COP21: Paris Climate Agreement unlocks opportunities for food and farming

The last two weeks in Paris at the UNFCCC COP were an exciting time, the culmination of many years of protracted negotiations that saw pragmatism and urgency ally to deliver the Paris Agreement. For those involved in agriculture, it may feel like a bittersweet ending. After many COP meetings to the tune of "No Agriculture, No Deal” it may even feel like a lost battle. But it is not. Never before have I seen so many events focused on agriculture, so many people talking about the sector and so much interest in the issue. And the Paris text may not say ‘agriculture’ but there are many entry points and opportunities for engagement laid out in the decisions from Paris. At Emerging we were happy to be able to help colleagues at CCAFS through the two weeks and their analysis of the deal should give you hope! The info note and research highlights key outcomes and next steps for the ag community.

It is time for those who have been part of the long fight to see agriculture recognised and included to look at current tactics and re-evaluate where engagement needs to happen. The next 4 years should be busy as ever!

Eradicating malaria in 25 years could be possible!

Today malaria is one of the deadliest diseases in Africa. While the number of people affected by malaria has been reduced, the disease has not been eliminated. There were still 198 million cases in 2013 alone! What if the continent, the whole world could be free from malaria for good? A study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation states that this goal could be attain in one generation, 25 years, but it will have to be global effort with more involvement from developing countries.

The last 2 decades had been extraordinary in terms of the fight against malaria. Efforts are still to be made though, demanding various and new creative approaches with anti-malaria technology as well as subsequent financial resources. The eradication of malaria is worth all the efforts and history showed that once eradicated from an area, it rarely returns.

To achieve elimination, the mid-term goal might be to see the number of infected in 2015 (600 million) to decrease by half in 5 years. With developing countries investing much more resources on the fight against malaria, the old dynamic where international donors were the mainly source of financing is being replaced by a real collaboration. In that regards, the Gates foundation believes this could be “the best investments that humankind can make”.

Current control methods face important challenges due to mosquito’s and malaria parasite’s resistance to insecticides and available drugs. Researchers are looking at many different strategies and new tools. In that innovation effort, vector control technology is being developed to insure a successful outcome to this global campaign to end Malaria.

This week, Nature Biotech published an article co-written by several researchers including Austin Burt and Tony Nolan of Imperial College London, presenting the most recent advancement on a potential new vector control technology through genetics. For the first time, malaria mosquitoes have been modified to be infertile and pass on the trait rapidly – raising the possibility of reducing the spread of disease.

This team of researchers led by Imperial College London has genetically modified Anopheles gambiae (which is the major carrier of malaria parasites in sub-Saharan Africa) so that they carry a modified gene disrupting egg production in female mosquitoes. They used a technology called ‘gene drive’ to ensure the gene is passed down at an accelerated rate to offspring, spreading the gene through a population over time. Within a few years, the spread could drastically reduce or eliminate local populations of the malaria-carrying mosquito species.

Their findings represent an important step forward in the ability to develop novel methods of vector control. “As with any new technology, there are many more steps we will go through to test and ensure the safety of the approach we are pursuing. It will be at least 10 more years before gene drive malaria mosquitos could be a working intervention,” added Professor Austin Burt from Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences.

Many current measures to control malaria rely on reducing populations of malaria mosquitoes, such as insecticides and bed nets. These have proven very successful in reducing the spread of malaria, however these approaches face important costs and distribution challenges, as well as growing issues of resistance. A control measure relying on genetic spread through a targeted population of malaria mosquitoes could complement these interventions without adding dramatically to the health budget of resource-constrained countries.

