Jokes naturally followed the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s new report extolling the virtues of eating bugs.
The most popular tweet was a variant on “Let them eat cake.” Others pointed to the scene in the Disney movie the Lion King where Timon and Pumba introduce bugs to Simba. They assure Simba that bugs are “slimy, yet satisfying.”
It’s all in good fun and probably got more people to pay closer attention to an issue (hunger) in a report that would have otherwise only been discussed within development wonk circles.
Setting aside jokes and a gross-out-factor, bugs turn out to be a pretty awesome food. They pack some real protein punch and are better for the environment as compared to cows, pigs and chickens.
The Economist shows how: Continue reading
- Joe Whinney and Theo Chocolate factory
- Tom Paulson
Welcome to the Humanosphere podcast, our weekly look back at the world of global health and development. This week we discuss the Obama administration’s new foreign budget proposal, plus Madonna’s celebrity philanthropy gone awry in Malawi.
But our focus is on the delicious dark sweetness we call chocolate – how’s it made, who makes it, where it comes from, and the ethics or lack thereof behind it.
Joe Whinney, founder and President of Seattle’s own Theo Chocolate, gave us the lowdown. Whinney is an industry veteran who bore witness to the extreme poverty and abusive business practices suffered by cocoa farmers in the Global South. In 2006, Whinney founded his own chocolate company with a commitment, he says, to organic and fair trade chocolate that equitably compensates farmers and their families.
We had some questions: Are corporate social responsibility programs actually accomplishing any good? What does “fair trade” certification really mean? What about labor practices in Theo’s Seattle factory? How can consumers drive ethical business practices? And what does the future of chocolate look like?
Whinney doesn’t mince words. Listen to find out.
Produced by Ansel Herz.
Welcome to the Humanosphere podcast – a look at recent news in global health, aid and development as well as a guest interview. This week we interview Roger Thurow, for many years a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and now an expert on food policy at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs. Thurow explains witnessing the ‘obscenity’ of hunger in Ethiopia, how it changed him and what he hopes to achieve by focusing on this issue in his most recent book The Last Hunger Season.
News highlights include a look at why the Nature Conservancy is doing reproductive health in Tanzania after first going in to save chimps, the broader implications of India’s legal rejection of a drug patent application by Novartis and where we are at one year after the massive social media campaign was launched aimed at stopping African warlord Joseph Kony.
Produced by Ansel Herz.
- Morgana Wingard
African countries are making promising agricultural gains, but the progress remains in the balance due to a $4.4 billion funding shortfall, warns a new report by the ONE Campaign. That is in addition to $11 billion in agriculture funding pledged by G8 nations that has yet to be disbursed.
The ONE report cites 2013 as an important year for agriculture in Africa because it is a time when international and domestic funding agreements come to an end.
“African leaders have the opportunity to deliver on their goals of lifting millions from extreme poverty and hunger and preventing chronic malnutrition by meeting these commitments,” write the report’s authors.
Edward Carr of the University of South Carolina was generally supportive of the report, but noted that the problem of agriculture may be one that is about markets rather than production.
“There is no discussion on the massive rate of loss between farm gate and market in this region,” said Carr. “The report raises further questions. Is there really a production shortfall or a marketable crop shortfall?” Continue reading
Feed the Future is the Obama Administration’s answer to cyclical global hunger crises.
Rather than provide food in response to droughts or work around governments, Feed the Future represent’s a commitment to working with governments.
- Grain processors in Ethiopia
- Morgana Wingard/USAID
While the program took a few years to get off the ground, and is probably not all that well known to the public, it is a favorite of USAID Administrator Raj Shah – and also a go-to program budget hawks now want to cut back.
Agriculture programs have been losing federal funding over the past few years already. The House Budget Committee recommended to cut Feed the Future entirely last year. Budget negotiations come for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) come in the wake of sequestration. The House Budget Committee’s proposal involves a 7% cut to the International Affairs budget.
Yet Feed the Future has managed to survive.
So, while the Republican controlled house tries to rectify a budget with the Democrat controlled Senate that wants to add 9% more to the International Affairs budget, Feed the Future appears to have won a second life. But the uncertainty that looms over the budge cut discussion may cause harm. Continue reading
The Economist, though starting off with a misleading reference to the horse meat flap in Europe, does a nice job here in its Daily Chart of illustrating why food is so costly to the poor. Were you confused by the stories that explained, way back when, that the riots and political unrest which exploded into what we then called the Arab Spring (now perhaps better dubbed the Arab Turmoil or Festering Wounds) were sparked by food price increases? This may help clear things up.
We all know that food is essential. What we often don’t know is how big a chunk it takes out of a poor person’s daily income.
A related article on why Food Riots Likely to Become the New Normal
- Farmer plants rice in the Philippines. Credit: International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
Want to change the world? Many tell you to start at the grocery story…or with your local farmers market.
Eat less meat, go organic, eat local and eat healthier. Such recommendations can be heard just about anywhere and they often end with a call to demand support for American farmers, or politically, renewal of the US Farm Bill. The argument sounds sensible on a quick glance and certainly so from a US-centric, self-serving perspective. But it may not be so sensible and good.
Modern food production and distribution systems are today international in scope and affect almost everyone, everywhere – and in many ways that may surprise you.
As the same time, eating local – locavores – has increasingly become a popular trend in the United States. Farm-to-table restaurants are popping up touting that they source all their products locally. The appeal is that consumers can get fresh (often organic) produce at nearly the same cost while supporting local businesses and reducing the massive carbon footprint produced by shipping food across the United States.
The trend has come with wider public recognition of the downside of industrial food production: The antibiotics used for livestock protect against disease (and boosts production) but this also builds drug resistance that has negative ramifications for people’s health. The high overall consumption of meat hurts the environment – from the methane produced by cows to the amount of land and water needed to care for them. Policies by governments and purchases by consumers have an impact on farmers from Arkansas to Haiti to the Horn of Africa.
The choice between eating cheap supermarket food versus being a sustainable locavore is not really as simple as it looks, at least if your goal is to make the world a better place. Continue reading
Flickr, Southernpixel Alby
A 5-step plan to save the planet sounds ridiculous, I know. But, as they say, even the longest journey begins with the first step.
Rather than simply get overwhelmed at all of the world’s many problems, an environment and land-use professor at the University of Minnesota and his colleagues decided to come up with a workable game plan to simultaneously deal with three major, overlapping forces that dictate our future:
Population growth, agriculture and the environment. Says study leader Jonathan A. Foley in an online article in Scientific American, Can We Feed the World and Sustain the Planet?:
Right now about one billion people suffer from chronic hunger. the world’s farmers grow enough food to feed them, but it is not properly distributed and, even if it were, many cannot afford it, because prices are escalating.
But another challenge looms.
By 2050 the world’s population will increase by two billion or three billion, which will likely double the demand for food, according to several studies.
That doesn’t sound too promising, especially when Foley and his colleagues go on to note that our current approach to agriculture uses about 40 percent of Earth’s land already and our approach to farming contributes about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Most of our water use also goes to agriculture.
And if population growth continues at its current rate, we will need to double food production by 2050.
Yikes! Anyone planning a trip to Mars? Continue reading