January 2015

January 19th, 2015

"LAST year Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, invested $1 billion into rice production in Nigeria. This new investment is in support of the Nigerian Government’s plan to attain food sufficiency and become a net-exporter of rice by 2015. Rice is crucial to Nigeria food security - 84% of Nigerian households consume rice yet the country has a rice import bill currently exceeding $2 billion, which has the potential to deplete the country’s foreign currency reserves. 

Today the country not too far behind it’s 2015 target and Dangote’s investment will serve to bolster these efforts. Nigeria has currently achieved 80% self-sufficiency in paddy rice production and, in 2013, added seven million metric tonnes of paddy rice to the domestic food supply. 

Food production is a very real concern in Africa. The average annual growth in food demand is projected at 2.83% per year from 2000 - 2030, due to population increase which is set to increase rapidly. By 2030 the continent will need to feed 1.5 billion people and 2 billion by 2050. 

Whilst there has been significant increases in agricultural productivity globally, current productivity growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is not enough - at the rate it’s going today, only 13% of total food demand will be met in 2050. 

North Africa will however fare better with the Middle East and Northern Africa region able to satisfy 83% of total food demand, at it’s current total factor productivity rate. Sub-Saharan Africa’s huge gap will need to be closed through investments in productivity improvements, selective expansion, intensification, and trade."

Read more from Mail & Guardian Africa.

January 16th, 2015

At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world.

The paper contends that we have already crossed four “planetary boundaries.” They include the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean.

“What the science has shown is that human activities — economic growth, technology, consumption – are destabilizing the global environment,” said Will Steffen, who holds appointments at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center and is the lead author of the paper.

These are not future problems, but rather urgent matters, according to Steffen, who said that the economic boom since 1950 and the globalized economy have accelerated the transgression of the boundaries. No one knows exactly when push will come to shove, but he said the possible destabilization of the “Earth System” as a whole could occur in a time frame of “decades out to a century.”

The researchers focused on nine separate planetary boundaries first identified by scientists in a 2009 paper. These boundaries set theoretical limits on changes to the environment, and include ozone depletion, freshwater use, ocean acidification, atmospheric aerosol pollution and the introduction of exotic chemicals and modified organisms.

Beyond each planetary boundary is a “zone of uncertainty.” This zone is meant to acknowledge the inherent uncertainties in the calculations, and to offer decision-makers a bit of a buffer, so that they can potentially take action before it’s too late to make a difference. Beyond that zone of uncertainty is the unknown — planetary conditions unfamiliar to us."

Read more from The Washington Post.

January 7th, 2015

"The Asmark Institute announced the ResponsibleAg Auditor Training Course has received recognition from the Board of Environmental, Health and Safety Auditor Certifications (BEAC).  The course is designed specifically for auditors who intend to perform facility assessments under the ResponsibleAg Certification Program.  BEAC’s recognition of the course is based on a comprehensive evaluation of course content, training materials, course environment and instructor qualifications.  The ResponsibleAg Auditor Training Course joins other training programs recognized by BEAC such as the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care®, SOCMA’s ChemStewards and The Auditing Roundtable courses.

Brian Miller, CPEA and Compliance Assurance Specialist with Agrium and Fred Whitford, Ph.D., Coordinator of Purdue University Pesticide Programs, are the lead instructors for the course.  Together they bring fifty years of EHS experience backed by more than seventy years of experience in agriculture.  “We couldn’t be more pleased than to be working with instructors of this caliber,” said Billy Pirkle, Chairman of ResponsibleAg.  “They are each nationally recognized for their work within, and on behalf of the agricultural industry.”

At the heart of the ResponsibleAg initiative is the goal of providing accurate and credible assessments consistently across the entire group of carefully trained and credentialed ResponsibleAg auditors.  Each auditor must successfully complete this course before applying for credentials under the ResponsibleAg Certification Program."

Read more from Ag Professional.

January 2nd, 2015

"The eighth annual One Acre Fund gala at Navy Pier's Grand Ballroom attracted more than 300 guests Dec. 11. Co-founded by Andrew Youn and John Gachunga in 2006, One Acre Fund's mission is to supply small farmers in Africa with the tools and financing they need to grow their way out of hunger and poverty.

The evening honored the Combe family, longtime One Acre Fund supporters, with the 2014 Farmers' Humanitarian Award. Patriarch Christopher B. Combe accepted the award along with his wife, Courtney, on behalf of their family. "This organization has directly taken more than a million people out of extreme poverty and starvation to where they can live relatively normal lives. For centuries, they've been starving," he said.

During the cocktail reception and silent auction, guests bid on native African items that included Rwandan art carvings, Senegalese woven baskets and bracelets, Ghanan ceramics and stuffed toy animals from Kenya made from local plant materials. A small tree held holiday ornaments, crafted from banana leaves by Kenyan and Ugandan artisans, that could be purchased for $20. This "banana fiber art" is a cottage industry that brings fair trade income to rural communities."

Read more Chicago Tribune