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Editorial (July 2007)

In 2008, more than half the global population - 3.3 billion people - will live in urban areas. By 2030, the urban population is expected to swell to almost five billion and whilst rural migration will continue to contribute to this growth, many more people will be born and raised in urban areas.

Transporting fodder for urban dairy - Hyderabad (WRENmedia)
Transporting fodder for urban dairy - Hyderabad

Agriculture is currently booming in urban and peri-urban areas and is a vital livelihood strategy for the poor. However, in many developing countries, urban agriculture continues to be illegal and many local authorities have been slow to recognise its value. In this issue, we Focus on the political, social and health aspects of cultivating land and rearing livestock in a city environment.

Agriculture, whether in urban or rural areas, remains crucial to the development of Africa. Policy, education, infrastructure and recognition of farmer innovation are just some of the strategies for increasing agricultural productivity and competitiveness, as suggested by participants at a recent pan-African conference for the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), and summarised in Points of View.

Identifying new products and markets is another key strategy, reflected in Developments - African plum and bamboo - and In pictures, which highlights the expanding trade in native flowers from South Africa. This colourful and blooming business, and the increasing involvement of smallholder farmers, is also featured in our podcast, along with highlights from the recent South Africa Day held at the Irene Campus of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).

King Protea, South Africa's national flower, is cultivated and harvested for the export market (WRENmedia)
King Protea, South Africa's national flower, is cultivated and harvested for the export market

Striving to meet the standards required of agricultural export markets is a recurrent theme in New Agriculturist. In this edition we include the personal Perspective of Matap Embaku, Chairman of Mainland Holdings Ltd., a Papua New Guinea export company which is owned by rural coffee co-operatives. In News brief we also report on the changing requirements of EurepGAP, the production standards required by many European retailers, as well as the appointment of a EurepGAP ambassador for developing countries, who will assist in establishing new frameworks for best practice in smallholder certification.

As this edition goes to press, more than 3.5 million people in China's central province of Hubei have been affected by heavy rain, flooding and landslides. Stormy weather and heavy monsoon rains have also resulted in extensive damage and a number of deaths in parts of the United States, the UK, Australia and Bangladesh. In contrast, record temperatures have been experienced in California and southern Europe, sparking wildfires which have destroyed thousands of hectares of land. Crop failures and increasing grain prices are reported as a result of severe drought in southern Africa.

Agriculture has always been reliant on the vagaries of the weather but is increasingly influenced by a multitude of other factors. We hope that we have highlighted several of those issues in this edition of New Agriculturist. Please do send us your feedback on this and other editions, suggest links for further information and indeed subjects for future issues; your comments are always welcomed.

Date published: July 2007


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