How countries around the world are leveraging agriculture to improve nutrition

By Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch

This blog post is the third in a 3-part series accompanying the release of the book Agriculture for Improved Nutrition: Seizing the Momentum, co-edited by Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch (co-published by CABI Publishing and IFPRI). The book was launched at a Feb. 28 event at IFPRI headquarters in Washington.

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Bean varieties at the CIAT gene bank in Colombia. The gene bank sends its seeds for conservation at the Global Seed Vault in Norway. Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 Neil Palmer / CIAT

At times, engaging the agriculture sector to improve nutrition seems like an uphill battle. In many countries, agricultural policies tend to favor staple foods like wheat and rice, because these crops have traditionally staved off hunger and famine. Government officials overseeing agriculture and nutrition often work in isolation, with their funding, capacities, and even technical languages obstacles to close collaboration. Against this backdrop, it can be daunting for policymakers to contemplate formulating nutrition-driven agriculture policies and strategies that can be implemented at the national scale.

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Growing agriculture: nutrition community points the way to achieving SDG2 by 2030

By Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have launched a race to transform our world for the better little more than a decade from now. The goals are idealistic, setting a high bar for every aspect of quality of life, from health and education to gender equality and climate action. SDG2 seeks to eliminate global hunger by 2030. But as we move closer to that deadline, achieving SDG2 seems further away. Recent years have been particularly disheartening, with the number of undernourished people continuing to rise annually. In 2015, there were 784 million hungry people in the world; in 2016, 804 million; and in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available, that number reached 821 million people. Adult obesity also continues to worsen in rich and poor countries alike: More than 1 in 8 adults, or 672 million people around the world, are now considered obese.

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A woman examines and sorts iron beans in Rwanda. Nutrition-sensitive agricultural programs, such as biofortification or homestead food production systems, may be well suited for increasing people’s consumption of high-quality diets. Photo courtesy of IFPRI (Mel Oluoch/HarvestPlus)

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There’s a new goal post for agriculture: it’s nutrition

By Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch

Agriculture is the single most important innovation in human history. Over the course of thousands of years, it has staved off hunger, allowed populations to leave their hunter-gatherer lives behind, and freed up time for other pursuits (like inventing writing and the wheel!) that have propelled societies forward. As recently as the 1970s the Green Revolution – a global push to improve and produce more wheat and rice – brought India back from the brink of mass famine. The Green Revolution improved the lives of one billion people around the world. This number is all the more impressive when considering that the world population was four billion at the time.

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A global push to produce more rice brought India back from the brink of famine in the 1970s.

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National Meadows Day 2018

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British wildflower meadows are a hive of biological diversity but have largely been lost due to conversion to agriculture. CC0 Couleur via Pixabay

 

National meadows day is an annual awareness event focussed around the first Saturday of July, but up and down the country activities took over the whole weekend. Traditionally managed British meadows are characterised by low soil fertility and actively managed cutting or grazing, supporting a range of colourful flowering species including the oxeye daisies seen in the picture above. These species rich meadows, which used to cover much of England’s countryside, were traditionally generated by farmers managing for hay and pasture. Ironically these important habitats have now largely been eradicated by modern agriculture. In recognition of this fact there are now numerous conservation projects and financial incentives in place to encourage the maintenance and regeneration of British Meadows. But with so many environmental schemes and species vying for position in British conservation why are meadows so important and how can agriculture help? Continue reading

To bee or not to bee

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Honeybee on apple blossom. Image Credit: Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay (CC0)

This Sunday the UK celebrated World Bee Day (May 20th); the first year of the now to be annual UN awareness event aimed at increasing our sensitivity to the global importance and increasing struggle of pollinators. Whilst the event hopes to increase understanding of pollinators generally, including butterflies, moths, birds and bats, the focus is strongly on wild and managed bees for their economic importance. And justly so; bees visit over 70 crops in the UK alone and are worth billions worldwide in the pollination service they provide. However, it would be difficult to miss the worryingly-frequent headlines warning of bee decline both in the UK and globally as a result of human activities.

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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

Capitalising on Africa’s agriculture to achieve ‘zero hunger’

 

 

It’s a sobering fact that, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), nearly 233 million children, women and men in Africa went to bed each night hungry in 2014-16.

CABI Board Member and 2017 Africa Food Prize winner Professor Ruth Oniang’o has devoted her career helping farmers grow nutritious and healthy crops, to not only help reduce hunger but to achieve sustainable and profitable livelihoods.

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