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Editorial (November 2011)

With investment, girls can help meet the world's food needs (© WRENmedia)
With investment, girls can help meet the world's food needs
© WRENmedia

In an era of what the UK government chief scientist John Beddington has called the "perfect storm" of unprecedented food, water and energy shortages, the world is in a critical phase. How do we feed more, with less, in a warming world? For some the answer is what is becoming known as Climate Smart Agriculture. In Points of view we explore what this means and whether it provides sufficient solutions and incentives.

But it is not only food production that needs to become smart: as consumers we need to have a greater understanding of the extravagant use of natural resources used to produce 'cheap' food, as outlined in Michael Carolan's The real cost of cheap food, our lead book review. To become smart requires a change in mind-sets, and Carolan asks whether it is a change that this generation is willing to make.

With more intensive agriculture, globalisation and climate change, the incidents of animal disease are also increasing. In this edition of New Agriculturist we Focus on some of the major challenges facing researchers as they strive to tackle transboundary, zoonotic, and emerging diseases in the field, with many initiatives now taking a 'one health' approach that incorporates human and environmental concerns.

In India, raising agricultural productivity to reduce poverty is a key priority for the government as highlighted in Country profile. Linking farmers and business has great potential, such as an award-winning enterprise in Gujurat state to manufacture industrial biofuel from crop wastes, a story featured in Developments. Another encouraging development comes from Indonesia, where eco-friendly agroforestry systems have helped smallholder rubber producers gain international certification.

What does Climate Smart Agriculture mean? (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
What does Climate Smart Agriculture mean?
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

The value of investing in girls, who will be the farmers of the future, is featured in our News section, whilst the legacy of Wangari Maathai's lifelong commitment to rural women and forests is highlighted in My perspective by Francesca de Gasparis, European Director of the Green Belt Movement, set up by Maathai over 30 years ago. Commitment to the environment and to community development by a family-run flower farm in Kenya is also documented In pictures.

Whether on a small or large-scale, the motivation for social change and doing things differently is a strong thread throughout this edition. But as 2011 draws to a close and we wait for the outcomes of the latest climate summit talks in Durban, we have to ask ourselves and of our leaders, whether, in the words of Wangari Maathai "we are doing the best we can."

Date published: November 2011


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