06.06.2012 |

Agriculture Research in Africa should follow IAASTD

Sorghum Kenya
Die Rolle der Geschlechter spielt eine tragende Rolle beim Kampf gegen Armut und Hunger. Photo: Bioversity International/ Y. Wachira

According to a briefing paper published by APRODEV and PELUM Association, the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) has largely failed to take the IAASTD’s findings into account within its agricultural research policy. This briefing paper, which analysed the extent to which agricultural research, one of the four CAADP pillars, meets the needs of small-scale farmers, names five key problems. It noted that African states have not kept their promise to double spending on agricultural research and that, while the IAASTD had stressed the need to close the gender gap in agricultural policies, vital measures to support female farmers were still missing. With women being the main food producers in Africa this is an issue that urgently needs to be addressed. Furthermore, the CAADP continues to be based on a farming model that relies heavily on external inputs, such as fertilisers and pesticides and seeds from agribusiness, rather than promoting sustainable farming systems. In addition, in contrast to the IAASTD, which is cautious on GM crops and underlines the importance of local, informal seed systems, CAADP partners still continue to promote GM crops and more formal seed legislation. The paper concludes that CAADP programmes often disregard the needs of smallholders because they have only a small voice in the design of the agricultural research agenda.

29.05.2012 |

Brazilian President fails to veto unpopular new ‘Forest Code’

Amazon rainforest in danger
Amazon rainforest in danger Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT

On Friday, the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff vetoed selected sections of a controversial new Forest Code, that had recently been introduced to alter regulations relating to the preservation of forests. Rousseff had faced growing pressure from across the world to veto the entire bill after Congress passed a version in late April that critics argued substantially weakened the protection of forests and the penalties for illegal forest clearings. Rousseff vetoed 12 articles in total and introduced 32 modifications to the bill, which if left in, would have undermined reforestation requirements and the protection of riverbanks. However, conservationists were disappointed that the President did not simply reject the entire bill in response to concerns that the new ‘Codigo Florestal’ would increase deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. “Dilma has ignored the 80 percent of Brazilians who opposed the changes to the current Forest Code and demanded a full veto”, said Greenpeace Brazil's Paulo Adario. The bill will now be sent back to Congress, which can, in a month, override Rousseff’s veto with a simple majority. Some analysts point out that this stratergy will give Dilma Rousseff the time she needs to present herself as protector of forests at the upcoming Rio+20 conference in June.

21.05.2012 |

Concern as G8 Relies on Agribusiness to Fight Hunger

G8 Attempts to Fix Broken Promises with Private Sector Partnership
Photo: Victoria Marzilli/Oxfam

At the G8 summit in Camp David, U.S. President Obama announced a ‘New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition’ which aims to help 50 million Africans escape poverty and hunger within 10 years through an increase in agricultural growth. The plan is for the programme to start in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana and then expand to other African countries. However, the backbone of the initiative is made up of $3 billion of private sector investment, across the entire agricultural chain of production. In total 45 multinational companies plan to invest, most of which are based outside Africa, including agribusiness giants Monsanto, Cargill and DuPont. Swiss agrochemical company Syngenta is to invest over $500 million to develop seeds for local farmers. Several NGOs welcomed the commitment to fight hunger but were sceptical about dependence on the private sector: “Smallholder farmers need the freedom to pursue their own growing strategies, not take overly-prescriptive tips on farming from G8 leaders, or one size fits all technologies from far away CEOs”, said Lamine Ndiaye from Oxfam. The new alliance builds on pledges made at L’Aquila in 2009, where G8 nations committed $22 billion to food security and agricultural investment over three years - only part of the money has been disbursed.

11.05.2012 |

UN Endorses Land Tenure Guidelines

Men cultivating land inTanzania
Tanzania: Men cultivating land Photo: Geoff Sayer/Oxfam

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has today adopted a series of guidelines, which aim to improve the governance of people’s tenure of land, fisheries and forests, while also ensuring food security. The guidelines address various issues ranging from the protection of informal land rights and the transfer of tenure rights, to the right of women and indigenous people to have access to land. They are also intended to prevent land grabbing by ensuring responsible forms of investment. The endorsement of the principles was the result of a three year process with the participation of various stakeholders. “Land, fisheries and forests cannot be left at the mercy of markets and speculators", said Flavio Valente, Secretary General of FIAN International, a human rights organisation engaged in the preparation process. Now governments must commit themselves to implementing the guidelines and adapting national policies. According to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva “It's a starting point that will help improve the often dire situation of the hungry and poor”.

