This post originally appeared on Worldwatch Institute Blog.
Worldwatch Institute highlights 12 ways to make the U.S. agriculture system more resilient to drought and, in the long run, more sustainable.
Soaring temperatures and low precipitation could not occur at a worse time for many farmers in the United States. Intensifying drought conditions are affecting corn and soybean crops throughout the Midwest, raising grain prices as well as concerns about future food prices. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that 88 percent of this year’s corn crop and 77 percent of the soybean crop are now affected by the most severe drought since 1988. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing drought assistance to 1,584 counties across 32 states and warns of increased food prices in 2013 as a result of corn and soybean yield losses.
Corn is currently selling at around $9 a bushel, a 50 percent increase from June, while soybeans are selling at a record high of $17 a bushel as a result of drought-related losses in crop yields. “The increased prices may benefit farmers in the short run,” said Danielle Nierenberg, director of the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project, “but consumers will experience the aftermath of price increases in the form of more money spent on poultry, beef, pork, and dairy products.”
The 2012 World Food Prize will be awarded to Dr. Daniel Hillel for conceiving and implementing a radically new mode of bringing water to crops in arid and dry land regions - known as “micro-irrigation.”
Dr. Hillel’s pioneering scientific work in Israel revolutionized food production, first in the Middle East, and then in other regions around the world over the past five decades. His work laid the foundation for maximizing efficient water usage in agriculture, increasing crop yields, and minimizing environmental degradation.
Statement of Achievement
First drawn to the critical needs of the water supply in arid regions during his years of living in a small settlement in the highlands of the Negev Desert, the new approach Dr. Hillel developed provided for a low-volume, high-frequency, calibrated water supply to plants. As such, his research led to a dramatic shift from the prevailing method of irrigation used in the first half of the twentieth century: applying water in brief periodic episodes of flooding to saturate the soil, followed by longer periods of drying out the soil. The new innovative method developed and disseminated by Dr. Hillel applied water in small but continuous amounts directly to the plant roots, with dramatic results in plant production and water conservation.
Dr. Hillel’s development and promotion of better land and water management clearly demonstrated that farmers no longer needed to depend on the soil’s ability to store water, as was the case when using the previous method of high volume, low frequency irrigation. The technology he advanced, including drip, trickle and continuous-feed irrigation, has improved the quality of life and livelihoods throughout the Middle East and around the world.
May 18, 2012
Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C.
Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you. Well, good morning, everybody. Thank you, Catherine Bertini, and Dan Glickman and everyone at the Chicago Council. We were originally going to convene, along with the G8, in Chicago. But since we’re not doing this in my hometown, I wanted to bring a little bit of Chicago to Washington. It is wonderful to see all of you. It is great to see quite a few young people here as well. And I want to acknowledge a good friend. We were just talking backstage -- he was my inspiration for singing at the Apollo -- Bono is here, and it is good to see him.
Now, this weekend at the G8, we’ll be represented by many of the world's largest economies. We face urgent challenges -- creating jobs, addressing the situation in the eurozone, sustaining the global economic recovery. But even as we deal with these issues, I felt it was also important, also critical to focus on the urgent challenge that confronts some 1 billion men, women and children around the world -- the injustice of chronic hunger; the need for long-term food security.
On May 18, 2012, President Barack Obama, with G8 and African leaders, businesses, international organizations and civil society will convene to discuss new activities to advance global agricultural development, food and nutrition security in Africa. The event, hosted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, will feature announcements of significant new business commitments for African agriculture and discussions on addressing hunger and poverty in the changing development landscape.
- Follow and comment on the Global Food for Thought blog;
- Follow @globalagdev and use event hashtag #globalag
By Sung Lee
UN Sees Risk of Unrest From Food Costs Above 10-Year Average, Bloomberg, May 7
The UN FAO is asking international lenders to accelerate the release of funds to help poor countries cope with high food costs through subsidies and avert riots, Hiroyuki Konuma, assistant director general at the FAO, said in an interview. Global food costs are about 40 percent above the average in the past 10 years.
