Improving Ag Education in India

Agriculture is a knowledge based endeavour and nowhere has benefitted more greatly from new agricultural practices than India. Through use of techniques embodied in the Green Revolution, the country has gone from a food deficit to a net exporter of some grains. At the same time, India stands to benefit from a new generation of technologies to improve the sustainability of farming, improve water efficiency, and increase production in a broad range of crops to address the hunger that remains the country.

Impressively, agricultural universities have increased in number and scale recently, however, they need to address many shared challenges. At a conference in February, 2013, Mark Holderness and Ajit Maru of GFAR Secretariat provided information on the implications of the GCARD process and the role of educational institutions in transforming agricultural knowledge systems for greater development impact. The Conference participants developed a Roadmap for transformative change in Indian agricultural education including:

  • Universities must be able to generate new ideas and this requires greater administrative, financial and scientific autonomy and increased investment, beyond that of staff costs.

  • Centres of excellence and more merit-based rewards and quality assurance for research, teaching, extension and entrepreneurship were also proposed on a competitive basis, to increase impacts and active and continuous long –term relationships were recommended to be fostered with external partners, to ensure a flow of new ideas.

  • With increased investment must come effective targeting for greater impact. Increasing investments in some areas will also mean cuts and restructuring in others and some hard choices clearly lie ahead for India.

  • The Brazilian LABEX-like programs of Scientific Exchanges could also usefully be adopted into Indian institutions, as well as greater cooperation with World Bank, US, FAO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CGIAR, GFAR and other International Agencies.

  • There is a strong need for international mentorship programs for education, training and collaborative research and establishing public–private–industry partnerships and internships.

  • It is essential that Universities listen to their customers, the voices of youth, and foster the new skills and opportunities required to make agriculture and rural work exciting and attractive to young people: these include ICTs, molecular biology, entrepreneurship, nutrition and health, social sciences, ecology, food chain value addition and many others.

  • Moreover, gender equity issues have never been more publicly discussed than at present and the Congress flagged the clear need to provide innovative opportunity and mentoring for young women to enter and succeed in agricultural careers.

Oats Get Big Win

Canadian oats are back on top in the Mexican market. After several years as the second or third source of oats in Mexico, 2012 statistics show that Canada is now the number one supplier. This comes following the purchase of Alberta Oats by Grupo Vida, Latin America’s largest oat processor.

Ag and Health Research

The increasing interest in the links between and agriculture and health has led to the development of several new programs. It includes the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH), a new Centre established under a five-year £3.5m grant from The Leverhulme Trust to build a new inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary platform for integrating research in agriculture and health, with a focus on international development goals.

It will be holding its annual conference on 13-14 June 2013 at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) Camden Campus in London.

The conference will focus on methodological and integrative aspects of research in agriculture and health. It will feature the work of researchers in nutrition, economics, anthropology, veterinary science and related fields engaged in agri-health research. It aims to offer the opportunity for exchange of ideas, while providing a space for discussion and initiating new projects across disciplines.

They welcome the submission of research projects that explicitly draw links between agriculture and health from both developing and developed countries and fall into one of the following broad themes:

  • Climate change, food and health

  • Food value chains and health

  • Food-borne diseases and health

  • Agriculture, changing food consumption and health

More information on the call for abstracts can be found on (deadline for submission 28.02.2013)

70 Countries Share 30 Seats for SDG Negotiations

The process is now getting underway to organize the work on Sustainable Development Goals among the member states of the UN. An Open Working Group has been established after months of debate about how it would operate. Originally to be formed in September of 2012, it has taken a further six months to even agree the composition of the group. It is an unwieldy 70 countries sharing just 30 seats. The complications in agreeing the composition underpin the challenges of the coming negotiations, but the fact that so many countries wanted a seat is an indicator of the interest in the topic.

Ultimately, the Sustainable Development Goals process will need to marry with the Post 2015 process by next year. The fact that the Post 2015 process is so much more advanced may mean it takes the lead in describing the UN’s goals. However, it is clear the environmental agenda which was weighted more heavily in the SDG and Rio processes is crossing over to the people-focused development agenda to influence Post 2015 discussions.

