Three ways cities can help feed the world . . .

Three ways cities can help feed the world . . .

In effect, three ways cities can help feed the world . . . without costing the Earth, per Silvio Caputo, University of Kent seem to be one of the few options remaining for life on earth to carry on.

Climate change is underway, and human activities such as urbanisation, industrialisation and food production are key contributors. Food production alone accounts for around 25% of global carbon emissions. Ironically, the changing weather patterns and more frequent extreme weather events resulting from climate change also put the world’s food supplies at risk.

Food production drives deforestation, meaning there are fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. What’s more, the fertilisers and pesticides used to protect crops have caused a dramatic decline in insect populations, and in soil fertility, by affecting the microbial organisms that enrich the soil and enable plants to gain nutrients.

At the same time, the world population is rising and there are expected to be more than 9.5 billion people on Earth by 2050. In response to these projections, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is campaigning for a 60% increase in food production by 2050, by intensifying agriculture to be more productive and use fewer resources, all without increasing the amount of farm land.

It’s not yet clear exactly how this “intensification” should happen. Alternative methods, such as organic farming, are respectful of soil ecology and insect life and can restore soil fertility. But they cannot, at present, produce as much food as industrial agriculture.

Organic produce: delicious, but not yet scalable. Shutterstock.

Yet the idea that we need more food is debatable. Although, according to the FAO, there are 821m people globally suffering from hunger, the world produces 50% more food than is needed to feed the global population. Another estimate from biologist and author Colin Tudge suggests that the current food production can feed as many as 14 billion people. But one third of this food is wasted because of distorted supply systems, unjust food distribution and unhealthy and unsustainable diets.

So, the efforts of experts in the food sector should not concentrate on agriculture intensification, but rather on strategies to change patterns of consumption and waste at a local and global level. My own research on urban agriculture and sustainable cities suggests there are three main areas where effective changes can be made.

1. Recycling food waste

Food consumption needs to become “circular”. This means that organic waste such as food scraps does not go to landfill, but is instead transformed into compost (which will be needed in a transition to organic agriculture) and biogas.


Read more:
Ugly veg: supermarkets aren’t the biggest food wasters – you are


At present, organic waste is only recycled to a small extent, with some countries such as Germany and the Netherlands leading, while others including Italy and Belgium lag behind. But there are new technologies emerging to make this process easier.

Waste not… Shutterstock.

For example, the Local Energy Adventure Partnership (LEAP) has created an anaerobic digester designed for an urban context: this machine can transform organic waste from residential or commercial buildings into compost and biogas that can fuel urban food growing.

Some experts also suggest that some food waste – if treated properly – could be used as animal fodder: a practice currently forbidden on hygiene grounds. If reinstated, this measure could reduce the environmental impact of grain cultivation, as less is grown to feed livestock.

2. Urban farming

Another option is to decrease demand for agricultural land by growing food in cities, where more people need it, thereby reducing the distances food has to travel. This would also allow producers to map and match consumers’ demand more effectively, by producing close to the places where food is consumed.

Vertical farming: on the up. Shutterstock.

There is a lot of research on urban agriculture and how cities can support it, spanning from vertical farms – hydroponic systems enabling cultivation on vertical surfaces – to principles for planning cities that facilitate the use of land, rooftops and other spaces to grow food into a continuous green infrastructure.


Read more:
How urban farmers are learning to grow food without soil or natural light


In this area, too, it’s possible to find innovations designed to make urban farming easier and more sustainable. For example, The Farmhouse is a modular housing system suitable for vertical stacking that enables all residents to grow food. And Blockchain Domes is a patented system that uses excess heat from computer servers to provide optimal thermal conditions for greenhouses in colder climates.

3. Changing diets

The third option is to encourage people to change their diets. Growing middle-income groups in developing countries are consuming ever higher quantities of meat, cheese and eggs. In China, since 1990, consumption of beef and poultry has quadrupled. But the diet of farmed animals is heavy in grains, which instead could be used to feed people more efficiently. Also, cattle farming requires vast quantities of water and grassland, sometimes obtained through deforestation.

