Explore the website, and learn about climate-smart agriculture, here.
Explore the website, and learn about climate-smart agriculture, here.
Forget about the weather, there are more original ways to make small talk: IYP 2016 in Latin America
Since the United Nations started to declare International Years in 1960, only 3 foods have received such recognition: rice, potatoes and quinoa. 2015 was dedicated to soils, 2014 to the importance of Family Farming... This year pulses entered this honorary list of UN International Years, ready to show the world how much they contribute to the global food security, to people’s diets and to the soils.
As a Mexican, pulses and especially beans, are close to my heart since childhood. I was a difficult child who did not want to eat veggies. Can you guess what I preferred to eat instead? Beans. Frijoles de la olla with scrambled eggs. My niece’s favorite food is also beans... No wonder why we are called Frijoleros.
To track down what is happening in Latin America, this month I attended a couple of events dedicated to the International Year of Pulses 2016. Organised by INTA (Instituto Nacional de Innovación y Transferencia en Tecnología Agropecuaria), the LXI PCCMCA annual meeting took place in San Jose on April 5-8. The meeting gathered 300 attendants from many countries from the region including Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Mexico, to discuss regional strategies for food security, mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
This year's slogan for World Malaria Day is End Malaria for Good! It sounds like a vivid call to action to address one of the deadliest diseases of our time. World Malaria Day gives global awareness to the fight against this killer disease, but let’s not forget that it is unfortunately a daily struggle for many exposed countries. Today is a key moment to reflect on all the efforts that were brought together in the tremendous fight against malaria and the result of such mobilization.
A lot of progress had been made to dramatically reduce the malaria mortality rate. The rate fell 60% between 2000 and 2015 and during the same period, the number of mortality cases had also fallen by 37% globally! It is also estimated that there has been a cumulative 1.2 billion fewer malaria cases and 6.2 million fewer malaria deaths.
The amazing determination driving the actors of the fight against malaria contributed in those encouraging numbers. However sustaining them will be the real challenge to take this “End Malaria for Good” slogan to a tangible successful outcome. To achieve this goal various and new creative approaches with anti-malaria technology as well as subsequent financial resources will be needed.
While this level of investment is ambitious, it is not unprecedented. In fact, donors and country governments can immediately begin to invest in a subset of high-impact solutions. This priority set of interventions would require only $2.2 billion a year above what is currently spent and is estimated to save 2.2 million lives and empower 50 million more children to grow to their full physical and cognitive potential in 2025.
The World Bank, Results for Development (R4D), and 1,000 Days provided this first-of-its-kind analysis of the global resources needed to achieve four of the six WHA targets (stunting, breastfeeding, anemia, and wasting). It highlights the need for many actors to engage in nutrition, and furthers the case for partnerships to accelerate actions.
The Private Sector Mechanism will be holding a Partnerships Forum on Nutrition in Rome at the end of April to accelerate these actions. This forum will provide a unique setting for sharing examples and concrete experiences of successful initiatives across sectors in many countries.
Follow the International Agri-food Network on Twitter (@Agrifoodnet) and LinkedIn to stay up to date on developments and event updates. Use the hashtag #InvestInNutrition to join the conversation and create impact through Twitter and Facebook!
I’ve just wrapped up a visit to Ottawa with the Prairie Oat Growers Association, where visits to all three political parties provided an opportunity to share the story of oats. Over the past two decades, oat farming has become increasingly productive. Canadian oats have high levels of beta-glucan that make them heart-healthy and excellent quality in terms of weight and colour. These competitive advantages cannot be taken for granted.
Oat milling in Canada has declined in favour of American processing. With that has come the need to export, so when grain transportation arose two years ago and oats were not able to move, the impact was grave. Millers couldn’t get what they needed without exports from other countries as far away as Sweden. American millers have encouraged a return to American production resulting in market losses to Canadians.
This situation reminds us all of some fundamental needs. It is essential to ensure the reliability of oat exports – already the industry has implemented 100 car unit trains, increased trucking, and railway fleet options. The ongoing regulatory environment must monitor and sustain solutions in all corridors. Movement South to the US and Mexico needs just as much attention as movement to port position.
There is also a need to support domestic consumption and processing. After years of reductions, it is time to think about our domestic capacity for processing and the ways to excite Canadians production of oats.
