Subsidizing land degradation

Encouraging land degradation in pastoralist systems TT112 Birgit Müller found that governmental subsidies promote the increase of stocking rate and grazing pressure of natural grassland of the High Plateau of Morocco. This policy creates land degradation and social conflicts. By using a ecological-economic model she assessed an alternative for range management: supplementation should use strategically on periods of scarce forage, but not as a way to increase animal stock. Then, after a year of drought, resting time for the recovering of the grassland should be applied. This strategic use of supplementation could avoid destocking (keep herbs size), and economical constrains for farmers and also keep the productivity and good condition of natural grasslands. Cropping for caring land and avoiding social conflicts TT111 Another strategy for the Jordan’s arid Badia region was presented by Steven Woods.

Food and the Arab Awakening

DSC_0037 The capacity to produce sufficient and healthy food to feed its population has become a central issue in most of the middle and low income nations. Food insecurity and poverty go together in most cases. The poor are also the vulnerable. In a study conducted in the highlands of Ethiopia, it was found that the variables (such as education level, age, etc) that play a significant factor in leading to poverty where different from those affecting vulnerability. Nevertheless, the most vulnerable are those caught in the vicious circle of poverty. It was inferred from a research conducted in Tajikistan that the heterogeneity of the effect of food crisis across different household segments (like rural, urban etc) needs to be considered at policy level to create solutions that truly have an impact. Agricultural Development – The Poverty Exit Strategy

Rushing for land

Food prices are 36% above the levels of a year ago and remain close to the 2008 peak, driven in part by higher fuel costs connected to instability in the Middle East and North Africa. With current double digit food price inflation in crisis-striken Egypt and Syria, a major World Bank report shows wheat, maize and soya costs have soared, requiring a relaxation of grain export controls and a rethink on biofuels. "Already 44 million people have fallen into poverty since June 2010. If the food price index rises by just another 10% we estimate another 10 million people that fall into extreme poverty. And a 30% increase would add 34 million more people to the world's poor, who now number 1,2 billion" said World Bank President Robert Zoellick while presenting the World Bank's Food Price Watch last month. Eager to capitalise on rising food and energy prices or shore-up their own country's food security, foreign investors are pouring in to lease or buy huge tracts of cheap land that governments have cleared of people in the developing world. This high-stakes global land rush is essentialy a third wave of outsourcing and is taking place in the largest recipient countries of humanitarian food and development assistance. From Ethiopia's lowlands to the hilltops of Madagascar, vast tracts of farmland and forests are being gobbled up by foreign investors creating super-sized farms.

Blowing the whistle against hunger

October is the month of increased attention on hunger and poverty, with special focus on the future and nature of international aid. Twenty-two countries are facing enormous challenges like repeated food crises and an extremely high prevalence of hunger due to a combination of natural disasters, conflict, and weak institutions. These countries are in what is termed a protracted crisis, FAO said in its “State of Food Insecurity in the World 2010” hunger report, jointly published today with the World Food Programme (WFP). The current aid architecture needs to be modified to better address both immediate needs and the structural causes of protracted crises. Findings of the 2010 hunger report will be discussed by members of the newly reformed Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome (11-16 October 2010). This happens while Tropentag keynote speaker Paul Collier blogs about the need for international aid that is subject to the same standards of integrity and transparency, while one of the most important donors' vision for "feeding the world" is questioned.

Call for proposals to the ESPA research programme

An opportunity for funding cutting-edge research that delivers improved understanding of how ecosystem function, the services they provide, the full value of these services, and their potential role in achieving sustainable poverty reduction was announced through the Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA). ESPA's goal is to ensure that, in developing countries, ecosystems are being sustainably managed in a way that contributes to poverty reduction and inclusive/sustainable growth. This announcement of opportunity invites proposals for research consortium projects that will address this agenda. All projects are required to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) through the web-based form by the closing date of 8 December 2010.

Where was your bread last night?

Agriculture science for most people has this name of being bad, of being about pollution, about large-scale, about the destruction of the environment. That is not necessary. We need more science and not less. And we need good science. But there is something we must do. It's not enough to say "Let's get more bold science into agriculture." We ourselves must go back, and think about our own food chain. We need to think differently about our science as a whole. Every meal we eat contains ingredients from all across the world. Everything makes us so privileged, that we can eat this food, that we don't struggle every day. And that, evolutionarily-speaking, is unique. We've never had that before. This is why it's time for agricutural scientists to stand for responsible agriculture and food consumption, as they are crucial to world stability. Enjoy the talk of Louise Fresco, a powerful thinker and sustainability advisor, on feeding the whole world. She says environmentally sound mass production will feed the world, yet leaving a role for small scalers and traditional methods.
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