Food security critical - organisation

2011-04-18 14:37

Cape Town - There are many small innovations that could increase food security for the planet's population, the Worldwatch Institute has said.

In its State of the World 2011 report, the body said that many examples of innovation had the potential to solve the food crisis in poor countries.

"We've released a book that is a roadmap for donors after our two year project to eliminate hunger and poverty. But there is no magic bullet," senior researcher Danielle Nierenberg at the World Watch Institute told News24.

Nierenberg has spent 15 months in Africa, evaluating 300 projects in 25 countries and has urged decision-makers to adopt practices that promote diversification of farming on the continent. She is opposed to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as a solution to food shortages.

Extreme poverty

"GMOs don't work for small scale farmers; it's only viable for large, mono culture commercial farmers. There's too much risk involved for African farmers.

"What's more is that the yields are comparable to conventional agriculture. So the industry keeps telling us these GMOs are better, but they get about the same yield," she said.

According to the UN millennium development goal monitor, countries in West Africa particularly struggle with extreme poverty with up to 70% of the population in Nigeria living on less than $1 per day.

The Worldwatch Institute blamed part of the problem on governments encouraging mono culture crops and legislation prohibiting urban farming.

"When farmers diversify, they're more resilient to price shocks and they struggle to grow anything on soil that has degraded. Essentially, you have farmers that are out on their own and extension services are filled by NGOs and companies," Nierenberg said.

She said that there was hope despite failing governments in many African countries and many farmers were turning to traditional practices to grow crops to feed themselves rather than cash crops advised by governments and international organisations.

"In Niger and Mauritania, we've seen farmers working on natural management regeneration of the land. They're re-introducing things that used to grow on the land and they're getting more water and less soil erosion. It's a more self-sustaining form of farming."


Food security and poverty is one of the key targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), but it isn't certain that Africa will meet MDG targets by 2015.

"The proportion of people in sub-Saharan Africa living on less than $1 per day is unlikely to be reduced by the target of one-half. 

"About one quarter of all children in developing countries are considered to be underweight and are at risk of having a future blighted by the long-term effects of undernourishment," Regional MDG Policy Advisor for the UN Development Programme in SA, Osten Chulu told News24's Betha Madhomu in 2010.

Even though international food prices are reported to have declined in the first quarter of 2011, famine continues to sweep though Africa, but the World Watch Institute says that better use could be made of the food by eliminating waste.

"All our security depends on making sure we're all fed. There is some change, but a lot of international financing policy is window dressing. We can't just blame one person or institution," said Nierenberg.

The Nourishing the Planet blog briefs decision-makers and NGOs about the need to encourage policies that promote a diverse farming methodology with best practice solutions.

"There are solutions out there not getting attention they deserve. There's a lot of opportunity to combine low- and high tech for food security," she said.

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  • A4KOBUS - 2011-04-18 14:54

    `n Einde in die handel van geld eenhede en `n einde aan die aandelemark kan baie onmoontlik klink en sal waarskynlik nie gebeur nie . maar dit kan die beleggers noop om weer in vervaardiging te belê en dit kan op sy beurt werk skep en voedsel produksie verhoog .Wat dink julle ?

      allie - 2011-04-18 15:22

      Laat ons maar die ding prontuit se .Hou op om blanke boere se plase af te vat.Dit is Zim se ondergang en sal S Afrika sin ook wees.Ons voer al klaar voedsel in in plaas van uitvoer soos in die verlede.Politiek maak nie honger oor nie.

  • SkiaBran - 2011-04-19 09:58

    would people please try and do some unbiased research. GMO's do increase yields, that's why they where developed. there are issues to using patented stock (most are designed to be sterile and that is bad for the small farmer) and yes mono-cultures are bad, in all agriculture. but to say there is no benefit to GMO's is irresponsible.

      Irené - 2011-04-19 13:43

      To say that GMOs are safe is even more responsible, before you heed other people to do more research, maybe you should do some research as to the medium to long term effects that GMOs have on the land and human health. Do you actually believe companies like monsanto and bayer sciences have developed GMOs for the better of the whole world?? I guess you also believe in the tooth fairy then. These companies are greedy thieves with no conscnience. If left to it, they will destroy the worlds agriculture and food supply.

      Irené - 2011-04-19 13:43

      I meant IRresponsible

      UnitedSA - 2011-04-22 21:11

      I think she trying to say that GMO's are not the solution to food security. As its mainly available for large scale or commercial farmers. People experience poverty at household level where GMO's are not available.If GMO's are available at household level in the form of seeds, it cannot be re-used or re-planted as it can only be planted once. I also agree that GMO's does somewhat increase yield but the people who are more vulnerable to food insecurity, "the poor", never access the crops produced due to the lack of purchasing power. GMO's are not sustainable especially at a household prouction level.

  • pepperment - 2011-04-27 09:07

    This is all very well said and done, but what do we do about the increasing of droughts and floods in our weather patterns? You cannot compete with nature, in the end, man will want to depend on man, but man will not be able to help! The Bible teaches us though, that the heavenly Father will look after His faithful! The rest, who lean on man, will perish! Sad, but true!

  • Foreigner - 2011-04-28 21:01

    Unfortunately, the hard truth is that our human race have become too much for this planet too handle... And human nature tend to want to balance nature all the time, but through 100 000 year cycles nature balances itself, all we are doing, is upsetting the balance. Now try to explain this to people with no high school education.

  • RAYSEMBE - 2011-05-31 12:00

    Africa lets try to control our birth rate,thats the other factor here people are now struggling for food and see a very big disaster in future

  • Tamz.S - 2011-05-31 13:48

    If there is clearly not enough food to go around, then why are we not restricting breeding? The poorest of people tend to have the most offspring. Where is education and birth control here??? By trying to produce more food for the worlds population (which is said to be over 9 bil by 2050) we are attacking a symptom, not the cause. TOO MANY PEOPLE

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