Delivering A Decade of SDG Action

“Everything has to change for our planet to stay the same.”
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

It’s been five years since 193 UN Member States decided on the ambitious 2030 Agenda to end poverty and hunger, reduce inequality, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. 2020 marks the start of the final decade towards the realization of the SDGs. 

With 10 years left, are we on track to achieving the SDGs?

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The Potential of Digital Agriculture

Digital agriculture is emerging as one of the most exciting new innovation spaces in the food and agriculture sector. From AI-supported decision-making, imagery services to precision agriculture machinery, robotics and mobile services, there is a high level of interest from consumers, investors and policy-makers in the potential of this new approach to help deliver a sustainable, efficient and secure food supply.

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The Roaring 20s

January 2020; Not only is it the beginning of a new year, but also the beginning of a new decade. We have re-entered the Twenties. Initially this was an exciting thought to me, seeing how the 1920’s is perceived as an era full of glamour and prosperity.

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Tackling obesity would boost economic and social well-being

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a group of 34 member countries that discuss and develop economic and social policy. Recently, OECD released a global report, The Heavy Burden of Obesity – The Economics of Prevention, on the impact and burden of obesity on public health and economics of each OECD country. 

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Emerging Ag 2019 Year in Review

2019 was a successful year for Emerging Ag with many accomplishments worth highlighting! 

January

As Emerging Ag welcomed 2019 we were able to have a look at the coming year and build plans around the events and projects everyone would be attending and taking part in. Through this planning, our calendar grew, and it shaped up to be a very busy year.

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A United Nations Celebration for Every Day

Everyone loves a celebration, and it seems now that there is an obscure celebration every day. There are, however, days that are often overlooked that may not be as sexy as days titled “World Chocolate Day (July 7th)”. Every year at the United Nations General Assembly the member states of the United Nations work to create and officiate a series of days and years meant to raise awareness on issues affecting the global community. Each international day is brought about by a resolution in the General Assembly and then voted on by the member states as something they can support. Each resolution explains the importance of the day or year and what is hoped to be achieved through its celebration. 

While each day is an important reminder, for the work Emerging ag does we would like to highlight the days and themed years below.

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From Kenya to Canada

Canada; Alberta in particular is a cold region compared to the East African landscapes where I live. I arrived in Calgary on an afternoon and perhaps I anticipated the cold would be a little bit friendly at that time of the day. To my amusement, the sun was out shining but it was a negative degree cold on the gauge.

I was attending work training and orientation for my new role as Project Coordinator, but I was also aware of the environment around me. It was my first trip to Canada and out of Africa for that matter.

Calgary is a beautiful city with a mixed culture, tall buildings at the city centre and an organized transport system. My favourite food experience was Peter’s Drive-In with a 49-year philosophy of persistence in delivering my favourite delicacy, milk and milk products. They have the best milkshakes I have had so far with 100s of varieties of flavours. I was confused and my colleague, had to help me choose. I read people buy from Peter’s more for the history than the drink itself.

One afternoon, we took a break from work and visited the Calgary Zoo. It was fascinating to view some of the Canadian and Asian wildlife that I would normally watch on National Geographic films. The best part about the zoo is the variety and diversity of the animals. You will find all kinds of animals from all over the world with tailored habitats within their enclosures. An interesting part of the zoo is learning that all pandas belong to China and they are leased out all over the world. 

On the first weekend of my stay, we drove through a wide landscape of farmlands covered with heaps of harvested hay, oil pumpjacks and dotted with black angus cattle. I wondered how the cows were adapted to grazing on snow covered grass without sneezing from the cold. Our destination was Banff, a touristic town on the foot of the white and blue Rocky Mountains. Banff is an active town compared to Calgary. There are different varieties of gift shops, several museums, condominiums, high-end restaurants and a pretty good night life.

We spent the weekend driving though Banff National Park, a conservation unit that brings together an ancient town, elks and deer, wild sheep, the Rocky Mountains, pine forests and frozen lakes and rivers. The highlight of the drive was reaching the frozen Lake Louise and best of all, was walking on top of the layer of ice that forms the lake underneath. It was a spooky experience but I must say but a good one. I added the experience to my bucket list and marked it off for that matter.

On the same weekend, we visiteded the Banff Springs Hotel, a magnificent piece of architecture that was built in the late 1800s with an ancient Canadian railway history. 

I spent my last week of work training in Olds, a quiet town with an old soul of farming antiquity and presence. The town hosts an agricultural college established in 1913. During my stay in Olds, I was honoured to attend the Royal Canadian Legion #105 Remembrance Day Ceremony, a communal event that showcased a rich Canadian culture of patriotism and honour of the fallen soldiers who fought during the World Wars. The bagpipes sound that played at the event could take you back to the 50s during the world wars.

