Blog

October 12th, 2015

"It is officially Fall, and while the weather in New York may be cooling off, agriculture development is heating up!


Last month, when the UN General Assembly met and adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, ending hunger ranked second on the list. This month, agriculture development practitioners will celebrate farmers on World Food Day and Rural Women’s Day, and policy influencers and food security activists will highlight the important role agriculture must play in ending extreme poverty at the UN Committee on Food Security and the World Food Prize.


We could all use some help keeping up with the smorgasbord of food security events happening right now. Get up to speed with One Acre Fund’s Fall 2015 list of agriculture development must-reads (in no particular order):


1. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. For the low-down on how these annual, leguminous crops can help increase nutrition and promote food security for smallholder farmers, visit our agriculture innovations page to read trial reports on nitrogen fixation in beans, pigeon peas, soybeans, and maize-legume intercropping.


2. The study "Smallholder Farmers and Business:15 pioneering collaborations for improved productivity and sustainability," produced by Hystra Hybrid Strategies Consulting, shows how pioneer companies and organizations have sustainably increased the income and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers around the world by sourcing produce from them or selling products to them. The study emphasizes smallholder farmers’ role as active partners rather than aid recipients, and provides valuable insights on creating more wealth along the value chain, running cost-efficient operations and sustainably sharing value with farmers.


3. "SDGs and Me: Farmer Voices on the Post-2015 Agenda" is the newest creative product from global sustainable agriculture coalition Farming First. Relying on interviews with 10 actual farmers from across the globe, these stories illustrate the central role the world’s 1.5 billion farmers play in delivering the ambitious post-2015 development agenda. How do these farmers see themselves taking action on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? What do they hope the SDGs can do for them? Are they prepared to embark on such a large-scale challenge? Read their stories to find out what they have to say."


Read more from One Acre Fund.

September 28th, 2015

"Eradication of hunger the linchpin for sustainable development agenda, FAO chief tells world leaders


25 September 2015, New York - Food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture are key to achieving the entire set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva has told world leaders in a plenary address at United Nations headquarters.


"We have given ourselves an enormous task, that begins with the historic commitment of not only reducing but also eradicating poverty and hunger in a sustainable way," he said during his speech at the UN's Sustainable Development Summit.


Fourteen of the 17 new SDGs adopted at the summit are related to FAO's historic mission, the Director-General noted. The second goal - which is "to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture" - must be urgently pursued as rapid progress on that front is the key to the other goals, he added."


Read more from FAO.

August 24th, 2015

"With each passing year, human-caused global warming bullies California for more water. Each year, the heat squeezes more moisture from soils and ecosystems.


This is because, as the atmosphere warms, its demand for moisture rises. Just as a puddle evaporates more quickly on a warm day, soils dry out more quickly during warmer years, which are becoming increasingly frequent in most locations globally.


Currently, California is in the grips of a severe drought, which motivated my colleagues and me to conduct a study to determine how much of this drought can be blamed on natural climate variability. And how much can be blamed on the global warming shakedown? Our answer is 8-27 percent.


This finding, done using a model built on historical data, sheds light on California’s future and the effect higher temperatures have on the natural forces that drive California’s droughts.


California of buckets


Global warming is an emerging background effect on the year-to-year variations in drought caused by natural climate variations, such as El Niño and La Niña. This is especially true in California, where year-to-year precipitation varies wildly.


During most years, when natural climate variations cause wet or near-average conditions, the demands of the increasingly greedy atmosphere are still met with relative ease. During the last few years, however, natural climate variations have caused precipitation totals to be low and temperatures to be high.


Human-caused warming, meanwhile, demands additional atmospheric moisture, at a time when water resources for natural and human systems are already in short supply."


Read more from Newsweek.

August 6th, 2015

"Water containing so little dissolved oxygen that it can’t support marine life was found in an area stretching 6,474 square miles off the coast of Louisiana this summer.


 

At the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, the dead zone is larger than last year’s 5,052 square miles and much larger than a national target, which was to reduce the annual size to just 1,900 square miles.


For decades, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium’s Nancy Rabalais has done annual measurements of the dead zone size. A research cruise ran from Tuesday through Monday shows the dead zone extending from the mouth of the Mississippi River west to almost the state’s border with Texas.