08.05.2012 |

New Club of Rome report paints a grim future

A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. Photo: Club of Rome.
A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. Photo: Club of Rome.

The Club of Rome launched their latest report “2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years” yesterday which issues a warning about humanity’s ability to survive. The grim conclusion is that mankind will soon be confronted with the limits of the planet if it continues with the over-consumption and short-sightedness of the current political and economic model. “We already live in a manner that cannot be continued for generations without major change. Humanity has overshot the earth’s resources“, said Jorgen Randers, author of the report. The report predicts that CO2 emissions will continue to increase, leading to a rise of 2 degrees by 2052, and that economic growth will stagnate due to slower productivity growth in the current dominant economies. Global population is predicted to peak in 2042 due to fertility falling in urban areas. The report comes 40 years after the same think tank published a report entitled “The Limits of Growth”, which at the time caused a controversy for questioning the belief in endless growth.

04.05.2012 |

Uncertain Future for EU biofuels

Land clearing for oil palm expansion, Photo: Wakx/
Land clearing for oil palms, Photo: Wakx/

The European Commission failed to reach agreement on the future of the EU biofuels policy at an orientation meeting last Wednesday. The 27 commissioners had gathered to choose one of three policy options designed to address indirect land use changes (ILUC) related to biofuels. ILUC occur if forests are cleared or peatland is dried to meet the growing demand for biofuels, which in turn leads to a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Studies show that indirect emissions are far lower for ethanol than for biodiesel. The aim of the Commission’s meeting was to reach consensus on how to account for this ILUC process within the EU sustainability criteria for biofuels. However internal disputes prevented concrete action. Tough regulations on ILUC could potentially endanger Europe’s 13 billion euro biofuels industry, which is why agribusiness is now attempting to flex its muscles. Discussions will continue to find a compromise before the end of the year.

02.05.2012 |

African Organic Conference opens today

Organic farm in Benin
Organic farm in Benin Photo: daventam/

The 2nd African Organic Conference “Mainstreaming Organic Agriculture in the African Development Agenda” will today be opened in Lusaka, Zambia. From 2- 4 May, over 300 delegates from 40 countries and four continents, including representatives from governments, UN agencies, NGOs, the private sector and research institutions, will participate in the event. The conference has been organised by the Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ) in cooperation with the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Grow Organic Africa. The aim of the event is to promote organic agriculture in the policies of African governments as well as among NGOs and development partners. Successful organic agricultural projects and case studies from Africa will be presented. Organic agriculture in Africa is gaining impetus: More than 1 million hectares of agricultural land and roughly 530,000 farmers are certified, according to organic standards in Africa.

26.04.2012 |

Brazilian Congress approves controversial Forest Code

Aerial view of Amazon rainforest
Aerial view Amazon rainforest Photo: CIFOR/

On Wednesday, after several months of political controversy and constant pressure from the agribusiness sector, the Brazilian Congress approved substantial changes to the existing Forest Code. The new legislation grants amnesty to individuals who illegally cleared forests prior to 2008. According to environmental groups, the Forest Code weakens the protection of the Amazon rainforest, contributing to carbon emissions. Just a few weeks before the country is due to host the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, this vote “has cast a dark shadow across Brazil's reputation as a global leader in the fight against deforestation and climate change”, said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Brazil. All eyes will now be on President Dilma Rousseff who could still veto the bill, or at least parts of it.

17.04.2012 |

April 17th: Worldwide mobilisation for the International Day of Peasant’s Struggle

Via Campesina Poster
La Via Campesina Poster

Small-scale farmers, and organisations supporting them, are today marking the International Day of Peasant’s Struggle, commemorating the massacre of 19 landless Brazilian farmers in 1996. More than 250 actions and demonstrations will take place across the globe. The international farmers’ movement La Via Campesina is this year mobilising against the current trend of land grabbing: States, transnational corporations and hedge funds are depriving local farmers of their land and leading to increased hunger. “In the run up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit, farmers and supporters of the food sovereignty and agroecology movement are actively opposing the ‘greening of capitalism’ that is now promoted at the international level”, said Henry Saragih, general coordinator of la Via Campesina.

17.04.2012 |

Sofía Gatica from Argentina takes on Monsanto, wins Goldman Environmental Prize

Hats off to this mother of three who got fed up and took charge. Thirteen years ago, Sofía Gatica’s newborn died of kidney failure after being exposed to pesticides in the womb. After the despair came anger, then a fierce determination to protect the children in her community and beyond. Today, she’s one of six grassroots leaders from around the world receiving the Goldman Environmental Prize, in recognition of her courageous — and successful — efforts.


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