SOURCE: The Economist

Clear property rights for farmers are important to ensure they invest in improving the land and raise farm productivity. This was one of the key conclusions of the fourth Feeding the World summit in Amsterdam on February 12th, organised by The Economist Events.

Feeding a growing global population of nine billion people by 2050 is one of the world’s biggest challenges—especially in the context of rapid urbanisation, rising amounts of food waste and climate change. During one day of discussions senior executives from agribusiness, policymaking and the NGO community examined approaches to food and nutrition security.

Secure land rights emerged as a key issue at the Feeding the World summit. It is linked to many of the other issues discussed, such as farm productivity and sustainable natural resource management: once farmers’ property rights are secure, they can focus on investing in machinery and technology to raise productivity, enhance soil quality and conserve water, for example. Clear property rights can also limit conflicts over land and boost strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

It is encouraging that the international community—including developing countries, donor countries, international organisations, civil society and the private sector—are increasingly focusing on the importance of secure land rights across the developing world to boost food security and poverty-reduction strategies. This is highlighted by the endorsement by the UN’s Committee on World Food Security of Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security.

The gender dimension of land rights

Nonetheless, it is obvious that more needs to be done to support secure land rights. In the context of gender issues in agriculture, for example, the Feeding the World summit heard that female farmers in many developing countries still do not have equal rights to own and use land. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, women comprise around 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. However, the share of female employment in agriculture is rising across most parts of the developing world given that access to non-farm jobs tends to be much more difficult for women than men.

Despite this trend, women continue to have limited access to inputs, seeds, credits and extension services—partly as a result of women’s insecure rights to land and property. This decreases agricultural productivity. In many African countries, for example, customary practices often require women to access land through male relatives who control the land. Recent developments, such as Tanzania’s proposed new constitutiongiving women the equal right to acquire, own, use and develop land under the same conditions as men, point to some progress in this area.

Additional key takeaways from the conference

The Feeding the World summit brought together over 100 attendees from 24 countries across all continents. Apart from land rights, key topics debated were the Millennium Development Goals and analysis of how the subsequent Sustainable Development Goals could be used as a tool for development; possible solutions to the perennial challenges of both under-nutrition and over-consumption; the role of women in tackling the global challenge of food and nutrition security; climate change; and sustainable agriculture. Key takeaways included the following:

  • Accelerating urbanisation creates need for robust rural-urban supply chains. The number of smallholders will fall significantly in the coming decades as more and more people in developing countries will move to cities. Therefore, food production will be increasingly driven by city demand, especially from the new middle class, rather than supply-driven. Processing and just-in-time distribution systems will have to be adapted and developed accordingly.
  • Technology transfer is better than food aid. In order for smallholders to move beyond subsistence farming they need access to technology that can raise farm productivity and food quality. However, many smallholders need training, education and sharing of knowledge for technology transfer to be effective. Even more importantly, “training the trainers” can boost the long-term positive effects of technology transfer on farm productivity in developing countries.
  • Access to credit remains a major issue for smallholders.  Smallholders struggle to obtain funds as commercial banks often perceive these loans as high risk. Innovative financing solutions such as peer-to-peer funding can provide an alternative or complementary source of funding.
  • Getting organised can empower smallholders and communities. Joining forces with other smallholders can help small farmers to raise their bargaining power, share knowledge and pool resources. Especially for female farmers, group approaches to farming can be highly beneficial.
  • Nutritional quality needs to be included in the food security debate. Solutions for feeding the world often focus on quantity of food produced. However, poor diet quality is a major reason behind the dual problems of under-nutrition in some parts of the world and growing overweight in others.

SOURCE: Earth Security Group

Air pollution from haze is a serious public health concern in Singapore. The haze primarily originates in Indonesia’s forest fires that are used to clear land for agriculture. Singapore will be increasingly pressured to act to reduce air pollution as health risks undermine the quality of life of its population and its ambition to be a leading global commodities hub. Indonesia’s new president Joko Widodo has made poverty-reduction the centrepiece of his term’s vision. Forest fires affect the health of Indonesian rural communities and undercut his presidential pledge, resulting in his recent pronouncement against mono-crop corporate agriculture.

Adding to the complexity is the contestation of land tenure in Indonesia, a major obstacle to clarifying responsibility for forest fires. The future position of companies listed in Singapore and Malaysia is threatened, particularly given Indonesia’s desire to limit foreign land ownership. In this web of political complexity, concession permits for large palm oil, paper and timber companies in Indonesia will be increasingly scrutinised, despite over 50% of fire alerts originating outside concessions. Companies that have made public commitments to ‘zero burning’ and ‘zero deforestation’ have the most at stake, as they will not be able to deliver on their commitments without decisive government action.

