Tag Archives: food crisis

“Food Security Needs Sound IP”: IPRs critical to meet the demands of a growing population

This article in The Scientist “Opinion: Food Security Needs Sound IP”  starts with the all too familiar population projections for the coming years, and the subsequent pressure this will put on agriculture.  It goes on to point out that techniques and technologies will be required to meet this challenge – and that IPRs will need to be improved in order to promote the necessary technology transfer to areas most in need.

“The effective use of research and IPR can help drive delivery of innovative and productivity-increasing technologies crucial to agricultural and economic growth and achieving future needs for food security. The key is to match the proper IPR mechanisms with specific conditions, and to manage them effectively and efficiently to promote innovative research, technology transfer, wealth creation, and overall societal benefit.”

The authors outline some pathways for  supporting “the sensible introduction and diffusion of new agricultural practices and technologies” which include:

  • encouraging enforcement of national laws that comply with TRIPS
  • proactive access to modern biotech (including patent pools and open source licensing)
  • collaboration (including a supportive community of IPR practitioners!)
  • continued building of IP portfolios by national agricultural research institutions.

This is a great opinion piece, looking forward to reading more results from the studies from Washington State University in this area.

Nobody should go to bed hungry anymore, anywhere…

I am cross posting this item, it was from the CGIAR Consortium website, posted on August 16, 2011.   A message from CEO Lloyd LePage.

Delivery of food aid is essential and urgent, …‘But as we proceed, we must not forget we have seen crises like this before. First comes a severe drought, then crops fail, livestock perish, food prices soar, thousands of people die from starvation, most of them children, and thousands more pick up and move. Every few decades, the cycle repeats. And it would be easy to throw up our hands and blame it all on forces beyond our control, but this cycle is not inevitable. Though food shortages may be triggered by drought, they are not caused by drought, but rather by weak or nonexistent agricultural systems that fail to produce enough food or market opportunities in good times and break down completely in the bad times.’  Were the words U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pronounced in her address on 11 August at IFPRI ‘From Famine to Food Security’

“And while some might say that this is a conversation for another time, that we should worry about preventing food crises only after this one has passed, I respectfully disagree. Right now, when the effects of food security are the most extreme, we must rededicate ourselves to breaking this cycle of food shortages, suffering, and dislocation that we see playing out once again in the Horn of Africa”

This is the same sense of urgency we feel at the CGIAR. We need to act now, to avoid future crises not only to cure the current problems.

I said it before, and IFPRI’s Director General, Shenggen Fan eloquently reiterated on his opening remark to Secretary Clinton’s address, while important research results are available  ‘we are deeply concerned about the slow transmission of research into policy actions on a local, national, and international scale. IFPRI and its partner research centers within the CGIAR can provide the evidence needed to guide sound policies and build strong programs in the Horn of Africa’.

Mrs Clinton confirmed that ‘We do have the know-how. We have the tools. We have the resources. And increasingly, we have the will to make chronic food shortages and under nutrition a memory for the millions worldwide who are now vulnerable’ and  ‘ We need that commitment to long term solutions and we need to develop it together’

We are converting that sense of urgency into action by convening an event in Nairobi on September 1st to increase the understanding and awareness of the underlying causes of the current crisis, to highlight solutions, innovations and recommendations for mitigating the effects of future extreme weather events. Details on the event will be available soon.

With partners from the region we will be exploring how to turn that evidence into policy and action. Together we can break that vicious cycle Secretary Clinton was referring to in her address, so that nobody will go to bed hungry anymore, anywhere in the world.

You can watch recording of this special event at http://www.ifpri.org/event/famine-food-security-meeting-challenge-horn-africa

Lloyd LePage

Can agricultural research help eradicate famine?

This post appeared on the CGIAR Consortium blog yesterday afternoon.  It’s an important message from the CEO, Lloyd Le Page.  With reference to the current crisis in the Horn of Africa, he asks ‘“what could we have done to prevent this?” And, even more importantly, “how can we prevent this from happening again?…..”’

Please share with your networks. Thank you

Every day, we see images of refugees fleeing a drought-ridden Somalia, crowding into camps along the country’s borders, desperate for food and shelter to stay alive. Tens of thousands of people have already died in the region, livestock, essential to the wellbeing of the local populations, suffer the same fate.  Yet, as more than half a million children teeter on the brink of starvation, we ask ourselves “what could we have done to prevent this?” And, even more importantly, “how can we prevent this from happening again?”

No matter how severe, droughts do not have to lead to famine. Droughts are natural events, famines are not. Famines happen when countries and regions are not equipped to deal with extremes in weather. This current famine results from an extended drought and political instability, but it also reflects the long term vulnerability to food insecurity that is endemic in the Horn of Africa. As Oxfam recently pointed out, food aid alone does not help people to withstand the next shock:  “Much greater long-term investment is needed in food production and basic development to help people cope with poor rains and ensure that this is the last famine in the region.” We at the CGIAR, the world’s largest partnership of international agriculture research, could not agree more.

Recent research by our climate change, agriculture, and food security research program has identified future “hotspots” of climate vulnerability– areas where climate change impacts on food security are expected to become increasingly severe by 2050. Not surprisingly, some of the same countries being affected by the current drought where identified in the report as “hotspots” for climate-induced food insecurity.

Meeting the challenges of ensuring food security for the world, especially those is more remote and marginal locations and the poor in both rural and urban locations, as well as averting future famines, require us to act with an urgency. We must develop new ways of thinking more holistically about natural resource and farmland management, as well as revitalized water management practices, and the development of drought-tolerant crop varieties and hardier livestock breeds. Investment in such research is highly cost-effective:  for every US$1 dollar invested in international agricultural research, US$ 9 dollars worth of additional food is being produced in developing countries.

What more can we do to ensure our research helps avoid future famines?

Good research is not enough
Even the best agricultural research can only realize its potential if it is used on the ground. For this to happen, it must be delivered under a benign policy environment, into agricultural systems with sufficient infrastructure and access to viable and predictable markets, and with the extension support needed to secure farmer adoption. Because of this, we need to work  closer with funders, local and regional governments, national research institutions, universities, non-governmental organizations, aid agencies, farmers, civil society organizations and private sector companies. Only by mobilizing such collective strength, can we find and deliver the effective solutions at the scale needed to avert future famines and food crises.

The way ahead: working in partnership for better research outcomes
The good news is that agricultural research finds itself in a new era of opportunity. Rapid scientific progress has been made in genetics, ecology and information technology, offering a multitude of new ways to improve agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability. The CGIAR is using the latest scientific approaches and technologies in a series of new global research programs aimed at improving food security and the sustainable management of the water, soil, and biodiversity that underpin agriculture in the world’s poorest countries.

What is more, the reformed structure of the CGIAR opens the door for stronger collaboration and partnership with other research and development actors. The 11 new research programs approved in the last year, bring together the broadest possible range of organisations, combining the efforts of multiple CGIAR centres with those of many and diverse partners from across the research and development spectrum. Working in partnership on such a large scale, makes this new CGIAR effort unprecedented in terms of its size, scope and expected impact on development.

The work of the aid agencies is vital to provide the emergency aid that is desperately needed right now, but even aid agencies this time appeal for more to be done. We at CGIAR are doing our best to ensure that such famines never happen again. I was once told that the CGIAR is the best kept secret in agricultural research. We must make sure that our work remains a secret no longer, because agricultural research really is the key to better global food security and a sustainable, famine-free future.

Lloyd Le Page
Chief Executive Officer, CGIAR

Message from: “Can agricultural research help eradicate famine?

Food security and the need to educate the public

In the May/June issue of Foreign Policy, Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute writes about The New Geopolitics of Food.

Brown’s launching pad:

Already in 2011, the U.N. Food Price Index has eclipsed its previous all-time global high; as of March it had climbed for eight consecutive months. With this year’s harvest predicted to fall short, with governments in the Middle East and Africa teetering as a result of the price spikes, and with anxious markets sustaining one shock after another, food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics. And crises like these are going to become increasingly common. The new geopolitics of food looks a whole lot more volatile — and a whole lot more contentious — than it used to. Scarcity is the new norm.

The bottom line?  Consumers in the North will be the last to feel the impact of increasing commodity prices, while – as we know from food riots over the last few years – consumers in the South feel these impacts immediately.  Positioning the acquisition of agricultural land in Africa by countries like China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, Brown argues persuasively that we have now entered an era in which the food supply, rather than oil, will be the key geopolitical driver of the global economy.

Food Ark (National Geographic, July 2011) addresses a more mainstream audience and approaches the same challenge.  Its tight focus is, however, on the increasing threats to biodiversity and on the key role of seed.

