Food security

An interesting letter exchange between John McDermott (ILRI’s Deputy Director General for Research) and Vicki Hird (Senior Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth) is published in the June 2010 issue of People&Science

Read on People Daily Online website (China)

Climate change in Africa and the world at large has impacted on many fronts resulting in drought and floods hence resulting in food shortage.

Consequently, poverty levels have increased leading to low development among many developing nations.

It is against this backdrop that leading agriculture and climate scientists, policymakers, farmers, and development experts from around the world will gather in Nairobi from today to focus on the threat of climate change to the global food supply.

The conference is jointly convened by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP).

Speakers are drawn from World Agro forestry Centre (ICRAF), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), UNEP, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The conference conveners noted that if climate change is not checked, it could negatively affect efforts to reduce poverty and hunger.

This would threaten the stability of entire nations as farmers struggle in hotter and more uncertain conditions to feed a population set to reach 9 billion people by 2050. Less rain and changing rainfall patterns have resulted in low yields.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, one in three people living in Sub-Saharan Africa were chronically hungry in 2007.

The region is also hardest hit by extreme poverty, harboring 75 percent of people worldwide that live on less then a dollar a day.

Since 2007, erratic rainfall has led to increased food shortages in southern Africa where droughts damaged and destroyed maize crops.

A study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) warns that in Africa alone, over the next four decades higher temperatures and more frequent droughts could depress wheat yields by over 30 percent, rice by 15 percent, and maize by 10 percent.

Yet FAO has projected that over this same period food production globally must increase by 70 percent to feed a population expected to reach 9.1 billion people.

IFPRI found that neutralizing the effects of climate change on productivity requires investing at least 7 billion dollars per year on research, irrigation, and rural roads.

The conference comes in the wake of talks in Copenhagen last December, where high-level recognition of the link between climate change and food security was reinforced.

In a month’s time, climate change negotiators reconvene in Bonn, Germany to continue discussions to reach consensus on a new global agreement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to their impacts.

African leaders have been particularly frustrated by the failure of negotiators to give adequate attention to the food security-climate change connection and have joined other developing country officials in declaring: “no agriculture, no agreement.”

Scientists blame climate change for causing more intense and frequent droughts, floods, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other negative effects in different parts of the world.

The cheapest and most efficient way to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change on poor nations like Kenya is to have lots of trees. Trees absorb excess carbon dioxide and other harmful gases from the atmosphere. But when trees are cut down, this process is halted.

The government recently, launched the third phase of tree planting in bid to reclaim Kenya’s water tower the Mau forest and forest cover.


Livestock have an important role in improving the nutritional status of low-income households, they confer status, are of cultural importance and create employment opportunities within and beyond the immediate household.  The increasing demand for animal protein in low- and middle-income countries provides an opportunity for the rural poor to improve their livelihoods but the nature of livestock farming is determined by policy and institutional frameworks that rarely favour the poor.”

Read the entire story on

Yet another forward looking publication on Food Security….

This time in Crop Science and  using the IMPACT-IFPRI model (as in the recent Science piece by Herrero et al.)

Full article in pdf

This background article addresses key challenges of adequately feeding a population of 9 billion by 2050, while preserving the agroecosystems from which other services are also expected. One of the scenario-buildings uses the Agrimonde platform, which considers the following steps: choosing the scenarios and their underlying building principles, developing quantitative scenarios, and building complete scenarios by combining quantitative scenarios with qualitative hypotheses. These scenarios consider how food issues link to production, for example, the percentage of animal vs. vegetal calorie intake in the full diet. The first section of this article discusses Agrimonde GO and Agrimonde 1 scenarios, which indicate that global economic growth and ecological intensification remain as main challenges for feeding the earth’s growing population toward the mid-21st century. The second section provides the outcomes of the analysis of alternative futures for agricultural supply and demand and food security to 2050, based on research done for the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development. The last section of this article provides a summary analysis of food systems and functions, as well as the role of food technology that address some of the global challenges affecting the supply of more nutritious and healthy diets. It also highlights the food production by novel means (e.g., alternatives for animal products based on plant materials) and increasing the presence of potentially health-promoting compounds in food to improve human and animal health. Finally, this article proposes priority areas that should be included in further agri-food research.

From the Food Climate Research Network

This briefing paper explores some of the arguments surrounding the relationship between what we feed and how we rear farm animals, and the availability and accessibility of food for human consumption. Does livestock production foster or hinder food security? In what ways are the contributions of intensive and extensive systems to food security different?

