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Editorial (March 2011)

Millions of people have been driven into poverty by rising food prices (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
Millions of people have been driven into poverty by rising food prices
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

With continuing tension in Libya and the Middle East, a surge in oil prices is expected to put further pressure on global food prices. The impact that this will have on resource-poor, rural communities has not gone unnoticed.

In a keynote speech at the recent General Council meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Princess Haya Al Hussein of Jordan challenged governments and other donors to fulfil their commitments to food programmes. "Many of our politicians remain out of touch, uncomprehending of life for those who live at the brink of starvation," she said. "They do not deliver funds on the scale we need for real progress. Even worse, they fail to honour the pledges they make."

Looking to a sustainable future, biofuels are often touted as the sensible alternative to oil. However, as discussed and analysed in Biofuels and the globalization of risk, reviewed in Books, it is unlikely that current generation biofuels will allow us to maintain the lifestyles that so many of us either enjoy or aspire to. An in-depth study of rural poverty, the Rural poverty report 2011, also reviewed in this edition, analyses who poor rural people are and the challenges they face, and identifies opportunities and policies that could substantially reduce poverty.

Engaging in agricultural markets is crucial, but for women farmers this can raise particular hurdles. What these are, and how they can be overcome is the subject of Points of view, gathered at a recent workshop on gender and market-oriented agriculture in Addis Ababa.

Prospering amidst the pressures of high food and oil prices is challenging enough, but in Afghanistan, farmers face many other threats to their livelihoods. Diversifying into new crops, or improving their management of existing ones are key, as revealed In pictures.

Young people have the potential to play a significant role in rural development (© Jerry Galea/Oxfam Australia)
Young people have the potential to play a significant role in rural development
© Jerry Galea/Oxfam Australia

Meanwhile, in northern Kenya, demobilised youth, like many young people across the developing world, are struggling to learn the skills they need to find employment. With 2011 declared the International Year of Youth, we Focus on a selection of initiatives, including among Kenya's former combatants, that are creating the necessary encouragement, support and policies to allow young people to fulfil their extraordinary potential as farmers and rural entrepreneurs.

Calestous Juma, director of the Agricultural Innovation Project at Harvard Kennedy School, is in no doubt about the potential of young people. In My perspective, he praises the long-term commitment to agriculture being demonstrated by some African governments. This, he believes, could enable Africa to feed itself within the next generation, given the necessary investment in education, telecommunications and infrastructure.

To those who have taken the time to fill in our reader survey, we extend our thanks. Your answers have proved both encouraging and helpful and we are already looking at how we can further improve what we do to better meet your needs. In that vein, we plan to launch a French edition of New Agriculturist within the next few months.

We are also pleased to announce the launch of our newly redesigned Agfax website, where you can find up-to-date audio features recorded by local correspondents from across Africa. These frequently include the voices and opinions of farmers and rural communities, offering a refreshing, grassroots perspective on many of the stories covered in New Agriculturist. We hope you'll find time to browse, and hear what they have to say.

Date published: March 2011


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