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Editorial (January 2007)

According to British climate scientists, 2007 could well be the hottest year ever recorded. Persistently high levels of greenhouse gases with a resurgent El Niño are likely to push temperatures above the record set by 1998, which was more than one degree Celsius above the long-term average.

Yet even the weather experienced in 2006, reported to be the sixth warmest year ever recorded, brought severe drought conditions in many parts of the world. Millions of hectares of crops were damaged in China, and Brazil lost an estimated 11 per cent of its soybean crop. Conversely, the Horn of Africa was hit by extreme flooding, reported to be the region's worst in 50 years. The hardest hit areas were in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with some places receiving more than six times their average monthly rainfall. Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected and rising fatalities have been reported, due to an upsurge in Rift Valley Fever.

With only eight years to go until the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the world is faced by a long list of issues that are both complex and challenging. According to Katherine Sierra, the new chair of the CGIAR, featured in this edition's My perspective, facing such challenges will depend on innovation and partnership. Points of view offers divergent expert opinions on how such innovation can be encouraged and supported.

Another strong female voice, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, is featured in our leading book review. In her autobiography, Unbowed, Maathai presents her vision for achieving political change, not least through recognition of farmers' views and inclusion of farmers in the global market. Similar themes are presented in Cotton: the moral fibre of going organic and the Country profile on Burkina Faso. But farming is not just about earning income or achieving basic subsistence; it is also fundamental to a nation's health. Focus on health and agriculture goes beyond food security and livelihoods to look at the nutritional functions that farming could and should fulfil.

'Northern Uganda - settling for peace' tells in pictures how internally displaced people, once dependent on food aid, are now returning to their abandoned villages to cultivate a new future. Whatever 2007 may bring for them, and for farmers throughout the world, innovation, partnership and improved communication will be key.

We welcome your feedback on the new look for New Agriculturist - a new feature is included to allow you to score each article. We also invite you to listen in to the new podcast, providing an overview of this edition, as well as other audio files linked to featured articles. For comments or ideas, please email us through the links provided on the contact page.

Date published: January 2007


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