Getting people to eat less meat will help to ease the pressure on the world’s food system. In cities, governments, research institutions, communities and businesses can collaborate on food initiatives to give people healthier, cheaper and more sustainable choices – but this requires political will and organisation between different levels of government.


Read more:
Bug burgers, anyone? Why we’re opening the UK’s first insect restaurant


Clearly, each of these approaches has a limited scope of action, compared to agricultural techniques or strategies which can be deployed at an industrial level. But with so many promising proposals, there can be a many-pronged approach that that makes efficient use of the existing resources in cities, while also changing consumers’ habits. Together with these three changes, more effective policies for food justice and sovereignty can establish fairer food supply chains and more just distribution of food around the world.The Conversation

Silvio Caputo, Senior Lecturer, University of Kent

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
The Conversation

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Why we’re living in the ‘Asian Century’

Why we’re living in the ‘Asian Century’

This article originally appeared on Fast Company, it was republished by the World Economic Forum on 8 March 2019. It is to be noted that in the eastern end of the MENA region, notably in the Gulf Cooperation Countries, Asian populations and investments happily cohabitate with the respective native minorities.

The centre of the world. Image: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Why we’re living in the ‘Asian Century’

By Parag Khanna, Senior Research Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

This excerpt is from Parag Khanna’s book “The future is Asian”. The book was chosen as February’s book for the World Economic Forum Book Club. Each month, a new book will be selected and discussed in the group. The author will then join in on the last day of the month to reply to some questions from our audience.

Join here: wef.ch/bookclub

When we look back from 2100 at the date on which the cornerstone of an Asian-led world order began, it will be 2017. In May of that year, sixty-eight countries representing two-thirds of the world’s population and half its GDP gathered in Beijing for the first Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit. This gathering of Asian, European, and African leaders symbolized the launch of the largest coordinated infrastructure investment plan in human history. Collectively, the assembled governments pledged to spend trillions of dollars in the coming decade to connect the world’s largest population centers in a constellation of commerce and cultural exchange—a new Silk Road era.

The Belt and Road Initiative is the most significant diplomatic project of the twenty-first century, the equivalent of the mid-twentieth-century founding of the United Nations and World Bank plus the Marshall Plan all rolled into one. The crucial difference: BRI was conceived in Asia and launched in Asia and will be led by Asians. This is the story of one entire side of the planet—the Asian side—and its impact on the twenty-first-century world.

The Future Is Asian: Commerce, Conflict, And Culture In The 21st Century Image: Simon & Schuster / Hachette, February 2019

Asians once again see themselves as the center of the world—and its future. The Asian economic zone—from the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey in the west to Japan and New Zealand in the east, and from Russia in the north to Australia in the south—now represents 50 percent of global GDP and two-thirds of global economic growth. Of the estimated $30 trillion in middle-class consumption growth estimated between 2015 and 2030, only $1 trillion is expected to come from today’s Western economies. Most of the rest will come from Asia.

The Future Is Asian: Commerce, Conflict, And Culture In The 21st Century Image: Simon & Schuster / Hachette, February 2019

Asia produces and exports, as well as imports and consumes, more goods than any other region, and Asians trade and invest more with one another than they do with Europe or North America. Asia has several of the world’s largest economies, most of the world’s foreign exchange reserves, many of the largest banks and industrial and technology companies, and most of the world’s biggest armies. Asia also accounts for 60 percent of the world’s population. It has ten times as many people as Europe and twelve times as many people as North America. As the world population climbs toward a plateau of around 10 billion people, Asia will forever be home to more people than the rest of the world combined. They are now speaking. Prepare to see the world from the Asian point of view.

To see the world from the Asian point of view requires overcoming decades of accumulated—and willfully cultivated—ignorance about Asia. To this day, Asian perspectives are often inflected through Western prisms; they can only color to an unshakable conventional Western narrative, but nothing more. Yet the presumption that today’s Western trends are global quickly falls on its face. The “global financial crisis” was not global: Asian growth rates continued to surge, and almost all the world’s fastest-growing economies are in Asia. In 2018, the world’s highest growth rates were reported in India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Uzbekistan. Though economic stimulus arrangements and ultralow interest rates have been discontinued in the United States and Europe, they continue in Asia. Similarly, Western populist politics from Brexit to Trump haven’t infected Asia, where pragmatic governments are focused on inclusive growth and social cohesion. Americans and Europeans see walls going up, but across Asia they are coming down.

