Friday, 31 May 2013

Agriculture is not only hoe, fork and machete, says minister

KINGSTON, Jamaica - Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Roger Clarke, says that agriculture remains a viable industry with the capacity for long- term sustainability.

Clarke was speaking Thursday, at the opening ceremony of the Spring Gardens All-age School’s one-day agricultural exhibition at the institution’s campus in Bushy Park, St Catherine.

Stating that the sector is “all-encompassing,” he said it entails more than the use of basic tools such as a fork, hoe and machete to till the soil for cultivation.

“It is not so. Agriculture is high science... and we must begin to understand that agriculture is a business. There was a time when it was said that (anyone) who is not bright (should) go into agriculture. Not so. Agriculture is not only about tilling the soil. (The sector needs highly trained professionals such as) surveyors, agronomists, botanists, veterinarians; and we even want people with business knowledge. There is a place there for almost everyone, provided you have the aptitude and you get yourselves qualified to do the job,” Clarke contended.

The minister said the involvement of young people in the sector, particularly students at the primary and all-age levels, gives him optimism about the sector’s future.

He noted that commendable pursuits, such as the Spring Gardens project, will ensure a sustainable future for agriculture.

“What we are experiencing here, today, is an indication that you can’t be too young to be involved. As I look at these little ones…I…see the potential… what they are capable of doing. I have always said (that) this is one industry that cannot die, because you have to eat to live; and therefore, food has to be produced. So we have to try and produce as much of it as we can for ourselves. What you are (demonstrating) here today is that agriculture has a (sound) future,” Clarke said.

The Spring Gardens All-age School project entails the cultivation of a number crops as well as chicken rearing.

The initiative, which was recently boosted by a $300,000 grant from the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), supports the school’s nutrition programme, and serves as a catalyst to enhance the school’s literacy and numeracy programme for it’s over 300 its students.
Original Article Here

DA accuses fruit exporter of corruption

FARMS managed by South African Fruit Exporters (SAFE) have been singled out by Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Athol Trollip for allegedly being involved in corruption related to land reform deals in the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape that have cost millions of rand.

Speaking at a media briefing in Parliament on Thursday, Mr Trollip accused SAFE of being connected to African National Congress (ANC) personalities and taking advantage of the land reform process to manage farms at virtually no expense to itself.

Mr Trollip singled out the Kangela citrus farm project — a collection of nine farms in the Eastern Cape — as an example.

These farms were bought by the Eastern Cape agricultural department in 2004 for R15.68m for a 49% stake. Mr Trollip said that the full price of the farms was for an effective half-stake.

He said the Eastern Cape agricultural finance corporation Uvimba had received the transfer of the R15.68m from that province’s agriculture department, which was in contravention of tender procedures and before the property had been valued.

Mr Trollip said that a recent visit to the Kangela farms six weeks ago revealed that the 44 beneficiaries of the trust that had been set up were unaware of their rights. He also claimed they were being paid R85 a day, which is R20 less than the sectoral determination for the agricultural sector that should pay R105 a day. That was set down at the end of February.

The Kangela farms are managed by SAFE, which operates a packing operation on one of the farms and exports fruit. "What we noticed through our intelligence is that when the farm workers’ strike broke out in the Western Cape, several names kept cropping up," he said.

Mr Trollip said that the farm workers’ strike broke out on a farm called Keurboschkloof after it was taken over by SAFE, which reduced the minimum wage paid.

Most of those workers were members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions-aligned Food and Allied Workers’ Union.

The strike, which spread throughout the table-grape export area, started last September and only ended in February.

On Wednesday, Democratic Alliance MP Annette Steyn accused Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Joemat-Pettersson of fuelling the strike by funding another union, the Bawsi Agricultural Workers’ Union, to the tune of R14m.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson defended this, saying she would continue to fund organisations that aim to improve the lives of farm workers.

Mr Trollip said he would raise the issue of the Kangela farms in Friday’s rural development and land reform budget vote debate.

SAFE CEO Anton de Vries did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the SAFE website, the company is registered in Mauritius, has its head office in Cape Town, and owns 29 farms in South Africa.
Original Article Here

Pact: Less impact on agriculture

STERLING – A company that is planning electricity transmission lines across northern Illinois has reached an agreement with the state to lessen impacts on agriculture.

Rock Island Clean Line, a subsidiary of Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners, has proposed preferred and alternate routes for the east-west lines.

Both would go 8 miles through the corner of Whiteside County, south of Erie. In Whiteside County, they merge. East of the Whiteside County portion, they would go through northern Henry and Bureau counties.

Farmers expressed concern about how the towers would impact their operations.

For its part, the Department of Agriculture wanted to make sure the company took care of problems it caused with farms’ drainage tiles and soil, said Terry Savko of the department’s Office of Farmland Protection.

“One of our biggest concerns was the number of poles per structure,” she said. “That was the stumbling block.”

The department believed that one-pole structures would have the least impact; the company ultimately decided to go with such towers, rather than those with four poles, with some exceptions, including turns, Savko said.

The agreement is the result of extensive consultation with landowners, agricultural organizations and the state, officials said.

“I’m pleased that we have reached agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and that this is the first such agreement in Illinois to include special provisions for organic producers while also maintaining historic commitments to traditional producers,” Clean Line CEO Michael Skelly said in a statement.

Farmers contended the towers would impact the range of their pivot irrigation systems, reducing their productive acreage.

The state agricultural agreement doesn’t cover that issue, but Hans Detweiler, Clean Line’s director of development, said his company changed the routes so that they would only affect a couple of farms’ systems.

Clean Line, he said, would seek to compensate those farmers.

With the lines, the company plans to send power from wind farms in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to population centers in Chicago and to the east. The lines would end near Morris, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago.

The company still needs to get approval for its project from the state Commerce Commission. A decision is expected early next year.
Original Article Here

Agriculture gains 100%

Over 200 agricultural initiatives are expected to benefit from programmes by the department of rural development and agriculture.

Tabling her R553.5m budget for the 2013/14 financial year Gauteng MEC for agriculture and rural development Nandi Mayathula Khoza said since 2009 they had supported nearly 800 small holder farmers and cooperatives with poultry and piggery production inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, diesel and herbicides.

They also helped on-farm infrastructure such as fences, gates, water-tight containers and boreholes to ensure access to irrigation water, through the Letsema/Ilima grant programme.

Mayathula Khoza said they exceeded the 2014 target of supporting farmers due to increasing demand and re-prioritisation to support more farmers.

“Our priorities for 2013/14 include support of 200 or more small holder farmers, co-operatives including a climate smart agricultural kenaf project and commercial farmers with access to markets, extension services and financial support,” she said.

Mayathula Khoza allocated the biggest chunk of R73m to sustainable agrarian reform within the thriving small and large farming sector.

“This sector plays an important role toward achieving food security, reduction of hunger and poverty, rural development, skills development, inclusive economic growth and job creation,” she said.

Mayathula Khoza said from 2009 until 2012/13 they supported a total of 2450 farmers to attend expos that exposed them to new technologies and innovations in farming.

“Our priorities for 2013/14 include support of 800 or more farmers to participate in three expos including the horticulture/flower market show.” The department trained smallholder farmers (1202) than expected on mechanisation through the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) as part of their west rand agricultural training institute.

“I’m delighted to announce that through this institute we have partnered with the North West department of agriculture and their Potchefstroom agricultural college and we will during this financial year sign a memorandum of understanding with an accredited agricultural institution.”

Mayathula Khoza thanked her former head of department Simangele Sekgobela and her team for spending 100% of the budget allocated in 2012/13.
Original Article Here

Can market solutions unlock Africa's agricultural potential?

Africa holds vast potential for growth yet is also home to over 200 million people who are chronically hungry.

As it is estimated that 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods, it is fundamental that those in the farming sector are given the access to knowledge, finance, rural infrastructure, inputs and markets that they need to increase their production and productivity as a means of improving their food security, nutrition and incomes.

