“The debate about land in the hands of foreigners in happening all over the world, in all of the key agricultural frontier countries,” said Mark Horn, an independent agribusiness consultant based in Brasilia. “Laws restricting land purchases by foreigners have been recently passed in Argentina and Uruguay, the discussions are happening in Australia and Ukraine. We went through the same thing in the US as well.“
Archive for the ‘agriculture’ Category
“Because there are so many different species of stingless, or meloponine, bees, they produce a wide variety of honey. Its taste has been variously described as sweeter, more bitter or sharper than the honeybee’s product, often with a delightful floral aftertaste, said Stephen Buchmann, a native bee researcher at the University of Arizona. Dr. Buchmann, who has sampled hundreds of varieties, said the best-tasting honey comes from the royal lady bee, a stingless species that the Maya people of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula have cultivated for 2,000 years.
Stingless bee honey also has a variety of medicinal uses. Numerous reports attest to its antibiotic properties, no surprise to native people worldwide who use it to treat eye infections and wounds. A study to be published by the Journal of Experimental Pharmacology by the researcher Peter Kwapong found that this honey is slightly more effective than a store-bought antibiotic at treating eye infections in guinea pigs. And other studies have hinted that it might help deter cancer.
Aside from the Maya, though, few groups have worked out sophisticated methods for cultivating colonies of these bees in manmade structures, partly because of the insect’s tiny size, small colonies and many varieties. Most often, people merely harvest the honey from nests in forest trees and move on, Dr. Roubik said.
But that’s beginning to change. In Brazil, for example, the raising of these bees for their honey, called meliponiculture, is widespread. (The word comes from Meliponini, the taxonomic term for stingless bees.) In some areas, it’s even more common than the cultivation of honeybees known as apiculture.
Patricia Vit, a researcher at the University of the Andes in Venezeula, for example, took humorous issue with frequent references to the stingless bee’s product as the “other honey.” “In the forest, the ‘other honey’ is that of Apis mellifera,” or the European honeybee, she wrote in an e-mail.
Indeed, many prominent meliponiculturists in Brazil and elsewhere have long waiting lists for purchasing their honey, said Breno Freitas, a researcher at the Federal University of Ceará in Brazil. This honey often sells for 10 times the price of honeybee honey.
Dr. Kwapong, an entomologist at Ghana’s University of Cape Coast, first learned about — and fell in love with — stingless bees at a conference in Brazil. When he returned to Ghana, he founded the International Stingless Bee Center, dedicated to studying and spreading meliponiculture of native bees throughout West Africa. Dr. Kwapong has helped train more than 200 people from around the region in the delicate trade.
The practice is also receiving growing recognition and study at institutions throughout Central and South America, Australia and elsewhere. In Japan, stingless bees are being cultivated to pollinate greenhouses, a feat at which they excel. Since they can’t survive in temperate areas, they cannot escape and interfere with local insect populations, a problem that has dogged the use of bumblebees for the same purpose.
Still, little is known about how to raise the vast majority of stingless bee species. That’s frustrating for would-be meliponine beekeepers; many give up on the idea because they cannot get the information they need, Dr. Freitas said.
Sam Droege, a biologist with the United States Geological Survey, said in a phone interview that the newfound interest in meliponiculture may be a harbinger of a revolution in animal husbandry. “In the sweep of history, we don’t often see new groups or classes of domesticated animals arising,” he said.
Of course, meliponiculture is nothing new for certain groups, most notably the Maya, who recorded their age-old craft in the glyphs in ruins throughout the Yucatán and in the Madrid Codex, one of the few surviving collections of Mayan hieroglyphics.
Yet the Mayan beekeeping tradition is in serious danger of dying out. Populations of the bee have declined with deforestation, and beekeepers are less frequently passing on the tradition to younger generations as they move to cities, Dr. Buchmann said. To counter this trend, he has taught a series of classes throughout the peninsula to encourage beekeeping and has published a meliponiculture manual in Mayan and Spanish.”
