Things help us address more fundamental challenges, like feeding our growing global population? Janice Zdankus, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s vice president of quality, highlighted the potential for agriculture, the need to incentivize partnerships between agriculture and technology, and opportunities for the next generation of STEM graduates to lead and innovate.

Colombia Tests Drones to Destroy Coca Plants Used for CocaineWall Street Journal, August 19

With drug crops booming, Colombia’s police are busily testing whether drones carrying defoliants can efficiently kill the leaf used to make cocaine. Colombia’s previous administration had halted the use of the aircraft following lawsuits from farmers groups over health concerns and a ruling from the Constitutional Court ordering a prohibition after a WHO agency said that glyphosate could be cancerous.

Scientists Sequence Wheat Genome in Breakthrough Once Thought 'Impossible', Guardian, August 16

Sequencing the wheat genome—once considered by scientists to be an insurmountable task—has been achieved through a worldwide collaboration of researchers spanning 13 years. Now that scientists and farmers have the genetic roadmap, they can better understand and manipulate traits like yield and tolerance to environmental stress, and ultimately producing hardier wheat varieties.

SEE REPORT: Shifting the Limits in Wheat Research and Breeding Using a Fully Annotated Reference Genome, Science, August 17


Crop Damage Mounts for EU Farmers after Torrid SummerReuters, August 22

European farmers are counting the cost of a summer heatwave that has shrunk cereal harvests and shriveled pastures, leaving some farms struggling to survive and shutting the European Union out of lucrative export markets. The combination of poor harvest yields and shriveled grassland has led to spiraling costs for animal feed, putting pressure on livestock farms.

SEE ALSO: Germany Gives Aid to Drought-Hit Farmers after Poor HarvestAP, August 22

SEE ALSO: Danish Farmers' Drought Losses Deepen, More Bankruptcies SeenReuters, August 22

Heavily Pork-Reliant China Battling African Swine FeverAP, August 22

China, the world’s largest producer of pork, is battling an African swine fever outbreak that could potentially devastate herds. The disease, which only affects pigs and wild boar, has been detected in at least three locations across the vast country. Thousands of pigs have died or been culled in an effort to curb the spread of the highly contagious viral disease.

Global Food Waste Could Rise by a Third by 2030 – StudyReuters, August 21

The United Nations has set a target of halving food loss and waste by 2030 but a Boston Consulting Group study found that if current trends continued, it would rise to 2.1 billion tons annually—an amount worth $1.5 trillion. Much of the projected increase was due to a swelling world population, with more people resulting in more waste.

Teff Love - Ethiopia's Staple Crop Requires a Big Push, Thomson Reuters Foundation, August 21

Teff, the gluten-free, nutrient-rich grain native to Ethiopia, can grow in both drought-stressed and rainy regions, and significantly contributes to the incomes of Ethiopian farmers. Nonetheless, if the teff industry is to modernize and expand internationally, it still faces several challenges, including the adoption of modern technologies, labor force management and mechanization, and building markets.


Triple Threat of Stunting, Anemia, and Obesity Poses Looming Crisis, Health Experts WarnDevex, August 22

A preview of what is to come in the FAO’s “2018 Global Nutrition Report” shows a growing number of people facing a triple burden of malnutrition—stunting, anemia, and obesity. Findings showed that 41 countries are dealing with major nutritional challenges in all three categories. This is an increase of 41 percent from 2017, when 29 countries were found to face the triple burden.

Coconut Oil Is 'Pure Poison', Says Harvard Professor, Guardian, August 22

New research warns that the high proportion of saturated fat in coconut oil—80 percent, more than twice the amount found in lard, and 60 percent more than is found in beef drippings—raises levels of LDL cholesterol and therefore the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Only 37 percent of nutritionists view coconut oil as healthy, and attribute its mass market popularity to misleading and effective marketing.

SEE VIDEO: Kokosöl und andere Ernährungsirrtüme, University of Freiburg, July 10

Beer, Drinking Water, and Fish: Tiny Plastic Is EverywhereNPR, August 20

Microplastics, pieces of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters, are now found in oceans, rivers, and lakes. And, even more concerning, microplastics are in drinking water. In beer. In sea salt. In fish and shellfish. Because plastic attracts other chemicals that latch onto it, it becomes a chemical Trojan horse that can cause serious damage to our ecosystems and health

Weed Killer Found in Wide Range of Breakfast Foods Aimed at Children, Guardian, August 16

Significant levels of the weed killing chemical glyphosate have been found in an array of popular breakfast cereals, oats, and snack bars marketed to US children. Tests revealed glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weed killer brand Roundup, present in all but two of the 45 tested oat-derived products.

SEE REPORT: Breakfast with a Dose of Roundup?, Environmental Working Group’s Children’s Health Initiative, August 15


The Next Big Bet in Fracking: WaterWall Street Journal, August 22

Fledgling companies, many backed by private equity, are rushing to help shale drillers deal with one of their trickiest problems: what to do with the vast volumes of wastewater that are a byproduct of fracking wells. Sensing a chance for a big return, private-equity firms have invested more than $500 million into wastewater-disposal companies such as Solaris Water Midstream, WaterBridge Resources LLC, and Oilfield Water Logistics.