While agriculture is an essential social safety net to many in Africa, it also has the potential to be an important way to boost farmers’ incomes and resilience.

Supporting farmers in this effort requires everyone’s contribution, from governments and donors to agri-businesses, development organisations and even consumers.

A prominent theme at the World Economic Forum on Africaearlier this month was the role of partnerships to accelerate investment in the agricultural sector. This sentiment was also reflected in last year's G8 discussions, where U.S. President Barack Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition as a means of lifting 50 million people out of poverty through agricultural development.


In the lead-up to this year’s G8 in the United Kingdom, two new reports offer insights and guidance on how market-based models can improve the lives of smallholder farmers and the considerations which need to be kept in mind when doing so.

The first, “Leaping and Learning: Linking Smallholders to Markets”, offers concrete recommendations for donors, investors, policymakers and development practitioners on improving agricultural market access in Africa.

The second, “8 Views for the G8: Business Solutions for African Smallholder Farmers to Address Food Security and Nutrition“, offers G8 leaders and other decision-makers a set of practical solutions and case studies from eight leading agricultural NGOs on helping smallholders link to regional, domestic and international markets.

Both reports highlight a series of areas where markets for smallholder farmers can be further addressed, including:
Access - to inputs, finance and credit, storage and professional advice.
Institutional capacity – for farmers to self-organise and benefit from economies of scale.
Market information – related to quality standards, prices and other enterprise support and advice.
Public sector investment - to improve access to inputs, services, markets and research.
Stable policy environment – so that farmers do not experience unpredictable policy shifts, weak contract enforcement and restrictive policy environments.


As an example, one of most important aspects for improving agricultural markets is to address smallholder farmers’ ability to access high-quality, improved seed. After all, seed security is at the heart of food and nutrition security.

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) work across Africa to facilitate partnerships across the value chain. Through its Harmonised Seed Security Program
me , FANRPAN has been working across four pilot countries (Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) to help develop the organisational capacity of farmers, coordinate strategic partnerships, align national seed policies, and amplify the voices of farmers at national and global events.

So far the programme has trained 405 farmers across Africa, 62 percent of whom were women, and has expanded the number of seed types available to farmers, enabling them to grow food fit for larger markets even in the face of unpredictable weather patterns.

Another organisation working to improve seed security in Africa is Victoria Seeds, Uganda’s leading seed production and marketing organization, founded by Josephine Okot. As a Ugandan business, Victoria Seeds works with smallholder farmers to multiply new varieties of seed which are then sold to domestic and regional markets, enabling farmers to improve nutrition and adapt to climate change as well as increase their harvests.


These market-based solutions are providing greater food and nutrition security for farmers, but it is also important to remember that not all smallholder farmers and not all markets are equally ready for this and may require different levels of support.

For instance, many farmers will still need safety nets, if they are unable to participate in markets or try but fail in their efforts. Also when scaling up successes, agricultural programmes must be adapted for different agro-ecological zones and socio-economic conditions, as a successful approach in one place will not necessarily work in a different context.

Lastly, staple crops may have seen less investment to date than higher-value cash crops such as cocoa and coffee and thus may require more public stimulus, at least, initially.
Original Article Here

How Will Smithfield Deal Impact Global Agriculture?

In what could be the largest ever Chinese takeover of an American company, pork producer Shuanghui International has reached a deal to buy Smithfield Foods, a Virginia-based food conglomerate. From the New York Times:

If completed, the deal that was announced on Wednesday would be the biggest takeover of an American company by a Chinese concern. But it must first overcome skepticism in Washington — and a potentially close examination process by United States regulators. Both Smithfield and its suitor, Shuanghui International, said that they will submit the deal for review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or Cfius, a panel of government agencies tasked with clearing deals for national security.

Typically, the committee is concerned with acquisitions that involve technology or vital natural resources. The nation’s food supply chain is not specifically mentioned in its mandate, but the panel’s jurisdiction is considered broad. Among the deals it has reviewed and approved in recent months are the proposed takeover of Nexen Energy by a Chinese oil company and the proposed sale of control of Sprint Nextel to a Japanese telecommunications firm.

The committee may consider whether Shuanghui has ties to organizations like the Chinese army, as well as whether Smithfield’s customer rolls include sensitive information like the locations of secure military installations.

Some opponents of the deal have raised concerns about China’s notorious food safety record, especially when it comes to pork. From Reuters:

And at least one member of Congress said the deal raised alarms about food safety, noting Shuanghui was forced to recall tainted pork in the past.

“I have deep doubts about whether this merger best serves American consumers and urge federal regulators to put their concerns first,” U.S. Representative Rose DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement.

Shuanghui is already majority shareholder of Henan Shuanghui Investment & Development Co (000895.SZ), China’s largest meat processor. It would join forces with a company that has a worldwide herd of 1.09 million sows, according to industry data compiled by Successful Farming magazine. [Source]

But under the deal, Shuanghui would buy U.S.-produced pork, in an effort to fill the growing demand for meat in China and to appease food safety concerns among Chinese consumers. CBS News reports:

They need the food, according to CBS News contributor and analyst Mellody Hobson. “That’s the bottom line,” she said. “China is the biggest consumer of pork in the world.”

Food safety issues in China, as well, are another reason for the interest in Smithfield. She explained, “(Shuanghui will) get the safety of the United States and our methodology and our standards.” [Source]

Yet the prospect of exporting the methodology and standards of U.S. factory farms has raised a number of concerns from environmentalists and public health experts. From NPR:

Elizabeth Holmes, a staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety, says U.S. regulators should take a hard look at the deal.

“They’re supposed to identify and address any national security concerns that would arise,” she said of the committee. “I can’t imagine how something like public health or environmental pollution couldn’t be potentially construed as a national security concern.”

Environmental groups were quick to criticize the deal, too, citing the growing globalization of vertically integrated or factory farming. [Source]

In Mother Jones, Tom Philpott writes about environmental damage of factory farming in the U.S. that will be exacerbated by this deal, and its implications for the future of global agriculture:

As I have pointed out, the US pork industry is no prize either—it pollutes water as a matter of course, hollows out the rural areas on which it alights, relies heavily on routine antibiotic use, recently inspired a government watchdog group to lament “egregious” violations of food safety and animal welfare code in slaughterhouses, and uh, has an explosive manure foam problem.

So forget about where HQ is for the vast conglomerate that ultimately profits from running Smithfield’s factory-scale hog farms and slaughterhouses. The real question is: What does this deal telling us about the global food system and the future of food? [Source]
Oriignal Article Here

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Agriculture At the trough

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN once sang about “going on the town now looking for easy money”. As easy money goes, it is hard to beat farm subsidies. Handouts for American farmers were a tasty $256 billion between 1995 and 2012. The fattest subsidies went to the richest farmers. According to a study by Tom Coburn, a fiscally conservative senator, these have included Mr Springsteen himself, who leases land to an organic farmer. And Jon Bon Jovi, another rocker, paid property taxes of only $100 on an estate where he raises bees. Taxpayers will be glad to know he is no longer “livin’ on a prayer”.

Every five years, Congress mulls a new farm bill. To confuse matters and gin up more votes, the bills typically address two entirely separate problems: the plight of the poor (to whom the federal government gives food stamps) and the unpredictability of farming (which the government seeks to alleviate). Politicians from rural states, which are grotesquely over-represented in the Senate, back farm bills for obvious reasons. Many urban politicians back them, too, not least because some of their constituents depend on food stamps. This time, unusually, the farm bill faces a fight.It will cost around $950 billion over a decade, says the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). That’s plenty of potatoes to squabble over. Republicans complain that claiming food stamps has become too easy under President Barack Obama—the number of claimants has risen from 26.3m in 2007 to 47.6m today. They want to trim the programme from $760 billion to around $740 billion over ten years. Democrats retort that the rolls have swollen because the economy is in the doldrums. They insist that food stamps are a vital safety net for the poor and do not want them cut.

