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Editorial (March 2010)

Rehabilitating vital infrastructure will be essential part of Haiti's agricultural redevelopment. (©FAO/Dick Trenchard)
Rehabilitating vital infrastructure will be essential part of Haiti's agricultural redevelopment.
©FAO/Dick Trenchard

With Chile still reeling from the impact and aftershocks of the severest earthquake worldwide in a century. Over two million Chileans have been affected, with many in urgent need of shelter and aid. Others too will feel its effects: the 8.8 magnitude quake has destroyed much of Chile's central valley - the heart of its agricultural area and home to many of its exports. With many crops being or about to be harvested, losses to the wine industry alone could total US$300 million. Consumers of Chilean exports will likely face shortages and higher prices.

In Haiti, six weeks on from the quake there, farmers are entering the planting season - many now without vital implements and seed. However, in Developments, we report on some of the efforts being made to help rehabilitate the agricultural sector for the short, as well as the longer-term: much will depend on raising additional funding for the redevelopment required.

In this edition, our lead book review of Nature's matrix reflects points raised in our Focus on agricultural biodiversity, as well as perspective by Camilla Toulmin of the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED); she asks what was learnt about the fragility of our food systems as a result of the 2008 food crisis, and challenges the global agricultural sector to produce sufficient food in a sustainable manner to feed the world's growing population.

Reaching farmers with appropriate information and access to technologies and inputs, or 'last mile delivery' as it is known, is a challenge for researchers, development practitioners and the private sector. All have the same aim of wanting to support farmers to raise their agricultural productivity; but with so many farmers, and with a multitude of needs, how do we bridge the gap? A range of opinions is presented in Points of view. And an example of how LMD is being achieved in India, is presented in developments and in Reaching the unreached, another review in Books.

Freezing temperatures have killed 2.7 million livestock and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of herding families in Mongolia (Sabine Schmidt)
Freezing temperatures have killed 2.7 million livestock and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of herding families in Mongolia
Sabine Schmidt

News covers the impact of the harsh winter in Mongolia, pests and diseases threatening cassava in Asia, new guidelines for management of animal genetic resources, and innovations for insuring the poor. The importance of livestock is highlighted in State of food and agriculture 2009 and the controversial topic of land grabbing is also covered.

Not known for its agricultural production, Yemen - subject of the Country profile - was once self-sufficient, but over 75 per cent of food is now imported. Water is the major constraint for agricultural productivity, as water tables fall by some two metres a year.

The next issue of New Agriculturist will focus on public-private partnerships. If you know of, or are involved in, an area that would be of interest to other readers - please let us know. Alternatively, you may like to suggest Focus on themes we should consider for future editions. If you would like to collaborate with us in getting your work to the attention of a broader audience, then we would be pleased to hear from you. Please get in touch.

Date published: March 2010

 

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