These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
A Lesson from Latin America: Media Reform Needs People Power
Policy reform in favor of more plural and independent media is possible when global networks collaborate with national activists. This is the important lesson gleaned from a series of examples in Latin America that are the subject of a new book that I co-authored with Maria Soledad Segura titled Media Movements: Civil Society and Policy Reform in Latin America (Zed/U of Chicago Press). Washington, DC, is home to many global actors committed to supporting freedom of information, fighting oppressive libel laws and promoting plural media ownership—among other key elements to a vibrant and free media. The key lesson for them is that they are unlikely to succeed alone. In fact, we did not find any examples of rapid and sustainable changes single-handedly driven by global programs. Instead, we found success stories where global actors worked patiently and diligently with local activities, building awareness and strong coalitions on the ground that could act when opportune conditions or political junctures arose.
Why Cities Are the Future for Farming
The landscape of our food future appears bleak, if not apocalyptic. Humanity’s impact on the environment has become undeniable and will continue to manifest itself in ways already familiar to us, except on a grander scale. In a warmer world, heavier floods, more intense droughts, and unpredictable, violent, and increasingly frequent storms could become a new normal. Little wonder that the theme for this year's World Food Day, which happens on Sunday, is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.” The need for an agricultural sea change was also tackled at the recent South by South Lawn, President Obama’s festival of art, ideas, and action (inspired by the innovative drive of Austin’s SXSW), where I was honored to present.
In India, animal husbandry and dairying are important economic activities accounting for approximately 33 percent of the agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP). India is the largest producer of milk having achieved an annual production of 146.3 million tons in 2014-15. As the economy grows and income increases, a World Bank study points out, per capita consumption for milk and milk products in the country is projected to rise to more than 350 grams per day by 2020.
Dairying is also a major source of livelihood for approximately 80 percent of small and marginal farmers in India (typically owning one to three milk producing animals) who contribute approximately 70 percent to the total milk production. In addition, women play an extremely critical role in multifarious dairying activities at the household level in both rural and urban areas. The country’s livestock sector is one of the largest in the world with 56.7% and 12.5% of world’s buffaloes and cattle respectively.
An important milestone in the significant growth of the dairy sector in the past decades has been a series of ‘Operation Flood Programs’ spearheaded by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) through promotion of dairy cooperatives across the country. In addition, the World Bank funded National Dairy Plan 1 (NDP) run by the NDDB for the period 2011-12 to 2017-18, is a scientifically planned multi-state initiative. It aims at increasing the productivity of milch animals and providing rural milk producers greater access to the organized milk-processing sector. It is estimated that only 30 percent of the marketable surplus is sold to the organized sector. Small producers in rural areas, who account for 70 percent of milk production, are particularly affected.
It started with data!
In 2007-08, an evaluation by Catalyst Management Services of a tribal livelihoods initiative for the State Planning Commission of Madhya Pradesh showed that agriculture as a livelihoods option was unproductive and for small tribal farmers; leaving them without a profitable livelihood option. But it wasn’t because of prices, or barriers to entry. Instead, it was because crucial services and government schemes were not reaching those who needed them most.
According to the data, only 10-12% of small producers were able to access vital extension schemes and a mere 7-8% of other government schemes. The evaluation found that large farms were crowding out the smaller farmers from accessing key subsidies and benefits. So the State Planning Commission posed a challenge: find a way to reach these marginalized tribal farmers in Madhya Pradesh.
A few weeks ago, we passed a big milestone in the World Bank Group’s climate change and development work. For the first time, small-scale farmers earned carbon credits from an agricultural land management project.
The project in western Kenya kicked off what will surely be many more soil carbon projects in coming years. It also shows how sustainable farming (such as increased mulching and less tilling) can be part of the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – while improving livelihoods for poor, rural families.
The soil carbon project, made possible by an accounting system for low-carbon farming approved in 2011, took several years to prepare and implement. I had the fortune to be right there, working with farmers on the ground in Kenya and trying to understand their reality.
2 Weeks left to nominate and win US$20,000!
For the 7th consecutive year the World Challenge is searching for grassroots community projects that promote sustainable development through innovation and original thinking. Their mission is simple: to reward small businesses which have found solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems.
If you have what it takes, they would like to hear from you. Please check their website and fill in an application form. You have until the 19th of June, at midnight. Their judging panel will select the best 12 entries to be filmed by BBC World News and featured in a special ad series in Newsweek magazine.