“It’s a sick ecosystem. It’s still productive, but it’s ailing, and we need to do something about it,” Rabalais said.


The dead zone is defined as an area where the dissolved oxygen in the water measures 2 milligrams per liter, but this year, there were also large areas where the dissolved oxygen was 1 or even close to zero, Rabalais said. Healthy water in the Gulf of Mexico would measure about 4 or 5 milligrams per liter.


Dead zones occur when nutrients from agricultural land and cities run into the Mississippi River and then into the Gulf of Mexico. These nutrients, often included in fertilizers, feed small organisms that then use up oxygen as they die and decompose on the floor of the Gulf. Without any mixing of the upper freshwater layers from the Mississippi River and the lower saltier waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this lower layer of water can end up with such low oxygen levels that it can no longer support large amounts of marine life."


Read more from the Advocate.

July 6th, 2015

Enabling people and their goods to stay on the move by rebuilding rural roads in the Democratic Republic of Congo; keeping young children in elementary school in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda; setting up low carbon energy programs for several Central Asian countries; supporting more sustainable and resilient cities across Europe; advising governments on how to collect tax to maintain crucial public services in Peru; providing microfinance for shopkeepers and small businesses in Uruguay, and helping people get back on their feet after Nepal’s devastating earthquake.


This is what development looks like and these are real programs that represent just a fraction of the day to day work supported respectively by the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank,the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank Group.


Most people agree on the need to help poor people living in tough circumstances, but far fewer understand what it takes. Supporting these projects and thousands more like them — from helping a single shopkeeper to building a power plant that will provide energy for tens of thousands of people will be critically important given that 2015 is a milestone year for development when we will take a fresh look at funding models and think seriously about scaling up.


These and other vital issues will be on the table from July 13-16 at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia and will continue through to a September UN summit on the post-2015 development agenda, then to a climate summit in Paris in December. Success in these discussions and the decisions that need to be made will be key to the future of people everywhere and will be vital to our living planet.


Read more from Finance for Development.

June 1st, 2015

"Walmart has reached a settlement with the state district attorney’s office to address its violation of a state environmental law.


The law, enacted in 2010, requires retailers to separate phosphorus-free fertilizers from those containing phosphorus, and to post signs describing phosphorus’ adverse effects on the environment. The signs describe how phosphorus causes excessive algae growth, endangering the water supply, and urges consumers to opt for phosphorus-free fertilizer. The law was crafted to reduce water pollution caused by excess phosphorous run-off coming from lawns into New York waters.


The Attorney General’s office investigated 18 Walmart stores across New York State, 10 of them in Western New York, and found most of them in violation of the law. Walmart must pay $98,000 in fines and has decided to stop selling lawn and non-agricultural fertilizers containing phosphorous at its New York Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, as well as to New York customers via the internet at Walmart.com."


Read more from The Buffalo News.

May 26th, 2015

"Imagine a vibrant market in a village in Sub-Saharan Africa, filled with vendors selling lush tomatoes, hearty ears of corn, ripe mangos, and a myriad of other fruits, vegetables, and grains. Where did all that food come from? Where did the farmers get the financing to buy the seeds and fertilizer they needed? What research institutions developed the seed varieties that thrived in local agro-ecological conditions? How did farmers learn the agriculture techniques to produce high-quality crops? And how did farmers get those high-quality crops from their farms to the market?


Agriculture is a tremendously complicated industry. Doing it right requires researchers, successful distributors of farm inputs, banks, providers of agricultural and business skills training, processors, and traders. Some of these players are in the private sector, while others are generally in the public sector. Some, like banks or providers of agriculture skills training, can have a foot in both of those worlds.


A successful agriculture industry in any country requires the many players in the value chain to work together in collaborations that are both formal and informal. Partnerships occur daily between private-sector players, public-sector players, and public and private players. Though perhaps the most challenging formal partnerships to craft, public-private partnerships are essential to the long-term growth of a country’s agriculture sector, as well as long-term environmental stewardship.

We know firsthand the importance of successful public-private partnerships in the agriculture sector. We represent two very different organizations—The Coca-Cola Company, the world’s largest beverage company, and One Acre Fund, a nonprofit agriculture organization that serves 280,000 farmers in East Africa. The Coca-Cola Company sources various agricultural ingredients from all around the world to produce its beverages, and One Acre Fund supports smallholder farmers who grow staple food crops for local and regional markets. We work with different types of crops and in different parts of the value chain, but we have discovered that what we both need from the public sector to be successful is quite similar.


