- According to WWF, Solving the Great Food Puzzle involves, inter alia, nutritious indigenous crops, agrobiodiverse cropping systems, and traditional food cultures. Those are just 3 of 20 levers for food system transformation. Is it me or are levers and accelerators the current flavours of the month?
- Even the Gates Foundation agrees on that indigenous crop thing, kinda sorta, if you squint. In this piece, for example, Enock Chikava, Interim Director, Agricultural Development, waxes lyrical about teff.
- Meanwhile, in the middle of its tomato shortage, and not much interested in teff, the UK is betting on re-establishing prehistoric landscapes full of wild pigs and bison. Bold move.
- But who needs bison protein when you have the genome of the faba bean? Which after all is a nutritious indigenous crop, part of agrobiodiverse cropping systems, and a component of traditional food cultures.
- Ah, but you need to manage all that data on indigenous crops, and Clemson University is there to help. WWF take note.
Nibbles: Vavilov, Argentine genebank, Millennium Seed Bank, Indian millets, Community seedbank, Creative finance, Healthy diets, African agriculture
- The Living Library of Resilience is a great name for what Nikolai Vavilov put together, and this longish piece from Maria Popova at The Marginalian is a great tribute to a great man.
- Vavilov’s example is being followed in Argentina, it seems, with the establishment of another genebank, in Corrientes.
- The Millennium Seed Bank reaches an important milestone. Vavilov would be proud.
- Can’t help thinking Vavilov would also wholeheartedly approve of grassroots Indian efforts to bring back millets, as usefully summarized The Locavore. Could have said a bit more about genebanks, though.
- Even genebanks like that of farmers such as Manas Ranjan Sahu. You don’t have to run an institute like Vavilov to build a genebank.
- The Global Alliance for the Future of Food and Transformational Investing in Food Systems Initiative (TIFS) have a report out on Mobilizing Money and Movements: Creative Finance for Food Systems Transformation. No genebanks in there either, alas, but there could so easily have been.
- FAO says billions of people in the world cannot afford a healthy diet, and it has the data to prove it. Does that mean genebanks are not doing their job (eg on nutrient dense orphan crops)? Or doing it too well (eg on the major calorie-rich staples)?
- African worthies say that we need to ramp up investment in the adaptation of agriculture on the continent to climate change. I hope that will include investment in Living Libraries of Resilience that conserve all manner of interesting local crops and varieties. And creative finance for them of course.
Giving orphan crops an even break
Prabhu Pingali sets out the nutrition case for crop-neutral agricultural policy in an interview at Asterisk.
There’s a lot more talk about nutrition-sensitive agriculture and a lot more pronouncements about why this is important. However, most governments see this as an add-on, not a substitution. Rather than removing the existing supports or reducing the existing supports for staples, governments have just added supports for other crops. That creates some marginal improvement for some of the other crops, but your fundamentals don’t change. The crop-neutrality argument says: Treat all these crops on a level playing field and let market signals determine the supply responses.
Easier said than done, but there’s more in his chapter on Are the Lessons from the Green Revolution Relevant for Agricultural Growth and Food Security in the Twenty-First Century? in last year’s book Agricultural Development in Asia and Africa.
Nibbles: Brazil agroforestry, US sweet potatoes, Egypt sweet potatoes, Regenerative Carlsberg, Plant Pandemic Studies, The Dawn of Everything, Allianz biodiversity report
- Saleseforce is funding work by CIFOR-ICRAF to help diversify agriculture in the Brazilian state of Pará by growing more nutritious fruit trees in agroforestry systems.
- USDA researchers are breeding sweet potatoes that are better able to deal with weeds. No word on how they do in agroforestry systems.
- I wonder if those weed-resistant sweet potatoes would find a market in Egypt.
- Beer “giant” Carlsberg says it’s going all-in on regenerative barley growing practices. Looking forward to seeing hops agroforestry systems.
- The British Society for Plant Pathology has a series of really engaging Plant Pandemic Studies, including for some crops that do well in agroforestry systems.
- The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wengrow, is getting a lot of attention, including for its thesis that agriculture began in the Fertile Crescent as somewhat ad hoc, experimental, diverging, complementary and interacting lowland and highland agroforestry systems, and did not always lead to inequality and hierarchy. With a nice map.
- And finally, here’s a report from Allianz on why the financial sector should care about biodiversity-friendly agricultural systems (pace David Wood), like maybe, but not only, agroforestry.
Brainfood: Food biodiversity, Diversification, New crops, GMO maize, African livestock, Greek innovation clusters, Amazonian native cacao
- Food Biodiversity as an Opportunity to Address the Challenge of Improving Human Diets and Food Security. Biodiversity and food security can be mutually supportive, but you need education, research and inclusion, say educators and researchers.
- Achieving win-win outcomes for biodiversity and yield through diversified farming. Biodiversity and yield both win in only about a quarter of cases. But humanity does not live by yield alone, right?
- Accelerated Domestication of New Crops: Yield is Key. Ooops, looks like humanity does live by yield alone after all.
- Genetically Modified Maize: Less Drudgery for Her, More Maize for Him? Evidence from Smallholder Maize Farmers in South Africa. No, wait, man lives by yield alone, but not woman.
- Climate Change’s Impact on Agriculture and Food Security: An Opportunity to Showcase African Animal Genetic Resources. Forget GMO maize, Africa needs to develop its own agrobiodiversity…
- Friend or Foe? The Role of Animal-Source Foods in Healthy and Environmentally Sustainable Diets. …and it need not be bad for either health or the environment.
- AgriDiverCluster: An Innovative Cluster for the Utilization of Greek Biodiversity and Plant Genetic Resources. Maybe the Greeks have a way to make it not bad for either health or the environment. By vertical integration, it looks like.
- Socio-ecological benefits of fine-flavor cacao in its center of origin. Amazonian cacao farmers also seem to have a way to vertically integrate.