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Editorial (July 2011)

Lessons from eradicating rinderpest may now be applied to the livestock disease, peste des petits ruminants (PPR) (© WRENmedia)
Lessons from eradicating rinderpest may now be applied to the livestock disease, peste des petits ruminants (PPR)
© WRENmedia

The challenges of achieving food security and protecting the environment in the context of global warming, increasing population and constrained resources, are recurring themes in this edition of New Agriculturist. Rinderpest, for instance, was officially announced in late June by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as having been eradicated. Also known as cattle plague, it's only the second disease after smallpox to have been eliminated. But, while the global co-ordination to achieve this milestone deserves to be lauded, it also demonstrates that livestock disease control demands an increasingly cross-sectoral approach, as the pressures driving disease become more complex.

Climate change, agriculture and food in crisis as well as growing food in a resource constrained world are all covered in the latest Book reviews, demonstrating growing concerns and the intricate difficulties of achieving sustainable agricultural development. Our lead book, Drought - past problems and future scenarios, highlights how and why drought has occurred in the past and likely impacts under climate change. Ominously, the authors question whether our ability to adapt is sufficient to face the potentially large changes projected for the future. Vulnerable to natural disasters, rising sea levels, saline soils, and global warming, coastal communities also face complex challenges. But coastal people are renowned for their toughness and resilience, and our Focus on coastal livelihoods demonstrates why. Eight reports from around the globe highlight positive initiatives being taken by coastal communities to protect resources and boost food and income.

If tropical coastlines are all too frequently paraded as paradise, rainforests also offer a visual feast. In pictures presents the global work of the Rainforest Alliance, protecting biodiversity whilst transforming land-use, businesses and consumer preferences to give rainforest communities a sustainable future.

In Africa, the leasing of land by foreign interests has provoked a storm of media interest, with polar disagreement over whether the trend is positive or negative for poverty reduction and food security. Points of view discusses whether Africa's 'land grab' is stimulating or hindering development, and what needs to happen in order to ensure pro-poor outcomes.

Zimbabwe's agriculture sector needs serious investment if it is to realise its former potential (© UN Photo/Milton Grant)
Zimbabwe's agriculture sector needs serious investment if it is to realise its former potential
© UN Photo/Milton Grant

The issue of who should farm the land has been particularly thorny in Zimbabwe. Award-winning journalist, Busani Bafana, suggests in Country profile that despite continuing political instability in his home country, the economy is slowly beginning to recover. Much more needs to be done, however, for Zimbabwe to realise its considerable potential. Developments documents agricultural recovery in Uganda, the spread of telecentres and ICTs in Zambia, and enhancing vegetable productivity in Zanzibar. While biotechnology, pest management, and electronic traceability for livestock all feature in News, along with effective communication of agricultural research.

Recent surveys of email subscribers and CD recipients have given us very encouraging confirmation that New Agriculturist is a valued source of information, helping improve understanding of key issues. Online users rated the journal as the second most important source of agricultural information on the internet, after the FAO. If you have further comments on how and why New Agriculturist is useful to you, we should be pleased to hear from you.

Forthcoming issues will focus on people and trees and livestock disease. Any suggestions for articles or ideas for future topics will be warmly received. In the meantime, we hope that you continue to find plenty to interest and inform you.

Date published: July 2011

 

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