A study published last August by the UN Environment Programme found that current agricultural trends are destroying the world’s natural resources, particularly its water supplies. Reversing this trend would require integrated land-use planning that coordinates decision-making for farming, biodiversity, water management and air pollution, according to the study.
Another report from the UN – its latest World Economic and Social Survey, found that to stop deteriorating land conditions and depleting natural resources, the world would have to move away from large-scale, intensive agricultural systems as they exist today. Instead, smaller scale farms in developing countries should be improved and expanded using ‘green’ technology that minimised the use of water, energy and chemicals, noted the report.
Rice consumers worldwide can now look forward to eating “green” rice with the launch of an initiative that will set environmentally sustainable and socially responsible rice production management standards.
The “Sustainable Rice Platform” will elevate rice production to a new level by helping farmers – whether subsistence or market-focused – boost their rice production, keep the environment healthy, facilitate safer working conditions, and generate higher incomes to overcome poverty and improve food security.
“There are many different sustainable technologies and practices for rice – the world’s most important food crop that feeds half the planet,” said Mr. James Lomax, from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that initiated the Sustainable Rice Platform.
“The trouble is, we need a way to deliver and upscale these practices,” he added. “The Sustainable Rice Platform is an exciting opportunity to promote resource-use efficiency and sustainable trade flows in the whole of value chain of the global rice sector.”
The Sustainable Rice Platform will learn from established commodity initiatives that promote sustainability such as for sugarcane, cotton, and coffee, and apply them to rice. It will set sustainability targets, develop and promote regional and global standards of best practices for rice production, and support rice farmers to adopt these practices. It will also identify criteria to assess how well the sustainability targets are being met and whether farmers are implementing the practices.
“For example, we will harness our know-how to set standards to better manage insect pests in rice to reduce the unsafe and ineffective use of pesticides, which can damage the environment and the health of farmers,” said Dr. Bas Bouman, who will lead the work at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) – one of the project partners.
“We can also develop and promote the use of specialized field calculators to determine the environmental footprint of water, carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, or chemical use,” he added.
Rice presents a unique challenge for any quality control system because it is mostly grown by hundreds of thousands of poor farmers who have only very small farms of less than 1 hectare each. Moreover, 90% of rice is grown in developing countries in Asia, where access to knowledge and support is limited.
“Our formula for success lies in our track record of working with rice farmers and others in rice research and development across the private and public sector at the international, national, and local level in major rice-producing countries,” Dr. Bouman said. “To create an impact in rice, we need to move forward in two directions: public policy development and voluntary market transformation initiatives.”
National government agricultural departments could explore and test management practices to make them nationally relevant and to promote them to rice farmers. Non-government organizations could help develop the sustainability criteria to safeguard or improve environmental health. Rice farmer, production, processing, or trade organizations and businesses could use the Sustainable Rice Platform to secure a premium rice market or higher prices.
Kellogg Company Chief Sustainability Officer Ms. Diane Holdorf said, “Rice is an extremely important food crop, for Kellogg Company and the world. As a major user of rice, we support UNEP in the mass adoption of more sustainable rice-growing practices to help improve the world’s food supply and the lives of the farmers and the communities producing it.
“In addition to financial support,” she added, “we are fast-tracking sustainable techniques into our contract growing programs. We’ll share the results with the Sustainable Rice Platform and use them to inform our global rice policies and direction.”
Provided by International Rice Research Institute
FAO Media Centre: Scarcity and degradation of land and water: growing threat to food security Leave a comment
“Prospects for the future
FAO estimates that by 2050, rising population and incomes will require a 70 percent increase in global food production. This equates to another one billion tonnes of cereals and 200 million tonnes of livestock products produced each year.
“For nutrition to improve and for food insecurity and undernourishment to recede, future agricultural production will have to rise faster than population growth and consumption patterns adjusted,” says SOLAW.