Link to PDF

Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems

M. Herrero P. K. Thornton, A. M. Notenbaert, S. Wood, S. Msangi, H. A. Freeman, D. Bossio, J. Dixon, M. Peters, J. van de Steeg, J. Lynam,  P. Parthasarathy Rao, S. Macmillan, B. Gerard, J. McDermott, C. Seré, M. Rosegrant

Farmers in mixed crop-livestock systems produce about half of the world’s food. In small holdings around the world, livestock are reared mostly on grass, browse, and nonfood biomass from maize, millet, rice, and sorghum crops and in their turn supply manure and traction for future crops. Animals act as insurance against hard times and supply farmers with a source of regular income from sales of milk, eggs, and other products. Thus, faced with population growth and climate change, small-holder farmers should be the first target for policies to intensify production by carefully managed inputs of fertilizer, water, and feed to minimize waste and environmental impact, supported by improved access to markets, new varieties, and technologies.

Read the full text

The animal husbandry and poultry sectors in Vietnam will be reviewed and restructured so that they develop in a sustainable and competitive manner, an official said at a conference in HCM City.

Hoang Kim Giao, head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Animal Husbandry Department, said under the Livestock Development Strategy, the country would increase the ratio of livestock production to 38% of the total agricultural output by 2015 and 42% by 2020 from the current 30%.

By 2020 the livestock industry targets production of 5.5 mln t of meat, 14 bln eggs, and more than 1 mln t of milk. This translates into 56 kg of meat, 140 eggs, and more than 10 kg of milk per capita per year.

By then the populations of pigs, chicken, and dairy cattle are expected to increase respectively by 2%, 5%, and 11% to 35 mln pigs, 300 mln chicken and 500,000 dairy cattle.

Apart from meeting the domestic demand, the livestock industry also would target overseas markets in the future, Giao said.

Shift to industrial farming

To achieve these targets and to meet the increasing food demand, the country would modernise its animal husbandry and poultry sectors, shifting from household-based to industrial farming, he said.

It would also focus on breeding hygiene and safety and reducing diseases to improve productivity and quality, he said. Slaughterhouses and meat processing plants would be required to install waste treatment systems.

Improving the quality of animal strains and developing the animal feed industry were also vital to the sector’s development, Giao said.


Courses providing farmers information on farming techniques and food safety and hygiene would be organised, he added.

The livestock sector plays an important role in Vietnam since 72% of its population lives in rural areas. However, the small scale of its operations and outdated production techniques have led to high costs, rendering the country’s livestock produce less competitive than that of other countries.

The volatility in animal feed prices and high risk of disease are also causing difficulties for animal breeders.

Science and Innovation for Development

By Professor Sir Gordon Conway and Professor Jeff Waage, with Sara Delaney. Published by UKCDS January 2010.
ISBN: 978 1 84129 0829

‘…We hope that this book will give anyone who is interested in international development a clearer picture of the role that science and innovation can play. We firmly believe that science is only one of many factors which can contribute to development, but we want that factor to be well understood, particularly as science is often presented in a way which is not easily accessible to the non-specialist. We have used the MDGs as a framework for our exploration, because they address a wide range of development issues where science is particularly active: agriculture, health, and the environment….’ Gordon Conway, Jeff Waage and Sara Delaney

Downloadble version

Hard copies will be provided free of charge to researchers and policy-makers in developing countries (see above link).

The International Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has announced that it plans to study the impact of livestock and poultry production on climate change, its first foray into environmental issues.

OIE director-general Bernard Vallat noted that there are interests that have suggested that eating fewer animal products would benefit the environment but said the issue should not be oversimplified. “It’s a question that needs to be studied with a lot of distance,” he said.

Vallat said it must be recognized that livestock and poultry production provides the world with meat, milk and eggs and should not be cut back at a time when the world’s growing population demands and needs more protein.

Source: Feedstuff

From Voice of America

A new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says grasslands have vast untapped potential to limit climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. The report says proper land use can also help one billion people who depend on livestock.

The United Nations report says if pastures and rangelands are properly managed, they can be a useful carbon sink – potentially more powerful than forests in the battle against climate change.  The report says that agricultural lands can help control global warming by limiting greenhouse gas emissions.  At the same time,  the report also states that these kinds of agriculture practices can increase land productivity which will lead to stronger food security.

Read the VoA article

The FAO report brief

FAO full discussion paper

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