“Robynne is very calm but focused – it proves that she has so much experience in handling big events.”

R Septivita, CGIAR

Emerging is a supporter of the Manyinga project to teach agricultural skills to orphans and vulnerable children in Zambia. To add your support, please visit www.manyinga.org

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Emerging Issues

Emerging is engaged in the breadth of discussions on the future of global agriculture. Leveraging our experience, understanding and proven techniques in community-building, public relations, government affairs and communications, we can help your organization tackle the new ideas, new issues and new opportunities that are always emerging.

Here are some of the emerging issues in agriculture we are currently tracking:

Fortifying Fertilizers can Fortify Food

Esin Mete, President of the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), makes a case for fortifying the land to fortify the food that grows on it:

As global leaders come together to discuss a new set of development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals, that expire in 2015, the role of food security and nutrition is key in underpinning the development agenda’s future success.

It has been well documented that growth in the agricultural sector can have dramatic impacts in reducing poverty – in fact, at least twice the potential (see p. 6) of growth from any other sector on average, according to the World Bank.

As well, improved nutrition not only extends and improves people’s quality of lives but also plays a significant role in boosting their productivity and sustaining a healthy economy. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that malnutrition alone costs the global economy around $3.5 trillion dollars each year (around 5% of global GDP) due to lost productivity and healthcare costs.

Read the entire post at foodsecurity.ac.uk

Agricultural Extension – Plenty of Work to Go Around

Speaking at the International Food Policy Research Institute, I had the opportunity to stress the importance of having multiple actors engaged in agricultural extension. Too long underfunded and unimaginative, agricultural extension is experiencing a new renaissance. An excerpt of my remarks:

Agricultural extension is an essential element in the elaboration of local action to improve productivity, rural living standards, and food and nutritional security. All with the aim of reinforcing the belief that local communities can contribute greatly to drive the engines of their own growth. There is a pressing need for more effort in integrating actors at the lowest level, and implementing plans that allow them to be full participants in working within the vast scope covered by the worldwide effort to fight rural poverty and eradicate hunger.

Although considerable progress has been made in a plethora of fields by innumerable individuals, communities, and organizations, there are still major challenges in which agricultural extension programs can be instrumental to progress. These include, but are not limited to: integrating farmers into the wider market; increasing resource use efficiency; entrepreneurship training; adaptation including to climate changes that impact local growing areas and potentially threaten fertile land; and human and animal health; and gender equality.

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Number of Hungry Down

FAO’s new State of Food Insecurity in the World report indicates that the number of hungry in the world has dropped, in part thanks to an increase in agricultural productivity growth, proving that the recent investment in agriculture is making a difference.

Some 842 million people, or roughly one in eight, suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-13, not getting enough food to lead active and healthy lives according to a report released by the UN food agencies.

The number is down from 868 million reported for the 2010-12 period, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2013), published every year by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions, while 15.7 million live in developed countries.

Continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability.

Irrigation is Insurance

Weather variability is already affecting agriculture. Crop insurance is one way to think of managing this variability but it is rapidly becoming untenable as it is too expensive unless government subsidized national schemes. “The real insurance is irrigation,” said Johnathon Lassers of Ariel Investment Management at the Global Ag Investing Conference in Singapore. Active in Uruguay, he notes growing variability in the rainfall patterns is impacting their farm.

“Water is one of the main risks in agriculture,” added Tim Hornibrook of Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management. One of the best ways to hedge this is by being geographically diverse – across the span of a country and across the globe he suggests.

How to Navigate Spaceship Earth’s Food Security and Land-based Mitigation

The Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security team at the CGIAR system, do great work looking at the challenges agriculture faces in both adapting to and mitigating climate change. Below is a latest piece that shows how clearly demand side change is needed to help address greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the role for sustainable intensification to reduce ag emissions while meeting food demand:

Agriculture-Climate Letters: A Science-Policy Bulletin, September 2013

Buckminster Fuller wryly commented that the earth is like a spaceship that didn’t come with an operating manual. As we come up against boundaries of our planet’s natural resources and capacity to absorb wastes, we urgently need to figure out what options will work best to manage competing uses for our global sources and sinks.

