Tag Archives: Food Security

Biofuels – A Good Way to Fight Climate Change?

The Earth’s climate is changing and the vast majority of the scientific community as well as the public is now convinced that human activity is contributing significantly to this phenomenon. The underlying cause is an increase in the concentration of ‘greenhouse gases’ in the Earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, which is released when fossil fuels are burnt; nitrous oxide from chemical fertilizers; and methane which is produced from activities like rice farming and livestock production. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to the ‘greenhouse effect’ – a rise in the average global temperature which leads to melting ice-caps and therefore rising sea-levels. Additionally, the change in the atmosphere makes the climate more unpredictable, increasing the incidence of ‘freak’ weather events such as hurricanes, floods and droughts (‘global weirding’). Regardless of what is causing the climate to change, preparations need to be made to cope with the consequences as they will impact on many aspects of life. One of these will be the world’s food supplies and food prices, since agricultural growing conditions will change in certain places, affecting the type and quantity of crops that can be grown. This in turn will affect people’s ability to buy and otherwise access food.

However, right now, the biggest impact of climate change on food supplies and food access does not come directly from the changes in climate. Instead, it comes from one of the ways in which we are trying to stop climate change: biofuels. ‘Undercovering Undernutrition Part II‘ showed that the growing demand for biofuels (mainly from western countries) means that in some areas biofuel crops are being grown preferentially over food crops due to their profitability. A 2010 report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) reported that European countries have chosen to meet the European Union (EU) legal requirement of including 10 percent of renewable energy in all transport fuels by 2020 by importing biofuels from places such as Indonesia, Brazil, and some African countries. One of the results, reported by The Guardian newspaper, is that the land acquired over the past decade for growing biofuel crops could have produced food for a billion people. This has led to increased food prices, leading to more people being unable to afford food and therefore going hungry. Read More »

Uncovering Undernutrition (Part II): What are the causes of undernutrition?

Uncovering Undernutrition Part I looked at how many people are undernourished in different regions of the world, and how much food is available in those regions. These numbers were taken from the 2012 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) entitled ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World‘. The report shows that there is more than enough food available to feed everyone, therefore, there must be other reasons why several million people are going hungry each year. So, what else affects undernutrition levels around the world? Read More »

Uncovering Undernutrition (Part I): Is there enough food?

In 1996 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) estimated that the world was producing enough food to provide each person with 2,700 calories per day. Each day an average grown man needs around 2,500 calories per day, a grown woman around 2,000 calories, and children less. In other words, in the mid-nineties, there was more than enough food to keep everyone in the world adequately fed. Yet nearly 1 billion people, around 17 percent of the population at that time, were undernourished. What was happening?

According to the FAO, undernourishment occurs when, for at least a year, a person is unable to eat enough calories to meet the minimum energy needs of an inactive lifestyle. It does not take into account the needs of those who have a physically active life, such as farmers or manual laborers, and therefore need more calories to stay strong and healthy. Nor does it take into account deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals which can have negative long-term effects on health, such as weak bones and skeletal deformities caused by a lack of vitamin D.

Based on the latest country data on population numbers, availability and distribution of food, and the ability of people to afford and physically access that food, the 2012 FAO report,’The State of Food Insecurity in the World‘ reveals a lot about undernourishment around the world over the past two decades.

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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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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 »

Relevance of Ancient Technologies to Today’s Global Problems

“More and more and higher-level technology” is heralded as the way that the human population will eventually get itself out of the global troubles it has wreaked. Under-researched genetically modified seeds to be sold to poor rural farmers in India; financially, socially and environmentally expensive Three Dams Project in China; and ethically dubious biofuel alternatives made in order to stem the toxic air pollution of the global transport industry. Each high-tech solution has its merits and its downfalls, of course, but do we always need to be looking forward or could we learn something from our ancestors? Read More »

INESAD News: “Challenging Accepted Wisdoms: Rural-Urban Linkages in Under-Nutrition”

Action Against Hunger UK (ACF UK) recently commissioned INESAD‘s Ioulia Fenton to help write the Guatemala part of a global report on the role of rural-urban linkages in under-nutrition. What this type of research originates from is the growing recognition that people’s lives in developing countries can no longer be neatly compartmentalised into either rural or urban. Someone who lives in a village and has land will also have to get a job in the city selling trinkets to make ends meet. Meanwhile, those who live in the cities will hang on to family land, work on other people’s farms or perhaps grow food in their city dwelling, something called urban agriculture.

Even the urban spaces we live in are also increasingly ambiguous and frequently an urban city can have a very rural face. In fact, depending on whose national standards you use, each country’s urbanity or rurality can look very very different. Read More »


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