emerging blog

Funding available for African and Canadian students as part of 2012 graduate research grants

Graduate students from Africa and Canada will have the opportunity to benefit from $300,000 (CAD) in funding, as the Africa Initiative today announces a call for applications for the 2012 graduate research grant program.



Grants of up to $10,000 (CAD) will be awarded to as many as 15 African students applying to study in Canada and 15 Canadian students to conduct field-based research in Africa. Applications for the Africa Initiative Graduate Research Grant, which can be found online at http://www.africaportal.org/exchange, must be submitted by January 15, 2012.



"There is already great enthusiasm for the 2012 grant competition," said Nelson K. Sewankambo, director of the Africa Initiative. "The students who have been participating in the 2011 program are gaining incredible experience, either by building new networks in Canada or by conducting important and unique field work with local partners in Africa. Those who are successful in the 2012 competition will be making an remarkable contribution to research on Africa."

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Timely Utterances

As Labour Day marks another day of meetings on sustainable development for the UN’s Rio+20, I had the good fortune to encounter a quote that is relevant to all multilateral negotiations and probably most human communications:



“Not everything we know can be disclosed.

Not everything that can be disclosed can be considered a timely utterance.

Not every timely utterance can be considered suitable to the capacity of the listener.”

Baha’i writing



In the coming nine months, the negotiations will grapple with ambitious goals, financial realities, and national priorities. Selecting the topics where progress can be made is the art every contributor must learn – on a timely basis.

Determination Overcomes Devastation

It was an honour to recently accompany Alice Kachere, a smallholder farmer from Malawi, when she gave a presentation at a meeting at the OECD. Her personal story is extraordinary. In 1999, she lost her husband, and due to a lack of marital land rights, once he died she lost all her land, her home, and was left with nothing but three young children. Despite the devastation, she now farms one hectare and has begun renting some land to further her farm thanks to a ten–fold increase in her maize yields due to combination of better planting techniques, hybrid seeds, fertilizer and organic manure. Alice, her children, and her 79-year old mother now have their own two-room house.


See part of the Wall Street Journal coverage on her remarks:
http://online.wsj.com/video/feeding-a-growing-global-population/E437B1E8-4D66-4148-AF42-E821DE45EA54.html

Big Partnership Announcement

Now is the moment to prove public-private partnerships can work. At an international level, we can see a new way of operating emerging to work on the world’s most pressing problems.. In particular, recognition is great for the private sector to provide funding, operational expertise, and commercialisation know-how. This can augment programs of governments and NGO’s.


A great example is the exciting announcement of six new programs by CGIAR to conduct research geared to developing countries suffering from food insecurity. The program will be conducted by 15 CGIAR institutions, in combination with over 100 collaborators from academia, civil society and the private sector. The total value is just short of $1 billion that will fund work in wheat, aquaculture, and nutrition, among others.



Read the press release (PDF) - the Global Research Coalition Approves Six New Cutting-Edge Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource Programs to Sustainably Boost Food Security Worldwide.

Food Content Contention

From lowering salt and sugar content, to labelling fats in dairy products; the pressure is on for the food sector to find ways to better improve health. In a recent interview with James Thellusson of Glasshouse Partnership, we explore the pressures the food sector is facing in the policy arena, domestically and internationally.


Sustainability Changes Coming

A Green Growth Strategy for Food and Agriculture by the OECD says governments can avoid a conflict between growth and the environment if the right incentives are put in place. It’s sensible recommendations are highlighted in the synopsis below.

“With the world’s population expected to rise by a third between now and 2050, analysts estimate that an additional one billion tonnes of cereals and 200 million tonnes of meat would need to be produced annually between now and then to feed everyone.

The report identifies three priority areas where coherent action is required:

  1. Increase productivity in a sustainable way. If resources are used more efficiently throughout the supply chain, production can be increased and natural resources conserved. Higher priority needs to be given to research, development, innovation, education and information.

  2. Ensure that well functioning markets provide the right signals. Prices that reflect the scarcity value of natural resources as well as the environmental impact of farming will contribute to greater efficiency. Economically and environmentally harmful subsidies should be phased out. The "polluter pays" principle needs to be enforced through charges and regulations. Incentives should be provided for maintaining biodiversity and environmental services.

  3. Establish and enforce well-defined property rights. Over-exploitation can result when marine resources, land and forests lack clearly defined rights and ownership, the report says.
    Business as usual is not an option and adjustments to policies and practices will be needed. But in the longer term, the report adds, greener agriculture would reinforce environmental sustainability, economic growth and social well-being.”



Full report: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/38/10/48224529.pdf

G20

Agriculture is in desperate need of capital investment, especially to feed 10 billion people in 2050. After 30 years of underinvestment through removal of agricultural development funding and poor prices, there are now signals for farmers to do more.

As the G20 convenes, policy on food price volatility is top of mind. Price caps will fundamentally destroy any investment in agriculture – including by farmers themselves.

People should not be left to go hungry. Food security should be dealt with in social safety net structures that ensure the poorest get supplemental income to buy food. Sending the wrong signal to agriculture right now, could be counter productive.

G20

The first ever G20 agriculture ministers meeting will be held June 22-23. During this meeting and the G20 Leaders meeting in May, food price volatility will be top of mind. Hosted by the French government, there is concerns about excessive price volatility and speculation. Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of Agriculture, was cited in a UN press release noting: “Demand (for food) would continue to rise exponentially, while production would only increase mathematically, owing to climate change, the conversion of lands to other uses and other factors. In 2010, 40 million people had suffered from hunger and it would only get worse, he said, noting that increasing production was just barely keeping up with rising demand. One climatic event, such as flooding in the Russian Federation, could cause prices to skyrocket, he said, warning that hunger, food riots and instability could be the result.”

He proposed an unprecedented exchange of information on grain stocks, pointing out that among the G-20 countries there was currently no cooperative mechanism on agriculture. The French presidency wanted one established to help limit export restrictions, he said, adding that it also wished to see financial markets dealing with agricultural commodities regulated in a manner that did not go against the market, but rather improved it. “It is unacceptable that there should be speculation on hunger in the world,” he said.

Non-Communicable Diseases

Health is on everyone’s mind. And leaders in the health sector are working to make it a major social issue, not just a medical one. Recently the associations for cancer, heart and diabetes have banded together to focus on chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCD). Discussions on topics like diet and nutrition will be growing even louder in the months ahead, as there is a concerted effort to elevate the importance of lifestyle choices, including greater consumption of fruit and vegetables. Intense scrutiny on fat, salt, and food processing is likely.

They have been very effective at moving the agenda forward in national food discussions and at the international level. Already a World Economic Forum survey stated “NCD’s are a threat to global well being.” Years of effort of their part are culminating in increased profile on national agendas in many developed countries including the UK, US, and Canada. Additionally, a series of international events will further the attention. For instance, it will be the focal point for the Opening the UN General Assembly in September. It is a great time to think about raising your voice on health issues and showing what you can offer to improved diets and nutrition.