The number of young people involved in agricultural work in East Africa is significantly dwindling in an age of celebrity, quick income and the ‘side hustle’. Quite simply, the future of farming rests in the hands of the youth of today and tomorrow – otherwise agriculture’s vital role in providing stable incomes and, ultimately, greater local, regional, national and global food security could be at risk.
Yet, today is International Youth Day; an ideal time to highlight what can be done to boost involvement in essential agriculture. The theme for this year, promoted by the UN, is ‘transforming education’. This complements the idea that a new, transformed approach must be taken to harness the drive and capability of these young people in the agriculture industry.
Poultry farming is practised by almost all smallholder farmers in West Africa but feed and in particular protein sources are becoming increasingly expensive thereby, affecting meat and egg production, reducing family incomes and, ultimately, putting food security at risk.
Fish farmers are suffering a similar problem. CABI as part of the Insects as Feed in West Africa (IFWA) initiative is promoting the use of insects, which are a natural food source for poultry and fish and endorsed by the FAO, as a tool to alleviate poverty and food insecurity.
Aflatoxin, produced by a poisonous fungus, is a serious threat to food security by contaminating many of Pakistan’s agricultural products, including cereal grains, chilies, dry fruits and nuts, and milk. Indeed, the average contamination in wheat and maize in Pakistan, for example, is five and sixty times, respectively, the level permitted in the US.
The fungus responsible, Aspergillus flavus, can contaminate crops before and after harvest as well as contaminate animal products if infected feeds are given to livestock. Consumption of these toxins in high concentrations can contribute to stunting growth in children and cause liver disease with fatal consequences. Estimates of deaths due to aflatoxin ingestion range up to 100,000 or more per year worldwide.
In this video special Dr Babar Bajwa, CABI’s Regional Director – Central and West Asia, talks about CABI’s work towards helping partners achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals – including ‘Zero Hunger’ and ‘No Poverty’ – in Pakistan. This includes reaching out to smallholder farmers with expert advice on integrated crop and pest management practices so they are better equipped to grow more and lose less to crop pests and diseases. This is true not only for ‘cash crops’ such as cotton but also fruit and vegetable plantations as part of a wider need to strengthen links in the food value chain.
Found on every continent except for Antarctica, grasshoppers are a staple in the diets of animals all over the world such as birds, spiders, snakes, rodents and even other insects. However, after this study it is coming to light that these insects could be even more advantageous to the human diet than we had previously thought.
This year opens the Decade of Family Farming, which aims to improve the life of family farmers around the world. In an earnest discussion, two leaders in the global agriculture community reflect on the challenges facing family farmers, the promises of high- and low-tech solutions, and their hopes for the future. A conversation between Dr Trevor Nicholls, CEO of CABI and Dr Martin Kropff, Director General of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), was published by Rural 21 – The International Journal for Rural Development on how family farmers can face the future. The men also propose six key investments needed to help family farmers thrive in the next decade as part of special report by the Economist magazine’s Food Sustainability Index.
CABI is helping to engender a more productive and profitable cotton industry for Pakistan through the training of more than 57,000 farmers and farm workers – including these women picture above – as part of the Better Cotton Initiative.
The Pak Mission Society teamed up with CABI in the Tehsil Khipro, District Sanghar of Sindh province, to provide a training workshop to scores of women who are now better equipped to implement improved practices for cotton picking, handling and storage.