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Editorial (November 2010)

If we are to hold onto hope, we must be prepared to change (WRENmedia)
If we are to hold onto hope, we must be prepared to change
WRENmedia

The shift from hunter-gatherer to settled agriculture transformed human society and our relationship with our planet more dramatically than any other revolution before or since. Like the woes released from Pandora's box, the challenges we face are numerous, and if we are to hold onto hope, we must be prepared to change. In this final edition of 2010, New Agriculturist looks at key areas where change is paramount.

Social change can be the hardest to achieve. In Africa it is estimated that women grow 80 per cent of the food consumed, but own just one per cent of the land. How might the scourge of hunger be reduced if women had a stronger stake in the land they farmed? From the recent IDRC symposium on women's land rights held in Nairobi, Points of view offers the latest thinking on this divisive but critical subject.

Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food and Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), offers his own, passionate Perspective on the quest to reduce hunger. His call for more effective agricultural assistance and development is echoed in the Developments section, in the context of Haiti's earthquake-struck agricultural sector.

Also examining how sustainable rehabilitation can be achieved following natural disaster, a report from the flood-damaged Himalayan region of Leh-Ladakh highlights the fragility of many farmers' lives, dependent as they are on marginal soils to eke out a meagre existence.

In a changing climate, the precarious health of many soils hangs in the balance (Neil Palmer (CIAT))
In a changing climate, the precarious health of many soils hangs in the balance
Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Building a healthy soil is the best foundation for any farming enterprise, yet land degradation and desertification are a ever-growing threat for millions - as documented by Spencer Wells in Pandora's seed - the unforeseen cost of civilisation, reviewed in Books. By way of a response, however, the focus on section features exciting initiatives from Latin America, Asia and Africa for restoring and managing agricultural land.

More contentious land issues also feature in the Country profile of Kenya, along with conflicts over water use and the impact of recent extreme weather events. As we approach the climate change talks at Cancun, decision-makers need to reflect and to learn from the best and worst of the changes in our human society. The impact of decisions made today will confront us and our children in decades to come.

Finally, as we look forward to 2011, we would like to thank all those who have helped us to shape New Agriculturist this year. Focus on subjects for next year include sharing agricultural knowledge, youth in agriculture, and agricultural entrepreneurship. If you have innovative ideas or success stories on these or other topics that you would like us to publish, please get in touch.

And, if New Agriculturist has made a difference to your work, tell us your story. Over the next few weeks we aim to compile a set of case studies on the impact of New Agriculturist, and we would value hearing from you. Meanwhile, we wish you a peaceful end to the year.

Date published: November 2010

 

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