Oink, oink

Handouts to farmers may also be vulnerable. Proponents of the new bill (of which there are two draft versions) boast that it ends “direct payments” to farmers. These are the subsidies paid to producers of wheat, corn, cotton, rice, peanuts, etc, regardless of whether they actually grow these crops—or even plant them. Other plums, such as “counter-cyclical payments” (extra handouts when prices are low) are also to be eliminated.

That may sound like a ray of sunshine for taxpayers, but there are clouds looming. Vincent Smith, a professor of farm economics at Montana State University, says the new bill offers a “bait and switch”. Direct payments are the bait, he explains, but they have been replaced by an expanded programme of subsidised crop insurance. The CBO calculates that more than two-thirds of the $50 billion saved by cutting direct payments would be used to boost other farm programmes, such as crop insurance and disaster relief. If crop prices fall, insurance payouts will explode. And crop prices are near historic highs right now.Federal crop insurance is not new; it began in the 1930s. But its cost has already risen from $2 billion in 2001 to $7 billion last year (see chart). It is expensive because taxpayers pay two-thirds of each farmer’s premiums, and most of the claims. During last year’s drought, crop-insurance payouts were a bountiful $17 billion. Uncle Sam shouldered three-quarters of that.

Insurance already costs more than direct payments, and there is no limit to how much of it farmers may receive. The bigger the farm, the bigger the trough. (If taxpayers need insurance against misfortune, they must pay for it themselves, of course.)

Subsidised crop insurance is also bad for the environment. Craig Cox of EWG, a green pressure group, worries that it spurs farmers to take greater environmental risks, for example by farming on flood plains or steep hills. He fears that a “pumped-up” version will create even more perverse incentives.

On May 23rd an amendment sponsored by Mr Coburn, a Republican, and Richard Durbin, a Democrat, passed through the Senate. It reduces by 15% the subsidies for crop-insurance premiums if a farmer makes profits of more than $750,000 a year. Some farms currently receive more than $1m a year in subsidy. Mr Durbin says the amendment will save more than $1.1 billion over ten years—a whopping 1/875th of the total bill.

The sugar lobby fought off an attempt to remove Depression-era supports that keep sugar much more expensive in America than in the rest of the world. The industry’s sweetheart was Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota and the author of a book called “Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them”. He argued that cheap sugar would destroy American jobs. Such as those of Minnesota’s many sugar-beet growers.

The bill may face pitchforks in the House of Representatives. John Boehner, the Speaker, fumes that it takes “Soviet-style” dairy supports and makes them worse. A new scheme seeks to protect the margins of milk producers, who are grumbling that the cost of cattle feed has risen. Randy Schnepf of the Congressional Research Service wonders whether this might be because the government also encourages Americans to turn corn into ethanol and burn it in their cars.

Mr Boehner’s spokesman says the Speaker would like an open debate on the floor of the House. He expects lawmakers to tussle over crop insurance, dairy supports, food stamps and the food aid that America sends overseas.

This last point is important. Congress has traditionally decreed that such aid should be shipped from America, which costs more and ruins farmers in the poor countries that the policy is supposed to help. Mr Obama has urged lawmakers to allow food aid to be bought locally, thus saving more lives. One way of doing this would be via the farm bill, but neither draft allows it.
Original Article Here

Agriculture Ministry Gets IDB Boost

THE MINISTRY of Agriculture and Fisheries on Tuesday received vehicles and equipment valued at J$20 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which will play a significant role in enhancing the competitiveness of the local agricultural sector.

The Veterinary Services Division received two Volkswagen Amorak pickups and eight desktop computers, with three Volkswagen Amorak pickups going to the Plant Quarantine/Produce Division and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) getting 15 post-harvest kits to be used in the training of farmers, processors and exporters, in quality assessment and management of fresh produce.

The vehicles which are to be assigned to the Plant Quarantine/Produce Division have been earmarked for mobile fumigation and the canine detection programme, with the Veterinary Division's vehicles to be utilised for surveillance and other field services and the computers to be used for networking of its laboratories and quarantine offices.

US$15-million programme

Tuesday's donation is the latest in a US$15-million, five-year programme being financed by IDB and implemented by Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC), the investment arm of the agriculture ministry. Started in November 2010, it will be executed in three components with the aim of developing farm-to-market linkages, developing a food-safety management system and an agro-processing value-chain development.

Designed with the overall aim of making Jamaican farmers and agro-processors globally competitive, it will include a public education campaign to raise public awareness about food safety, as well as animal and health issues, which are in fact critical to public health.

Everton Spencer, chief executive officer of the AIC, told the handover ceremony, held at the Agro-Export Centre, 188 Spanish Town Road, Kingston, that the vision for the Agricultural Competitiveness Programme is to have an integrated, efficient and sustained agricultural health and food-safety system which meets international standards and has active stakeholder participation.

He explained: "This will be achieved through the development of competitive agro-business value chains, institutional strengthening of the Agro-Invest, and establishment of a value chain innovation facility."

Spencer said the dynamic global trade
environment dictates that only countries which can successfully manage the challenges and risks, capitalise on inherent advantages, and innovate, will become and remain competitive.

Original Article Here

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

[Reportage] Urban agriculture booms in Seoul

In 2010 I visited urban agricultural sites in Vancouver, Canada. The sight of the farmers pulling trailers with bicycles was especially memorable. They were proud of not emitting any carbon when commuting or moving farming materials. The food waste produced by the neighboring restaurants was being used as compost. The locals purchased the food produced by these farms without question.

Urban agriculture in South Korea has expanded remarkably. In terms of scale, it is no less than that of fully developed countries. Evoking elderly people’s instinct for farming, vegetable gardens have been created in patches of dirt in between slabs of concrete. Urban agriculture is clearly evolving in South Korea, and its 2.0 era has begun.

In the concrete jungle of Seoul’s Sangam neighborhood, a 2300m2 vegetable garden is located behind the local middle school. Located in the middle of the apartment complex, the garden stands out from its surroundings. Park Ssang-ae, 60, one of the oldest of the farmers is tending the garden as usual with her hoe. Her home is right in front of the garden. “It’s so good, so convenient. My apartment is right across the road. I don’t have to use a car that emits carbon. This garden really stands for local food production”.

Park, resident representative of the Sangam vegetable garden, tends to various types of vegetables in a 5 pyeong (about 16 ㎡) patch of land. “This garden is a community effort by 63 residents. We take turns tending the garden in groups of five. If a passing elderly person says ‘it looks delicious’, we give them vegetables, because we are all neighbors”.

Ahn Byung-soo, 48, who was picking over the lettuce said, “I enjoy meeting the people in my group and discussing farming with them. There is happiness in living with these people”. Lee Ho-joong, 75, and Yoo Myung-ja, 60, are also local residents. The Grandpa and Grandma both said, “We are happy to walk to the garden from our homes”.

In the fall of the previous year, during kimchi-making season, they opened a ‘one-day Sangam vegetable farmers’ market. The farmers’ market provided organic white radishes and napa cabbages to the local residents at one-third of the market price. They wanted to share the effort with the residents who were not able to participate in farming. The 649,000 won (US$583) in profits were donated to a nearby Samdong youth detention center. This year, two farmers’ market days will be held, one during kimchi-making season in the autumn and one during the June harvest of leafy green vegetables.

The land where the garden sits was originally intended for a parking lot, but was never used for that. Park, a 20-year veteran of urban agriculture, wasn’t going to let the land go to waste. He began ‘guerilla farming’ in 2009. “I began to plant vegetables in small gardens on unused patches of land when I used to live across the river in the Sinjeong neighborhood. On the surface the land was intended for a parking lot, but was full of trash and tall grass. It was a waste of land. I just started to cultivate the land without permission by removing the trash and rocks. Then people came together”.

