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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More