The headline for this comprehensible primer:

A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them.

What is of note is that both articles address non-scientific audiences and both explain the role of agricultural research, underlining the need for more of it.  As “food security” hits the mainstream, it seems important that consumers understand the issues and the critical role that research plays.  This may be a good time for the ag research community to get involved in further increasing public awareness.  It’s not just about money; an informed press and public can create an environment in which challenges to progress can be more easily navigated.  It’s called public relations.

Post written by Peter Bloch

Call for papers: Food Sovereignty and New Agricultural Protectionism

From the African Technology Development Forum (ATDF) website is a call for papers for their journal, which is quarterly, free, online and peer-reviewed. They write:

“The Global Food Crisis is not going away. The price peaks of 2008 are likely to return in 2011, but the remedies to address the problem largely remain the same. Many countries vow to fight the problem by invoking the fashionable term ‘Food Sovereignty’. It largely refers to the “right” of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces. In our new ATDF issue we aim to explore the potential impact of the pursuit of national food sovereignty policies on global agricultural production, research and trade protection. Submission deadline is 1 June, 2011.”

Guidelines for authors can be accessed here:
To view and read back issues:

The World Food Summit, November, Rome 2009

When compared with donor focus on “the food crisis” that was so evident last year,  there has been a notable lack of news, comment and analysis surrounding the World Food Summit that took place at FAO last week in Rome.  Few heads of State were present, possibly in part due to the world’s economic woes and in part due to international focus on Copenhagen.

Earlier in the week there was criticism that farmers groups were underrepresented http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=49278.  A more general discussion surrounds the key role Civil Society Organisations http://blogs.oxfam.org/en/blog/09-11-15-world-food-summit-parallel-view have in the process. 

The Oxfam blog says:

“In their Declaration to the WFS, farmer’s organisations and civil society organisations (CSOs) from Burkina Faso, including the Farmer’s Confederation of Burkina Faso and the Permanent Secretariat of NGOs in Burkina Faso, write: “This summit must take into account the concerns of farmers’ organisations and CSOs. If civil society’s concerns had been taken into account during the [last] global food summit, the world would not have undergone the 2008 food crisis and there would have been no need to hold the second summit.”

But “energy” around the summit itself seems to be lacking.  The FAO has published on its website a “World Food Summit Newsletter” which includes the summits plan of action and list of commitments.   The closing statements can be read, or watched on the FAO site linked here, they contain only polite formalities.  What changes might we expect to see in the short and medium term?

It is worth noting that in October 2008 that Kofi Annan accused rich countries of reneging on promises that were made in 2005 to help feed the world’s hungry. He said that wealthy nations should not use the global financial crisis as a pretext for not meeting their commitments.

The BBC reports that:

The head of the UN food agency, Jacques Diouf, says he is not satisfied with the final declaration of the UN world food summit in Rome…”I am not satisfied that some of the concrete proposals I made were not accepted. There was no consensus on this and I regret it.”

Food Security for All; high level meeting held in Madrid


On 26-27 January 2009 a forum on the food crisis was held in Madrid. World Bank, IMF and WTO debated on how to intervene to stop the crisis and give farmers the means to control their agriculture.  However, some questions were asked about the validity of such an event – can one talk about farmers without them being in the debate? Grain.org was vocal in this questioning. See their write up on the event:  GRAIN talked about how representatives of small farmers, who they say produce 80% of the world’s food, did not seem to have been given much space, only a few minutes on the floor to give their position.

(Thanks to Francesca Re Manning from CAS-IP for the posting.)

As a summary of the discussion you can view the final statement of the event by clicking here.  Among the 12 point summary they talk about next steps after this meeing and they do clearly specify:

“The consultations should be open to the full range of stakeholdersinvolved in agriculture, food security and nutrition (including farmers’ organizations, civil society organizations, women’s organizations, private sector, developing country governments,and both regional and international organisations)”

This was a high level meeting.  Presumably it would be tough deciding to which small farmers one would give space in a such an agenda.  Is it naive to hope that the government ministers are there to represent their own country’s interests?

Of course, the devil is in the detail, and exactly how these high-brow commitments will roll out and translate into meaningful impact will be of more interest to us, as well as the small farmers in the 126 nations represented.  For more information on the wider initiative of this meeting visit  http://www.un.org/issues/food/taskforce/