To mobilize agriculture against climate change, leave no pulse behind

On May 16-26, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will host the Bonn Climate Change Conference. In the wake of the December signing of the Paris Agreement, the event will focus on implementation of this landmark pact through the First session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement. At the same time, this venue will also advance long-running processes such as the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which will hold its forty-fourth session.  So the Bonn conference represents both new and long-term international collaboration to tackle global climate change.

In their reflections note for this event, the outgoing and incoming Conference of the Parties presidents state that “No issue has been left behind.” Indeed, agriculture, which has struggled at times for visibility in the UNFCCC negotiations, will be featured through two SBSTA sessions at the Bonn conference focused on adaptation measures and enhancement of productivity. These sessions will offer a venue for governments and others to explore this sector’s role in the climate response, including the agriculture-related strategies put forth in 80% of the submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.

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A CGIAR guide to Climate-Smart Agriculture

An online guide to climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has been created by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Contributions to the site came from experts at the World Bank, CGIAR and many other institutions on these issues. The site covers the basics, such as what is CSA and why it is important, and offers detailed guidance on CSA planning, finance, and case studies from around the world. The site offers many access points for those who are interested in specific practices, systems approaches or policies. This guide should come in handy ahead of the agriculture workshops that will be held on May 21 and 23rd during the next meeting of the UN Climate Change convention in Bonn, Germany.

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

Semana Nacional de la Nutricion 2016-1Since 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.

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World Malaria Day: End Malaria for Good!

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.

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Investing in Nutrition

Global action is urgently needed to tackle the pervasive problem of malnutrition. For too long, it has been underfunded – receiving just $3.9 billion annually in global funding. Reaching the targets to reduce stunting among children and anemia in women, increase exclusive breastfeeding rates, and mitigate the impact of wasting will require an average annual investment of $7 billion over the next 10 years.

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!

Getting Oat Innovation on the Agenda

Oats – they are a grain that evokes comfort, home, and a hearty healthiness. Whether oatmeal cookies, oatmeal, or an amazing addition to savoury dishes, there is something about oats that evokes fond memories for me. Plus it is a reminder of Canada’s productive farming capacity. Canada produces the most oats and is responsible for half the world’s exports of oats.

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.

A Decade for Nutrition: What is the global starting point?

On April 1st, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition from 2016 to 2025. This document aims to support the battle against hunger and all forms of malnutrition in the Agenda 2030. This time the goals intend to leave no one behind, unlike their predecessors Millennium Development Goals that aimed to halve the percentage of people living with hunger. A target which was met.

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.

World Health Day: Beat Diabetes!

Every year, the World Health Organization selects a priority area of global public health concern as the theme for World Health Day, which falls on 7 April, the birthday of the Organization. This year’s theme is diabetes, a noncommunicable disease (NCD) directly impacting millions of people of worldwide, generally in low- and middle-income countries.

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 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

SEED Awards

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.

Selected by an independent jury of international experts, winners will receive their awards at the International Awards Ceremony during the SEED Africa Symposium to be held on 28 29 September 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Winning enterprises will receive a tailor-made business support package. Over a period of 6 months, they will be offered expert advice on further developing their business plans, individual workshops targeted at their needs, high level profiling of their enterprises and access to an international network of businesses, governments and development institutions.

Seeing Agriculture as a Whole

Agricultural priorities have long included productivity and leading minds are focusing on the ways it can contribute to furthering human health, supporting ecosystems, and addressing climate change. The Farming First team have put together a great interview with Dr. Monkombu Swaminathan who, together with Dr. Norman Borlaug, helped found the spearhead the Green Revolution. His observations explain that agricultural research can never stand still. The first Green Revolution helped feed billions, and the continued progress of this research needs to include additional dimensions to continuously improve agriculture.

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.