More than four-fifths of production gains will have to occur largely on existing agricultural land through sustainable intensification that makes effective use of land and water resources while not causing them harm.
Improving the efficiency of water use by agriculture will be key, according to the report. Most irrigation systems across the world perform below their capacity. A combination of improved irrigation scheme management, investment in local knowledge and modern technology, knowledge development and training can increase water-use efficiency.
And innovative farming practices such as conservation agriculture, agro-forestry, integrated crop-livestock systems and integrated irrigation-aquaculture systems hold the promise of expanding production efficiently to address food security and poverty while limiting impacts on ecosystems.
FAO recently highlighted its vision for the sustainable intensification of agricultural production in its publication, Save and Grow: A New Paradigm for Agriculture, released earlier this year.
Another area where improvement is needed is increasing investment in agricultural development. Gross investment requirements between 2007 and 2050 for irrigation water management in developing countries are estimated at almost $1 trillion. Land protection and development, soil conservation and flood control will require around $160 billion worth of investment in the same period, SOLAW reports.
Finally, greater attention should be paid not only to technical options for improving efficiency and promoting sustainable intensification, but also to ensuring that national policies and institutions are modernized, collaborate together and are better equipped to cope with today’s emerging challenges of water and land resource management.”
Agribusiness for Africa’s Prosperity | International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Leave a comment
“In the next 20 years, both farming and agro-industries in Africa need to undergo profound structural transformations in order to generate the jobs, incomes and food products so badly needed by the continent’s growing population. To be able to make the vital transition from the current agriculture-led growth strategy to a more prosperous agribusiness development strategy, the power of market demand will be essential to fully developing African agribusiness capacities and achieving international competitiveness.
In this seminar, Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of UNIDO, will discuss strategic policy recommendations set forth in the new book “Agribusiness for Africa’s Prosperity”. John Staatz, Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University, will offer his perspective on both the challenges facing Africa’s agribusiness development, as well as the opportunities most likely to provide food, jobs and income to the millions of Africans who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
Copies of the book “Agribusiness for Africa’s Prosperity” will be available at the seminar. The book can also be downloaded from the UNIDO website: http://www.unido.org/index.php?id=1000076.”
“Today the potato is the fifth most important crop worldwide, after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. But in the 18th century the tuber was a startling novelty, frightening to some, bewildering to others—part of a global ecological convulsion set off by Christopher Columbus.
About 250 million years ago, the world consisted of a single giant landmass now known as Pangaea. Geological forces broke Pangaea apart, creating the continents and hemispheres familiar today. Over the eons, the separate corners of the earth developed wildly different suites of plants and animals. Columbus’ voyages reknit the seams of Pangaea, to borrow a phrase from Alfred W. Crosby, the historian who first described this process. In what Crosby called the Columbian Exchange, the world’s long-separate ecosystems abruptly collided and mixed in a biological bedlam that underlies much of the history we learn in school. The potato flower in Louis XVI’s buttonhole, a species that had crossed the Atlantic from Peru, was both an emblem of the Columbian Exchange and one of its most important aspects.
Compared with grains, tubers are inherently more productive. If the head of a wheat or rice plant grows too big, the plant will fall over, with fatal results. Growing underground, tubers are not limited by the rest of the plant. In 2008 a Lebanese farmer dug up a potato that weighed nearly 25 pounds. It was bigger than his head.
Many researchers believe that the potato’s arrival in northern Europe spelled an end to famine there. (Corn, another American crop, played a similar but smaller role in southern Europe.) More than that, as the historian William H. McNeill has argued, the potato led to empire: “By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950.” The potato, in other words, fueled the rise of the West.
