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Editorial (January 2008)

Rising prices of food, feed and fuel will hit the poor hardest (WRENmedia)
Rising prices of food, feed and fuel will hit the poor hardest

"The world food situation is serious," according to Joachim Von Braun, Director-General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), speaking at the CGIAR Annual General Meeting in December 2007. "We have never had a situation as concerning as it is today," he continued.

It is hardly a message of good tidings for the New Year but the stark fact is that the world now eats more than it produces, stocks are decreasing and the markets are getting nervous. Since the Green Revolution, food prices have been decreasing but the days of cheap food may be coming to an end. Surging demand for feed, food and fuel has resulted in rapid 'agflation', with cereal prices doubling in less than a year. While the effects are being felt around the world, the greatest impact will be felt by the poor.

The good news is that agriculture is once more in vogue. Twenty years since the last World Development Report focused on agriculture, the 2008 report calls for agriculture to be given a much greater role in development, for stimulating growth, providing a source of livelihoods and managing natural resources.

But as well as the need for more investment in agriculture, the report emphasises the need for better investment, if the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 are to be met. A world where climate change, the growth of biofuels as well as urbanisation and globalisation will add to the development challenge. Points of View provides a selection of opinions on how to achieve more effective agricultural research and development.

Looking to the challenges of a changing world and a growing global population will be part of the focus during 2008 for the International Year of the Potato. Jim Godfrey, Chair of the International Potato Center (CIP), gives his Perspective on how potatoes can help to feed the world.

Tuber crops will come under the spotlight in 2008 as part of the International Year of the Potato (WRENmedia)
Tuber crops will come under the spotlight in 2008 as part of the International Year of the Potato

For livestock farmers, it is not just feeding themselves but also their livestock that is the challenge, particularly in dryland areas. Our Focus on section features some of the technologies and approaches being developed to address fodder scarcity and improve nutritional quality of fodder in different regions. Access to fodder is also an important part of regenerating land and livelihoods in Rajasthan, India, and on the rangelands of Kazakhstan, in Country profile.

Improved access to markets and fairer trade are seen as vital ways of improving the livelihoods of farmers. In Developments, better prices for pastoralists have been achieved through a livestock association committed to tackling poor meat quality, unhygienic meat production, and environmental issues, whilst our lead book, actually a review of the documentary film 'Black Gold', reveals how consumers can make a difference to the livelihoods of rural people.

Drought, floods, disease, and political insecurity are already hitting the headlines in 2008. What lies in store for the rest of the year is difficult to predict but it seems certain that we are facing unsettling times. At New Agriculturist we report on how farmers, scientists and the international community are rising to meet the challenges of sustainable development and working to improve the livelihoods of the word's rural poor for this generation and those of the future. If there are issues, innovations or initiatives you would like to read about in future editions, we would like to hear from you.

Date published: January 2008


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