Bringing together key players in food security from the private, public and civil society sector, the Economist’s annual Feeding the World conference yesterday in London also highlighted CABI’s efforts to level the playing field for the smallholder farmer. Invited to speak on the afternoon panel focused on trade and supply chain resources, CABI’s CEO Dr Trevor Nicholls spoke about the need for delivering access to ‘appropriate technologies’ for the smallholder farmers as one key to securing a more food secure future SEE VIDEO CLIP HERE. “CABI is working to level the playing field for smallscale farmers,” said Dr Nicholls, “in terms of access to practical, appropriate technologies and information, for example, mobile voice messaging with weather forecasts and pest management advice.” DFID’s MP Lynne Featherstone echoed the importance of support for these projects in her remarks to The Economist attendees. “By supporting programmes like CABI’s Direct to Farm (D2F) initiative, we’re reaching over 4 million farmers with resources to help them increase productivity,” commented Featherstone.
Among other organizations speaking at the event were the UNEP, World Food Programme, governments of the Netherlands and USA, as well as the African Union, and fellow research organizations such as CGIAR. Representatives of several private sector players including Monsanto and Syngenta were also on hand to speak about the under-utilization of technologies like GMOs. On twitter @Economist_FTW asked ‘How do we ensure the world’s poorest do not lose out from globalisation? @GAINalliance @Cargill @cabiceo #econenviro,’ while @Ag4Impact picked up on another theme, tweeting that 'we need to produce more with less resources. We need sustainable intensification' as mentioned by Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant.
One major take-away from The Economist event was the need to work across sectors in public, private and academic partnerships to find sustainable answers to feeding 9 billion by 2050. To address what Sir Gordon Conway called the ‘perfect storm’ of food insecurity in coming years, supply will have to intensify to catch-up with 60% growth in global demand by 2050. But there is immense potential to be found in places like Sub Saharan Africa which can answer this call. “Today in Africa they grown 1 ton of food on 1 hectare of land,” said Conway. “That was the UK’s average output under the Roman Empire.”