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Editorial (September 2010)

Millions of Pakistanis are facing hunger and disease after the worst floods in the country's history (Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN)
Millions of Pakistanis are facing hunger and disease after the worst floods in the country's history
Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN

As the Cancun climate change summit approaches, the impact of global warming appears evident in the record temperatures recently experienced in 17 countries worldwide, highlighted by the drought and wildfires in Russia, and the worst ever floods experienced in Pakistan. The impact on agriculture is all too clear: loss of crops, seed and livestock and a resulting surge in food prices.

As the world continues to debate practical and realistic approaches to mitigating climate change, the author of The coming famine: The global food crisis and what we can do about it (reviewed in Books) urges readers to sit up and take note of a more immediate challenge, as increases in global food production lag at only half that of increasing demand. If the world is to feeds its burgeoning population with less water, less land and higher energy costs, immediate action is required, with much greater investment in agricultural science and its communication. Failure to act will ensure more famines of the kind afflicting Niger, as documented In pictures.

Finding the evidence to demonstrate the impact of research is a challenge that will be familiar to many readers. Participants at the recent Africa Agriculture Science Week in Burkina Faso, offer their Points of view on what impact researchers should expect to achieve, how impact can be measured, and how the outcomes from research can be strengthened, including having a greater influence on policy. The importance of communication and the role of the media is further enforced by Louis Amede in My perspective, who stresses that agriculture should be portrayed as a business opportunity and not a subsistence activity.

Half of the food grown in the world is produced by women farmers (WRENmedia)
Half of the food grown in the world is produced by women farmers

Meanwhile, for too many farmers agricultural productivity remains poor and access to essential inputs, markets and advice is limited. The achievements of women in agriculture remain especially undervalued, despite their leading role in global food production. In Focus on, we highlight innovative means by which women worldwide are being provided with the training, support and recognition that they need and deserve.

Successes in agricultural research and development are highlighted in Developments, including training for African plant breeders in marker-assisted selection, the fight against East Coast fever in East Africa, and tackling cassava pests in Thailand. Kyrgyzstan is the subject of this edition's Country profile, where political instability is hampering attempts to increase agricultural productivity.

With forthcoming summits on the Millennium Development Goals and climate change, it is critical that the ongoing challenges to feeding the world and protecting the environment remain foremost in decision-makers' minds. This can only be achieved with improved and sustained communication on the significant role of agriculture for socio-economic development.

In forthcoming editions, we will be focusing on management of soils, agricultural entrepreneurship and knowledge sharing in agriculture, amongst other issues. If you would like to propose additional topics of interest or contribute any other comments on New Agriculturist, we will be pleased to hear from you.

Date published: September 2010


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