Strategic Opportunity 1

For companies with land concessions in Indonesia

Companies that have made public commitments to zero deforestation and burning, to help fill the gap that exists for robust and uniform transparency, disclosure and the development of a land monitoring system for use by public policy makers’ and the private sector.

Strategic Opportunity 2

For the government of Indonesia

Encourage Indonesia’s own legal schemes for sustainable palm oil and wood products The Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) system, and the Indonesian Timber Legality Assurance System (SVLK) to directly address the haze issue through coordinated independent verification of certified plantations for compliance with no-burning policies.

Strategic Opportunity 3

For the governments of Singapore and Malaysia

Quantify the economic and health costs that forest fires in order to make more informed political decisions about its impacts. Accelerate the development and implementation of disclosure and transparency guidelines for companies listed in their stock exchanges or privately held in their jurisdictions that operate large land assets in Indonesia.

Strategic Opportunity 4

For ASEAN policy-makers

ASEAN has the goal to strengthen regional economic integration in 2015. The existing ASEAN Business Advisory Council has a role to play in driving the effectiveness of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The creation of an ‘ASEAN Business Working Group on Transboundary Haze’ is an opportunity to consolidate the business voice across these countries regarding policy priorities and implementation.

ASEAN’s agreement: a foundation for trans-boundary cooperation

The Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is a regional treaty signed by 10 ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia) that came into force in 2003. Indonesia only ratified the treaty on 16 September 2014. The agreement requires parties to develop and implement prevention, monitoring and mitigation measures, respond to information requests made by affected states, and take legal or other measures to implement obligations under the agreement.ASEAN cannot sanction parties that fail to comply with its provisions and parties have significant leeway in how to meet their obligations. Greater transparency and exchange of technical information, such as concession maps, is essential, but Indonesia argues that the disclosure of concession maps is in contravention with its laws. Intergovernmental cooperation has been limited to Ministries of the Environment, with weak coordination with other ministries responsible for key areas of the economy, finance and industry or with other strategic areas of ASEAN’s agenda on economic integration, food security and agriculture.


Forest fires undermine the government’s rural development goals

In 2013, Indonesia ranked as the top producer of palm oil in the world (28.4 MT) as well as the largest global consumer of palm oil, accounting for 23% of global consumption. Top importers of Indonesian palm oil are India (28%), China (15%) and Malaysia (8%), reducing the effectiveness of western market led sustainability certifications. Globally, Indonesia is the 10th largest paper and paperboard producer and home to APP, the largest company in the global market. Illegal burning for oil-palm and pulpwood plantations has had devastating effects domestically, where haze has caused hundreds of schools and local airports to close, and respiratory infections in thousands of people.


Malaysia chairs ASEAN in 2015

Malaysia holds the chair of ASEAN in 2015: Malaysia is now the second largest producer of palm oil (19.2 MT in 2013) after Indonesia and the 5th largest consumer of palm oil. Primary importers of Malaysian palm oil are China (19%), India (15%), and Pakistan (8%). While Malaysia is not currently a significant player in the global market for pulp and paper, the sector is poised to expand. Malaysia is itself responsible for some haze episodes, but it is the prevailing westward winds carrying the haze pollution from Indonesia as far north as Kuala Lumpur that can push air pollution above the level considered hazardous. In 2013, Malaysia’s Air Pollutant Index (API) reached ‘hazardous’ levels around the capital, closing airports and schools, and a state of emergency was called in Johor State.


Health and business disruption costs in a global commodities hub

Many of the region’s most significant palm oil, pulp and paper and timber companies are domiciled or listed in Singapore, an increasingly significant global commodities hub that supports trade and financing in both sectors. While Singapore has effective plans and policies in place to manage its dependencies on food, water and energy imports, it is increasingly exposed to health and economic impacts from transboundary haze. At the height of the 2013 haze crisis, record air pollution in Singapore was classified as hazardous to human health, damaging Singapore’s reputation as an attractive business and financial hub renowned for its high quality of life.


UnderMining Agriculture: How the Extractive Industries Threaten our Food Systems, produced by The Gaia Foundation and global allies, exposes the hidden costs of mining on food, water, land, air and climate, showing how each is increasingly affected by toxins as the global land and water grab intensifies.

Case studies from around the world illustrate how mining is destroying the conditions essential for healthy and productive agriculture as communities testify to experiencing livestock deaths, soil pollution, acidic water supplies, desertification of agricultural lands, and being forcibly displaced. Promises of job creation and economic growth have been shown to be exaggerated, short-lived and only benefiting the few, whilst the lasting impact on the communities and ecosystems they depend upon are yet to be fully analysed and exposed.