Farming First Resources highlighting Youth in Agriculture

Farming First is producing a great series of resources, including multiple factsheets. We love the facts on youth:

  • The world’s population is young, with nearly 2.2 billion people under the age of 18. 85% of these youth are living in developing countries, with the majority in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa, South-Central and South-East Asia, and Oceania. Source: FAO IFAD

  • Children are particularly sensitive to the impact of climate change, which directly affects their health. In Ethiopia and Kenya, two of the world’s most drought-prone countries, children aged five or under are respectively 36% and 50% more likely to be malnourished if they were born during a drought. Source: UNICEF

  • Undernutrition is a major risk co-factor for disease and contributes to a large burden of illness, especially amongst children. For every 10% increase in stunting, the proportion of children reaching the final grade of school dropped by almost 8%. At the same time, each year of schooling increases wages earned by almost 10%. Children who have been severely undernourished in early childhood suffer a later reduction in IQ by as many as 15 points, significantly affecting their schooling achievement. Source: UNSCN

  • Rural youth continue to suffer from disproportionately high levels of unemployment, underemployment and poverty. In 2012, close to 75 million young people worldwide were out of work. This resulted in a global youth unemployment rate almost three times the corresponding rate for adults. Furthermore, among those young people who were working, over 200 million were earning less than $2 USD per day. In Africa, the proportion of working youth earning less than $2USD per day is over 70%, many of whom were living in the continent’s economically stagnant rural areas. Source: CTA

  • Global population is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, with youth (aged 15–24) accounting for about 14% of this total. While the world’s youth cohort is expected to grow, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for youth – particularly those living in developing countries’ economically stagnant rural areas – remain limited, poorly remunerated and of poor quality. Source: FAO

  • Up to 70% of the youth in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia live in rural areas. Over half of the youth in the labour force engage in agriculture. Source: ILO

Learn more on the Farming First website.

CCAFS at COP21: Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security

With the CGIAR system facing ridiculous cutbacks, and climate change looming large, there couldn’t be a more important time to focus on the great work of the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security Research Program led by Bruce Campbell.
What will the Paris climate talks deliver for food and farming? It's a critical question, as the climate change agreement in Paris is not likely to address agriculture explicitly. Yet a new agreement can open the door to action on food security and agriculture. We are optimistic and see several ways forward beyond Paris. Read more in our brief analysis of Progress on Agriculture under the UN Climate Talks.

The good news is that countries are leading the way by including action on agriculture in their Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDCs). Our new analysis finds a vast majority of country-level climate plans prioritise agriculture, despite sector’s slow progress at UN negotiations. Read the press release and download the brief.

We're also optimistic about some of the initiatives that will be launched under the Lima-Paris Action Agenda on 1 December (Agriculture Action Day) including the 4/1000 initiative to restore soils and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Other key events at COP21 include Farmers Day  (2 December) and the Global Landscapes Forum (5-6 December). See the full list below. If you're not in Paris you can follow our blogTwitterLinkedIn or Facebook for updates. We look forward to good discussions so we can work together on implementing sustainable solutions.


Bruce Campbell
CCAFS Program Director

Jamie Oliver - TED Talk on Obesity and Food

I grew up with very little processed foods, not because my family is keen on healthy eating but because processed foods were simply not available yet. After moving to Canada from Russia, cooking from scratch was simply part of our lives.  Being immigrants we also found that cooking from scratch is often cheaper, not just healthier, than eating prepared and processed foods.  Because of this, I always knew my fruits and vegetables and what they look like.  This knowledge to me has always been “common sense”, that is until I came across an astonishing TED Talk video.

In this video, Chef Jamie Oliver talks in general about Obesity and Food, but there is one clip that really struck a nerve. At about 11 minutes and 15 seconds Chef Jamie Oliver speaks to a classroom of kids and shows how little our young North American generation knows what raw food looks like.  If you have the time please do spend 20 minutes and watch the full video as I found it quite informative, however if you only have a few seconds please start at 11 minutes and 15 seconds to watch the school clip.  I think you will be just as surprised by it as I was.  This video truly brings to light the importance of educating our young minds and teaching them about the importance of healthy eating, which I believe starts with the basic knowledge of the foods they eat, or at least should be eating.  Let us take the opportunity provided by the International Year of Pulses and teach our kids about the nutritional and health value that pulses offer us.

Watch the video here. 

COP21: It's Time to Eat for the Planet

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post Green.

With the world's leaders gathering in Paris to discuss how collective efforts can ensure that global warming does not rise above two degrees, farmers face the double challenge of how to feed a booming global population set to reach 9bn, while delivering a more sustainable agricultural system.