Rather than being backward-looking, navel-gazing, and pessimistic, billions of Asians are forward-looking, outward-oriented, and optimistic.

These blind spots are a symptom of a related oversight often found in foreign analyses of Asia, namely that they are actually about the United States. There is a presumption that Asia (and frankly every other region as well) is strategically inert and incapable of making decisions or itself; all it is waiting for is the US leadership to tell them what to do. But from the Asian view, the past two decades have been characterized by President George W. Bush’s incompetence, President Barack Obama’s half-heartedness, and President Donald Trump’s unpredictability.

The United States’ laundry list of perceived threats—from ISIS and Iran to North Korea and China—have their locus in Asia, but the United States has developed no comprehensive strategy for addressing them. In Washington it is fashionable to promote an “Indo-Pacific” maritime strategy as an antidote to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, failing to see how in reality Asia’s terrestrial and maritime zones cannot be so neatly separated from each other. For all their differences, Asians have realized that their shared geography is a far more permanent reality than the United States’ unreliable promises. The lesson: the United States is a Pacific power with a potent presence in maritime Asia, but it is not an Asian power.

The Future Is Asian: Commerce, Conflict, And Culture In The 21st Century Image: Simon & Schuster / Hachette, February 2019

The most consequential misunderstanding permeating Western thought about Asia is being overly China-centric. Much as geopolitical forecasters have been looking for “number one,” many have fallen into the trap of positing a simplistic “G2” of the United States and China competing to lead the world. But neither the world as a whole nor Asia as a region is headed toward a Chinesetianxia, or harmonious global system guided by Chinese Confucian principles. Though China presently wields more power than its neighbors, its population is plateauing and is expected to peak by 2030. Of Asia’s nearly 5 billion people, 3.5 billion are not Chinese.

Asia’s future is thus much more than whatever China wants. China is historically not a colonial power. Unlike the United States, it is deeply cautious about foreign entanglements. China wants foreign resources and markets, not foreign colonies. Its military forays from the South China Sea to Afghanistan to East Africa are premised on protecting its sprawling global supply lines— but its grand strategy of building global infrastructure is aimed at reducing its dependence on any one foreign supplier (as are its robust alternative energy investments).

China’s launching the Belt and Road Initiative doesn’t prove that it will rule Asia, but it does remind us that China’s future, much like its past, is deeply embedded in Asia. BRI is widely portrayed in the West as a Chinese hegemonic design, but its paradox is that it is accelerating the modernization and growth of countries much as the United States did with its European and Asian partners during the Cold War. BRI will be instructive in showing everyone, including China, just how quickly colonial logic has expired. By joining BRI, other Asian countries have tacitly recognized China as a global power—but the bar for hegemony is very high. As with US interventions, we should not be too quick to assume that China’s ambitions will succeed unimpeded and that other powers won’t prove sufficiently bold in asserting themselves as well. Nuclear powers India and Russia are on high alert over any Chinese trespassing on their sovereignty and interests, as are regional powers Japan and Australia. Despite spending $50 billion between 2000 and 2016 on infrastructure and humanitarian projects across the region, China has purchased almost no meaningful loyalty. The phrase “China-led Asia” is thus no more acceptable to most Asians than the notion of a “US-led West” is to Europeans.

China has a first-mover advantage in such places where other Asian and Western investors have hesitated to go. But one by one, many countries are pushing back and renegotiating Chinese projects and debts. Here, then, is a more likely scenario: China’s forays actually modernize and elevate these countries, helping them gain the confidence to resist future encroachment. Furthermore, China’s moves have inspired an infrastructural “arms race,” with India, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and others also making major investments that will enable weaker Asian nations to better connect to one another and counter Chinese maneuvers. Ultimately, China’s position will be not of an Asian or global hegemon but rather of the eastern anchor of the Asian—and Eurasian—megasystem.