“In recent years The Gaia Foundation and our partners have been forced to turn our attention to mining because the extractives industries are encroaching on the land and livelihoods of most of the communities with whom we work. In our experience, rather than contributing to “national interests”, the rapid and chaotic increase in extraction is now literally under-mining the fundamental needs of life: Healthy ecosystems, water systems and food systems. Protecting the conditions for life is a priority.” Said Liz Hosken, Founding Director of The Gaia Foundation.

The UnderMining Agriculture report shows how at every stage of mining – from prospecting and operations right through to closure – impacts are being felt. Furthermore, the extraction of minerals, metals or fossil fuels, pollutes areas far wider than the actual mining site, continuing years after its closure.

Jamie Kneen from Mining Watch Canada commented: “UnderMining Agriculture is a clear call to action to bring the extractive industries under control, showing how they directly and indirectly threaten food security and food sovereignty, and even the survival of entire ecosystems. The conflict is not a mystery for communities from the Amazon to the Arctic struggling for their own futures, but this important report puts the pieces together for campaigners and the general public and makes it clear that better rules or practices are not enough; the entire extractivist economic model has to be turned around.”

Nnimmo Bassey, former Head of Friends of the Earth Africa, and now Director of HOMEF, commented: “This is a timely report and a critical message – What will people drink when their water is contaminated? How will people live when their air is polluted, their trees are gone, and their farmland is but a poisoned wasteland? As people around the world stand together to say Yes to Life, No to Mining, this report is an important wake up call for us all.”

Read more

Agriculture must change


FAO Director-General speaks at International Forum on Agriculture and Climate Change

Photo credit: ©Pascal Xicluna

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva speaks at the International Forum on Agriculture and Climate Change.

20 February 2015, Paris – The model of agricultural production that predominates today is not suitable for the new food security challenges of the 21st century, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

While the numbers of the chronically hungry have been reduced by 100 million over the past decade, 805 million still go without enough to eat on a regular basis, he noted in remarks to ministers, scientists, farmers, and representatives of civil society gathered in the French capital for a government-organizedInternational Forum on Agriculture and Climate Change.

Increasing production has long seen as the natural pathway to ending hunger – but today, even though the world produces enough food to feed everyone, hunger remains a problem, he pointed out.

“Since food production is not a sufficient condition for food security, it means that the way we are producing is no longer acceptable,” said Graziano da Silva.

“What we are still mostly seeing is a model of production that cannot prevent the degradation of soils and the loss of biodiversity – both of which are essential goods, especially for future generations. This model must be reviewed. We need a paradigm shift. Food systems need to be more sustainable, inclusive and resilient,” he added.

Climate change a clear and present danger

Agriculture has a potentially large role to play not only in guaranteeing food security but also in building resilience to the effects of climate change and in reducing humankind’s emissions of global warming gases, according to the FAO Director-General.

“The impacts of climate change are no longer an anticipated threat. They are now a crystal-clear reality right before our eyes,” he warned, adding: “Climate change will not only affect food production but also the availability of food and the stability of supplies. And in a global, interdependent economy, climate change makes the global market for agricultural products less predictable and more volatile.”

In his remarks, the FAO Director-General underscored the important role played by healthy soils. “Soils host at least one quarter of the world’s biodiversity and are key in the carbon cycle. They help us to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” he said.

2015 has been designated by the UN General Assembly as the International Year of Soils, and FAO is the lead agency for coordinating the year’s activities.

New approaches

One promising new approach, said Graziano da Silva, is what is known as “climate-smart agriculture” – adjusting farming practices to make them more adaptive and resilient to environmental pressures, while at the same time decreasing farming’s own impacts on the environment.

FAO is home to the Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture, a broad coalition of stakeholders, including governments; farmers and food producers, processors and sellers; scientific and educational organizations; civil society actors; multilateral and international agencies and the private sector established last September by the UN General Assembly.

The alliance is working to promote sustainable and equitable increases in agricultural productivity and incomes; build greater resilience of food systems and farming livelihoods; and achieve reductions or removals of greenhouse gas emissions by agriculture.

The FAO Director-General also highlighted “agro-ecology” as a promising way to move food production onto a more sustainable path. The approach uses ecological theory to study and manage agricultural systems in order to make them both more productive and better at conserving natural resources.

Today’s forum was the first in a series of events leading up the December 2015 climate summit.

During his visit to France, Graziano da Silva also met President François Hollande and held bilateral meetings with Laurent Fabius, France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development and Stéphane Le Foll, the country’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Tomorrow he is slated to participate at the opening of the Paris International Agricultural Show.

