Get Excited

Farm Credit Canada is championing a new initiative called “Agriculture. More Than Ever.” This program includes a number of activities aimed at improving the awareness and perception of agriculture. Phase 1 of the initiative is targeted at the agricultural industry - as stakeholders in our own large and growing industry, we have an opportunity do our part to enhance our image and reputation. Phase 2 will expand the message and take it to the general public.

The Agriculture More Than Ever initiative asks people to “Tell their story” and share their experiences. Kim McConnell, founder of AdFarm and one of this year’s inductees into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, shares his thoughts on why agriculture is worth getting excited about. Part of the message is jobs, jobs, jobs:

Food is Our Common Ground: Diets, Land Use and Emissions

Food and emissions make for complex choices. Please see the latest article from Sonja Vermeulen of CCAFS (part of the CGIAR system) that illustrates the challenges and the fact that there is more than one response around the world:

One inconvenient truth about food and climate change is that total emissions from agriculture must increase to feed growing populations with changing dietary demands. Indeed, the widely cited estimate from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) that we will need 70% more food by 2050 (PDF) has recently been revised upwards to 100% +/- 11%. A more detailed picture of the future size and shape of this food demand emerges in Global changes in diets and the consequences for land requirements for food, by Thomas Kastner, Maria Jose Ibarrola Rivas, Wolfgang Koch and Sanderine Nonhebel, a recent article that presents historical FAO datasets in a new format.

Kastner and co-authors’ innovation is to calculate and show how our total calorie consumption is divided among different types of food, and then how much land is required for each of these food types, both for the world as a whole and for each of 17 major geographic regions. The consumption data alone provide a fascinating portrait of global nutritional diversity. Did you know, for instance, that Central Africans are the world-record root-eaters, and Southern Europeans the world-record fruit-eaters.

The analysis busts the myth that diets are rapidly becoming richer across all developing countries, moving towards a static, Western endpoint. The reality is that developing regions vary widely in their trajectories – most sobering is the marked decline in average calorific intake across “Middle Africa” over the past half century. Plus Western diets are in flux. For example, North American calorie consumption has increased markedly since 1961, mainly due to rising use of sugars and vegetable fats rather than of animal products, which have remained constant at about 1000 calories per capita.

Extrapolating from consumption to land use provides further insights. Particularly interesting is that between 1963 and 1984, expansions in land requirements for crops were largely associated with population growth, and for many regions were compensated by land savings due to improving technology. After 1984 a greater proportion of agricultural expansion was associated with changes in diets, and technology was less successful as a buffer.

What of the future? The authors caution that feeding nine billion people at the levels of consumption found in North America, Oceania and Europe will require a doubling of current cropland, and further that technology-based land savings are usually based on much higher inputs of fossil fuels, fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation infrastructure. Also, the study under-represents the true extent of land and resource use for human food production, as the FAO data do not include pastureland for grass-fed livestock, nor fisheries.

In short, unless there are severe curbs on high-end food consumption (along the lines of permanent wartime rations), food-related emissions will rise, through a combination of land conversion and more input-intensive farming. But the good news is our impressive capacity for adaptation: as the authors’ analyses show, human diets are not on a one-way demand-driven path, but instead are surprisingly flexible over time, influenced by what’s most available and affordable locally and through trade.

Female Face of Farming

Back in March, Farming First launched its infographic on the female face of farming. Since then it has attracted a lot of attention to the fact that women represent 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries and account for an estimated two-thirds of the world's 600 million poor livestock keepers. Despite this, their access to productive resources is limited. In many societies, laws, tradition and access bar women from owning and inheriting land. Moreover, where women hold land, their plots are generally smaller, of an inferior quality, and with less secure rights than those held by men.

In the first week of its launch, the infographic had a twitter reach of 1,429,731 and there were 40 pieces of media coverage, including the Guardian and the New Agriculturalist. And people are really exploring the facts. The average visit time on the page was 4 minutes and 18 seconds. We love that you love it!

Visit to learn more. It is tweetable and embeddable.

Farming First - Women in Agriculture


My thoughts on the state of the negotiations concerning agriculture at the UN Conference of Sustainable Development were picked up at AlertNet, the Thomson Reuters Foundation news service:

From Pledges to Progress: G8 Leaders Must Take Action Now

On the eve of the G8 summit, G8 and African leaders met to discuss new commitments on food security and the opportunity and benefits of private sector investment in African agriculture and food sectors. With the likes of President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Presidents of Tanzania and Ghana, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, corporate leaders and agricultural organizations all in attendance, the message is abundantly clear. Groups from farmers to development agencies have made it clear: If we don't act soon, the situation will worsen and not only from climate change and political instability, but from economic factors such as rising food prices and unemployment.