After three years of ‘guerilla farming’ they succeeded in receiving support from the district office last year. With the help of an ordinance passed by the Mapo Urban Agriculture Network and the district council promoting urban agriculture, the Sangam vegetable garden has become a great success. The Sangam vegetable garden is different from commercial ‘weekend farms’ that are set up with the help of funding and machinery. The residents helped in building fences and roads using rocks, and used dead tree branches they picked up to set up a billboard and shed. The garden was shaped around a patch of unused land without changing anything beyond it. They have also set strict rules: no pesticides and no chemical fertilizers. They also decided to donate half of the produce to needy people. Like Park, more members are making their own compost to use in the garden.

“We are living in an area that is unaffected by the soaring price of produce. I am still eating the kimchi made from napa cabbages and white radishes that were harvested here last year”. Park spoke of the fun in farming and his philosophy of 20 years of urban agriculture. “The lettuce from our garden can be stored in a refrigerator for a month and still be fresh. It doesn’t wilt like lettuce from supermarkets. It is because the vegetables in our garden are cultivated with genuine quality. The more I farm, the more I’m certain that the consumers have to change. We have to change our habit of buying agricultural produce based on appearance. It is because consumers won’t buy lettuce that has holes in it that the farmers use more pesticides”.

Park is dreaming of changing the Sangam vegetable garden into a sustainable community. “In order to change into a more cohesive community, the rotating people have to pass along their membership. That’s my worry. There are many people who want to join our garden. The competition rate this year was six to one. Our garden is especially popular because it is located next to the apartment complex. I wish there was a way to give a fair chance to all of the residents who want to join and keep the community going”.

Koo Eun-kyung, managing chairman of the Mapo Urban Agriculture Network said, “This year, half of the members are new. Although the Sangam vegetable garden has become a community, I am worried how this can continue”.

Various transformations of idle land into gardens

In Seoul, the urban agriculture movement is gaining momentum. Unused patches of land owned by the Korea Land & Housing Corporation (LH) are being used as community vegetable gardens.

The unused land near the Gayang Bridge will be used to teach farming techniques. LH has agreed to let 15,000㎡ of land in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, LH Heungdeok District, originally planned to be used for a high school in 2018, be used by, a ‘return to the soil’ NGO, as a shared vegetable garden. This land was cultivated without permission in the past, using pesticides and chemical fertilizers, while also being filled with trash. The opening ceremony will take place on May 25.

The Mapo Urban Agriculture Network of Seoul and the parents of Sangam neighborhood have decided to use the 1000㎡ unused patch of land near the Gayang Bridge for educational purposes. Koo said, “The parents of district 9 and 11 have found this unused patch of land but since accessibility is difficult for residents, it is not suitable for a community garden. However, it can be used for educational purposes for surrounding schools and preschools”. The opening ceremony will be held on June 8.
Original Article Here

Opportunity for personal and professional development of women in agriculture

Under Camposol’s Social Responsibility program, one area of focus is women in agriculture. Women constitute about 40% of the working population of Peru. Camposol pays special attention to women in order to provide the best working conditions - as it does to all its employees - through the "Women in Agriculture" program, which includes the implementation of a set of social responsibility programs aimed at the welfare and development of women.

"Women in Agriculture" includes programs like Obstetric Psycoprofilaxis and Prenatal Stimulation for pregnant employees, career growth training and opportunities, the “Sunshine” WawaWasi (nursery), summer education programs for children of employees, health care and entrepreneurship programs in communities with Camposol presence, among others.

According to figures from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), of the total economically active population in Peru (about 16 million), 24% work in agriculture. Of this percentage, one-third are women engaged in this sector.

Peru’s indicators of poverty are the highest in the country’s rural areas. However, this situation is slowly changing thanks to Peru’s recent sustained economic growth. In this framework, the agribusiness sector generates extensive employment, permitting thousands of men and women to gain formal employment in conditions of decent work and pay according to law, which enables the improvement of their quality of life.Camposol generates more than 13,000 jobs at peak production times, of which approximately 40% are held by women, thus creating an opportunity to improve the quality of life of thousands of women and their families.
"Women in Agriculture" is a program that promotes Camposol in order to provide better working conditions and opportunities for personal and professional development for its employees and for the women of the community, which it hopes will be replicated by other companies in the industry. Camposol develops strategic alliances with public and private institutions to ensure that the program has an important impact.

The program focuses on the regions of La Libertad and Piura, located in northern Peru, benefiting employees from the company’s fields and plants as well as the community’s female population. It should be noted that, in addition to these two regions, Camposol also receives workers from various regions of Peru, mainly from the northeastern part of the country, as a result of the strong demand for labor in the agribusiness sector.The social responsibility programs within "Women in Agriculture" seek to benefit all the company’s female employees. For example, the program for pregnant mothers includes all pregnant employees, who now exceed one hundred (100), in order that future mothers have the best working conditions and the necessary preparation for a healthy pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.

The training program is geared to all employees, male and female, who seek to develop their professional and operational capabilities by promoting their career development within the organization. Likewise, the summer education program for children of employees aims to strengthen their educational, artistic and sporting abilities.

In the case of the Wawa Wasi “Rayito de Sol” daycare center for the children of employees, the capacity is limited by the infrastructure needed to give them the best care, and so it gives priority to cases whose mothers have the greatest need to benefit from the program, which thus cares for more than 200 children.

In the community, Camposol built the Health Center in the town of Nuevo Chao (La Libertad), which provides comprehensive care, with priority given to maternal - prenatal care and to children under five years old.Casilda Calsina Yunganina began working as a line worker at the piquillo pepper plant, currently holds the position of Camposol’s Head of Pepper Production and is studying industrial engineering at the Northern Trujillo Private University. "I feel happy working in Camposol because it has helped me to progress as a worker and a professional, and is now supporting me in my university studies."

Nilsa Paredes Rugel, an employee working in the area of canned products, benefits from the program for pregnant mothers, saying: "This program is good because we relax during the sessions and we are preparing for our baby’s birth; it’s especially good for those having their first baby. It’s my first baby, and so I love it because I want to be prepared for my baby and also assure that I will be well."

Margarita Gabriel Sanchez, worker benefitting from the “Sunshine” WawaWasi says: "My boy Jefferson has been in the WawaWasi since he was ten months old. He is well cared for and has gained weight because he is well fed. I feel calm and happy to leave my son here while I am working because he is well cared for."

For the future, Camposol hopes that more companies will be able to replicate this program that provides greater opportunities for women and generates greater commitment to social responsibility throughout the Peruvian agricultural export sector. There are already some companies that are developing programs similar to those of Camposol, which encourages Camposol to continue improving. It hopes to strengthen this program and to continue developing new initiatives for the benefit of women workers, the company's employees in general as well as the members of the community.
Original Article Here

Boston aims to eliminate red tape around urban agriculture; meetings set to discuss proposed rezoning

Boston officials are preparing to present a draft version of new citywide zoning rules designed to expand opportunities for urban agriculture, which is largely prohibited under existing guidelines.

On Monday, city officials will kick-off the first of a series of 11 neighborhood meetings that run through the end of July to discuss the proposed amendment known as Article 89, which officials hope will be formally adopted into Boston’s zoning code in the fall.

“Most agricultural activities are not allowed under the current zoning code,” reads an informational flyer the city released about the rezoning effort. “By addressing a wide range of urban agriculture activities, Article 89 will increase access to healthy food, promote community building, create business opportunities and help beautify neighborhoods.”

The proposed new rules were drafted over the past year-and-a-half by officials from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Mayor’s Office of Food Initiatives and the Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Rezoning Working Group, which consists of farming advocates, experts, and residents appointed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Highlights of the proposed zoning changes include that ground-level farms no larger than one acre and roof-top farms no larger than 5,000 square feet would be allowed anywhere in the city. The process for starting one may require obtaining special permits, but it would not involve a public hearing.

Ground-level farms large than one acre would be allowed in areas zoned for industrial use. In all other areas, establishing one-acre plus ground-level farms would require notifying neighbors and holding a public hearing and review process.