Equally important, the European and North American adoption of the potato set the template for modern agriculture—the so-called agro-industrial complex. Not only did the Columbian Exchange carry the potato across the Atlantic, it also brought the world’s first intensive fertilizer: Peruvian guano. And when potatoes fell to the attack of another import, the Colorado potato beetle, panicked farmers turned to the first artificial pesticide: a form of arsenic. Competition to produce ever-more-potent arsenic blends launched the modern pesticide industry. In the 1940s and 1950s, improved crops, high-intensity fertilizers and chemical pesticides created the Green Revolution, the explosion of agricultural productivity that transformed farms from Illinois to Indonesia—and set off a political argument about the food supply that grows more intense by the day.”
Agriculture’s next revolution — perennial grain — within sight
“Earth-friendly perennial grain crops, which grow with less fertilizer, herbicide, fuel, and erosion than grains planted annually, could be available in two decades, according to researchers writing in the current issue of the journal Science.
Perennial grains would be one of the largest innovations in the 10,000 year history of agriculture, and could arrive even sooner with the right breeding programs, said John Reganold, Washington State University (WSU) Regents professor of soil science and lead author of the paper with Jerry Glover, a WSU-trained soil scientist now at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.
“It really depends on the breakthroughs,” said Reganold. “The more people involved in this, the more it cuts down the time.”
Published in Science‘s influential policy forum, the paper is a call to action as half the world’s growing population lives off marginal land at risk of being degraded by annual grain production. Perennial grains, say the paper’s authors, expand farmers’ ability to sustain the ecological underpinnings of their crops.
“People talk about food security,” said Reganold. “That’s only half the issue. We need to talk about both food and ecosystem security.”
Perennial grains, say the authors, have longer growing seasons than annual crops and deeper roots that let the plants take greater advantage of precipitation. Their larger roots, which can reach ten to 12 feet down, reduce erosion, build soil and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. They require fewer passes of farm equipment and less herbicide, key features in less developed regions.
By contrast, annual grains can lose five times as much water as perennial crops and 35 times as much nitrate, a valuable plant nutrient that can migrate from fields to pollute drinking water and create “dead zones” in surface waters.
“Developing perennial versions of our major grain crops would address many of the environmental limitations of annuals while helping to feed an increasingly hungry planet,” said Reganold.
Perennial grain research is underway in Argentina, Australia, China, India, Sweden and the United States. Washington State University has more than a decade of work on perennial wheat led by Stephen Jones, director WSU’s Mount Vernon Research Center. Jones is also a contributor to the Science paper, which has more than two dozen authors, mostly plant breeders and geneticists.
The authors say research into perennial grains can be accelerated by putting more personnel, land and technology into breeding programs. They call for a commitment similar to that underway for biologically based alternative fuels.”
Food is the ultimate security need, new map shows | Damian Carrington | Environment | guardian.co.uk 1 comment
” A new map of food security risk around the world is, in some ways, depressingly familiar. Sub-saharan Africa leaps out as the place where the most people fear for their next meal, while the rich world has more to fear from obesity. But there’s plenty of salutary reminders and fascinating detail, like India’s food problems and the vulnerability of Spain.
And it demonstrates the sickening, symbiotic relationship between lack of food and conflict: where one leads, the other follows.”
John Kufuor helps transform Ghana into a model for African agriculture – CSMonitor.com Leave a comment
Agriculture as a catalyst for health and social change in Ghana. An excellent prescriptive model.
“Ghana’s transformation over the past decade has made it one of the more politically stable countries in Africa, and, as President Kufuor writes, Ghana has “made some of the greatest progress in reducing hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.”
Kufuor, a recently announced recipient of the 2011 World Food Prize, served as Ghana’s democratically elected president from 2001-2009. In the opening of the report, titled “Ghana’s Transformation,” he writes, “When I became Ghana’s President in 2000, my country needed solutions for hunger, malnutrition, and a host of other problems.”
Kufuor found agriculture to be a catalyst for these solutions. Agriculture is critical to Ghana’s economy, as some 60 percent of the country’s population depends directly on rural agriculture. Kufuor’s administration worked to harness an agriculture transformation to strengthen the nation’s economy.”