Read the full story on the Huffington Post:

Feeding Leadership

Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia have been leaders on food security and their leadership is paying off with more support. It is great to see a focus on countries that are committed to investing in their agricultural sectors and that agriculture remains at the top of the G8 political agenda.

Please see President Obama’s remarks today:


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release, May 18, 2012



Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C., 10:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you. Well, good morning, everybody. Thank you, Catherine Bertini, and Dan Glickman and everyone at the Chicago Council. We were originally going to convene, along with the G8, in Chicago. But since we’re not doing this in my hometown, I wanted to bring a little bit of Chicago to Washington. (Laughter.) It is wonderful to see all of you. It is great to see quite a few young people here as well. And I want to acknowledge a good friend. We were just talking backstage -- he was my inspiration for singing at the Apollo -- (laughter) -- Bono is here, and it is good to see him. (Applause.)

Now, this weekend at the G8, we’ll be represented by many of the world's largest economies. We face urgent challenges -- creating jobs, addressing the situation in the eurozone, sustaining the global economic recovery. But even as we deal with these issues, I felt it was also important, also critical to focus on the urgent challenge that confronts some 1 billion men, women and children around the world -- the injustice of chronic hunger; the need for long-term food security.

So tomorrow at the G8, we’re going to devote a special session to this challenge. We’re launching a major new partnership to reduce hunger and lift tens of millions of people from poverty. And we’ll be joined by leaders from across Africa, including the first three nations to undertake this effort and who join us here today -- I want to acknowledge them: Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia -- (applause) -- President Mills of Ghana -- (applause) -- and President Kikwete of Tanzania. (Applause.) Welcome.

I also want to acknowledge President Yayi of Benin, chair of the African Union -- (applause) -- which has shown great leadership in this cause. And two of our leaders in this effort -- USAID Administrator -- every time I meet him, I realize that I was an underachiever in my 30s -- (laughter) -- Dr. Raj Shah is here. (Applause.) And the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Daniel Yohannes. (Applause.)

Now, this partnership is possible because so many leaders in Africa and around the world have made food security a priority. And that’s why, shortly after I took office, I called for the international community to do its part. And at the G8 meeting three years ago in L’Aquila, in Italy, that's exactly what we did -- mobilizing more than $22 billion for a global food security initiative.

After decades in which agriculture and nutrition didn’t always get the attention they deserved, we put the fight against global hunger where it should be, which is at the forefront of global development. And this reflected the new approach to development that I called for when I visited Ghana, hosted by President Mills, and that I unveiled at the last summit on the Millennium Development goals.

It’s rooted in our conviction that true development involves not only delivering aid, but also promoting economic growth -- broad-based, inclusive growth that actually helps nations develop and lifts people out of poverty. The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient.

You see our new approach in our promotion of trade and investment, of building on the outstanding work of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. You see it in the global partnership to promote open government, which empowers citizens and helps to fuel development, creates the framework, the foundation for economic growth.

You see it in the international effort we’re leading against corruption, including greater transparency so taxpayers receive every dollar they’re due from the extraction of natural resources. You see it in our Global Health Initiative, which instead of just delivering medicine is also helping to build a stronger health system, delivering better care and saving lives.

And you see our new approach in our food security initiative, Feed the Future. Instead of simply handing out food, we’ve partnered with countries in pursuit of ambitious goals: better nutrition to prevent the stunting and the death of millions of children, and raising the incomes of millions of people, most of them farmers. The good news is we’re on track to meet our goals.

As President, I consider this a moral imperative. As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others.

So we take pride in the fact that, because of smart investments in nutrition and agriculture and safety nets, millions of people in Kenya and Ethiopia did not need emergency aid in the recent drought.

But when tens of thousands of children die from the agony of starvation, as in Somalia, that sends us a message we’ve still got a lot of work to do. It’s unacceptable. It’s an outrage. It’s an affront to who we are.

So food security is a moral imperative, but it’s also an economic imperative. History teaches us that one of the most effective ways to pull people and entire nations out of poverty is to invest in their agriculture. And as we’ve seen from Latin America to Africa to Asia, a growing middle class also means growing markets, including more customers for American exports that support American jobs. So we have a self interest in this.

It's a moral imperative, it's an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative. For we’ve seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty, which, in turn, can spark riots that cost lives, and can lead to instability. And this danger will only grow if a surging global population isn’t matched by surging food production. So reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security -- and that includes the national security of the United States.

And perhaps nowhere do we see this link more vividly than in Africa. On the one hand, we see Africa as an emerging market. African economies are some of the fastest growing in the world. We see a surge in foreign investment. We see a growing middle class; hundreds of millions of people connected by mobile phones; more young Africans online than ever before. There's hope and some optimism. And all of this has yielded impressive progress -- for the first time ever, a decline in extreme poverty in Africa; an increase in crop yields; a dramatic drop in child deaths. That's the good news, and in part it's due to some of the work of the people in this room.

