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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs