Whenever you bite into a piece of food, do you think about where it comes from? How did it get from the ground to your table? Who are the farmers and entrepreneurs who cultivated and sourced it? It’s strange to think that this doesn’t cross our minds more often.
This issue is one we should be thinking about more and more often. As populations continue to grow, there needs to be new innovations to increase sustainable food production, without draining the earth. With factors such as climate change impacting water supplies and security, business-as-usual just won’t cut it.
For this reason, on January 29th, 2018, the Water for Food International Forum Innovation Fair: Innovate to Irrigate, gathered together 19 organizations who are leading the way in this challenge, through creative technologies that support farmer-led irrigation practices.
Water scarcity, lack of access and rights to water for irrigation, and climate shocks are just a few of the challenges that global farmers face. These issues emerged as major themes during the Water for Food International Forum taking place today and tomorrow (January 29-30, 2018) at the World Bank, which brought together farmers, governments, private food and technology companies, financial institutions, and researchers and practitioners from around the world.
The world’s climate is changing, and is projected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The impact of climate change will be particularly felt in agriculture, as rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased pests and diseases pose new and bigger risks to the global food system. Simply put, climate change will make food security and poverty reduction even more challenging in the future.
One in eight people worldwide still go to bed hungry every night, and the increased severity of natural disasters like droughts only exacerbates this situation. Humanitarian agencies and development practitioners are increasingly focused on helping the most vulnerable recover from the effect of these shocks by boosting their resilience.
Video: Land ownership for women prevents fears of uncertainty
Around the world, rural women are a major provider of food and food security. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations argues that improving women’s access to productive resources (such as land) could increase agricultural output by as much as 2.5% to 4%. At the same time, women would produce 20-30% more food, and their families would enjoy better health, nutrition, and education.
Sounds simple, maybe even jargony, but no – they are concrete, with real impacts. All of a sudden, we had an internationally negotiated soft law or a set of guidelines on (land) tenure navigating successfully through the global web of interests on land, reaching a common ground. The consensus at the CFS was further strengthened by the endorsement of the VGGT by the G20, Rio+ 20, the United Nations General Assembly, and the Francophone Assembly of Parliamentarians.
This journey started with an inclusive consultation process started by the FAO in 2009, and finalized through intergovernmental negotiations. Importantly, no interest group – governments, CSOs, academia, private sector – felt left behind, and the States were engaged in word-by-word review of the guidelines.
This can be seen in the result. The VGGT’s power stems from the consensus on its principles that States were to:
Recognize and respect all legitimate tenure right holders and their rights;
Protect tenure right holders against the arbitrary loss of their tenure rights; and that
Women and girls [were to] have equal tenure rights and access to land.
One year ago, we did not know how many Somalis were poor and how programs and policies could help to reduce poverty or at least build resilience against falling deeper into poverty. We knew that Somalis receive an estimated $1.4 billion (24 percent of GDP) in remittances every year. But we did not know whether the poor received the remittances and whether they helped mitigate the impact of poverty. To overcome this dearth of information, we implemented the Somali High Frequency Survey and established a near real-time market price monitoring system.
“Knowledge economy” is a term popularized by Peter Drucker in his book The Age of Discontinuity. Over the past decade, knowledge-based policies, projects and programs have increasingly become drivers of the knowledge economy. Intra and inter-institutional collaboration for sharing knowledge and experience are essential for tapping into the enormous powerhouse of indigenous, national, regional and global knowledge. The timely application of such shared knowledge can help in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
At the beginning of this summer, 60 task team leaders and investment officers from the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, regional development banks – African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank – and Rome-based UN Agencies – Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Program (WFP)– participated in a 3-day Knowledge Forum organized by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). The Forum was hosted by the FAO at its Headquarters in Rome. This was the third Knowledge Forum organized by GAFSP, a video was developed on the GAFSP 2017 Knowledge Forum.
The 2017 Knowledge Forum, one of GAFSP’s flagship events, brought together strategic and operational insights drawn from the Program’s Public and Private Sector Window projects. The Forum provided a robust and interactive platform to share tacit knowledge and experiences, including ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness of project delivery and increase impact on rural poor; to implement GAFSP’s new Monitoring and Evaluation Plan including Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES); and to implement the newly-designed GAFSP’s Operations Portal. The importance and benefits of partnering with civil society organizations like ActionAid, ROPPA (Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs de l"Afrique de l'Ouest) in Africa, and AFA (Asian Farmers Association) in Asia, in the design and implementation of GAFSP-supported projects were highlighted in the Forum.
Last year, we showcased how Vietnamese farmers in the Mekong Delta are adapting to climate change. You met two shrimp farmers: Nguyen Van Khuyen, who lost his shrimp production due to an exceptionally dry season that made his pond too salty for raising shrimp, and To Hoai Thuong, who managed to maintain normal production levels by diluting his shrimp pond with fresh water. Now, let’s suppose Nguyen diluted his shrimp pond this year, another year with an extremely dry season. That would be a good start, but there would be other issues to contend with related to practical application. For example, when should he release fresh water and how much? How often should he check the water salinity? And what if he’s out of town?
Nguyen’s story illustrates some of the problems global agriculture faces, and how they unfold for farmers on the ground. Rapid population growth, dietary shifts, resource constraints, and climate change are confronting farmers who need to produce more with less. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global food production will need to rise by 70% to meet the projected demand by 2050. Efficient management and optimized use of farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizer will be essential. However, managing these inputs efficiently is difficult without consistent and precise monitoring. For smallholder farmers, who account for 4/5 of global agricultural production from developing regions, getting the right information would help increase production gains. Unfortunately, many of them still rely on guess work, rather than data, for their farming decisions.
This is where agriculture can get a little help from the Internet of Things (IoT)—or internet-enabled communications between everyday objects. Through the IoT, sensors can be deployed wherever you want–on the ground, in water, or in vehicles–to collect data on target inputs such as soil moisture and crop health. The collected data are stored on a server or cloud system wirelessly, and can be easily accessed by farmers via the Internet with tablets and mobile phones. Depending on the context, farmers can choose to manually control connected devices or fully automate processes for any required actions. For example, to water crops, a farmer can deploy soil moisture sensors to automatically kickstart irrigation when the water-stress level reaches a given threshold.