On the other hand, we see an Africa that still faces huge hurdles: stark inequalities; most Africans still living on less than $2 a day; climate change that increases the risk of drought and famine. All of which perpetuates stubborn barriers in agriculture, in the agricultural sector -- from bottlenecks in infrastructure that prevent food from getting to market, to the lack of credit, especially for small farmers, most of whom are women.

I’ve spoken before about relatives I have in Kenya, who live in villages where hunger is sometimes a reality -- despite the fact that African farmers can be some of the hardest-working people on Earth. Most of the world’s unused arable land is in Africa. Fifty years ago, Africa was an exporter of food. There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again. There is no reason for that. (Applause.)

So that’s why we’re here. In Africa and around the world, progress isn’t coming fast enough. And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it's got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector. So even as the world responds with food aid in a crisis -- as we’ve done in the Horn of Africa -- communities can’t go back just to the way things were, vulnerable as before, waiting for the next crisis to happen. Development has to be sustainable, and as an international community, we have to do better.

So here at the G8, we’re going to build on the progress we've made so far. Today, I can announce a new global effort we're calling a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. And to get the job done we’re bringing together all the key players around a shared commitment. Let me describe it.

Governments, like those in Africa, that are committed to agricultural development and food security, they agree to take the lead -- building on their own plans by making tough reforms and attracting investment. Donor countries -- including G8 members and international organizations -- agree to more closely align our assistance with these country plans. And the private sector -- from large multinationals to small African cooperatives, your NGOs and civil society groups -- agree to make concrete and continuing commitments as well, so that there is an alignment between all these sectors.

Now, I know some have asked, in a time of austerity, whether this New Alliance is just a way for governments to shift the burden onto somebody else. I want to be clear: The answer is no. As President, I can assure you that the United States will continue to meet our responsibilities, so that even in these tough fiscal times, we will continue to make historic investments in development. And, by the way, we're going to be working to end hunger right here in the United States as well. (Applause.) That will continue to be a priority.

We’ll continue to be the leader in times of crisis, as we’ve done as the single largest donor of aid in the Horn of Africa, and as we focus on the drought in the Sahel. That's why I’ve proposed to continue increasing funds for food security. (Applause.) So I want to be clear: The United States will remain a global leader in development in partnership with you. And we will continue to make available food -- or emergency aid. That will not change. But what we do want to partner with you on is a strategy so that emergency aid becomes less and less relevant as a consequence of greater and greater sustainability within these own countries.

That's how development is supposed to work. That's what I mean by a new approach that challenges more nations, more organizations, more companies, more NGOs, challenges individuals -- some of the young people who are here -- to step up and play a role -- because government cannot and should not do this alone. This has to be all hands on deck.

And that’s the essence of this New Alliance. So G8 nations will pledge to honor the commitments we made in L’Aquila. We must do what we say; no empty promises. And at the same time, we’ll deliver the assistance to launch this new effort. Moreover, we’re committing to replenish the very successful Global Agricultural and Food Security Program. (Applause.) That's an important part of this overall effort.

Next, we’re going to mobilize more private capital. Today, I can announce that 45 companies -- from major international corporations to African companies and cooperatives -- have pledged to invest more than $3 billion to kick off this effort. (Applause.) And we’re also going to fast-track new agricultural projects so they reach those in need even quicker.

Third, we’re going to speed up the development and delivery of innovation -- better seeds, better storage -- that unleash huge leaps in food production. And we’re going to tap that mobile phone revolution in Africa so that more data on agriculture -- whether it’s satellite imagery or weather forecasts or market prices -- are put in the hands of farmers so they know where to plant and when to plant and when to sell.

Fourth, we’re joining with the World Bank and other partners to better understand and manage the risks that come with changing food prices and a changing climate -- because a change in prices or a single bad season should not plunge a family, a community or a region into crisis.

And finally, we’re going to keep focusing on nutrition, especially for young children, because we know the effects of poor nutrition can last a lifetime -- it’s harder to learn, it’s harder to earn a living. When there is good nutrition, especially in those thousand days during pregnancy up to the child’s second birthday, it means healthier lives for that child and that mother. And it’s the smart thing to do because better nutrition means lower health care costs and it means less need for assistance later on.

That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to sustain the commitments we made three years ago, and we’re going to speed things up. And we’re starting with these three countries -- Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia -- precisely because of their record in improving agriculture and food security.