The Future Is Asian: Commerce, Conflict, And Culture In The 21st Century Image: Simon & Schuster / Hachette, February 2019

The farther one looks into the future, therefore, the more clearly Asia appears to be—as has been the norm for most of its history—a multipolar region with numerous confident civilizations evolving largely independent of Western policies but constructively coexisting with one another. A reawakening of Western confidence and vitality would be very welcome, but it would not blunt Asia’s resurrection. Asia’s rise is structural, not cyclical. There remain pockets of haughty ignorance centered around London and Washington that persist in the belief that Asia will come undone as China’s economy slows or will implode under the strain of nationalist rivalries. These opinions about Asia are irrelevant and inaccurate in equal measure. As Asian countries emulate one another’s successes, they leverage their growing wealth and confidence to extend their influence to all corners of the planet. The Asianization of Asia is just the first step in the Asianization of the world.

Ways to meet rising global Food demand in a Warmer World

Ways to meet rising global Food demand in a Warmer World

According to Yale Climate Connections, in a February 20, 2019, Food & Agriculture topic article, it is said that “Researchers look for ways to meet rising global food demand. The challenge: produce 50 percent more food while reducing GHG emissions by one-third.”

Feeding 10 billion people by 2050 in a warming world

By Kristen Pope


Feeding the world’s rapidly expanding population – currently at 7.6 billion and expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 – without exacerbating climate change will require the closing of three significant gaps, according to a new report, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.”

The gaps highlighted in a recent World Resources Institute (WRI) report involve:

  • food supply, simply producing enough to meet rising demand;
  • land for food production: The report estimates that if current production rates continue with the same yields, an additional area almost twice the size of India would be required to produce enough food; and
  • mitigating increased greenhouse gas emissions likely to be produced by the additional food production needed by 2050.

Feeding a rapidly growing population in a sustainable way is a challenge, researchers have grappled with for some time. “If you just wanted to feed the world and you didn’t worry about the environment at all, you know that’s probably not that hard because we just basically go and chop down a lot more land, a lot more forest,” says lead author Tim Searchinger. “But the challenge is inherently producing all that more food plus not converting additional land – that’s where the challenge is.”

Searchinger is a Princeton University research scholar who collaborated with an array of international researchers over the past six years to produce the WRI report. A synthesis version was released in December 2018, and the roughly 500-page full report is to be published this spring.

Challenges in feeding 10 billion people by 2050

The synthesis report outlines a variety of options and opportunities to meet the rapidly growing need for nutrition while at the same time working to mitigate climate change. Ultimately, the authors seek to answer the question: “How can the world adequately feed nearly 10 billion people by the year 2050 in ways that help combat poverty, allow the world to meet climate goals, and reduce pressures on the broader environment?”

“If you want to solve climate change, you have to solve this question,” Searchinger says. He points to estimates that agriculture and associated land use change could make up 70 percent of “allowable emissions from all human sources” by 2050 if current practices continue.

How to produce 50 percent more food with two-thirds fewer greenhouse gas emissions by 2050? Click To Tweet

“That would basically leave almost no room for any other emissions, so it would basically make solving climate change impossible,” he says. “So we have to figure out a way to do both and figure out a way to produce 50 percent more food with [approximately] two-thirds fewer emissions – so that’s the challenge.”

The report joins a growing list of documents proposing solutions to climate change that revolve around food and agriculture. Peter de Menocal, dean of science, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and director of the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia University, points to Project Drawdown as another analysis focusing on solutions.

Project Drawdown includes a ranked list of climate solutions, and three of the top five involve food and agriculture. The third-ranked solution is to reduce food waste, number four is a “plant-rich diet,” and fifth on the list is “tropical forests,” which de Menocal notes is related to palm oil and other agricultural uses. He emphasizes the need to take real actions soon.

“I think ultimately we’re in for a big surprise, a big shock if you will, and so I think that transition can be lessened by becoming aware of what the solutions look like and how individuals can change their behaviors to align with the fact that we’re living on a single planet with ever expanding numbers of people,” de Menocal said in an interview.

A menu of sustainable food futures — not a la carte

The WRI report provides a “menu for a sustainable food future” detailing 22 approaches that could help fill the three gaps, including ways to increase agricultural efficiency and produce more food while using less land, fertilizer, and other resources. Along with other measures, the report focuses on restoring certain types of land, like peatlands and forests; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; holding steady the use of biofuels; increasing fish stocks; and reducing the consumption of meat – particularly ruminants like cows, sheep, and goats.