The list of member states is below. For we Canadians, it is interesting that we are grouped not only with the USA in a North America regional group, but also Israel – possible outcome of our nation’s vote on Palestine in December. Of course, Iran, Japan, and Nepal is an even more interesting grouping.

Membership of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals

  1. Algeria/Egypt/Morocco/Tunisia

  2. Ghana

  3. Benin

  4. Kenya

  5. United Republic of Tanzania

  6. Congo

  7. Zambia/Zimbabwe

  8. Nauru/Palau/Papua New Guinea

  9. Bhutan/Thailand/Viet Nam

  10. India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka

  11. China/Indonesia/Kazakhstan

  12. Cyprus/Singapore/United Arab Emirates

  13. Bangladesh/Republic of Korea/Saudi Arabia

  14. Iran (Islamic Republic of)/Japan/Nepal

  15. Colombia/Guatemala

  16. Bahamas/Barbados

  17. Guyana/Haiti/Trinidad and Tobago

  18. Mexico/Peru

  19. Brazil/Nicaragua

  20. Argentina/Bolivia (Plurinational State of)/Ecuador

  21. Australia/Netherlands/United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

  22. Canada/Israel/United States of America

  23. Denmark/Ireland/Norway

  24. France/Germany/Switzerland

  25. Italy/Spain/Turkey

  26. Hungary

  27. Belarus/Serbia

  28. Bulgaria/Croatia

  29. Montenegro/Slovenia

  30. Poland/Romania

Agriculture Faces New Scrutiny in Post 2015 Agenda

The High Level Panel chaired by the leaders of Britain, Indonesia, and Liberia released the communiqué from its most recent meetings in Monrovia, February 1. The Panel has been asked by the UN Secretary General to set recommendations on the new global development agenda. Agriculture is being reframed in these discussions in an interesting way.

While in the current Millennium Development Goals, agriculture's role has been focused on the first goal of halving hunger and poverty, the communiqué suggests "it is imperative to change the current pattern of natural resource (both renewable and non-renewable) exploitation". As a primary user of land and water, agriculture is likely to be squarely engaged in this aspect of the emerging discussions. "Changing the current pattern" and "exploitation" are very strong language in UN terms.

Quoting directly from the communiqué:

"Achieving structural transformations through a global development agenda will involve:

Sustainable growth with equity: To foster long-term, sustainable growth and reduce volatility, the global community must promote good governance, invest instable and accountable institutions, fight corruption, ensure the rule of law, and build resilience to shocks in all countries. We recognize the indispensability of economic and social justice, individual choice and opportunity for all. This includes the empowerment of women and girls; investments in young people’s development and expanding social protection schemes; and ensuring universal learning and access to health care -- including sexual and reproductive health.

Creating wealth through sustainable and transparent management of natural resources: It is imperative to change the current pattern of natural resource (both renewable and nonrenewable) exploitation, in order to diversify our economic base and use natural resources sustainably. This must benefit local populations, whilst promoting sustainable development.

Partnerships: Economic transformation will require partnerships with many actors, unified behind a common agenda. It must encourage national and local governments to work with the private sector and civil society to align their efforts behind sustainable development. Interactions between countries and new partnerships through trade, foreign direct investment and cooperation also have huge potential to bring about poverty eradication and prosperity for all. We look forward to discussing these important issues, including the means of implementation, at the fourth meeting of the High Level Panel in Bali, Indonesia."

Support the International Year of Pulses

Join us in the call to have the United Nations declare 2016 as “International Year of Pulses”. Celebrate all the great things pulses do:

  • Pulse crops such as lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas are a critical source of plant-based proteins for people around the globe.

  • The World Food Programme and other food aid initiatives use pulses as an invaluable part of the general food basket.

  • The nitrogen-fixing properties of pulses mean pulses have a smaller carbon footprint than many other crops, making them one of the most environmentally sustainable food choices.

