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Editorial (July 2008)

The need for an African green revolution has long been called for (IFAD)
The need for an African green revolution has long been called for

Across the world, over four million people are estimated to live in chronic poverty. In India, a land of booming economic growth, children starve in areas where rains have failed. In Madhya Pradesh state, 60 per cent of children are estimated to be malnourished. In southern Ethiopia, the fear of famine has returned as rains have failed and aid agencies estimate that over three million people will require food aid in the coming months.

However, for many regions, bumper harvests are predicted and, as a result of increased planting due to high prices, record wheat and rice production is forecast for 2008. Food prices may stabilise for a short time but are unlikely to decline and increased fuel and fertiliser costs will impact on potential profits for farmers.

Governments gathered at the World Food Summit have pledged to help developing countries cope with the impact of rising food prices, but a serious commitment to provide long-term solutions rather than immediate knee-jerk reactions is required. The need for a "green revolution" in Africa has long been called for, and impetus to raise agricultural productivity appears to be growing.

In this edition, we Focus on the successes achieved by a variety of approaches across the continent, which may provide lessons for making progress towards a green revolution. The lead title in Book reviews is Robert Paarlberg's Starved for Science, which calls for African nations to embrace biotechnology. But if past mistakes are to be heeded, new technologies alone will not solve Africa's failure to feed itself.

The food miles debate continues to threaten smallholder farmers in Africa (IFAD)
The food miles debate continues to threaten smallholder farmers in Africa

While Africa's horticultural industry has shown significant growth over the past two decades, ever-stringent standards and concerns over food miles remain a constraint for export businesses and the smallholders they employ, as outlined in the Perspective given by Ernest Abloh from Ghana. Although challenges undoubtedly remain, some lessons can be learned from successful agricultural reform in Vietnam, featured as our Country profile.

Meeting market demand is a continued theme in Pictures from London's Chelsea Flower Show, and in Developments, as momentum gathers for a major international conference on bananas and plantain later in the year. From Peru, we provide a selection of Points of view on the potential of potatoes, as well as an alternative approach to extension being provided to farmers in the high Andes.

In this edition of New Agriculturist, we hope that we have supplied you with information of topical interest. A reader from Kenya recently reported that he is fortunate to have access to the internet and is keen to share relevant information with colleagues and the farmers he works with.

We hope that you too are able to pass on information featured in this and past editions. And, if you are an established reader of New Agriculturist and feel inclined to share your views on how you use the information we provide and help shape the content of future editions, we would be pleased if you would complete the short survey provided. We look forward to hearing your views.

Date published: July 2008


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