Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
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.
Story by:Joe DeCapua VOA
WASHINGTON May 24, 2012 – Partners in the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a fund that supports country-led efforts to fight hunger and poverty, today announced that six countries will receive grants totaling $177 million. The grants – to Burundi, the Gambia, Kyrgyz Republic, Malawi, Senegal, and Tanzania – will help each country increase food security, raise rural incomes, and reduce poverty.
International food prices remain volatile and high with the 2011 annual index 24 percent higher than its average in 2010. Prices of certain foods remain dangerously high in many countries, leaving millions of people at risk of malnutrition and hunger, many of them children. In developing countries that face more volatile international markets, it is essential to increase the productivity and resiliency of food production.
“The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program has quickly proven to be one of the most innovative and effective development programs the global community has created,” said Lael Brainard, Under Secretary of the United States Treasury for International Affairs. “GAFSP will raise the incomes of 7.5 million smallholder farmers and their families. These new grants will meet the high global demand for agricultural resources to achieve food security. Continued financial support from the development community is critical to maintaining momentum in the fight to achieve sustainable, lasting solutions to hunger and poverty.”
Launched in April 2010, GAFSP represents a global effort to aid vulnerable populations afflicted by hunger and poverty. It takes up where emergency and recovery assistance leaves off, targeting transformative and lasting change in agriculture and food security within poor countries through financial support to existing aid effectiveness processes.
In Togo, where the agriculture sector contributes 40 percent to GDP, GAFSP support is helping the country to implement their national agriculture plan and has funded seeds, fertilizer, and training for farmers. It has helped farmers to organize better, improved the production of maize and cassava, and increased donor coordination. In Rwanda, one of GAFSP’s first beneficiary countries, the funding is being used to reduce erosion and bolster productivity in hillside agriculture with tremendous results: potato yields are seven times higher than before and cereal yields have quadrupled.
Australia, which was selected as the new chair of the GAFSP Steering Committee, will work to improve the responsiveness of the fund, encourage quality proposals, and attract more donors.
“The program has already achieved significant results and we anticipate a substantial increase in national food security. For instance, in Cambodia GAFSP will help farmers to diversify their crops which will increase incomes, allowing families to feed themselves while obtaining goods and services to improve their nutrition and welfare,” AusAID First Assistant Director General, James Gilling said. “Channeling funding through GAFSP means we can reduce costs and ensure that aid efforts are coordinated, not duplicated.”
The Steering Committee allocated new funds to the following country proposals:
The successful country proposals were selected through a competitive process by the fund’s Steering Committee, which is composed of an equal number of voting members from donor and recipient countries, as well as three representatives from civil society organizations and other stakeholders in a non-voting capacity. The selections were based on recommendations from an independent review conducted by global agriculture experts. Successful country proposals demonstrated a high level of need, a supportive policy environment, and a comprehensive plan for agricultural development.
- In Burundi, GAFSP funds totaling $30 million will improve water management and irrigation in the drought-prone regions of Imbo and Mosso, with investments in infrastructure and agricultural intensification through improved technologies, productive assets, and the establishment of farmer field schools.
- In The Gambia, $28 million in GAFSP funds will target three highly food-insecure regions via an integrated area development program that includes land and water management, horticultural gardens, aquaculture farming, and small ruminant and poultry farming.
- In the Kyrgyz Republic, GAFSP has allocated $16.5 million to support a project that focuses on the rehabilitation of irrigation and drainage systems, building the capacity of water user associations, providing agricultural extension services, and a nutritional component.
- Malawi will receive $39.6 million to promote irrigated rice and horticulture production as well as crop diversification and value chain development for selected commodities.
- In Senegal, $40 million in GAFSP funds will promote livestock and crop production in three high-potential, drought-prone zones, including investments focused on: provision of water management systems, rural roads, vaccination centers, and financing for model ruminant and poultry operations.
- Tanzania will receive $22.9 million to support the rehabilitation of 18,500 hectares of irrigation schemes designed and managed by local government authorities, as well as subsidy on rice input packages in the project zones under an input voucher scheme.
This is the fourth round of countries to receive funding to support country-driven investment in agriculture and food security through GAFSP. The countries awarded GASFP funding in previous rounds are: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Liberia, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, and Togo. These investments will help transform the lives of 7.5 million people in rural areas.
“GAFSP funding came at the right time and has allowed us to improve the level of initial funds mobilized for the implementation of the National Agricultural Investment and Food Security Program (PNIASA) which Togo has adopted. It has helped us to stimulate the agricultural sector, which is essential to reviving the national economy”, said Mr. Kossi Messan Ewovor, the Togolese Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. “The positive results we are already seeing on the ground encourage us to work further for a more active participation of farmers in the program so that it can directly impact on their income. This will have a real impact on agricultural production, economic growth and, ultimately, will allow us to reduce poverty and increase food security.”
To date a total of $1.1 billion has been pledged to GAFSP by Australia, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, and the United States, with funds going to countries that have strategic, innovative and credible plans already in place to improve agricultural productivity and food security. The G8 has recently set a goal of raising $1.2 billion in further contributions to GAFSP over 3 years.
In Washington: Amy Stilwell, (202) 458-4906, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Kimberly Parent, (202) 458-5623, email@example.com
For more information, please visit: www.gafspfund.org
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