Everyone needs to eat. We need food for basic survival, to maintain good health and be productive. Food is also central to most cultures; indeed, civilization itself was made possible, to a great extent, by the development of agriculture. Some 2.5 billion people derive their livelihoods from agriculture.
At the same time, agriculture and food production are major contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, and use large amounts of natural resources, particularly land and water. As food demand increases with a growing population and rising incomes, pressures on the environment will grow, too.
That is why the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is so important. Established in 1974 under the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it aims to be “the most inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together in a coordinated way to ensure food security and nutrition for all”. CFS meetings include not only policy-makers, but farmers and other food producers, indigenous peoples, consumer groups, agricultural researchers, finance institutions, the private sector and philanthropies.
I participated in the 43rd CFS meeting, held in Rome on 17–21 October, as part of a reporting team charged with covering different side-events for social media. Below are the four blogs I produced. Prior to CFS43, I also interviewed Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and member of the CFS High Level Panel of Experts, about a special report by the panel on review, regulation and sustainable development of the livestock sector.
The microbes are coming: it’s time to act!
If you think about it, antibiotics are a miracle of science. They make it possible to have major surgery without dying from infections. They make serious diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis curable. Yet antibiotics become ineffective when used incorrectly or too often, which accelerates the development of resistant bacteria. The more antibiotics we use, the higher the risk they are going to stop working – and we are using them in huge amounts in livestock production.
Making innovation ‘shine’ in Tanzania
Drones, aquaponics systems, solar power water desalinization, LED-lit farms with optimized photosynthesis and digital soil mapping. That’s the list of top five innovations in agriculture for 2015. How many of these are applied in Africa? And how many of these are applied on a large scale in smallholder farming? The Tanzanian Horticulture Association (TAHA), a public-private partnership that works across the horticulture value chain, immediately caught my attention at a side-event on new technologies at CFS43.
Nairobi fresh: How an innovative law is helping the city to grow its own food
Ever heard of Kibera vertical farms? These are not perhaps the designer skyscraper greenhouses you might imagine, but rather sacks filled with soil. However, Kibera dwellers are able to grow tomatoes, spinach and kale in those sacks which, together with ugali and eggs, from Kibera-kept chickens, make a nutritious meal. But it was not always like that. It was only after the adoption of the Nairobi Urban Food Bill in 2014 that agriculture became legal in the city.
Building the mighty CFS ecosystem, from global to national
Policy recommendations provided by the World Committee on Food Security (CFS) are not legally binding; implementation is up to country members. But let’s skip the talks about why this should be done at all and imagine that all politicians agreed to actively take the CFS recommendations forward. So how do we effectively transfer global policies to the national level? A natural first step is to establish a communications portal that can “translate” global CFS policy for national contexts.