However, this “menu” isn’t an a la carte array of pick-and-choose options. “Significant progress in all 22 menu items is necessary to close the three gaps, requiring action by many millions of farmers, businesses, consumers, and all governments,” the report cautions.

Getting the cooperation of all stakeholders – essentially the entire world – is, unsurprisingly, a difficult feat. Governmental cooperation to preserve land, rather than converting it to agriculture, is imperative. That’s clearly a challenge for the many leaders who are under pressure to convert forests and other types of land for agricultural purposes to meet immediate food needs and produce foods for export.

Political leadership ‘just overwhelmingly important’

Changing political leadership can also speed-up or slow-down change. According to Searchinger, Brazil had made a lot of progress in reducing deforestation, but recent changes in leadership make the future of such progress uncertain. “Politics is critical,” he says. “Politics is just overwhelmingly important – this is mustering the political will,” Searchinger says. “This is true of everything to do with climate change.”

Land use changes are critical especially in certain areas, such as peatlands, wetland areas covering around 3 percent of the Earth and storing massive amounts of carbon. When they are damaged, drained, or used for agriculture, these areas contribute significantly to climate change. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, damaged or drained peatlands are “annually releasing almost 6 percent of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions.”

Searchinger notes that restoring or rewetting peatlands previously damaged, drained, or used for purposes like agriculture can go a long way toward meeting climate change goals and restoring ecosystems. Some of these opportunities are immediate, such as rewetting peatland areas that are seldom used for agriculture. “[We have a] huge opportunity to do something right away just by restoring water to those peatlands,” Searchinger says.

With food supply problems come ‘human conflict’

In addition to the 22 items listed in the report, de Menocal notes a few additional food and agriculture-related areas relevant to climate change and food. He points to climate-related vulnerabilities in the food system, including food distribution; and points also to threats to the crops themselves, including environmental shocks, such as crops being decimated by sudden storms and heat waves.

“Those food shocks are going to become increasingly frequent and I think that’s going to do two things,” de Menocal says. “One is it obviously reduces the food supply, but it also introduces uncertainty in the food supply, and both those things are not great.”

Human conflict goes hand-in-hand with food supply issues, de Menocal cautions. “With food insecurity comes human conflict,” he says. “This is something that’s been well documented both in the prehistorical record but also in the recent historical record such as Syria and of course migrations out of North Africa into Europe. When people are hungry, they migrate, and they’ll migrate to places where there’s food, which is typically the wealthier nations.” He cautions that this migration can also lead to political instability, and says these types of geopolitical concerns are monitored not only by climate modelers and researchers, but also by government intelligence agencies seeking to anticipate and mitigate conflicts.

The need for innovation and change

While analysts work to predict future conflicts and issues, scientists are striving to make progress in the laboratory. New technological innovations could help alleviate some major issues, but predicting the trajectory of scientific developments is a huge challenge since breakthroughs looking out several decades are unpredictable.

New technology could help improve crop yields; produce crops with resistance to pests, diseases, and climatic conditions; and even help develop feed additives to reduce the amount of methane cows emit, among many possibilities. But technology is a wild card dependent on countless unknown future factors. Innovations could take the form of anything from increasing the efficiency of current methods to developing technology far beyond anyone’s current imagination.

That said, plant-based meat substitutes are one area of potential innovation. Producing beef and other ruminant meat is resource-intensive and a major source of greenhouse gases going well beyond emissions from cows themselves.

Searchinger says a variety of meat substitutes, or even half meat/half mushroom mixes, have great potential, especially if they become more economical. They are already a tasty choice, he adds: “Hamburger substitutes are getting really good.”

He is undaunted by the notion of many people having to shift their dietary habits. Searchinger points out that most of the world doesn’t consume much beef, and that people in the U.S. and Europe eat about one-third less beef today than they did in the 1960s.

