Thursday, 3 March 2011

Agriculture-related links and updates

Agriculture seems to be flavour of the month at the moment, particularly in Africa, from land-grabs to high food prices, floods to food shortages.

1. Maize in Malawi - A narrative piece highlighting the cultural significance of maize in Malawi (the idea could probably be extended to most of Southern Africa) and some more on the Malawi fertilizer debate from the CGD blog (h/t Aid Thoughts)

2. Gates Foundation is investing, with DFID, in agricultural research, which is awesome and has the potential to improve yields and food security by fighting crop diseases in wheat (next stop maize research?). Of course, the hippies some people disagree and feel that small farming and agroecological farming methods (whatever that is) are a better idea. To be fair, there is the Monsanto-share concern and sometimes local systems do work, but romanticising small farmers is the same logic that justifies land-grabs that result in sometimes-survival-level subsistence farming replacing high-productivity commercial operations - small, local and indigenous are lovely but they aren't necessarily the answer if the question is how to feed the people.

3. COMESA has announced the development of a regional agri-foods sector strategy to encourage and support the development of agricultural product processing facilities in the region, in the hopes of making agriculture more competitive. Now all they need is increased investment.

4. This interview focuses on international investment in African agriculture and Zambia in particular.

5. The economic impact of animal diseases is being felt in South Africa, where exports of agricultural products has been temporarily suspended as the country attempts to deal with an outbreak of foot and mouth in the north-eastern part of the country. The south-eastern part of the country has recently rolled out a major vaccination drive after an outbreak of Rift Valley fever. 

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