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Editorial (May 2007)

Rajasthani woman holding sheep (WRENmedia)
Rajasthani woman holding sheep
WRENmedia

2007 marks the half-way point to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the promises made by governments to tackle poverty by 2015. The latest World Development Indicators released by the World Bank state that extreme poverty has fallen in the last four years due to an increase in GDP in most developing countries. But worldwide, an estimated 700 million people are projected to remain extremely poor in 2015, with about 600 million people expected to face hunger.

According to a recent IFPRI report, agriculture remains a critical component in the successful attainment of the MDGs among the rural poor. But agricultural traditions may need to adapt to meet current challenges. In this issue, we Focus on alternative agricultural livelihood options for rural people facing a range of different constraints, including drought, climate change, loss of natural resources, and falling market prices, as well as the risks involved in growing illicit crops.

A more productive and profitable agricultural sector has been achieved in Ethiopia, a country renowned for facing recurring famine, through investment in a more market-oriented agricultural sector. New Rice for Africa varieties, NERICAs, can be grown in upland areas and are currently being evaluated and promoted in a number of countries, in order to help satisfy the increasing appetite for rice across Africa. Father Godfrey Nzamujo, pioneering founder of the Songhai Centre, who contributes this edition's Perspective, believes however that a critical mass of people is required if a revolution in Africa's rice industry is to become a reality.

Farmers and herders are disproportionately high in number amongst the world's poorest. Improving access to animal health services is therefore essential in enabling people to break out of the poverty-hunger-malnutrition trap. A new report on foot-and-mouth disease outlines the requirements for effective control in endemic countries whilst a new initiative, recently launched in Nairobi, is bringing together public and private organisations to provide veterinary products to poor livestock keepers. Points of View provides an overview of the challenges to effective delivery of animal health services; some contributors to the section can also be heard in the podcast.

Climate change could seriously affect the future prosperity of these children in rural Uganda (WRENmedia)
Climate change could seriously affect the future prosperity of these children in rural Uganda
WRENmedia

Despite some progress towards the MDGs, the effects of climate change could put millions of people in certain regions at greater risk of poverty and hunger. Farming practices will have to change in many regions and yet the second report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that the funds allocated to developing countries are insufficient. Latest figures from the Africa Progress Panel state that rich countries were only 10 per cent of the way to reaching targets set by G8 leaders in Gleneagles in 2005, to increase aid by $50 billion a year.

Genetically modified crops may be one solution to combat the stresses brought about by global warming. This edition's lead book The gene revolution: GM crops and unequal development examines the institutional and policy issues that determine whether pro-poor GM technology development is possible, through the experience of five leading adopters in the developing world - Argentina, Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

Whatever your interest in agriculture, we hope that you find plenty to interest you in this latest edition. We welcome your feedback on New Agriculturist, including suggestions for future content or useful features that would enhance your usage. We also invite you to listen in to the podcast, providing an overview of this edition, as well as other audio files linked to featured articles. To pass on your comments or ideas, please email us through the links provided on the contact page.

Date published: May 2007

 

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