This requires innovation. Part of that innovation is to help consumers think of oats as more than just a breakfast food. Oats make a great addition to all meals and are a wonderful snack food. Use of oats as an ingredient needs more exploration, including traits like beta-glucan to make other foods more heart-healthy.
Oats also need new markets – domestic and foreign – plus better ways to serve the American processors like Cheerios and Quaker Oats that have been such great supporters of Canadian oats. They need high beta-glucan levels, strong evidence on the natural sustainability claims of a low-water use crop like oats.
Innovation is the pathway to lift the Canadian oat market and we hope more leaders are seeing the role for this vital crop.
According to the WHO, nearly 800 million people remain chronically undernourished and 159 million children under 5 years of age are stunted. Approximately 50 million children under 5 years are wasted, over two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. If you would like to understand the different types of undernutrition read more here. Furthermore, 1.9 billion people are affected by overweight, and over 600 million are obese. This, unfortunately, is increasing.
Also on April 1st, the British medical journal The Lancet published the results of the latest global nutrition panorama. Over the past 40 years, according to the study, the rate of obesity has increased 2.6-fold, from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014. Nearly 13 per cent of the global population is now obese, compared to 9 per cent who are underweight, the study found.
The study suggests that if post-2000 trends continue, the probability of meeting global obesity targets is virtually zero. Rather, if these trends continue, by 2025, global obesity prevalence will reach 18% in men and surpass 21% in women. Unfortunately it was not an April fool’s joke. Is time to start taking obesity and overweight, and most importantly health, seriously.
Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose which may over time lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. According to the World Health Organization, in 2014 the global prevalence of diabetes was estimated to be 9% among adults over the age of 18. In 2012, it was estimated that 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes and more than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low and middle income countries.
The prevalence of diabetes has been steadily increasing in the past few decades, in particular in low- and middle-income countries. Knowledge exists to reverse this trend through targeted prevention and appropriate care. A key to preventing type 2 diabetes is a healthy diet and this is where pulses can play an integral role. However, they are often overlooked in our diets. As nutrient-dense foods, pulses offer a wide range of health benefits. These benefits include:
- High in dietary fibre, with approximately 15 grams of dietary fibre per cup and a low Glycemic Index (GI), meaning that our bodies convert them to blood sugar more slowly and evenly;
- A low-fat high protein source, comprised of 23% protein and only 1% fat with only about 250 calories per cup;
- Packed with essential micronutrients, such as iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins including folate, thiamin and niacin.
- Pulses complement cereals to provide together full daily protein requirements.
With the developing world bearing the brunt of the impact of diabetes, pulses are an affordable and accessible source of nutrient dense food which can help manage diabetes. On April 1st, 2016 we will be launching the World’s Greatest Pulses dishes in conjunction with our new and improved pulses.org site. We encourage you to find a recipe you love and cook it on April 7th to help combat diabetes! Share this on social media with the #pulserecipes and #diabetes.
For more information on the International Year of Pulses, visit iyp2016.org.
Small enterprises support food production and agriculture around the world, so it is a great opportunity to apply for SEED awards this year that recognise entrepreneurship in developing countries with a strong interest in sustainable development. SEED highlights the deadline for applications below:
Start-up enterprises that solve pressing local issues by integrating social and environmental benefits into their business models can apply for the 2016 SEED Awards, whose closure is nearing – interested applicants have only one week left!
This year SEED will make available up to:
- 15 SAG-SEED Awards to enterprises in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Uganda supported by the SWITCH-Africa Green (SAG) project, which is implemented by UNEP with the assistance of the European Union;
- 4 SEED Africa Awards to enterprises in Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia supported by the Government of Flanders;
- 1 SEED Gender Equality Award to enterprises in Kenya that are run or owned by women and prioritise women‘s empowerment.
Candidates can apply until 21 March 2016, 23:59 CET....
Farming First met Dr. Swaminathan at the Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa and asked him how research priorities have changed in the 29 years since he won the Prize.
“When Dr. Borlaug and I started our work, we had a single goal: productivity improvement,” he comments. Yet Dr. Swaminathan explained that agriculture nowadays not just about producing food – it is also a stabilizer of ecological services. It is also very important now to address the role agriculture can play in producing more nutritious food. “If I were to start my work today I would concentrate on the nutritive properties and (combatting) hidden hunger”, he commented.