But this is just the beginning. In the coming months, we’ll expand to six countries. We’ll welcome other countries that are committed to making tough reforms. We’ll welcome more companies that are willing to invest. We’re going to hold ourselves accountable; we’ll measure results. And we’ll stay focused on clear goals: boosting farmers’ incomes, and over the next decade, helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty. (Applause.)

And I know there are going to be skeptics -- there always are. We see heartbreaking images -- fields turned to dust, babies with distended bellies -- and we say it’s hopeless, and some places are condemned to perpetual poverty and hunger. But the people in this room disagree. I think most of the American people disagree. Anyone who claims great change is impossible, I say look at the extraordinary successes in development.

Look at the Green Revolution, which pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. (Applause.) Look at microfinance, which has empowered so many rural poor -- something my mother was involved with. Look at the huge expansion of education, especially for girls. Look at the progress we’ve made with vaccines -- from smallpox to measles to pneumonia to diarrhea -- which have saved the lives of hundreds of millions. And of course, look at the global fight against HIV/AIDS, which has brought us to the point where we can imagine what was once unthinkable -- and that is the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation. (Applause.)

Moreover, we are already making progress in this area right now. In Rwanda, farmers are selling more coffee and lifting their families out of poverty. In Haiti, some farmers have more than doubled their yields. In Bangladesh, in the poorest region, they’ve had their first-ever surplus of rice. There are millions of farmers and families whose lives are being transformed right now because of some of the strategies that we’re talking about. And that includes a farmer in Ethiopia who got a new loan, increased production, hired more workers. And he said, “This salary changed my life. My kids can now go to school.”

And we start getting the wheel turning in the direction of progress. We can do this. We’re already doing it. We just need to bring it all together. We can unleash the change that reduces hunger and malnutrition. We can spark the kind of economic growth that lifts people and nations out of poverty. This is the new commitment that we’re making. And I pledge to you today that this will remain a priority as long as I am United States President. Thank very much. (Applause.) God bless you. Thank you. God bless America.

Will Agriculture Make it in Rio+20?

UN negotiations are always complex, but Rio+20 has an unusually complicated agenda. Sustainable development by its nature is broad, combining social, economic, and environmental dimensions.

The negotiating text covers the concept of the Green Economy, which is by no means an accepted term, and has met with strong G77 criticism for its lack of focus on poverty eradication and related social issues. Attempts to agree on the "institutional framework" for sustainable development at the UN, including the upgrading of the United Nations Environment Program to a UN agency, are not only divisive between Europe and North America but have also forced a split within the G77.

The last negotiating round of this two-year process began with a text of 278 pages covering many thematic areas including: oceans, land degradation, energy, sustainable cities and food security. By April 27th negotiations dropped the text to 157 pages but it is now over 171. Of 401 clauses, only 21 are agreed and most of those are titles.

The food security section has grown to include agriculture (thankfully) but has no agreed paragraphs - not even the title. Key clauses recognising the particular needs of rural communities, specifically: women; the importance of agricultural research and extension; livestock and fisheries are likely to survive. Unfortunately a key paragraph on the needs of smallholders (NCST 64 quat) such as credit, grain storage, and water harvesting is now loaded with trade and other contentious issues that were added during a complex evening of negotiations. Only the revised chairman's text, expected before the May 29 negotiations, can hope to save it.

Added to that are a variety of difficult issues, from the amount of overseas development assistance to technology transfer, from reproductive rights to "occupied territories" (which in UN-speak is one way of raising the Palestine question). There are a lot of trip wires in the current text.

So can an agriculture section survive? If the thorny issues of trade and price volatility are managed or dropped, there are likely some areas where agreement can be reached on agriculture text. The question then becomes: do those items in specific areas like agriculture, transportation, and land degradation form the basis of a practical, though not particularly ambitious outcome? Or do all of the areas of implementation get dropped in favour of a political declaration focused on sustainable development goals? Let's hope those are the options and failure is not.

Closing the Gap

It was very disappointing that the Commission on Status of Women failed to deliver an outcomes document on rural women. Female farmers could feed another 150 million people if the gap was closed in access to productive resources. It is put simply by FAO in this video:

Next Committee on Food Security Meeting

October 15-20, 2012 | Rome, Italy


Call for Private Sector Delegates

The International Agri-Food Network is looking for high level representatives of the private sector (including farmers) who can participate in the Committee on World Food Security meeting. In particular, nominations are needed for private sector experts in the areas of:

    • Responsible agricultural investment
    • Global Strategic Framework
    • Land tenure

Submit nominations to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by September 1, 2012.

International Year of Family Farming

Get ready to celebrate the family farm! 2014 will be the International Year of Family Farming. It is a great chance to leverage national, international, farmer, and corporate events to mark the importance of the family farm to global food security. Start thinking about your plans and I welcome any contacts with ideas about planned events that can become part of the global campaign.

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