  • Health organizations around the world recommend eating pulses as part of a healthy diet to address obesity, plus prevent and manage non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

An International Year designation provides an opportunity to raise awareness and to celebrate the role of beans, chickpeas, lentils and other pulses in feeding the world. Even more importantly, it can become a galvanizing moment to draw together key actors to further the contributions pulses make to health, nutrition, and sustainability.

Lend your support:

  • Write to the Minister's of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs in your country

  • Write to the Director General of FAO

  • Let us know if you'd like to help organise activities in your country leading up to 2016

  • Contribute to the trust fund for the International Year of Pulses

Visit the CICILS web site to learn more or contact me at

Canada’s Opportunity

Canada has vast opportunities in the current agricultural market. The MacDonald-Laurier Institute issued a challenge to the government of Canada to reform the regulatory system, change the farm support system to foster productivity, adjust disproportionate support to small operations, and secure market access for Canadian agri-food product.

The report “Canadian Agriculture and Food: A Growing Hunger for Change” does an excellent job of explaining just why Canada has so much potential on the global market.

"Canada has both natural and accumulate advantages offering an opportunity to become the premier supplier of agricultural and agri-food products to the world. Canada has the third largest endowment of arable land per capita in the world behind Australia and Kazakhstan. However, Australia’s arable land is of relatively low quality due to poor access to water and Kazakhstan lacks infrastructure. Most of Canada’s competitors have less than half the arable land per capita than we do.

Another advantage for Canada is the quality and health of our soil. Many of the world’s soils have been badly degraded, including much of Asia and Africa where growth in food demand is occurring. These soils have lost quality, productivity, and utility due to erosion, desertifcation, and/or significant use of chemicals instead of organic matter to try to improve productivity. Canada has some of the most stable soils in the world, which constitutes another significant advantage for country.

A final natural advantage for Canada is our access to water. Much of the world faces some degree of fresh water scarcity. Like soil degradation, many of the areas in the world facing sever water water scarcity are also the areas with enormous growth in food demand. Canada is one of the few nations on the earth not to experience water shortages. Canada contains approximately 9 percent of the world’s renewable freshwater supply and our use of renewable water resources (as a percent of total resources) is very low compared to our competitors.

In addition to these natural advantages, Canada also possesses two accumulated advantages. The first is infrastructure. In a comparative sense, it is much easier for Canadians to deliver their products to markets than many of our potential competitors. In addition, Canada maintains a recognized scientific and research-based infrastructure to support the industry. The second accumulated advantage is our long history and experience with the industry. Indeed, agriculture is one of the founding industries of the nation."

With advantages like these, it seems what Canada needs most is the leadership to capture these opportunities. Declining marketshare is an unacceptable outcome.

High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security

Upcoming Topics of the High Level of Panel Experts on Food Security will be:


Biofuels and food security

Constraints to smallholder investments


The role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition;

Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems.

Call for nominations

The High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is to be renewed in 2013, for a 2-year term starting 11 October 2013 and ending at closure of CFS 2015. An open call for nomination of experts runs from 1 December 2012 to 28 February 2013 (3 months).

Nominations can be submitted by all CFS members, participants and stakeholders. All instructions are provided at

Fresh Take on an Old Debate

It has had lots of media attention, but if you haven't had a chance to see it, hear Mark Lynas's remarks regarding modern agriculture. Having looked carefully at the science, global demands, and his own biases, the has reversed his position on GM crops. I particularly note the question about whether he should be against the wheel because it was produced by big multinational automotive companies, just as he was against GM because it was produced by big multinational agricultural companies. It's the kind of analogy that made him think and can make all of us think.

Read Mark's lecture at

UN Committee on World Food Security

CFS 2013

The work priorities for the CFS have been determined for 2013 and focus on four topics:

  1. Policy discussions based on the High Level Panel of Experts’ studies:

    • Constraints on smallholder investment

    • Biofuels

  2. Responsible agricultural investment principles (RAI)

  3. Protracted Crises - Development of an Agenda for Action on food security and nutrition in countries in protracted crises

CFS 2014

In 2014, CFS will hold a session on a ten year retrospective on progress made in implementing the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security. It will also be the target date for the final approval of the Responsible Agricultural Investment principles.

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