World Food Day 2018 – Feeding our appetite for food security

Fresh fruits and vegetables
The fruit and veg ‘food basket’ of the world

By Dr Dennis Rangi – Director General, Development at CABI based in Nairobi, Kenya

On this World Food Day 2018 the issue of feeding the world has never been in sharper focus. By 2050, agriculture will need to produce almost 50 percent more food, feed and biofuel than it did in 2012 just to meet demand.

Our passion for food – beyond the need of it for our very survival – is engrained deeply in cultural practices and national identities around the world. The Americans are perhaps stereotypically renowned for wanting their food fast and lots of it, the Italians for pizza and pasta, the Chinese for rice and noodles, while the French are famous for their à la carte cuisine. To quench our thirst one could also add coffee from Ethiopia.

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Exciting imaginations: New media formats to reach women and young people with agricultural extension messages

Malawi women listening to radio
Women keep in touch through the power of radio

Campaigns create greater equality of access to information across farming households, but formats are as important as channels, argue Duncan Sones of the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) delivery team…

The ASHC campaign-based approach explored the use of a variety of channels to build multiple media campaigns. ASHC has been testing the hypothesis that the more varied the channels of information reaching a farming household – the more likely they’re to trial or adopt new technologies. For example, evidence collected from the outcome evaluation of the Scaling-up Improved Legumes Technologies (SILT) in Tanzania suggested this is the case.

What we’re doing is increasing the equality of access to information. Over the next 18 months we’ll be looking for evidence that greater access to information, especially by women and young people, changes the conversations in farming households.

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The impact of invasive species on human health

By Giuseppe Mazza and Elena Tricarico, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy

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Mosquitoes are often the first species we think of when it comes to human health

Invasive species are becoming a popular topic in newspapers: when articles appear, they mainly report the damages invasive species can cause to our ecosystems (e.g. reduction or disappearance of native species as well as habitat modification) or to our economic activities: fishing or boating can be halted by mats of the South American water hyacinth, several insects can affect our agricultural production or new diseases can be transmitted to reared species. However, these species can also heavily affect human health and wellbeing.

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CABI hosts the Common Framework volumes developed by the Tropical Agricultural Platform

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Now freely available on the CABI.org website, the Common Framework on Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems produced by the Tropical Agriculture Platform.

TAP is a coalition of more than 40 partners, initiated by the G20 in 2012. Its main focus is the development of national capacities for agricultural innovation. By helping to bridge the capacity gap, TAP aims to pave the way for agricultural innovations that meet the demands of smallholder farmers, small and medium-sized agribusinesses and consumers.

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Making progress on the biological management of Red Palm Weevil at KhairPur – Sindh

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By Riaz Mahmood and Naeem-ul-Haq, CABI Central and West Asia (CWA), Rawalpindi

Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is of high economic importance for livelihood for hundreds of farmers families in Pakistan. Fruit and tree parts are of many uses. Date palm trees are spread over 98,000 hectares across Pakistan making it the fifth largest date producer in the world at 0.7million metric tons, with most orchards found in Sindh and Balochistan.

However, Sindh leads the way producing more than 0.28 million tons annually and the Khairpur district of Sindh is famous for its date palm orchards. Simple dates, dry dates, sweets made of dates and even date pickles are available in various varieties in the district. High quality of date is produced in this area for local consumption and also exported to many countries. Around 85% of these dates are dried and turned into chuhara, the majority of which is exported to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

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Dr Rob Reeder goes ‘bananas’ about pests and diseases on the Urban Farm Podcast

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Plant pathologist Dr Rob Reeder has this week spoken to Greg Peterson of the US-based Urban Farm Podcast about how the global supply of bananas (particularly the Cavendish variety) could be put at risk from a three-pronged attack of pests and diseases.

In the podcast, Dr Reeder reveals the reasons why the fungus known as Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4), together with the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) and the Banana Skipper butterfly (Erionota spp), could destroy banana plantations across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

As part of the solution to the problem, which could cost the global banana industry $35 billion as highlighted by CABI in a story publicised in December, Dr Reeder underlines the work of the Plantwise programme including how it helps farmers in developing countries diagnose and manage pests and diseases at its plant clinics.

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How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Enter the Food Chain in non-GMO Producing Countries

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in livestock and crops, as well as trade and consumption of GMOs are highly controversial topics.

Proponents of genetic engineering argue that GMOs represent the only viable solution to food shortages in an ever-growing global population. They claim that the use of GMOs in agriculture and their consumption have caused no harm to livestock or humans so far. Heated debate also persists over GMO food labelling, with food manufacturers in the USA arguing that mandatory GMO labelling hinders the development of agricultural biotechnology, and may also “exacerbate the misconception” that GMOs endanger human health. Continue reading