There’s a Time Bomb for US-Mexico Relations Ticking UndergroundQuartz, August 20

Between Texas and Mexico, hidden under hundreds of feet of soil and rock, lie more than a dozen underground aquifers that crisscross the national boundaries. They might be the only sources of water the region will have left when the Rio Grande, hit by a one-two punch of climate change and a booming population, inevitably dries up. And yet there is no binational agreement for all this shared groundwater.

Fears for Environment in Spain as Pigs Outnumber People, Guardian, August 19

Spain’s pigs outnumber the human population for the first time, according to figures released by the country’s environment ministry, which reveal there are now 50 million pigs, 3.5 million more than humans. The soaring pig population is a key factor in making livestock the fourth-largest generator of greenhouse gas emissions in Spain. Pig farming also consumes vast quantities of water in a country frequently affected by drought.

The Great African Regreening: Millions of 'Magical' New Trees Bring Renewal, Guardian, August 16

Over the past three decades, the landscape of southern Niger has been transformed by 200 million new trees, many of them gao trees. They have grown naturally on farmland, nurtured by thousands of farmers as the natural canopies help crops flourish in barren lands. This re-greening is the largest-scale positive transformation of the environment in Africa.


Women Find a Foothold in the Boys Club of the Agricultural Industry, Philly Inquirer, August 23

Pennsylvania's farms are largely manned by men. Of course, there are women on those farms, too, often seen working alongside their spouses. But there is a rarer sight: farms operated entirely—or almost exclusively—by women. But statistics confirm that more women are beginning to farm, often in sustainable, smaller-scale agriculture.

By Becoming Chefs, Stigmatized Women in Morocco Find Hope and FreedomNPR, August 21

Amal Women's Training Center doubles as a culinary and restaurant training institute for young Moroccan women who are living in difficult situations, such as orphanhood, single motherhood, or being divorced or widowed. More than 200 women have been trained at Amal since it opened its doors in 2013. That number is a big deal in Morocco, where women make up less than 30 percent of the country's labor force.

Somalia Has 'Once in a Generation' Gender Equality Opportunity - UN Women Chief, AllAfrica, August 20

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, has encouraged Somalia to continue making progress in the areas of gender equality and women's empowerment. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka visited South West State, wherein 31 members of its regional legislature are women, more than any other Somali state. She called on Somali lawmakers to adopt universal suffrage ahead of its constitutional review in 2020.


Flock On-Mongolia Meat Exporters Turn to Iran's Halal Markets, Thomson Reuters Foundation, August 22

Mongolia has an estimated 30 million sheep—more than New Zealand—but has until recently only managed to export a thin slice of its overall meat output. It hopes that will change as it taps overseas appetite for halal mutton from places such as Iran, which are forced to import due to limited local production. Mongolia's sheep and goat meat shipments hit 2,601 tons in 2017, 11 times more than 2016.

Guest Voices: Straw Man Solutions for Sustainable Supply ChainsOpinion, Yossi Sheffi, Wall Street Journal, August 21

Until consumers fundamentally change their buying habits in response to environmental concerns, companies will continue to implement sustainability policies largely for show. The degree to which companies can manage environmental performance across their supply chains is often limited. In many cases, companies have little knowledge of who these suppliers are and no leverage to demand that they change processes.

US Drops Agriculture Demand From NAFTA Talks: Mexico Farm Lobby, Thomson Reuters Foundation, August 19

The United States has dropped a contentious demand from the renegotiation of the NAFTA to impose restrictions on Mexican agricultural exports. Much of the renegotiation of NAFTA, which has gone on for more than a year, has focused on revamping rules for the automotive industry. The US government wants the rules changed to try to secure more business for American manufacturing workers.

SEE ALSO: US, Mexico Bridge Differences on NAFTA Farm Goods, Bloomberg, August 17

China Soybean Purchases Surging? Nice Story But Not True, Forbes, August 18

Reports that US soybeans exports to China were a significant factor in its robust second-quarter economic growth are not true. While 57 percent of all US soybean exports headed to China in 2017, the value of those exports fell in the second quarter of this year. That could be because soybean farmers are sitting on supplies to wait for prices to rebound, because China has a two-year stock on hand, because China has shifted its purchases to Brazil or, most likely, some combination of all three.

Deere Reports Strong Demand despite Tariff-Concerned FarmersWall Street Journal, August 17

Deere & Co. said that farmers are continuing to buy equipment even as they worry about potential tariffs on their products. In recent months, other countries have imposed or threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on US farm goods following actions by the Trump administration. US farmers have been awaiting details of a $12 billion aid proposal that the administration says would support prices of commodities caught up in trade disputes.


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

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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


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COVID-19 has demonstrated the damage that results from an unchecked disease spreading throughout our highly connected world. But most people are unaware that plants also succumb to infectious diseases, reducing global crop yields by 15 percent or more.

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In today’s hyperconnected world, challenges felt in one region or country almost always have wider if not global repercussions. The International Potato Center, part of the CGIAR system, develops partnerships with the private sector to tackle these challenges more effectively.