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Editorial (January 2012)

A new year heralds new beginnings (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
A new year heralds new beginnings
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

A new year heralds new beginnings and with this first edition of 2012, New Agriculturist launches two new sections, supported by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR). GFAR brings together all those working to strengthen and transform agricultural research for development around the globe. As part of this role, GFAR is working with New Agriculturist to showcase Research and innovations and to provide regular GFAR updates.

Keeping track of our changing environment and humanity's impact and dependence on natural cycles is a key theme of this edition. Protecting and sustaining such resources and systems, including fresh water, healthy soil and biodiversity, feature in Focus on ecosystem services and in Research and innovations. For those who steward these systems, a variety of reward schemes is reviewed.

Beyond rewards, sustainability also depends on information, making effective approaches to extension essential. Points of view presents diverse opinions on the ways forward for agricultural extension, including new models of funding, the importance of public-private partnerships, and use of ICTs. A key question is what access women smallholder farmers have to these services, a point highlighted by Haven Ley of the Gates Foundation in My perspective.

The impact of political turmoil and civil war on agricultural productivity features strongly in our Country profile of Cote d'Ivoire, whilst the News section includes the impending food crisis in West Africa, together with updates on land deals and a new famine early warning system in East Africa. Vitamin A-rich yellow cassava in Nigeria, Aqua Shops in Kenya and the spread of urban farming in DR Congo are covered in Developments.

Sustainable, circular systems of food and energy production are advocated by the authors of Virtuous circles in contrast to the current linear systems which demand substantial input of non-renewable fossil fuels and lead to long-lasting environmental damage. The links between bioenergy and water, and UNEP's twenty year review since the first Rio Summit are all featured in Books.

In northern India, rising temperatures have proved a blessing for some farmers (© Neil Palmer (CIAT & CCAFS))
In northern India, rising temperatures have proved a blessing for some farmers
© Neil Palmer (CIAT & CCAFS)

Whilst global warming appears to be having a broadly negative impact on smallholder farming, in parts of northern India a rise in temperature has allowed farmers to grow higher value crops, a positive story documented In pictures.

Such examples, while refreshing, do not negate the need to address global warming. At the Agriculture and Rural Development Day, held in parallel with the COP 17 Summit in Durban, 500 agricultural experts announced a call to action, including a seven-point plan for achieving food security in the face of climate change. At the start of another year, we are keen to know how you would plan for a more sustainable and climate-resilient world; please share your ideas.

New Agriculturist will continue to raise awareness of the critical issues that impact on developing world agriculture, to question the sustainability of our current systems, and to stimulate discussion on how we can blaze a new path for a world that can sustain us all. If you feel we should be doing things differently, please let us know.

Date published: January 2012


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