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Editorial (September 2012)

US$7.83 billion is needed to respond to regional food-related crises (© Kate Holt/IRIN)
US$7.83 billion is needed to respond to regional food-related crises
© Kate Holt/IRIN

During the past few months, the US has suffered its worst drought for 60 years with almost 90 per cent of maize growing areas affected. Major wheat and maize growing areas in Europe (Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan) have also been seriously affected by extreme weather. Whilst bumper crops produced in 2010 and 2011 provide some cushioning, the outlook for the end of 2012 is serious, with the threat of another food price spike.

Higher and more volatile prices will impact on poor consumers in many regions, particularly those that rely on international markets. And with the international response slowed by the global economic crisis, rising global food prices will increase the pressure on an already overstretched humanitarian system. The UN estimates that some US$7.83 billion is needed to respond to regional food-related crises; less than half has been pledged by donors.

Under increasingly challenging conditions for global agriculture, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are helping farmers in developing countries to be more productive and profitable. In this edition, we focus on how video, TV, mobile phones and the internet are providing agronomic advice, training, market information and interaction with fellow farmers. Research and innovation, sponsored by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), documents how bee-keepers, rice farmers and forest nut gatherers are using knowledge and innovation to increase income and create new businesses in Nepal, Ghana and Cameroon.

Wetland areas are often seen as at risk from the encroachment of agriculture and the degradation of natural resources. However, if managed responsibly these rich ecosystems can be highly productive and provide millions of poor people with opportunities for crop production, fishing, livestock rearing and other resources. In Points of view, we share opinions from participants attending a workshop in Zambia on the challenges facing wetland livelihoods, and ways towards a productive and sustainable future.

The resource rights of those who depend on communally managed rangelands in East Africa are being increasingly lost (© WRENmedia)
The resource rights of those who depend on communally managed rangelands in East Africa are being increasingly lost
© WRENmedia

Access to land has always been key to human survival but the competition is becoming increasingly fierce as populations increase. With good land at a premium, smallholders are frequently losing out due to bigger, stronger competitors in the shape of foreign governments and investors. In The Landgrabbers - the new fight over who owns the earth - reviewed in Books - Fred Pearce highlights the struggle and scandal behind the acquisition of land in Africa, Asia and South America. Sharing for Survival, also reviewed in this edition, encourages citizens worldwide to take a bottom up approach to protect the common resources upon which we all depend.

New ways for pastoralists to successfully secure their rights to rangelands were highlighted earlier this year by a 13 day 'learning route' across Kenya and Tanzania, undertaken by participants from Africa, Asia and Europe. Their experiences and reflections are featured in Developments and In pictures. But if smallholders are to continue to play a dominant role in the world's food production in the future, policymakers need to play their part to support them. We can share information and experiences, discuss problems and propose solutions, but if we are to really help millions at risk from food insecurity and natural disasters, such words must lead to action.

Date published: September 2012

 

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The New Agriculturist is a WRENmedia production.

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