Eating less meat is important, de Menocal agrees, and he encourages his students to consider trying out “Meatless Monday” as part of a campus initiative. “It’s just introducing people to the idea that you can eat well and still do well by the planet,” de Menocal says. “Even small changes like that make a big difference in terms of collective behavior.” Additionally, he points to meat subsidies as a factor that impact consumption, particularly in the U.S. These subsidies make meat far more affordable than it is in some other parts of the world. “As long as there’s no accounting for the accompanying environmental risks that come with meat production, then I think the price of meat will not reflect its true cost to society,” de Menocal says.

By thinking about what’s on their plate and what’s in their fridge, people can take their own steps toward a sustainable food future. Searchinger urges people to cut down on eating ruminant meat – such as beef and lamb – and work to avoid tossing out food. “[In the U.S.] people tend to buy a lot of food and throw it in the back of the refrigerator and ‘rediscover’ things,” he says. Planning meals and shopping more efficiently, keeping track of food items and using them before they spoil, and being sure to eat leftovers before they go bad are just a few steps people can take that go a long way.

“If we don’t meet these goals, we won’t solve climate change,” Searchinger says.

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Where does the MENA region’s food comes from?

Where does the MENA region’s food comes from?

The “MENA region has to import about 57% of the calories consumed domestically, mostly wheat, grains, proteins and dairy,” all as per ZAWYA’s #MENA|10 FEBRUARY, 2019 with a call for action such as it is high time to start thinking: where does the MENA region’s food comes from?

The MENA the Largest Food Importing Region in the World can easily be ascertained notably by looking at the FAO map below.

Where does the MENA region’s food comes from?

It’s time to worry about where our food comes from

By Hafed Al-Ghwell, Arab News

Combines harvest wheat in a field near the village of Kruglolesskoye in Stavropol region, Russia June 26, 2018. Image used for illustrative purpose. REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko

The Middle East and North Africa has long been disadvantaged by a climate and geography unfavorable to large-scale agriculture. This in turn affects food security in the region. Scarce water supplies and mostly dry, arid lands will continue to cripple the region’s ability to achieve self-sufficiency in food production.

The abundance of hydrocarbons and other minerals has mitigated some of these concerns, and some MENA countries can afford to import large quantities of produce and grains. Additionally, resources, manpower and capital are certainly available but mismanagement, waste, poor planning and a lack of clear policies have taken their toll on the region’s ability to harness meager resources and grow its own food. Higher population densities and population growth rates have inevitably turned the region into a net importer of agricultural commodities for food for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, it is not only the Middle East that is experiencing population growth, and subsequently increased demand for food and water. A US government report estimates that the global demand for food, water and energy will increase by 50 percent as a result of changing consumption patterns among the expanding middle classes.

By 2030, the world’s population is expected to reach 8.3 billion, which will put additional strain on food and water. Already, in the past eight years, the world has consumed more food than it has produced, while global water requirements are predicted to reach nearly 7 billion cubic meters, 40 percent above the level of current sustainable supplies. Expected climate changes will only exacerbate these alarming numbers. Agriculture already consumes more than 60 percent of water supplies and these requirements will increase to 65 percent a decade from now, when nations are supposed to meet 2030 Millennium Development Goals.

One of these goals is the elimination of hunger, but the MENA region has to import about 57 percent of the calories consumed domestically, mostly wheat, grains, proteins and dairy. Given that the ready availability of affordable and diverse foodstuffs is a crucial factor in long-term stability, MENA countries can be forgiven for relying heavily on imports for the time being. For example, the conflict in Yemen has reduced grain harvests there by a third, and with the water table falling by about 2 meters a year, it is unlikely that the country will be able to stop importing more than 80 percent of its grain any time soon. Grain harvests are also falling in Iraq, Syria and Jordan, while populations are still growing.

Relying on imports makes the region vulnerable to the effects of economic downturns, population growth, climate changes and supply disruptions caused by natural disasters. This last problem is of growing concern due to the increasing incidence of extreme-weather events, mainly influenced by climate change.

Weather patterns are likely to intensify, with wet regions getting wetter while dry, arid areas such as the Middle East and North Africa will experience further declines in rainfall. Some forecasts suggest precipitation in Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq will decline by 4.9 percent, 10.5 percent and 13.3 percent respectively. This decline will also affect the southwest United States, southern Europe, Central Asia and parts of southern Africa. Reduced rainfall will in turn affect agricultural production among net exporters and increase food imports elsewhere. If current trends persist, the Middle East is likely to experience shortages of food and water, necessitating outside help or a transformation of current policy, either to boost local production or increase spending on imports.