People often talk as if the private sector, nonprofits, and farmer organizations in Africa are at odds, with extremely different motivations, ways of working, and goals. In reality, we are more similar than different. We are all seeking innovative ways to build a strong agriculture sector in which smallholder farmers are profitable businesspeople and responsible environmental stewards. And we all recognize that the public sector has the responsibility to set certain conditions that foster an environment where innovation and growth can occur."

 

May 20th, 2015

The Zero Hunger Challenge is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's vision of a world free from hunger and malnutrition, where all food systems are sustainable, women and family farmers are empowered, and everyone enjoys their Right to Adequate Food. Working together, we can make this vision a reality!


View the video on YouTube.

April 29th, 2015

"Thousands of years ago, agriculture began as a highly site-specific activity. The first farmers were gardeners who nurtured individual plants, and they sought out the microclimates and patches of soil that favored those plants. But as farmers acquired scientific knowledge and mechanical expertise, they enlarged their plots, using standardized approaches—plowing the soil, spreading animal manure as fertilizer, rotating the crops from year to year—to boost crop yields. Over the years, they developed better methods of preparing the soil and protecting plants from insects and, eventually, machines to reduce the labor required. Starting in the nineteenth century, scientists invented chemical pesticides and used newly discovered genetic principles to select for more productive plants. Even though these methods maximized overall productivity, they led some areas within fields to underperform. Nonetheless, yields rose to once-unimaginable levels: for some crops, they increased tenfold from the nineteenth century to the present.


Today, however, the trend toward ever more uniform practices is starting to reverse, thanks to what is known as “precision agriculture.” Taking advantage of information technology, farmers can now collect precise data about their fields and use that knowledge to customize how they cultivate each square foot.


One effect is on yields: precision agriculture allows farmers to extract as much value as possible from every seed. That should help feed a global population that the UN projects will reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Precision agriculture also holds the promise of minimizing the environmental impact of farming, since it reduces waste and uses less energy. And its effects extend well beyond the production of annual crops such as wheat and corn, with the potential to revolutionize the way humans monitor and manage vineyards, orchards, livestock, and forests. Someday, it could even allow farmers to depend on robots to evaluate, fertilize, and water each individual plant—thus eliminating the drudgery that has characterized agriculture since its invention.


ACRE BY ACRE


The U.S. government laid the original foundations for precision agriculture in 1983, when it announced the opening up of the Global Positioning System (GPS), a satellite-based navigation program developed by the U.S. military, for civilian use. Soon after, companies began developing what is known as “variable rate technology,” which allows farmers to apply fertilizers at different rates throughout a field. After measuring and mapping such characteristics as acidity level and phosphorous and potassium content, farmers match the quantity of fertilizer to the need. For the most part, even today, fields are tested manually, with individual farmers or employees collecting samples at predetermined points, packing the samples into bags, and sending them to a lab for analysis. Then, an agronomist creates a corresponding map of recommended fertilizers for each area designed to optimize production. After that, a GPS-linked fertilizer spreader applies the selected amount of nutrients in each location."


Read more from Foreign Affairs.

April 14th, 2015

 


4R Nutrient Stewardship


A Policy Toolkit


March 2015


International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA)


Optimized use of fertilizers by farmers around the world is necessary for food and nutrition security and for safeguarding natural resources and ecosystems. The fertilizer industry has taken up nutrient stewardship as a priority area of work in support of this fact.


Fertilizers of  an  organic  or  mineral  nature replenish  soil  nutrients  removed  after  each  harvest, provide  nutrients  to  plants  so  they  can  grow  bountiful  crops,  ensure  higher  agricultural  yields  and thus make an important contribution to food security. Utilizing fertilizers to increase productivity of existing arable land helps slow down encroachment on forests and natural habitats, thereby making an important contribution to biodiversity preservation and climate change mitigation.


The  benefits of  nutrient  stewardship  include  reduced  environmental  impact,  increased  productivity and  biodiversity  preservation.  More  judicious  use  of  fertilizers  by  farmers  also  enables  them  to improve  farming  profitability.  One industry  framework  seeking  to  achieve  these  outcomes  is  4R nutrient stewardship.


Read more from IFA.


 

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