Similarly, roof-top farms larger than 5,000 square feet as well as roof-top greenhouses of any size would be allowed in industrial, institutional and large-scale commercial districts. In all other areas, establishing roof-top farms larger than 5,000 square feet or roof-top greenhouses of any size would require going through a public review process.

Under the proposal, city officials would also conduct “Comprehensive Farm Reviews” in certain cases “to make sure farms are designed to be good neighbors.” Ground-level farms larger than 10,000 square feet and roof-top farms larger than 5,000 square feet, with some exceptions in industrial and institutional districts, would be subject to the reviews, which would take up to 45 days and include a public comment process.

All farms would be required to meet certain soil standards.

The new rules would allow for composting on any urban farm as long as it doesn’t occupy more than 5 percent of the lot. Where composting operations are located on a lot would be subject to city review.

The proposal also includes rules about: aquaculture, or farming fish and shellfish; hydroponics, or growing plans in nutrient-enriched water; and aquaponics, a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics.

Aquaculture and aquaponics facilities no larger than 750 square feet would be allowed in most zoning districts, including residential areas. Hydroponics facilities would be allowed in most zoning districts, including small-scale facilities in residential areas.

Aquaculture and aquaponics facilities designed to be as the main activity of a property would be allowed in industrial districts and many waterfront districts. Establishing such facilities in commercial and institutional areas would require going through a public review process.

Farmers’ markets and farm stands would be allowed in any area where retail is allowed. Markets and stands in other areas would require going through a public review process.

The amendment would not change existing rules for where hens and bees can be kept. Backyard hen and bee keeping is prohibited in most zoning districts in Boston under the existing zoning code.

Boston’s restrictions on bees and hens have faced some criticism over the years, including by some who had hoped that Article 89 would ease those restrictions.

“Whether hens and bees may be kept is a decision left up to individual neighborhoods,” the city’s flyer says. “Use regulations for the keeping of hens and bees can be changed by petitioning the BRA.”

In zoning areas where hens and bees are allowed, city rules require the establishment of such a site to go through a public review process. Article 89 does propose changing the current code for those areas to define how large beehives and coops can be, how many hens and beehives are allowed, along with other size and maintenance requirements.

Farms and gardens on the ground and atop roofs have become increasingly popular in recent years in urban settings, including in and around Boston.

City officials say expanding urban agriculture opportunities will be good for Boston because: it would improve access to affordable, fresh, healthy food; empower entrepreneurs and youth; unite neighbors; promote community building; and make the city more environmentally friendly.

The city’s existing zoning code does not address many types of agriculture. Any activity that is not addressed in the code is considered to be a forbidden use that requires a sometimes lengthy, frustrating appeal process to navigate around.

Article 89 aims to eliminate some of the red tape by more clearly defining and simplifying the process around agricultural activity in Boston.

The effort to amend the city’s zoning began about three years ago when Menino learned a local business owner’s plans to start a lettuce farm were foiled because city rules would not allow it, according to city officials.

In the fall of 2010, the city launched a process to test out urban agriculture, establishing two pilot farms on city-owned property in South Dorchester. The farms planted their first crops in the spring of 2011, city officials said.

Last January, the city moved to draft Article 89. After a series of 17 public meetings since then, the city released a draft version of the amendment in early May.
Original Article Here


EDF’s Land, Water, Wildlife Program works with agriculture producers, foresters and ranchers to improve management practices on private lands. We seek to provide economic incentives for these producers to adopt environmentally-beneficial practices. Our team has worked for several years to develop farming practices that generate greenhouse gas reductions, accounting systems that quantify these reductions, and policies to allow offsets to be sold in voluntary and compliance markets. In addition, EDF has led ground-breaking greenhouse gas protocol development and pilot projects for rice production, rangeland grazing, and fertilizer management to test these incentive opportunities by working with agriculture stakeholders, scientists, and policymakers across the nation. Our goal is to achieve 100 MMT of offset credits from the agriculture and forestry sectors by 2020, worth at least $1 billion in revenue for producers. Our three-pronged strategy is: 1) development of sound science and rigorous accounting for agriculture carbon offsets; 2) promotion of policies to stimulate agricultural carbon offsets, particularly in California; and 3) strategic communications targeting the agriculture sector, the environmental community, the offset buyer community, regulated companies, regulatory agencies and other key decision makers.

The Project Analyst shall manage and/or support the Director with the suite of agriculture GHG projects. The Project Analyst will help set the goals, objectives and strategies and develop and track work plans and manage relationships and collaborating activities with partners, including consultants.
Under the overall supervision of the Working Lands Director, lead the day-to-day operations of 1 to 3 projects, monitor the progress of the projects and produce quarterly financial reports and semiannual milestone reports, manage relationships with partner organizations, liaise with stakeholders, provide materials for workshops and EDF communications, and keep interested EDF staff updated on relevant work.
In conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, share information from EDF projects with external
groups and coordinate with partners to harmonize accounting methods used for the carbon market when conducting pilot projects
Assist the Director in setting goals, objectives and strategies and translating those into work plans and in evaluating progress and effectiveness of EDF staff, as well as partners, in meeting the goals and objectives.
Consult with EDF staff and partners regarding progress and obstacles in achieving program milestones and deliverables; report and make recommendations to Director regarding progress, obstacles, and resource needs.
Track work plan and grant deliverables, draft grant reports, and work with EDF government and foundation grants staff to produce reports and invoices for relevant grants that fund the projects he/she coordinates.
Maintain ongoing partner coordination meeting agendas, schedule and lead meetings as appropriate
Under direction of Director, manage consultant contracts, including monitoring contract deliverables for timeliness and quality and ensuring that invoices are processed in a timely way.
Assist Director in responding to requests from the Executive Team, Development, Finance or other EDF departments for information or assistance. Become sufficiently knowledgeable about the scope and breadth of the Working Land program’s activities to participate effectively in science, policy, and communications discussions.

Bachelor or Master’s degree in economics/policy, natural resource management, or science.
Strong quantitative analysis skills and experience in performing rigorous analyses.
At least two years experience translating social and natural science information into public policy/recommendations.
Understanding of technical issues in agriculture and climate science and ability to translate technical topics to lay audiences in ways that transfer understanding and public policy implications.
Expertise in carbon markets and other markets for ecosystem services.
Ability to make sound decisions on legal, financial, scientific issues.
Results-oriented, self-starter with the ability to think strategically and work on fast-paced, dynamic issues.
Ability to recognize and build on political opportunities for progress.
Ability to work both independently and as a leader or member of teams in a dynamic and creative environment with colleagues and partners of varied background and experience.
Able to prioritize and be flexible.
Excellent written and oral communication skills.
Original Article Here

Uganda: Agriculture - This Govt Simply Doesn't Get It

Around the same time, a special signing ceremony was happening at the ministry of Finance's boardroom on the seventh floor.

As I hit the narrow, rugged and dusty road that connects to Gomba, after getting off Masaka road, World Bank Country Manager Moustapha Ndiaye and Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka had just finished shaking hands on a $285m loan agreement to support 14 municipalities spread throughout Uganda, and widen access to clean water.

From my side mirror, dotted with dust specks, I could see lush green fields - a near perfect setting for model agriculture - but with large pieces of idle land. The view from the ministry of Finance boardroom is rather different; a shambolic setting of Kampala hits you as slums and bungalows fight for space.

A glance through the window would have offered the World Bank a good idea of the challenges that lay ahead with developing the municipalities. I have my reservations about any money from foreign institutions that goes to areas like municipalities while vital sectors like agriculture cry for help.

For good measure, the World Bank's funds to Uganda are spread throughout different areas, including agriculture. However, there is need for more support towards commercial agriculture. Gomba, like many other districts in Uganda, desperately needs money to exploit her fertile soils for commercial agriculture projects. However, all that agriculture has received from government, banks, and you just might as well add donors, is either a cold shoulder or a raw deal.