When the effects of protracted, often violent, conflicts are taken into account, food security becomes a very serious concern. A United Nations report found that more than 27 percent of the population in conflict areas is undernourished or chronically hungry. This contrasts with more stable countries, where less than 5 percent of the population is undernourished.

Transforming an economy away from a dependence on imports of agricultural produce and foodstuffs is not easy. Several sectors, including agriculture, education, trade, health care, labor, transport, law, finance and even technology, need to function in close cooperation and coordination to achieve appreciable gains in local production. 

Given the fast-growing population in the MENA region, dwindling water supplies, extreme weather events and unpredictable markets, governments must act swiftly and with utmost urgency to counter a looming food and water crisis. 

This fast-approaching challenge, which threatens the national security of all Arab countries, can only be faced and managed collectively, through serious, urgent and deep cooperation. It is, in short, an existential threat that can no longer be ignored.

Hafed Al-Ghwell is a non-resident senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Institute at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is also senior adviser at the international economic consultancy Maxwell Stamp and at the geopolitical risk advisory firm Oxford Analytica, a member of the Strategic Advisory Solutions International Group in Washington DC and a former adviser to the board of the World Bank Group. Twitter: @HafedAlGhwell

Arab News: Copyright: Arab News © 2017 All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. ( www.Syndigate.info ).

Desert Locust outbreak in northeast Africa and Saudi Arabia

Desert Locust outbreak in northeast Africa and Saudi Arabia

Locusts have formed plagues since prehistory. The ancient Egyptians carved them on their tombs and the insects are mentioned in the Iliad, the Bible and the Quran. Swarms have devastated crops and been a contributory cause of famines and human migrations. More recently, changes in agricultural practices and better surveillance of locations where swarms tend to originate, have meant that control measures can be used at an early stage. The traditional means of control are based on the use of insecticides from the ground or the air, but other methods using biological control are proving effective.

Swarming behaviour decreased in the 20th century, but despite modern surveillance and control methods, the potential for swarms to form is still present, and when suitable climatic conditions occur and vigilance lapses, plagues can still occur.

FAO sounds alarm on Desert Locust outbreak in northeast Africa and Saudi Arabia triggered by heavy rains

Increased vigilance, strict monitoring and early control needed to prevent further swarms forming and spread along both sides of the Red Sea

The desert locust is the world’s most dangerous migratory pest capable of flying up to 150 km a day with the wind.

15 February 2019, Rome – Heavy rains and cyclones have triggered a recent surge in Desert Locust populations, causing an outbreak to develop in Sudan and Eritrea that is rapidly spreading along both sides of the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, FAO warned today.

The UN agency called on all the affected countries to step up vigilance and control measures to contain the destructive infestations and protect crops from the world’s most dangerous migratory pest.  

Moving fast

Good rains along the Red Sea coastal plains in Eritrea and Sudan have allowed two generations of breeding since October, leading to a substantial increase in locust populations and the formation of highly mobile swarms. At least one swarm crossed the Red Sea to the northern coast of Saudi Arabia in mid-January, followed by additional migrations about one week later. Groups of mature winged adults and a few swarms also moved north along the coast to southeast Egypt at the end of the month.

In the interior of Saudi Arabia, two generations of breeding also occurred in the southeastern Empty Quarter region near the Yemen-Oman border after unusually good rains from cyclones Mekunu and Luban in May and October 2018 respectively. A few of these swarms have already reached the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and southern Iran with a potential risk of spreading further towards the India-Pakistan border.

Stepping up efforts

Aerial spraying operations were mounted in Sudan and Saudi Arabia supplemented by ground control measures in both countries, as well as in Eritrea and Egypt, treating more than 80,000 ha since December.

“The next three months will be critical to bring the locust situation under control before the summer breeding starts,” said Keith Cressman, FAO’s Senior Locust Forecasting Officer. “The further spread of the current outbreak depends on two major factors – effective control and monitoring measures in locust breeding areas of Sudan, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia and the surrounding countries, and rainfall intensity between March and May along both sides of the Red Sea and in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula.”