Though it may not always be prominent in the COP21 discussions, the critical role played by agriculture in many economies -- in terms of food security, economic opportunity and poverty reduction -- means agriculture is a key component of many national strategies for adaptation and mitigation.

The importance of COP21 to sustainable agriculture will be huge. Not least, because in developing countries, it will be small-scale farmers and farming families, who will be on the frontline battling rising temperatures, frequent droughts and food supply shortages across the globe triggered by climate change.

Faced with the complexities of climate change, science and politics, it is all too easy to turn away and carry on regardless -- especially, if you are lucky enough to live in the richer, developed world.

So, how can each of us tackle climate change?

My suggestion is review your diet. It's time to eat for the planet. What we eat sends a signal to the supply chain and helps create a more sustainable and healthier future for the world's people and the planet.

One food source which bridges being both healthy for people and the planet arepulses. These are likely to come to the fore with Government, policy makers and consumers next year.

The UN has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP) because 'Pulses are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions and cancer'.

The UN also notes pulses, such as chickpeas, peas, beans and lentils, have nitrogen-fixing properties which can contribute to increasing soil fertility and have a positive impact on the environment'.

Pulses have a number of other environmental positives: they use less water than other protein sources, less fertilizer and have a low carbon footprint. New more resilient strains of pulse seed, like the white gold bean, which has been so successful in Ethiopia, have been developed to help farmers fight the impact of climate change.

Strategically, they are important to food security and nutrition agenda. Professor Mywish Maredia of Michigan State University has argued that pulses are "uniquely positioned" as a commodity group to tackle the many competing challenges facing the developing world, including adequate nutrition and health and also addressing environmental resource constraints and access issues.

In a world where 800m people are malnourished, pulses are nutrition dense and affordable foods, which are already part of many governments' food nutrition and security policies.

Unfortunately, despite their many widely acknowledged nutritional and environmental benefits of pulses, global consumption and production is not as high as it might be. Solving one of these things part is in the gift of each of us. So, if you want to play a (small) part in the Paris Convention, try eating your pulses, starting perhaps with the typically French Puy lentils in solidarity with France.

More recipes:

An Englishman in New York for the International Year of Pulses 2016

Milan Shah, Huseyin Arslan, Cindy Brown, Gordon Bacon, Andrew Jacobs, Tim McGreevy, Katia Sambin and I had the opportunity to represent the Global Pulse Confederation, along with a great contingent of pulse farmers during a week of exciting events to launch the International Year of Pulses in North America.

Please read Milan’s excellent post on the experiences of an Englishman in New York.

Fresh start with Emerging Ag

My first month with Emerging has gone by in the blink of an eye. Freshly out of grad school, I can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of such a global, high impact, and efficient company. I began my journey with Emerging in Rome for CFS 2015. There I got to meet face to face with the Emerging team. This experience has helped improve my communications with everyone since returning home. The team has been more than helpful with my onboarding process. While not my first time in a virtual office, it is a new experience in the sense this is a small global office. I like the fact that with a smaller team comes a more personal element to my work and because we have co-workers all over the globe it removes the typical 9-5 work day. This supports productivity, because generally, we have someone online around the clock. The amount of flexibility I have in where I live, and (within reason) when I start my day is a freeing experience.

Not having grown up in an agricultural family, it is fascinating to learn what goes into our food, both locally and globally. Attending CFS, I learned how dedicated both the private and public sector are to finding solutions to issues like climate change, food security, poverty, sustainability and more. It was great to see the private and public sector collaborating to develop innovative solutions to many of the problems we face today. I feel like I am just beginning to grasp how large the projects we work on are. These projects and the clients we work with have the potential to truly help people and positively impact the world. It is inspiring to work with a group full of passionate, hardworking, individuals. I look forward to meeting all of our clients and learning more about my co-workers.

Scaling Up Sustainability Collaboration

This September, world leaders committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) in an effort to make the necessary changes to achieve a more sustainable future. More than ever, collaboration between the public and private sectors is needed to meet these important goals. As such, organizations must increase their efforts for sustainability and find innovative ways to collaborate both with other private organizations and with the public sector.

