Robynne Anderson's Emerging Thoughts on Ag

Agricultural Solutions to Mega Global Challenges

On June 9th I had the great pleasure of taking part in the webinar “Agricultural Solutions to Mega Global Challenges ” presented by the North America Climate Smart Agricultural Alliance (NACSAA) and Solutions from the Land.

Speaking alongside H.E. U.S. Ambassador Kip Tom, Ms. Ana Unruh Cohen of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and and Mr. Fred Yoder of NACSAA, we were able to discuss the global and national innovation and policy pathways that will enable farmers, ranchers and foresters to adopt climate smart ag systems that deliver solutions to the co-joined mega challenges of the day: climate change, food security, ecosystems services and public health.

Speaking on behalf of the International Agri-Food Network I was able to echo Ambassador Tom’s remarks on the importance of the United Nations and their processes as well as explain how private sector members can be part of the solution to mega challenges. There are multiple opportunities coming up in which farmers voice and private sector members will be able to have their voice heard. This includes CFS47 and the 2021 World Food Systems Summit.

You can view the full webinar here.

Promoting COVID-19 Prevention Around the World

Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO), in partnership with the Residential College in Arts and Humanities based out of Michigan State University is excited to be able to promote their new video “Protecting Yourself Against Coronavirus.” SAWBO is hoping to make their video available for people across the world. Currently the video is available in twenty-two languages. 

  1. Arabic (Egypt)
  2. Bamanankan (Mali)
  3. Bengali (Bangladesh)
  4. Catalan (Spain)
  5. Chinese (Taiwan)
  6. English (USA)
  7. Fante (Ghana)
  8. Farsi (Iran)
  9. Fon (Benin)
  10. French (Benin)
  11. French (France)
  12. Italian (Italy)
  13. Karimojong (Uganda)
  14. Khmer (Cambodia)
  15. Malagasy (Madagascar)
  16. Pidgin (Nigeria)
  17. Portuguese (Mozambique)
  18. Spanish (Spain)
  19. Spanish (Venezuela)
  20. Swahili (Tanzania)
  21. Vietnamese (Vietnam)
  22. Zulu (South Africa)

SAWBO hopes that individuals will share these videos within their networks to help spread the ways in which we can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Scientific Animations Without Borders creates educational content in as many languages as possible so that the information can be easily accessible to people around the world. Their other videos touch on subjects such as agriculture, economics, women’s empowerment, peace and justice and other tutorials.

COVID-19 and Food Security: Supply Chains Must not Stop

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the primacy of access to food for food security. The immediate problem has been access to food and the need for shelf-stable foods. Disruption at borders and supply chains will have a medium term and longer if there are challenges getting the inputs into the ground or the harvest off next growing season.

Governments should facilitate trade transactions, as well as access to inputs and tools to avoid food and feed shortages. Farmers and others working on food supply chains must be considered essential workers. They should also be eligible for social protection measures. We must do everything to avoid this health crisis from becoming a food crisis, as emphasized Thanawat Tiensin, Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security. 

That includes addressing other food security challenges like the locust outbreak in the horn of Africa. Keeping food moving from farm to table must be a priority, as pointed the International Agri-Food Network.  Emerging ag serves as the secretariat for the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN). Read more about agriculture’s response to COVID-19 at the International Agri-Food Network website. There are more than 30 links to materials as well as some heartening examples of commitments made in the face of these challenges. If you have more examples from your work, please don’t hesitate to send me links.

I also briefly spoke about COVID’s challenges to food systems at Agritecture’s Digital Conference Series, available here.

The Future of Food Systems

As we prepare for the Food Systems Summit next year, we have a great opportunity to reflect and set a path to the sustainable food system we all want for the future. As part of this effort, we must find a way to work together, instead of spending time propagating false dichotomies that permeate food systems discussions. Rural versus urban, farmers versus consumers, hunger versus obesity, food versus planet – these conversations ignore the interrelationships and the impossibility that any can survive without the other.  We are all part of the same system. It’s about making different pieces work together for a diverse food system, capable of supporting nutrition, biodiversity and farmers’ needs.

It was a pleasure to work with Henry Gordon Smith’s team at Agritecture and be part of their timely Digital Conference Series available here.

The Future of Farming – Harnessing Digital Technologies for Ag Extension and Advisory Services

Today’s farmer lives in unprecedented times. From volatile commodity markets as a result of natural shocks from weather, pests and diseases, to the climate crisis that is increasing calls for radical transformation in food systems, there is uncertainty about the future of agriculture. Farmers today must transform their thinking to effectively respond to the challenges facing agriculture and continue feeding a growing world population – and one that is also in a crisis. With the current challenges, the next agricultural revolution is imminent.

As these shifts occurs, agricultural extension and advisory services will have to equally shift and respond to farmers’ needs as they emerge. Extension services will have to contribute to rural development, meet nutrition goals, and promote sustainability and equity, and must focus more on soil quality, biodiversity, climate and water use. Currently, extension services may not always respond fast enough to farmers’ changing needs and this is where leveraging on digital technologies can help. Farmers need timely and relevant information, communication and technology (ICT) as they can play a role in ensuring farmers are connected with the information they need. Harnessing digital technologies thus gives extension services greater capabilities and can be used to perform multiple tasks including carrying out surveys, providing advice, issuing alerts, pricing and carrying out training’s for farmers. Leveraging science effectively requires the translation of scientific solutions into packages that can be disseminated and adopted by farmers at scale, both at the farm and landscape levels.

For farmers to effectively adapt to climate change, digital tools can play the crucial role of monitoring climate risks. Digital tools can be used to identify the onset of climatic shocks before they happen and facilitate responses for building resilience. Automating irrigation systems and soil sensors, and drones can boost production efficiency. To enhance food availability, accessibility as well as improve food utilization and safety, digital tools can be used to effectively monitor food hazards. E-commerce platforms can integrate smallholder farmers into value chains and enable them to eliminate the transaction costs of locating demand, determining prices, and improving efficiency in service delivery.

For rural smallholder farmers, especially in developing countries, even though there has been significant adoption of digital technologies for extension services, there are still challenges that must be overcome for greater success. Digital literacy, limited connectivity, and affordability of digital services can undermine rural farmers’ capacity to fully benefit from the digital revolution. According to the Digitization of African Agriculture Report, 2018-19, collaborations have been identified as instrumental in bridging the digital divide among rural farmers. The report recommends that digitization should not just be taken as an agricultural or technological issue but should be involved in many parts of the economy and thus be situated within a broader development and poverty reduction agenda.

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