Food & Agriculture

Is the quinoa agriculture model one that can be replicated in other parts of Bolivia?

Mieke Dale HarrisThe recent history of quinoa production in Bolivia probably tells the country’s most inspirational agriculture success story.  In the five years between 2006 and 2011 quinoa production increased by 163 percent, from 7,750 metric tons to 20,366 metric tons. During the last decade quinoa prices have also shown an unprecedented increase. The price of the specialty crop ‘royal quinoa’ rose from US$1,245 per metric ton to 2007 and an astonishing US$3,237 per metric ton in 2012.

Quinoa is a grain-like crop that is traditionally cultivated in the most un-hospitable parts of the Andean mountain range. For centuries South Americans living on high altitude Andean plateaus have reaped the benefits of quinoa seeds, but little international attention had been paid to the crop. Read More »

Graphics: Why agriculture needs to be greener

Agriculture has one of the highest potentials for reducing carbon emissions and helping vulnerable people adapt to climate change. As it stands, industrial agriculture that uses toxic chemical inputs of fertilizer and pesticides for growing highly destructive monocultures and antibiotics for animals that are fed unnatural foods in terribly confined conditions is taking a huge toll on the planet. Agriculture is one of the world’s biggest causes of deforestation and, thus, loss of biodiversity and vastly increased rate of species extinction; currently species are disappearing at 50-500 times faster than background fossil record rates. If we continue at current rates, another 10bn ha of natural ecosystems would be converted to agriculture by 2050. This type of land use change is the single most largest contributor to emissions in developing countries, making agriculture responsible for 18 percent of all GHG emissions in the world (74 percent of which are in Developing Countries) – which is larger than the whole of the transport sector. Intensive farming practices have added to soil degradation so much so that 17 percent of Earth´s vegetated land in now classified as degraded. In addition, agriculture consumed 90 percent of global freshwater during the last century and because renewable freshwater stocks are very low, demand from the projected additional 2.3bn people by 2050  will need to be met from existing irrigated land. This is particularly a problem since 64 percent of the world´s population is projected to live in water-stressed areas by 2025. While additional pressures on agriculture are coming from new projects such as carbon sequestration and the rising global demand for biofuel crops. Read More »

Is economy of scale really what’s best for the agriculture sector?

Over the last two decades there has been a great surge in land reform policies in developing countries. These land reform policies have mainly focused on rural property rights, and have consisted of giving small to medium size farmers, who for years have suffered from tenure insecurity, legal ownership of their land and property. Land reform has different objectives in different countries, but it is generally an attempt to boost development of the agricultural sector and rural regions, where poverty is often at its most extreme.  It is also used to appease peasant farmers, who in many countries are increasingly disgruntled by the rural inequality legacy of colonialism that is now being heightened by the rise of wealthy large scale agribusinesses due to the globalization of the food market.

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How ‘sustainable’ is sustainable development in the corporate world?

According to the 2005 World Summit on Social Development, sustainability requires the reconciliation of the three elements of economic, social and environmental endurance. Up until not too long ago, companies externalized costs to society and the environment and took advantage of cheaper and more convenient labour in their restless pursuit of profit.  However, activism and awareness campaigns by NGOs have encouraged consumers to demand more sustainable products and services. As a result, today, many companies proudly advertise their sustainable business practices. The ensuing policies of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) are in part motivated  by the long-term financial savings sustainable businesses can make; however, they are also a marketing strategy aimed at convincing people that their money is being invested in something that is good for people and the planet. Read More »

There are no country-bumpkin economists: A problem for economic research institutes

Since entering the world of economics a short while ago I have repeatedly been surprised by some major development institutions’ lack of regard for the country-side and rural activities. In the 2009 the World Development Report the World Bank called on an increase in urbanization, and therefore a reduction in rural employment, as “essential for economic success.” This development policy was adopted by both the World Bank and a number of senior economists after seeing the positive effects that industrialization has had in North America, Western Europe and Northeastern Asia.  One underlying view behind this popular urbanization theory is that the countryside is a breeding ground for poverty, which can only be relieved with mass migration to cities where “proper” economic activities in the service and business sectors can be undertaken.

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GUEST ROAST: Symbiotic demand—A new mechanism to reward sustainable farms’ ecosystem services

By Tim Gieseke

“Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the world.” Archimedes, 230 BC

Nothing seems to loom larger than the degradation of the environment at the hand of the growing global economy. This antagonistic relationship has been recognized for centuries and was made famous by Garrett Hardin’s 1967 essay of the “Tragedy of the Commons”. Read More »

INESAD News: 12 Initiatives Making a Difference In Food and Agriculture

This week, INESAD’s Ioulia Fenton and Adam Nelson published a cover story in the October 2012 issue of Global South Development Magazine, where Ioulia Fenton is also the Assistant Editor:

12 Initiatives Taking Positive Steps Towards a Healthier, Fairer and More Sustainable Food and Agriculture System

The world’s global food and agriculture system is not working. On the one end, the Green Revolution has converted much farmland into industrial agricultural production that uses man-made chemical pesticides and fertilizers instead of methods that are more harmonious with nature. This has led to the loss of biodiversity as tillage and use of pesticides have killed off or deterred other plant and animal species. Read More »

Fresh Moves: A Mobile Solution to Chicago’s Food Deserts

Sheelah Muhammad* is the co-founder of Fresh Moves—a project working for food justice in Chicago’s poorest areas. The organization employs five people from the communities in which they operate—prioritizing difficult-to-employ individuals who struggle to find work elsewhere—to bring fresh fruit and vegetables to communities that lack greengrocers or other sources of healthy food options.

“It is not just about food, it is about empowerment,” said the co-founder about Fresh Moves. Muhammad co-launched the initiative with activists Jeff Pinzino and Steven Casey as a direct response to the 2006 Mari Gallagher Report, which examined the health impact of food deserts in the city of Chicago. According to the document, food deserts are “neighborhoods with no or distant grocery stores but an abundance of fast food restaurants and other retail outlets offering little or no nutritious food.”   Read More »

INESAD News: Five Sustainable and Fascinatingly Fun Pest Management Techniques

Development RoastINESAD’s Ioulia Fenton has spent the summer researching food and agriculture issues with Worldwatch Institute‘s Nourishing the Planet (NtP) project. Here is her latest article featured today by NtP:

Five Sustainable and Fascinatingly Fun Pest Management Techniques.

According to a recent report by the Pesticide Action Network, the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture is costly to human health and biodiversity: the effects of excessive exposure range from skin and eye irritation to disruptions of the immune system and death by poisoning. It is also increasingly expensive for farmers who have to keep up with pests’ natural ability to adapt to chemical formulas and resilience. But many farmers are abandoning chemicals for more natural methods that are not only chemical-free, but are also fascinating and fun.

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“You Can’t Fire Your Land”: How the Humble Farmer Dethrones Free Market Economics

One of the primary lessons in Economics 101 is that of the rules of supply and demand in a market economy and their relationship to price. The basics being that the price of a product will adjust depending on the level of demand and level of supply in any given market and will eventually settle on an equilibrium when supply balances with demand.

Now we don’t need to go into all the details, as, for the sake of argument, we are interested in only one theoretical law governing this relationship. It states that should the market for a particular good get over-saturated with supply, then the price of this good will keep going down until a point where producers will stop making it or scale down their operations as they will no longer be as profitable. Read More »


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