World Bank Announces Makhtar Diop as its New Vice-President for Africa, World Bank, May 7
Makhtar Diop, a Senegalese national with more than 25 years of development experience, today becomes the new World Bank Vice-President for Africa. Diop was previously Country Director for Brazil since 2009 where he managed the World Bank’s largest country program. Prior to joining the Bank, Diop worked at the IMF and served as Minister of Finance of Senegal, and as Chair of the West African Monetary Union Board of Finance Ministers.
Blog From Niger: Resilient Women In The Face Of Hunger, Opinion, Ertharin Cousin, Alert Net, May 6
One month ago, during my first week in office as WFP's Executive Director, I began convening daily operational briefings. Since then, each and every briefing has included fresh and ever more disturbing details of the tragedy unfolding across Africa's Sahel region. Now, visiting Niger, I am witnessing first hand the human consequences of this complicated complex crisis.
UN Official Appeals for Urgent Funds to Assist Millions Across Africa's Sahel Region, UN News Center, May 6
There are currently 15 million people facing food insecurity in the Sahel, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes countries such as Niger and Mali. The trip is Ms. Cousin's first field visit since assuming the leadership of WFP one month ago.
By Sung Lee
Food Outlook: Global Market Analysis, FAO, May 2012
Global food prices seem to have stabilized at a relatively high level of around 214 points as measured by the FAO Food Price Index. Although the outlook for the second half of this year and into the next indicates generally improved supplies, demand remains strong and global food import bill in 2012 is expected to fall only slightly from the 2011 record.
Poll: US voters support funding UN health efforts, The Hill, May 3
Nine in 10 U.S. voters say it's important for the United States to support the global health efforts of the U.N.'s World Health Organization, according to a United Nations Foundation/Better World Campaign poll released Thursday. The poll found that 89 percent of respondents believe the United States should be supportive of U.N. programs that improve access to vaccines and maternal healthcare.
World Food Prices moved lower in April, Wall Street Journal, May 3
World food prices fell in April following three consecutive months of gains, pressured by declines in sugar, dairy and cereal prices that offset increases in oils and meat, the United Nations’ FAO said, but it warned that soybeans and corn could still drive prices higher later this year.
Pan-African trust fund to tackle food security, Food Navigator, May 2
An African-financed, FAO directed trust fund will provide resources needed to drive sustainable food production across the continent and the oil sector will play a crucial role, according to FAO’s director-general. The FAO will now engage in consultations with involved nations to draft a detailed proposal of the fund for final approval of participating member states.
By Sung Lee
Today's top stories on global agricultural development and food security issues.
To Foster Food Security Support Women’s Land Rights, Care, April 30
Millions of people across the world suffer from food insecurity, but a growing body of evidence is uncovering one way to address this problem: land rights. A preliminary study of a land purchase program in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which provided beneficiaries with plots of land of up to one acre, found that beneficiary households experienced significantly higher levels of food security. It means that 76% of beneficiary households reported having two meals a day, compared to only 50-57% of non-beneficiary households.
Food Security a National Security Issue, Opinion, Omardath Maharaj, Guardian Media, April 29
Food security is important and refers to the availability of food and one’s access to it. Price volatility and high food prices have become the focus of governments internationally, as well as here in Trinidad and Tobago. Civil unrest, praedial larceny, low nutrition and other social ills render food security as a national security issue. The development of the agriculture sector should therefore be a major part of any sustainable development initiative.
Mobile Money in Africa: Press 1 for Modernity, The Economist, April 28
Market traders use mobile phones to pay peasant farmers for a single bag of cassava or maize-meal. Mobile phones are also used to bank remittances from family members abroad. This may explain why mobile money has done so well in Somalia, a country which barely has a government, but where a third of adults said they used mobile money last year. For the most part, mobile-phone money is a substitute both for paper-based banks and for, say, sending cash via a bus driver.
Predators for Peace, Foreign Policy, April 27
The work of these entrepreneurs points to a future in which waves of aid drones might quickly deliver a peaceful "first strike" capacity of food and medicines to disaster areas. Relief drones could offer direct point-to-point delivery of medicines and essential supplies. On-board video could verify that the aid has been dropped to target recipients and provide real-time feedback on ground conditions. As technology constantly betters the drones' capabilities, ranges, and payloads, it's possible to imagine even more creative methods of aid delivery.