This brings us to the more important question: why has agriculture been ignored even when three out of four Ugandans earn a living there, and with the country a crucial food basket for the region?

A number of government technocrats will tell you that Uganda's agriculture is a risky venture to invest in. But that's only half the answer. The more realistic answer, dear reader, is plain and simple: this government just doesn't get it!

Even with all the facts and figures about the significance of agriculture, and predictions from the United Nations of a looming food crisis hitting Africa, for some reason this government has decided to act blind and dumb.

What the government needs to do is trim the cabinet, tackle corruption head-on, and reduce on public expenditure. At the same time, it should promote food processing plants, finance the use of fertilisers, fund irrigation plants, advise on land use, especially adding value to it, and build roads to ease food transportation.
Original Article Here

Liberia Can Become Self-Sustainable in Agriculture, Chinese Experts Say

The head of a Chinese agriculture delegation to the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) Tuesday said China remains a strong partner to Liberia's food security drive and will do all it can in ensuring that local Liberian farmers adopt methods that will make Liberia capable of feeding itself.

Yang Yi, director of foreign economy at the Ministry of Agriculture, made the remarks Tuesday when their delegation inspected the Chinese Agricultural Technology Demonstration (CATD) center in Suakoko, Bong County.

Yi admonished Liberian farmers at the center to maintain commitment in order to make Liberia a sustainable food-producing nation.

Yi said Liberia's quest of becoming a sustainable food-producing country needs continued partnership with China and requires the collective efforts of all farmers in the country.

The CATD center is one of 11 areas setup in Suakoko since July 2010 by the Chinese government through the Ministry of Agriculture to complement the skills of local farmers through basic trainings in agriculture. Over 50 farmers have been trained in rice, vegetable, livestock, and maize production while 100 local farmers are said to be undergoing trainings in similar exercise.

The team leader of the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) Aaron Marshall buttressed Yi's remarks. Marshall, a Liberian, admonished his counterparts to make sufficient use of skills they will acquire to serve as ambassadors for farmers who are not opportune to form part of trainings being offered at the center.

"This is a golden opportunity for you the farmers. Be focused and learn the best to become ambassadors for your peers," Marshall said.

Marshall said plans are underway by CARI management to offer 10 power tillers each to Liberia's 15 counties as a means of enhancing productivity. Marshall also said the power tillers would be given to farmers who can operate it well. "We have 54 power tillers but will give it to those who can operate it well," Marshall said.

The Chinese experts' visit coincided with a weeklong workshop on agriculture production. The workshop is the second to be held in 2013 and will center on power tiller operation and maintenance, vegetable and maize production, rice production, post-harvesting handling and livestock production.

Each exercise will admit 20 trainees for ten days. Power tiller operation and maintenance, vegetable and maize production, rice production, post-harvesting handling will be funded by the World Bank while livestock production will be sponsored by the China Agriculture Technology Demonstration Center
Original Article Here

Africa: Continent Roots for Agriculture in Global Climate Change Talks

Climate change and its consequences for the environment present an enormous threat to human development and progress today. It is with this understanding that the UN subsidiary bodies are due to meet in Bonn, Germany, in June to advance agreements on climate change, anchored around the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

For most African countries, climate change has not only become a key policy priority as reflected in their national communications to the UNFCCC but also the reason for more concerted engagement in the global climate change debate. This may explain Kenya's recent move to launch a national climate change action plan that will guide the transition of the country towards a low carbon climate resilient development pathway. Coming at the height of the recent political campaign season, this important document may not have been noticed by many. However, its relevance for Kenya's future cannot be underestimated as it is an important milestone in Kenya's attempt to tackle climate change issues.

The plan lays out a policy road map for reducing the country's vulnerability to climate change, while also acknowledging that without such action, the country's development priorities aimed at transforming the country into a newly industrialising, middle-income country as envisaged under Vision 2030 will be hampered.

Like most African countries, Kenya's economy remains fragile due to the dependency on rain-fed agriculture which contributes upto 28.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. Recent food shortages occasioned by droughts in most parts of the country point to the high level of vulnerability facing the agricultural sector.

According to the Environment ministry, recent droughts have left up to 3.7 million people without access to adequate food and therefore vulnerable to hunger. Between 2008 and 2011, drought alone slowed the country's economic growth by an average 2.8 per cent per year.

In more recent times, the ministry has further warned that the impacts of climate change could be as high as 2.6 per cent of GDP each year by 2030. Fatuma Hussein, a Kenya government party delegate to the climate talks, says the country's high dependency on rain-fed small scale agriculture has increased exposure to climate related risks, not only in the arid and semi-arid regions but also in the grain basket regions where some of the negative impacts could manifest through crop and livestock pests and disease occurrences. In most cases, climate change related risks worsen the poverty situation for rural and urban slum dwelling communities and weaken the safety net support networks.
Original Article Here

Agriculture Minister’s resignation confirmed by PM

The Prime Minister has confirmed rumours circulating over the past day that that the Agriculture Minister Ahmed Al-Urfi had submitted his resignation. At a press conference today Ali Zeidan said that Urufi that had announced his intention to resign two months ago, for some personal reasons. However, he had agreed to the Prime Minister’s request to stay on temporarily until a new minister was found to replace him.

”Dr Ahmed has was an active element in the prime Ministry and he also was very helpful. Personally I respect his decision. A new agriculture minister will be named soon.” Zeidan said.

Urfi is the third minister to submit his resignation in recent weeks. The Defence Minister, Mohamed Bargahthi, announced his resignation on TV on 7 May in response to the armed sieges of the Foreign and Justice Ministries but then withdrew it later the same day after being asked by Zeidan to remain in office. Ashour Shuwail is reported to have also resigned as Interior Minister the same day, although this was not reported for another ten days. He too was asked by the Prime Minister to stay on, but like Urfi agreed to do so only until a replacement was found. His successor, Mohamed Sheikh, was approved as the new interior Minister by Congress at the beginning of the week.

A senior figure in Agriculture Minister’s office told the Libya Herald that Urfi’s resignation was in fact primarily due to concerns about insecurity.

He sad that the Minister had tried hard to deal with the Ministry’s problems, but there had been continuous attacks on Ministry projects and no response from the authorities – exactly the same as in the case of the oilfields, he noted.

“These attacks blocked the Ministry’s work. It has had more attacks than most other ministries,” the official said, without going into details.

There were also personal reasons for Urfi’s resignation, he added, but would not elucidate.
Original Article  Here

Survey: An Inside Look At Precision Agriculture In 2013

Precision agriculture has established itself as a vital part of today’s farming systems. The specific roles precision agriculture plays in production agriculture, however, are ever changing — similar to the way sprinters might change positions during a track meet. There are two major ways precision agriculture generates value — increasing returns (more acres per hour, higher yields, premium services for customers, etc.) or reducing costs (reduced overlap waste). The 16th CropLife®/Purdue University Precision Agriculture survey, sponsored by Trimble, shows that when it comes to the adoption of precision technology and the offering of precision services for dealerships, the more obvious the value or savings — either to the dealership itself or its customers — the faster and higher the adoption takes place.

Beyond technology-specific factors, the overall adoption of precision technologies, as a whole, seems to also relate to the health of the overall agricultural economy. The better the economy, the more cash growers and dealerships have to invest in technology. How confident are dealerships about the future of the agricultural economy? According to this year’s survey results, these groups are changing their investment behavior.

Technology At Dealerships

GPS guidance systems have been the anchor in the precision technology relay with either manual control (lightbar) or automatic control (automatic steering) being used by 82% of retailers responding (Figure 1). This year’s results for the usage of this equipment show little change from 2011 results. Lightbar usage was reported by 66% of respondents — the same as 2011 — and automatic steering was slightly lower at 62%, down from 63% in 2011. Forty-four percent of respondents indicated they used both lightbar and automatic steering technologies. In line with historic results, 18% did not report using either guidance technology (22% in 2011 and 22% in 2009).
Original Article Here

Agriculture & Food sector surges 2.67%

The Saudi stock market continued its upward march and managed a third straight rise yesterday, adding nearly 26 points further.
The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) jumped into the green territory earlier yesterday and spending entire session in the same region closed higher at 7,404.12 points, up 0.35 percent from its previous day close. It gained maximum 42 points during the session.
On an YTD basis, TASI has accumulated more than six hundred points.
Market cap indices closed the day in mixed territories.