A day before my departure back to Kenya, I had the opportunity to visit Drumheller, a town with a rich history of paleontology and fossil data. From the moment you enter the town, Jurassic park comes into your mind. The town is themed with different statues of all kinds of dinosaurs, even businesses around are named in relation to different terms of paleontology and fossil findings. We visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum and guess what? I now believe that dinosaurs existed and are not just fiction from a mad scientist. 

One thing I treasured most on my visit to Canada was the meals. Meals are served in large potions which really worked well for me being a foodie. But most of all are the people. Every person I interacted with was just too nice, something that you don’t just experience anywhere. I am certain that this will not be my last visit.

 

Farmers Being Heard

Young farmers are moving agriculture ahead, and it is privilege to get to interact with them. One bright light is Karol Kissane of Ireland, a Nuffield scholar. The Nuffield programme really does have an eye for talent and selects future leaders for a year of intensive engagement globally. Karol has just finished his scholarship year and here is a fun video where he provides some feedback on the adventures he had: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU5OOJVACDY 

One of the highlights he cites is the chance to speak in plenary at the UN Committee on Food Security during a discussion on the Decade of Family Farming. What could be more important than having farmers be heard during such a decade. In that speech Karol stated “Today many people have referred to family farming as the backbone of the economy in many developing countries, but also those who are suffering the most. Let’s help all family farmers improve their livelihoods, build value chains and on-farm processing, and use innovation to improve the sustainability of their farms."

There is also a great series out by Farming First with farmers talking about the effects of climate change on them, but also the measures they are taking to tackle carbon emissions. No one is better placed to grow more crops, manage soils, plant more trees or sync more carbon than farmers. The potential to move to zero carbon farming relies on technologies and innovative practices that will have agriculture play its part to hit 1.5: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/un-climate-summit-2019.shtml

Climate Change: An Entire Generation at Risk

The Lancet Countdown recently launched its 2019 report tracking the effects of climate change on health. The message is clear: the future of an entire generation depends on our commitment and ability to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Climate change represents a major threat to our species, as infectious diseases, pollution and malnutrition will be worsened by rising temperatures. Children are among the most vulnerable.

The publication classifies current efforts to address climate change as “intermittent at best”. The past five years are, together, the warmest in the modern history, as NASA indicates. For Lancet, fossil fuels are the primary driver of climate change. The carbon intensity of our energy system has remained unchanged since the 90s. 

If we continue to follow the “business as usual” pathway, a child born today is likely to live in a world over 4 degrees Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial average. Higher temperatures will have profound impacts on food security, affecting global crop yield and increasing the risk of malnutrition. The number of deaths caused by air pollution will also dramatically increase. Today, air pollution is already responsible for nearly 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

The impact of climate change on disease transmission is particularly concerning. Changes in environmental conditions are already favouring the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria. 

Malaria is endemic in many regions worldwide. According to the WHO, Africa carries the higher burden - 92% of the cases and 93% of the deaths in 2017. Malaria claimed 435,000 lives that year, with almost 220 million cases reported in 87 countries. The children under five years old are the most vulnerable and accounted for 61% of the fatalities. 

The situation is likely to get worse. The Lancet’s research indicates that climate suitability for malaria transmission is increasing, especially in the highland areas of Africa. Using 1950s data as reference, the climate suitability for the disease averaged 29.9% above it from 2012 to 2017. Unfortunately, this is not limited to malaria - all pathogens studied presented an increasing rate of suitability.

We are facing life-threatening challenges, and there is no time for “business as usual”. As noted by the authors, overcoming health challenges caused by climate change requires new approaches to policy-making, business and research. Health will have to be at the centre of decisions if we want to move away from current catastrophic trends.

If you are interested in learning more about vector-borne diseases and innovative tools to eradicate malaria, visit the Target Malaria’s website.

 

 

Private Sector Engagement at the 46th Committee on World Food Security

CFS46 took place at FAO Headquarters in Rome from October 14-18, and the Private Sector Mechanism had its largest delegation to date, with 211 business leaders, including over 30 youth and representatives of youth organizations, registered from 45 countries.

We are so proud of this year’s delegation, which included more geographical, sector, and age diversity than ever before. We would like to extend a special thanks to the leadership teams of the youth organizations present at CFS46, who helped to guide their groups and make the most of their CFS experience. Of course, none of this would be possible without the generosity of our PSM funders, whose voluntary contributions support the work of the PSM Secretariat. The PSM is more active and engaged with the CFS than ever before, and we look forward to continuing our close collaboration with you to ensure that its activity in this forum continues to grow.

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