By Sung Lee
Administrator Rajiv Shah published the USAID’s second annual letter on Friday. The letter highlighted the USAID’s recent initiatives to elevate development and how those efforts have been integrated into America’s key diplomatic and national security priorities. Elevating development means, “we have to focus on seizing pivotal opportunities to build resilience to disasters, boost global agricultural production and improve child survival,” said Administrator Shah.
Although development is full of competing priorities, the US must invest in agricultural development to help small farmers to increase productivity and build resilience to climate change. “The majority of the very poor and hungry are farming families who tend small plots of land. For most poor people in the world, tending the land is one of the only ways to earn money and feed their families. That’s why almost every country that has emerged as a developed economy has done so by increasing the productivity of its farms. Economic growth means agricultural growth in those countries, almost by definition, accounting for more than 25 percent of GDP. Just a one percent gain in agricultural production can generate a four percent increase in the purchasing power of the poor. To put it simply: if you care about fighting poverty, then you should care about boosting harvests.” The letter is available on USAID website and can be downloaded here.
Farmers Battle Water Scarcity as Food Demand Grows, UN Says, Bloomberg, March 12
Farmers will need 19 percent more water by 2050 to meet increasing demands for food, much of it in regions already suffering from water scarcity. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has said food output must rise 70 percent by 2050 to feed a world population expected to grow to 9.3 billion from 7 billion now and as increasingly rich consumers in developing economies eat more meat. A quarter of world farmland is “highly degraded” by intensive agriculture that has depleted water resources, reduced soil quality or increased erosion, according to the agency.
Standing Up for Africa, Wall Street Journal, March 12
A farmer in his spare time, Mr Obasanjo has become a vocal advocate of agricultural reform and has called on African leaders to prioritize food security following a year in which drought-induced food shortages spread throughout the Horn of Africa. "African agriculture needs, in some cases, good management to increase efficiency throughout the value chain, and to modernize and make productivity gains, and in some cases it requires additional capital too," he says.
Food Security: Our Daily Bread, Guardian, March 11
Australian scientists have just tested a new strain of wheat that could increase yields in saline soils by 25%.Just 11% of the planet's land surface is suitable for agriculture, and a lot of this land is being steadily degraded by salination. Salts tend to accumulate wherever soils are irrigated, and ever higher tides will mean that huge tracts of now fertile estuary farmland – for instance in the Nile delta, and in Bangladesh – are increasingly at risk from catastrophic flooding or slow poisoning with brine. Extremes of heat, too, tend to depress crop yields.
U.S. Exports to China Boom, Despite Trade Tensions, Washington Post, March 11
With a richer China showing a growing appetite for U.S. products, the flow of goods includes an increasing volume of American soybeans, cars, airplanes and medicine — and even garbage that can be mined for copper and aluminum. Overall, U.S. exports to China are up nearly 50 percent in value since 2008.
West Africa Needs $69.8 in Aid to Avert ‘Full-Scale’ Food Crisis – UN, Vanguard, March 10
The United Nations food agency FAO appealed for an extra $69.8 million (53.2 million euros) to aid 790,000 vulnerable households in the drought-hit Sahel region in West Africa. FAO said at least 15 million people were at risk of food insecurity in the Sahel, including around 5.4 million in Niger, 3.6 million in Chad, 3.0 million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and 850,000 in Senegal.