Six out of Tadawul's 15 sectors finished to the upside, showing a collection of 561.5 points. Agriculture & Food Industries sector remained at top showing an increase of 2.67 percent and closing at 7,814.66. Retail sector followed it, advancing 1.6 percent in a session. Banking sector added considerable 168 points, up more than one percent.
On the negative side, nine sectors ended in red, trimming 296 points collectively. Insurance sector posted the largest losses, falling 1.75 percent to close at 1,220.80. Saudi Indian Company for Cooperative Insurance recorded the biggest losses, going down 6.7 percent.
Most of heavyweights closed in green, with Kingdom Holding surging by 3.3 percent, Samba Financial Group 3.2 percent and SABB 2.4 percent.
However, market breadth with advance-decline ratio of 0.35:1 remained negative.
Almarai Co. came out as key gainer among all Saudi stocks, marching higher by 5.7 percent for the day.
Market activity was high; more than SR6 billion were poured into the market. Trading volume was impressive, with 251 million shares changed hands in the market, a significant 16.5 percent growth over the previous level. The 50-day average for trading volume is closer to 220.6 million shares.
But upside-downside volume ratio of 0.6:1 remained slightly negative.
Original Article Here

Bringing the Food Home: Local Food and Agriculture Systems

In Western Massachusetts on a sunny winter day, a farmers' market was taking place in the entryway of an elementary school. The smell was a mix of apple cider, homemade donuts, and gymnasium. Long rows of tables were heavy with piles of root vegetables, hardy apples, fresh pies, pasture-raised lamb, honey wine, and handmade brooms. There was enough diversity that, if determined and creative, one could make it through an admirable portion of a long northern winter.

In the last few years, winter farmers' markets have been turning up everywhere, tucked into corners of community centers, churches, and school auditoriums. Farmers in cold climates a pushing the limits of their seasons, growing vegetables in greenhouses and building root cellars to make their harvests last. And communities are aligning their appetites with their climates, relinquishing mealy winter tomatoes in favor of the joys of parsnips and cabbage.

In today's globalized system, the number of miles a typical piece of food travels before it gets to its final point of sale averages 1,000 to 1,500, depending on which of the many studies one is reading. A small bag of trail mix we recently purchased listed 11 countries as far-flung as Greece, Chile, India, Vietnam, and Tanzania as possible sources for its three ingredients of almonds, cashews, and raisins.

Food literally transverses the globe, creating a major disconnect between us and our source of survival, and creating plenty of opportunities for middle-people to make a profit along the way. For every dollar spent on food in the U.S., about 84 cents go to middle-people, while only 16 cents go to farmers.[i]

Nearly one-fifth of oil and gas consumption in the US is used to power our industrialized food system.[ii] This doesn't just include fuel for shipping food, but also for growing it (tractors, pesticides, and fertilizers), processing it (factories, refrigeration, packaging materials), and distributing it (warehouses, stores, and restaurants). When we stand in front of our open refrigerators peering in for a snack, the cold air streaming out the door is the last hurrah on the long, energy-intensive journey our food has made. Between 7.3 and 10 units of fossil-fuel energy are required for each unit of food energy that we consume.[iii] In our current food system, far more energy is used up getting that small bag of trail mix into our hands than we gain from eating it.

Some advocates are strict in their commitment to local sourcing, envisioning an entirely local diet. Others believe that if something can't be grown in a region and is imported, the price should more closely reflect the true costs, including the environmental impacts of transporting the far-flung food.

Taken alone, "local" or "organic" doesn't necessarily equate "sustainable." Local foods can be grown with heavy pesticides or without respecting workers' rights. And today we have the Walmart-ization of organics, which replicates some of the same destructive practices of industrial agriculture. An increasing amount of organic produce is grown on industrial-sized farms, utilizing harmful practices like monocropping and poor water and soil management, and more of it is being shipped around the globe. As organic food has become a lucrative market, big companies like Kellogg, M&M Mars, and Cargill have gotten in on the gold rush, buying up smaller organic companies and starting organic lines. A deluge of "green-washing," marketing with intentionally vague labels such as "natural" or "naturally raised" and drawings of idyllic country scenes, is further manipulating and misinforming consumers.

As with everything else related to food and agricultural systems, change toward the local and the sustainable is underway. Below are a few ways that you can contribute:

• Buy your food from a CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm or farmers' market in your community. Local Harvest ( maps out sources for local food in the US. A CSF (community-supported fishery) is an option for seafood lovers. Local Catch ( provides a similar map of CSFs;

• Share a garden space with your neighbor or friends;

• Liberate land. Reclaim urban and rural spaces for food production (and ensure that it is done responsibly, without contributing to dispossession of the land or property of marginalized communities);

* Work with your local government to pass a community gardening ordinance that protects land for gardens. Learn more about how to leverage existing policies and laws to liberate land with the help of Public Health Law and Policy's "Seeding the City: Land Use Policies to Promote Urban Agriculture" (available at;

• Save seeds from season to season or organize a seed swap. Get started by reading "How to Organize a Community Seed Swap" (;

• Buy heirloom and organic seeds. The Organic Seed Alliance has a list of organic seed companies (;

• Share your harvest with those you love, and those you haven't met yet. Or host a collective meal, which is a great way to connect people across generations and cultural backgrounds. The town of Greenfield, MA, holds an annual free harvest supper and has put together a how-to guide (;

• Ask your grocery to stock more local and healthy items;

• Join or start a buying club with other folks in your community. A buying club is a group of people who get together to buy healthy food in bulk. You can find guides for joining or starting a club online (for example,

* Get involved at deeper structural levels, to change the systems which are impeding a healthy, local, and just food supply chain. Check out the Harvesting Justice website and article series for ideas. Articles each week offer inspiring success stories and concrete suggestions for reclaiming food from the corporations, changing government policies to privilege small farmers and local production, and creating better wages and working conditions for food and agricultural workers.

[i] Patrick Canning, "A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series. A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs," (Economic Research Report No. 114, U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, February 2011), iv.

[ii] Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), 83.

[iii] John Talberth, et al., "Building a Resilient and Equitable Bay Area: Towards a Coordinated Strategy for Economic Localization," Center for Sustainable Systems, November 2006, 9; and Christopher Cook,Diet for a Dead Planet (New York: New Press, 2006), 252. The 7.3 figure is taken from the first report; however, David Pimentel of Cornell University claims the figure is closer to 10.
Original Article Here

USAID launches agriculture innovation programme

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) launched the Agricultural Innovation Program to expand the use of modern technologies in Pakistan's agricultural sector.

"Boosting Pakistan's economy is one of our top assistance priorities. Getting new and improved technologies and practices into farmers' hands in the next few years will play a major role in helping Pakistan address agriculture needs that will enhance economic development in the country," said USAID Country Director Jonathan M. Conly. USAID's Agriculture Innovation Program aims to increase agricultural productivity and quality that will improve the quality for consumers and help create more jobs on farms throughout Pakistan.

Currently, Pakistan's agricultural sector is a key part of Pakistan's economy but it is not growing at a pace that meets its potential. "Pakistan's agricultural productivity has fallen behind comparable countries with similar agro-ecologies," said Thomas Lumpkin, Director General of CIMMYT. "There is a tremendous potential for growth, but we must act now."

Shahid Masood, Member (Plant Sciences), PARC, said: "The project will develop a science-driven model to improve the livelihoods of Pakistan's agricultural producers, and enable economic growth. The international and Pakistani partners involved in this effort are dedicated to the research, collaboration and investments that will ensure success."