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Stand Strong Together

In Robynne Anderson’s remarks to the opening plenary of the Global Youth Ag Summit, she focused on the importance of farmers speaking up and speaking together. Now is the moment agriculture is at the forefront of the global agenda and the people at the summit have the chance to use their leadership skills to make sure that agriculture remains at the top of the agenda.

Art Froelich and Robynne had a lot of fun doing this presentation and even more fun answering questions and meeting people afterward. Watch a video of the presentation, titled “Day 2 – Tuesday, August 20 Youth Ag Summit” here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/118297215647081542182/posts. The session starts at 45:40, and Robynne’s part starts at 54:30 in the timeline..

Science Can Help Small Farmers Feed Africa

In a story by Kanayo Nwanze of the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Clement Kofi Humado in AllAfrica, the need for agricultural research was underlined.

“While spending on agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa grew by 20 per cent between 2001 and 2008, most of that growth was in just a few countries. Only eight of 31 countries have met the target for agricultural research and development investment of 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), which was set at the 2004 African Union Summit in Khartoum, Sudan,” they observed in AllAfrica.

Citing the fact that growth generated by agriculture is 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors, they encouraged countries to focus on the benefits of science to agriculture.

Linking Smallholders to Markets

Agriculture for Impact released its report on linking smallholders to markets in Africa. The document focuses on the realities of forming market linkages and notes three key considerations are: the business case, the approach to linking and how to organise links.

“Links will only work if there is a return on investment for smallholder farmers and for their partners in the supply chains. That depends, above all, on governments fulfilling basic roles for the economy: the creation of an enabling investment climate; and the provision of rural public goods and transport in particular. If that sounds demanding, it should not: conditions do not have to be perfect, the key is to remove the worst failings, such as the high implicit taxation of agriculture that prevailed in the 1970s and that slowed agricultural growth at that time. The corollary applies as well: once these conditions are met, (some) progress is likely by private initiative alone.”

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Wheat on the Edge

After some very bleak years, wheat bounced back as a profitable part of the farm mix. However, there is news in the USDA Outlook that suggests some troubled times for wheat. Excerpts of the USDA report are below.

Wheat Supply, Demand, and Price Outlook for 2013/14
Wheat production for 2013 is expected to decrease more than 7 percent to 2,100 million bushels despite increased planted area. The year-over-year reduction stems from a lower yield and a lower harvested-to-planted ratio. Harvested area for 2013 is projected at 46.5 million acres, down 2.5 million acres from the previous year. Winter wheat conditions are substantially worse in the Great Plains compared with last year at this time.

In the US “domestic use of wheat for 2013/14 is expected to decrease 68 million bushels year to year. Food use is expected up 8 million bushels from the 2012/13 forecast. Feed use is projected down 75 million bushels from the 2012/13 projection. This decrease reflects an expected larger corn crop with normal weather and yields, a smaller HRW wheat crop, and a less favorable wheat/corn price relationship for wheat feeding in 2013/14 than in 2012/13.”

U.S. wheat exports for 2013/14 are expected to drop 100 million bushels from the 2012/13 forecast to 950 million with tighter supplies and intensified competition from other major exporters. World wheat production is expected to recover significantly from last year with all major exporting countries except the United States expected to have larger crops. Kazakhstan, EU-27, Russia, and Ukraine account for the majority of the increase. High wheat prices spurred additional planting in Northern Hemisphere winter wheat producing countries and are also favoring increased spring plantings in Canada, as well as higher acreage in Argentina and Australia.

The 2013/14 season-average farm price is projected at $7.00 per bushel, down $0.90 from the midpoint of the record high range projected for 2012/13. Farmers traditionally market more than half of the wheat crop from June through September.