Watch more interviews on Farming First’s YouTube channel.
Normally, Livingstone is home to 150,000 Zambians and international tourists seeking out the unique beauty of the Victoria Falls.
This week, Livingstone has also been host to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, the first conference dedicated to boosting pulse productivity, nutrition and processing in Africa. It could be a potential milestone in the fight against global hunger.
The four hundred academics, NGOs and scientists are here to do something really important: turn around the lack of investment in agricultural research and development, which is handicapping the ability of poor, small holder African farmers to fight climate change, boost productivity and feed their families.
It's not that money isn't invested into agricultural productivity. It is. But many crops don't' attract their 'fair share' of investment. For example, pulses. The shame is these crops, often known as 'orphan crops' because they get ignored by funders, are potentially vital in the fight to deliver the UN's Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) because of their nutrition-density, affordability and positive impact on soil, which is why the UN FAO has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.
This lack of investment was underlined prior to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, when a new global survey, showed agricultural researchers are concerned the current level of research funding into pulses is so low it may be handicapping efforts to improve food security and agricultural sustainability.
Called the 'Global Pulse Productivity & Sustainability Survey', the survey suggests annual investment in pulses hovers at $175m, whereas billions are invested into other crops such as corn.
There are some major contributors to global funding for pulse crop productivity and sustainability research such as CGIAR, USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Most countries in North America and Europe maintain an international funding agency. Others have national funding programs. But is it enough?
"No. Bottom line: we need a 10-fold increase in pulse research funding," according to Huseyin Arslan, President of the Global Pulse Confederation, which commissioned the survey. "With over 800 million people suffering from acute or chronic undernourishment, increasing pulse research is vital. We can only meet the world's protein needs with better varieties of chickpeas, peas, beans, and lentils."
Which brings us back to Livingstone.
#Legumes4Africa is the theme for the Pan African Grain Legume and Cowpea Conference. It's focused on grain legumes because of their potential to play a significant role in delivering against the UN's new SDGs - especially Zero Hunger, Good Health & Wellbeing and Life on land. Or, as Given Lubinda, Zambian Minister of Agriculture, so eloquently put it: 'The quality of life of a rapidly growing world population will be dependent on pulses.'
"Investments in pulses research have the potential for significant agricultural impact. The high nutritional value and climate resilience traits of pulses are well established to fight the global challenge of hidden hunger, poverty and environmental degradation, especially for the vulnerable populations of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia," says Shoba Sivasankar, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.
India the largest consumer and a major producer of pulses has recently introduced subsidies for pulse production in a move which some see as a pointer for other Governments. Director General of ICARDA Dr. Mahmoud Solh, a leader in international agricultural research said: "India should be commended for being the first country giving subsidies now to pulses also which is expected to change the picture".
The Indian Government and others have also recently teamed up to launch a Global Pulse Research platform. "The platform will not only invest in the necessary research for new pulses technologies but also build the capacity of local scientists, extension workers and farmers, " according to Dr. Solh who calls pulses "climate smart crops" because they contribute positively to soil health. "The establishment of the Global Pulses Research Platform is a step in the right direction," Dr. Solh concluded.
The Global Pulse Productivity & Sustainability Survey and #Legumes4Africa both highlight a broad consensus among experts about the need and focus for research in a key 'orphan crop'.
"With investment in crop improvement and agronomy research, pulses can be made resilient to climate change as well as diversify income sources for farmers. Focused research efforts creating expanded value-added marketplace for pulses will generate new market opportunities for farmers to make farmers prosperous as well as modernize our food system to become more sustainable, equitable and nutritious," says David Bergvinson, Director General, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.
This consensus is a 'Big Step' forward. But much still needs to be done.
'Pulse production is about half what it could be and storage problems still remain,' according to Ylva Hilbur, from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture.
''Smallholder farm yields are about 2-3 times lower than they are on research stations so we need to focus on sustainable intensification of cropping systems,' says Jeffrey Ehlers of the Gates Foundation, whose single biggest investment in pulses is the Tropical Legumes III project. His point is backed by many other experts.
By bringing together so many key people for the first time, #Legumes4Africa has already achieved much. It could become a significant milestone on a journey to place pulses at the top of the political agenda for food security and nutrition.
If Given Lubinda is right, we need it to be.