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Editorial (May 2012)

Across the Sahel, millions are at serious risk of food shortages (© Pablo Tosco/Oxfam)
Across the Sahel, millions are at serious risk of food shortages
© Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

With 134 per cent increase in rainfall, the UK has recently experienced the wettest April ever recorded. However, over the past two years rainfall has been significantly less than expected and many parts of the country are officially suffering from drought. Much more rain will be required to make up the deficit. In Kenya, recent heavy rains have caused flash floods, sweeping away homes and crops. Yet many arid and semi-arid regions are still suffering from the impact of prolonged drought and failed rains in 2010 and 2011. Across the Sahel, millions are at serious risk of food shortages.

Throughout the tropics, the agriculture sector is under significant pressure to meet the demands of a rising population using finite, and often degraded, natural resources, while facing the added burden of climate change: higher temperatures, increasingly variable rainfall and more extreme climate events are all predicted to reduce yields at a global level. In this edition, we Focus on a number of climate sustainable practices that increase agricultural productivity and income, strengthen resilience to climate variability and reduce agriculture's contribution to climate change.

Accessing appropriate information on how to adapt to, or mitigate changes in the global climate is a challenge for many communities. In Nigeria, The Smallholders Foundation is using farmer-produced radio broadcasts in its 'Climate Change on Air' project, to provide relevant information. Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, Executive Director of the Foundation explains how the strategy is working in My perspective. Coping with drought in the Sahel is the subject of In pictures, whilst our selection of recent Book reviews includes a positive appraisal for the opportunities presented in Climate change mitigation and agriculture, published by Earthscan.

Agricultural employment is actively avoided by many young people (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
Agricultural employment is actively avoided by many young people
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

The water required to grow, process and package much of the food we consume is detailed by Tony Allen in Virtual Water, our lead book review. Allen also outlines how we can make more of this precious resource, ideas that could offer much to Zambia - subject of Country profile - which holds 40 percent of southern Africa's water resources in its rivers, lakes and wetlands. As an illustration, in Bangladesh, increased flooding has made wet season rice production impossible in some areas. In response, some farmers have taken advantage of the higher water levels to pursue a new opportunity: community-managed prawn farming.

Often seen as a last resort, agricultural employment is actively avoided by many young people. Yet agriculture is not just about farming and, with the widespread development of the agri-food sector, new opportunities are now opening up for young entrepreneurs. Such positive developments deserve encouragement. Africa's policy support for the youth and their aspirations is discussed in Points of view, whilst the News section includes an example of how Ghana is encouraging its youth in the cocoa sector. The changes in some of Kenya's young people's views on agriculture are highlighted in Developments.

If you are one of our young readers, we would be very interested to hear your views on the innovations and updates in New Agriculturist, and whether these have inspired you to seek out new opportunities. But whatever your age, we hope that you find a number of items in the wealth of articles presented in this edition that appeal to your interests.

Date published: May 2012


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