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Editorial (September 2013)

Disability - in this boy's case, blindness - does not mean inability to contribute to society (© Anja Ligtenberg)
Disability - in this boy's case, blindness - does not mean inability to contribute to society
© Anja Ligtenberg

Disability and poverty are closely bound. Inclusion International estimates that, globally, 43 per cent of people with disabilities are living in poverty. Frequently, however, it is not the impairment itself that denies disabled people access to education, employment and income, but the prejudice that bars their full participation in society, including in development projects. In this edition of New Agriculturist, we highlight efforts to overcome the constraints of inadequate policies, negative attitudes and poor access to development opportunities by organisations working in Bangladesh, Niger, Kenya, Colombia and Ghana.

According to the UN, 20 percent of disabilities are caused by malnutrition. Tackling malnutrition through practical solutions involving nutrition, health and social factors is the goal of number of projects being implemented by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Mali, Ethiopia and India. In pictures - Nourishing communities - presents their experiences.

Those wanting a more detailed treatment of the global food production challenge are encouraged to consider Feeding frenzy - the new politics of food by Paul MacMahon - reviewed in Books - which offers 'lively, astringent analysis' of the history of food systems and the recent turmoil in food markets. MacMahon offers two strategies to overcome mankind's 'spectacular failure to construct a just global food system': support for smallholder farmers to grow more food, and adopting agro-ecological farming systems, including a judicious mix of organic and industrial inputs.

But what kind of support do smallholders need to grow more food? An increasingly common response in agricultural development is the use of innovation platforms for technology adoption (IPTAs), whereby all the stakeholders in a commodity value chain are invited to work together to solve common problems. Some fear, however, that IPTAs are fast becoming a formulaic response to development dilemmas, which ignore the competitive relationships that naturally exists between members of a value chain. Participants at the Africa Agriculture Science Week, hosted by FARA in Accra in July, offer their Points of view on the strengths and weaknesses of the IPTA model.

For Eve Crowley, deputy director of the Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division of FAO, supporting farmers can best be done by supporting the institutions that work on their behalf. The old maxim 'teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime' is outdated, she writes in My perspective. Farmers need training about the commercial aspects of agriculture, beyond basic agronomic guidance. They also need stronger institutions that can work on their behalf to break down the constraints around finance, bureaucracy and legislation that are holding them back.

Smallholder farmers often need business advice and marketing  information in order to successfully commercialise (© Charlotte Kesl/World Bank)
Smallholder farmers often need business advice and marketing information in order to successfully commercialise
© Charlotte Kesl/World Bank

The benefits of training and improved market access are illustrated in this edition's GFAR-sponsored Research and innovation section, which features three reports on Women, innovation and enterprise, including progress made by women vegetable producers in Papua New Guinea and Peru to access better markets - including some of Cusco's premier gourmet restaurants - and the experience of two dynamic, inspiring women from southern India and Botswana in developing highly successful bee-keeping and honey production businesses.

Their achievements illustrates the importance of hard work, determination and an entrepreneurial spirit - three qualities found in abundance in 25 year old Nimala Gunawardana, from Sri Lanka (see Developments). The success of her coconut husk processing company led to her selection as the 'Start up of the Year' winner at Youth Business International's Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2013.

Finally, with the IPCC declaring with 95 percent certainty the contribution of human activities to global warming, collaborative research on the 'nitrification inhibition' capacity of Brachiaria forage grass could offer an exciting way for livestock farming to be part of the solution, rather than a major contributor of greenhouses gases. This and other recent developments in agricultural and rural development can be found in News.

If you have your own news which you would like us to bring to the attention of your fellow New Agriculturist readers, don't hesitate to contact us. We hope you find plenty of food for thought, new information and hopefully some inspiration in the latest edition. As always, we welcome your feedback and responses on what you read.

Date published: September 2013


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