The report Scaling Up Sustainability Collaboration: Contributions of Business Associations and Sector Initiatives to Sustainable Development, was published both by the UN Global Compact and the International Chamber of Commerce, and it outlines various industry associations and how they are aiding member organizations to integrate sustainability into their business practices. Through collaboration, new and remarkable networks have been created that provide industry specific expertise for those involved in the network. This method of information sharing has led to the development of industry standards and fostered new relationships. Below are examples of important contributions made through the IAFN/PSM.

Global Salmon Initiative (PSM Member) Page 73.

With the global demand for protein is expected to increase 70% by 2050, salmon is going to play an important role in meeting this drastic increase in demand. In 2013, the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) was launched in an effort to put aside competition and reach the common goal for a more sustainable industry. The mission of the GSI members is to make significant progress towards providing a highly sustainable source of healthy protein to feed a growing population, while minimizing the environmental footprint, and increasing positive social contribution. The GSI has three key principles: (1) sustainability, (2) transparency and (3) cooperation. The GSI is comprised of 17 salmon farming companies that account for about 70% of the global industry and member companies operate globally.

The GSI focuses on improving the industry’s reputation by ensuring greater industry transparency across all members and all regions. GSI is currently establishing a series of sustainability indicators that will support global industry reporting. Next, the group plans to launch an online reporting platform in 2015 which openly shows the environmental and social performance of all the GSI members

International Agri-Food Network (IAFN) Page 75

In 1996, the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN) was created as an informal coalition of international trade associations involved in the agri-food sector at the global level. Thousands of IAFN members are international companies and hundreds of national associations. Those national associations in turn represent tens of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises, thousands of cooperatives and millions of farmers. The associations encompassing the network have members in 135 of the 193 countries in the United Nations. The main goal of the IAFN is to define and deliver the private sector’s commitment to addressing global poverty and food security. The network facilitates connections and coordination among member organizations and engages international organizations in the agri-food chain at a global level.

The IAFN focuses on playing the role of a negotiator between companies and associations and UN bodies to find ways to operationalize resolution documents. The IAFN does a number of activities that IAFN members are involved in to promote sustainable development.

International Fertilizer Industry Association (IAFN Member) Page 77.

The International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) has 560 members. These members are involved throughout the fertilizer value chain. Over half of IFA’s members are based in emerging and developing economies. It is IFA’s vision that fertilizers will play a critical role in achieving global food security and sustainable development. They plan on achieving this through the efficient production, distribution and use of these plant nutrients.

These three organizations above illustrate the extensive efforts that are being made towards the SDGs. There needs to be an amalgamation of our traditional thought patterns with new and innovative philosophies if we want to achieve the 2030 SDGs. For more information on any of the projects or organizations listed above click here.

Aztec Oats Recipes

avena barrasDespite the enormous progress that Mexico has generally experienced in recent years, malnutrition and childhood obesity are still a worrying problem. In the age group of 5 to 14 years, chronic malnutrition is 7.25% in urban populations, while the number double in rural areas. On the other hand, childhood obesity has increased dramatically in recent years. Currently, Mexico ranks first  in childhood obesity worldwide, and second in obesity in adults, preceded only by the United States.

The Mexican Government and food companies have been working on social campaigns to fight obesity. As a result, the market for oats has been growing as consumers recognize the dietary benefits of whole grains. Emerging Ag is helping POGA, since 2012, to promote the nutritional benefits of oats in the Aztec country.

Last year, POGA launched an online advertising campaign that has obtained success among Mexican consumers. While the website receives a daily average of 700 unique visitors, the Facebook Fan Page has over 31,200 followers.

Although oats are not a traditional staple food in Mexico, there are many ways in which they can be incorporated into their diets. Being a Mexican, I have been commissioned with the fun task of creating these recipes. Enchiladas with tortillas made with oats, Atole and horchata with oats, and many more. Have a look at the Mexican recipes featuring oats here. More creative recipes will come soon. Oats porridge with cotija cheese and jalapeño toppings? Everything is possible, so stay tuned.