Through this new four-year $30 million project, USAID will sponsor research to encourage adoption of new technologies in agriculture. To date, 800,000 rural families have increased yields and started earning better incomes through USAID programs.
Original Article Here

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

U.S. pesticide makers seek answers as bee losses sting agriculture

Monsanto Co. is hosting a “Bee Summit.” Bayer AG is breaking ground on a “Bee Care Center.” And Sygenta AG is funding grants for research into the accelerating demise of honeybees in the United States, where the insects pollinate fruits and vegetables that make up roughly a quarter of the American diet.

The agrichemical companies are taking these initiatives at a time when their best-selling pesticides are under fire from environmental and food activists who say the chemicals are killing off millions of bees. The companies say their pesticides are not the problem, but critics say science shows the opposite.

Die-offs of bee populations have accelerated over the last few years to a rate the U.S. government calls unsustainable. Honeybees pollinate plants that produce roughly 25 percent of the foods Americans consume, including apples, almonds, watermelons, and beans, according to government reports.

Scientists, consumer groups, beekeepers and others blame the devastating rate of bee deaths on the growing use of pesticides sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops such as corn. Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and other agrichemical companies say other factors such as mites are killing the bees.

“This is a difficult, high stakes battle,” said Peter Jenkins, a lawyer with the Center for Food Safety, which sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in March on behalf of a group of U.S. beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups over what they say is a lack of sound regulation of the pesticides in question.

“They may have a lot of money. But. … we’re going to win,” Jenkins said.

The uproar worries officials at Bayer and Syngenta, who make the pesticides, as well as Monsanto, DuPont and other companies who used them as coatings for the seed they sell.

“Everybody is concerned by it,” said Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley in an interview.

Monsanto plans to host a summit in June for experts from around the country to analyze the issue and discuss potential solutions. Bayer is breaking ground on a facility in North Carolina to study bee health.

The European Union said this month it would ban the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” used for corn and other crops as well as on home lawns and gardens. Similar constraints in the United States could cost manufacturers millions of dollars in sales.

“We are concerned … that the science sometimes gets trumped by the politics,” said Dave Fischer, an ecotoxicologist at Bayer CropScience who is meeting with beekeepers and studying the bee deaths. He said critics “are searching for a culprit.”

The companies point to a vicious insect mite as one of many factors harming the bees.
Corn seed treatments

But environmental scientists say evidence increasingly points to pesticides coating corn seeds as the problem, not mites. In recent years, U.S. corn seed suppliers have offered more corn seed pretreated with types of neonic insecticides so that as the plant grows it repels harmful pests.

A study published last year by scientists at Purdue University in Indiana found evidence that planting the coated corn generates dust that contains very high levels of the neonics that can move beyond the fields where the seeds are planted. The researchers said they found the poison in the soil as well and in pollen collected by bees as food. The neonics were present on dead bees collected for study.

The study’s co-author, Purdue University scientist Christian Krupke, said the issue needs more research.

Syngenta and Bayer say they are doing just that. This month both companies announced they were helping fund research grants awarded to Iowa State University and Ohio State University and a Canadian farm group to study the impact of insecticidal seed treatment dust on bee losses.

“This research will provide valuable information,” Jay Overmeyer, an ecotoxicology expert at Syngenta, said in a statement.
Unsustainable levels

A May 1 report funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly one in three managed honey bee colonies in the United States were lost over the winter of 2012-2013. The losses are 42 percent higher than losses seen the previous winter, the report found. Fewer bees spells higher food prices, according to the government.

U.S. officials say there is no conclusive proof that pesticides caused the bee deaths, and they cite many other factors, including the mites.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it is “working aggressively to protect bees and other pollinators from pesticide risks through regulatory, voluntary and research programs” but sees no need for a moratorium on pesticides. The EPA has said it will study the situation, but many experts say immediate action is needed.

“One-third of the food supply depends on pollinators to be productive,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s hard to say that these are definitively the cause of major bee declines. But there is a lot of data coming together that should be seriously examined.”
Original Article Here


The Department of Agriculture organised a two-day training workshop on geo-tagging tools for eighty Agricultural Extension Workers (AEW), in a bid to improve governance in the agriculture sector.The training introduced the participants to basic Global Position System (GPS) principles and how to maximise the potential of hand-held Garmin GPS receivers.

According to an official statement, the workshop aims to support the Department’s Unified and Enterprise Geospatial Information Systems (UEGIS), which aims to enhance the decision making capability of the key local government offices in strategic agriculture and fisheries development zones.

The project also aims to leverage high resolution satellite imagery in order to establish a geospatial database of agricultural and fisheries resources; improve the institutional capacity and capability of the various stakeholders; and formulate an Integrated Development Plan for the agriculture sector.

Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture will also be leveraging the system to improve the effectiveness of emergency assistance to farmers and fisher folk and to provide more accurate forecasts on agriculture and fisheries production.
Original Article Here

Maize farmers unwilling to try alternative crops, says Agriculture Secretary Koskei

Maize farmers are reluctant to heed a government directive to skip a planting season due to a viral disease that has been destroying the crop in the North and South Rift regions.

The Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Felix Koskei told the Senate Committee on Agriculture Tuesday that farmers are “unwilling” to try alternative crops to maize.

“I interviewed one farmer in Narok who told me that since he was born, he has been growing maize. And even if there’s a problem, the farmer told me, he will have to plant maize so that people know he planted maize,” Mr Koskei told the MPs at a meeting in Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

His major beef with the farmers is that although they have information, they know how devastating the disease is, yet when the government is offering solutions to ensure they don’t make losses, the farmers “are unwilling to change”.

“We need to change the mindset of our people. People don’t accept because it is their staple food, and because it is a means of social standing. If you say you have 20 acres of maize in Bomet, another will say they have five acres. If you say, you have two acres of cassava, people will wonder what you are talking about," said the Cabinet secretary.

He said the maize disease –maize lethal nechrosis disease—which surfaced in September 2011 destroyed 700,000 bags of maize valued at Sh2 billion. That, the Cabinet Secretary said was two per cent of the country’s annual production. He said this made the government to step up surveillance.

The chairman of the Committee Lenny Kivuti sought to know if the disease was introduced in the country through underhand means –with the motive being to ensure that Kenyans keep importing maize.

“Whether this disease came up as a result of any other unorthodox method, we are not aware…things come during their time. It was a time for this disease to come to Kenya but we’re confronting it,” said Mr Koskei.

He said the area under cultivation had dropped from 26,000 hectares to 18,000 hectares as a result of government interventions to restrict movement of affected crop. The disease is caused by two viruses.

Apart from crop rotation –skipping a maize season and planting other crops—Mr Koskei said the ministry is also working on disease-resistant seeds for alternative crops, which will be distributed to farmers. Early planting is also key, he said.

Mr Koskei said a consignment of 5,000 tonnes of fertiliser will arrive in the country to assist farmers who were late in planning. Going forward, he said, fertiliser will arrive “at least a month earlier to the planting season"

He said farmers ought to buy seeds certified by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, and also watch out for government advisories on the herbicides to use to combat the disease.

“I know it is going to be a tall order to convince farmers to plant other crops apart from maize. You have to give crop incentives,” Vihiga Senator George Khaniri told the Cabinet Secretary.

Senator Janet Ong’era (nominated) said extension officers should also go out and talk to the farmers just as they used to do over two decades ago, to advice farmers on farming practices.

“A time has now come to Kenya where we need to sensitise our farmers. The Food and Agriculture Organisation has said that the maize yield is going to reduce,” said Ms Ong’era.

She said that perhaps more research on fast-maturing banana varieties will help ensure food security and put money in the pockets of farmers.

Mr Koskei admitted that the ministry was understaffed because one extension officer serves at least 1,500 farmers, yet the global standard is one officer to 400 farmers.
original Article Here


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