FAO is convening a meeting next week in Jordan (17- 21 February) with affected countries to review the current situation with the aim of intensifying survey and control operations. 

February forecast

Breeding will continue in February on the Red Sea coast in Sudan and Eritrea, causing a further increase in hopper and adult groups, hopper bands and adult swarms. As vegetation dries out, adult groups and a few swarms are likely to move north along the Red Sea coast in Eritrea to Sudan, and from the Red Sea coast of Sudan to the Nile Valley in northern Sudan. There is a moderate risk that some swarms will continue crossing the Red Sea to the coastal and interior areas of Saudi Arabia.

Major threat to crop production

Desert Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers that can form large swarms and pose a major threat to agricultural production, livelihoods, food security and the environment and economic development.

Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind. Female locusts can lay 300 eggs within their lifetime while an adult insect can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day – about two grams every day. A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people and the devastating impact locusts can have on crops poses a major threat to food security, especially in already vulnerable areas.

FAO’s work on preventing locust plagues

The Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) at FAO Headquarters in Rome has been operating a global monitoring and early warning system since the 1970s as part of the preventive control strategy. More than two dozen frontline countries in Africa, the Near East and southwest Asia contribute to this system by undertaking regular surveys in the desert to look for green vegetation and Desert Locust.

The field teams use an innovative tool developed by FAO called eLocust3, which is a handheld tablet for recording observations and sending data in real time via satellite to the national locust centres and to DLIS. This information is regularly analysed together with weather and habitat data and satellite imagery in order to assess the current locust situation, provide forecasts up to six weeks in advance, and issue warnings and alerts when necessary.

More information about the current situation and eLocust3 are available on Locust Watch.

Drones for Tunisian  Agricultural productivity

Drones for Tunisian Agricultural productivity

Tunisia Trains first set of Drone pilots for agricultural productivity

By thespecimennews on December 14, 2018

The training which focused on handling, maintenance and the security aspects of flying drones, took place in Tunis from 19-30 November 2018

Eight pilots have successfully passed their drone flight training in Tunisia following a two-week intensive training period organized by the Ministry of Agriculture of Tunisia, the African Development Bank and Busan Techno Park.

The training which focused on handling, maintenance and the security aspects of flying drones, took place in Tunis from 19-30 November 2018.  The eight were the first batch out of 40 candidates selected for the exercise, which envisages training a total of 400 young Tunisians by 2021.

The project will also see the setting up of a training center equipped with training drones as well as computer simulation tools for drone control.  This center is expected to be upgraded to a center of excellence in drone technology.  The training also focused on promoting drone-centered activities in Tunisia in view of promoting efficiency and effectiveness.

“It is very good training.  I want to share my experience. I would like to participate in this project and contribute for the development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in my country Tunisia and my region, Africa,” said Lazhar Meskine, an air traffic management engineer, who was among the trainees.

After accumulating 20 hours of flight time and passing the practical flight, they obtained a “Drone Pilot Certificate” recognised by the Tunisian government.  The four best trainees from this first batch will undergo further training for eight weeks to accumulate 100 hours of flight time.  This will make them eligible to take the certification examination and qualify as drone pilot trainers.

The participants were highly enthusiastic about the training.

 “I have also learned many things through Tunisian trainees.  It gives us a great chance to understand the local situation for further projects by using drone technologies,” their instructor, Mr. Yong-ju Seo, added.

The pilot project on the use of drones for agricultural development projects in the Sidi Bouzid region (https://bit.ly/2EoVOWD) (central Tunisia), is financed by a grant from the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) (https://bit.ly/2rze2Nj), under the management of the African Development Bank and Busan Techno Park.  Busan Techno Park has already tested the drones for efficacy in managing similar urban projects.

Korea (https://bit.ly/2EvaqV0) is a leading country in the development and use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for real-time data collection and processing.  Drones have been used in agriculture to provide fast and accurate data, helping to improve decision-making at all stages of a project, from preparation to implementation and evaluation.

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Fahd BELBACHIR