SOURCE: Earth Security Group

Rice is a vital crop for food security that is grown by producing countries for domestic consumption. Only 7% of the world’s rice production is traded globally. When the Indian government banned rice exports in the wake of the global food crisis of 2008, import dependent countries like Nigeria were driven to reconsider their dependence. Nigeria adopted the ambitious goal of achieving self-sufficiency by 2015, setting import tariffs to stimulate the growth of its domestic agriculture sector.

India has tripled its grain stocks since the food crisis of 2008. However, half of Indian children are still malnourished and food security remains top of the agenda amid rampant food inflation. Farmer subsidies and an inefficient state-owned post-harvest system will continue to drive inflationary pressures. Throughout 2015, the Indian government will focus on controlling food inflation. The focus should be on releasing grain stocks, and improving the efficiency and productivity of farmers, rather than turning to export bans as a superficial fix for domestic pressures.

Meanwhile, Nigeria has prioritised agriculture as the sector with the highest potential to create jobs, drive investment and reduce the burden of rice imports on the government budget. The recalibration of import-tariffs has not proven sufficient to stimulate a vibrant domestic market and an ambitious government programme has been set up to stimulate investment. However, the illegal smuggling of over 1 million tonnes (MT) of rice across Nigeria’s borders restricts government efforts to build up local production capacity. Following the presidential elections of 2015, the government must take a more targeted approach to combat smuggling and stimulate public-private partnerships to build the capacity of smallholder farmers and develop essential infrastructure.

Strategic Opportunity 1

Corporate sustainability programs in India must focus on productivity and post- harvest efficiency

The government will need to work more closely with companies whose sustainability strategies can improve resource efficiency and productivity, and consider the opportunities for companies to play a more active role in the post-harvest system comprising transport, storage and distribution.

Strategic Opportunity 2

Nigeria must foster a sustainable business environment and curb illegal rice smuggling

Controlling corruption, improving customs management and coordinating with neighbouring countries is vital to control illegal smuggling. This should be a key priority for Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), and could be a flagship initiative of the Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractices in 2015.


Removing the barriers to Nigeria’s domestic rice production

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and a rising star in the group of emerging economies. However 70% of the population still lives in poverty, and food security and affordability both remain significant constraints, hampered by inflation. Nigeria’s agriculture sector has been identified as the biggest opportunity to create jobs, drive economic growth and lower the dependence on food imports. Increasing rice import-tariffs will not be enough to build a robust domestic agricultural sector.


Improving the efficiency of India’s rice production and distribution system

India is expected to cross the threshold of severe water stress before 2025. 40% of groundwater is extracted beyond the rate of replenishment. Irrigation accounts for over 90% of water consumption in India. 33% of India’s large population lives in poverty, spending up to 70% of household expenditure on food. One third of all irrigated land in India is degraded, polluted or waterlogged due to the overuse of fertilisers and irrigation.

“The out-grower model, which supports 3,000 local farmers and will reach 16,000 farmers by 2018, shows a way forward for the role that business can play as a driver of Nigeria’s development and food security.”

Mukul Mathur, Country Head Olam Nigeria Ltd.


Innovative civil society initiatives seeking to spur women’s economic and/or political empowerment are invited to apply for funding.

UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality is pleased to announce its third Call for Proposals. This year the Fund welcomes submissions from women-led civil society organizations with innovative, high-impact, and multi-stakeholder women’s rights and gender equality programmes that help jumpstart progress towards the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The Fund will grant applications in the areas of:

  • Women’s economic empowerment: Can include efforts to expand women’s equal opportunities to access and control economic resources, promote women’s sustainable entrepreneurship, access to decent work and equal pay, and shared responsibility within the household.
  • Women’s political empowerment: Can include efforts to promote women’s full and effective leadership and political participation at all levels of decision-making and in all spheres of life, or initiatives to help design, enforce and implement new and existing gender equality laws and policies, or to shift social norms and practices toward greater respect for and enjoyment of women’s equal rights.

UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality was launched in 2009 to accelerate implementation of gender equality commitments worldwide. It is the organization’s leading global grant mechanism and multi-donor Fund dedicated to rights-based programming in the two overlapping thematic areas of women’s economic and political empowerment. Since 2009, the Fund has disbursed over USD 56 million to fund 96 programmes in 72 countries.

Interested applicants are encouraged to read the carefully and start preparing for the online application process, open from 9 March to 5 April 2015.

Direct Link to 14-Page Brochure, Including Eligible Countries:



This Synthesis aims to advance the profile of pro-poor land governance and its benchmarks within the World Bank’s revised Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework (ESF) and assesses the Framework’s relevance to ILC’s mission to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men.

To read the document, click here


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