News / Africa

Making Farming Better in Developing Countries

President Barack Obama joins African leaders, aid organizations to address African hunger, poverty, Washington, May 18, 2012.President Barack Obama joins African leaders, aid organizations to address African hunger, poverty, Washington, May 18, 2012.
x
President Barack Obama joins African leaders, aid organizations to address African hunger, poverty, Washington, May 18, 2012.
President Barack Obama joins African leaders, aid organizations to address African hunger, poverty, Washington, May 18, 2012.
Joe DeCapua
The new head of a major research organization says the key to food security is to farm smarter, not to plow more land. The strains on agriculture are growing as the global population rises and emerging economies demand more types of food.

“Agriculture had been neglected for several decades. We had become used to abundant and cheap food. And the world got a wake-up call in 2008, ’10, ’11 with spikes in food prices. And people realized that we have to produce an awful lot more food for a growing world population, as much as 70 percent by 2050,” said Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, more commonly known as CGIAR.

Right and wrong

The world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, an increase of 2 billion from the current level. But to feed that many people is it simply a matter of planting more seeds on more land?

“No, actually, that’s the wrong way to go because basically crop yields – the amount of crop that we get per hectare has sort of plateaued. It’s no longer increasing. The only thing farmers can do is indeed plow under more land and they’re doing that at an alarming pace. They’re doing that now more rapidly than during the green revolution. But if they do that they’re going to plow under marginal lands, key environmental areas. That would be quite disastrous and not a long-term sustainable path,” he said.

Rijsberman said the key is research to learn how to get greater crop output from existing agricultural land. That’s one of the main goals of CGIAR.

“There’s a lot of private sector research in agriculture, but that serves primarily the big commercial farmers. We are serving the smallholder farmers – the 500 million farmers on less than two hectares – that provide most of the food in developing countries,” he said.

Some of the organization’s key research programs include improving varieties of corn, wheat, rice, potatoes and yams, as well as fish and animals.

A second goal is to get the latest research into the hands of smallholder farmers as quickly as possible. Information such as ways to better access markets and reduce post-harvest loses. Another is to address the issues of climate change, nutrition and gender, since women account for much if not most of the agricultural production around the world.

Rijsberman said while recent spikes in food prices may not hit consumers very hard in developed countries, they can have a devastating effect in poor countries.

“The poor billions in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who spend 80, 90 percent of their income on food - if the food price goes up 10, 20 percent that has an immediate impact. Those people are more vulnerable. Just the recent food price spike from 2010/11 pushed some 44-million more people into poverty. So big impact immediately felt by the most vulnerable,” he said.

The CGIAR is getting ready for the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development. It begins June 20th in Rio de Janeiro. The meeting marks the 20th anniversary of the first so-called Earth Summit. Rijsberman says at the initial summit, agriculture and environment were opposing forces. He describes them now as “best friends.”

At the recent Camp David G8 Summit, President Obama announced the New Alliance on Food and Nutrition Security. It calls for much greater investment and involvement by the private sector. Rijsberman said for Africa to reach its food security goals, agriculture investment would need to increase by $21 billion dollars per year. Most of that would have to come from the private sector.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs