Robynne Anderson's Emerging Thoughts on Ag

Registration Open for the African Green Revolution Forum Virtual Summit!

In a continuing string of virtual events, the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) is fast approaching! AGRF is Africa’s largest agriculture and food systems event. The summit is intended to be a forum that allows for sustainable and actionable plans to be developed which will help African countries continue to grow their agricultural sectors. This 10th annual summit will take place September 8th – 11th and bring together thousands of participants including government officials, civil society and private sector members, research fellows, and development partners.

This year’s theme is Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent: Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa. The theme is incredibly timely in the wake of COVID-19 as the need for a restructuring of food systems is being called for.

 “We need food systems that are equitable, sustainable, resilient, and capable of meeting the global challenges of malnutrition, poverty and climate change as well as be responsive to emerging and unforeseen challenges – such as those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must not relent in our effort to transform food systems for the benefit of everyone” – Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA

Registration for the event is now open to all! By attending the conference, you will have the chance to be part of the key outcomes that have been posed for the Summit in the areas of:

  • Resilience
  • Nutrition
  • Markets & Trade
  • Food Systems

AGRF 2020 is being co-hosted by the Government of Rwanda and the AGRF partners group.

Learn more here. 

Digital Agriculture: Strengthening Food Systems Through the Pandemic and Beyond

This article was originally posted through Farming First

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on nearly every facet of life, and food systems are no exception.

The disruptions and dislocations caused by the virus have rocked each link in the global food chain from farming, to processing, to trade, to retail. The costs of this turmoil will fall disproportionately on the poorest actors in this system, particularly those in the global south, where smallholder farms predominate, supply chains can be particularly fragile, and under-investment in agriculture and rural areas is chronic.

This has implications beyond efforts to reduce poverty – which will face enormous setbacks this year – as many of these actors (predominantly smallholders) represent the primary engine of the world food supply. If the looming surge of destitution and hunger is to be addressed, not to mention the ongoing and increasingly dire climate crisis, transformative change is needed.

Fortunately, such a change was already underway and has been greatly accelerated by the pandemic. Like everything else, agriculture is increasingly going digital.

“Digital agriculture” encompasses a broad range of innovations and technologies with enormous potential to make farming more efficient, enhance environmental sustainability and improve producers’ livelihoods. This potential will only grow as rates of internet penetration and mobile phone access increase in the poorest regions of the world.

Examples include precision agriculture, data aggregation and analysis, satellite imagery and guidance, robotics, automation of machinery and workflows, and many other hardware and software solutions. The coronavirus has rendered many of them indispensable for continuing to conduct trade and agriculture safely and responsibly.

Online provision of extension services, such as the planter clinic webinars conducted by the Climate Corporation, can help farmers get the advice and knowledge resources they need, when they need it, without risk of infection. Online analysis and marketing platforms, such as G-Soko and FarmIT in Eastern Africa, can help connect farmers with buyers, input suppliers and labourers, while maintaining social distancing. Variable rate application systems and other precision agriculture tools, such as those developed by FarmersEdge, can help producers cope with variations and interruptions in pesticide and fertilizer supply chains.

The benefits of increased uptake of digital agriculture solutions will continue to be felt long after the pandemic subsides. By boosting yields and encouraging more rational use of inputs, these digital technologies will lead to substantial improvements in food security, food system sustainability and farmers’ livelihoods.

This is the why the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has placed them at the heart of their COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme, aiming to “build back better” so that coming out of the crisis, food systems are more resilient and able to serve the needs of all than they were before it hit.

For this to happen, however, stakeholders and policymakers must be familiar with these innovations and their advantages, as well as any challenges that must be addressed in order for them to be deployed effectively and equitably. Depending on context, these challenges may include intellectual property rights, data usage and privacy policies, and public perceptions, among others.

The digital agriculture sector’s profile is currently not equal to its promise. There is therefore an urgent need for greater coordination and outreach efforts among the sector’s members.

They should work together to ensure their collective voice is heard in multi-lateral venues, along with proactively engaging and partnering with farmers, international organisations, and government institutions, to raise awareness of what they can do to help in the struggle against hunger and poverty. Information-sharing, developing shared messaging and policy positions, and establishing collaborative cross-sectoral initiatives will all be crucial means of achieving this.

The pandemic has reshaped the world in countless ways. Digital agriculture does not only offer solutions to address many of the problems this global crisis has engendered, exacerbated and exposed. It will be an invaluable tool for rebuilding and strengthening the fair, efficient and sustainable food systems of tomorrow.

Food Systems and Nutrition Patterns: Biodiversity, Resilience and Food Security

On July 8th Emerging ag Inc, in partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) hosted a Zoom webinar entitled Food Systems and Nutrition Patterns: Biodiversity, Resilience and Food Security.  

The session asked the questions around if agriculture and biodiversity can coexist and how food systems can best prepare for disasters. It provided a discussion on how natural disasters impact the environment and food systems. The session also explored how to increase food production for the growing global population while still being able to protect the environment and promoting biodiversity.

The webinar, which was held in the auspices of the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF), boasted an impressive panel of five experts who were able to speak on various aspects of the issue at hand. The panel included:

The webinar was attended by over 200 people and had an additional audience watching through a live YouTube showing. It was an interactive session which began with a series of polls which the audience could take part in to further understand some of the context that would be talked about by the panel. Poll questions included the topics of biodiversity landscapes, sustainable foods and food waste. Those in attendance were also able to ask questions following each presentation and take part in a question and answer period at the end of the session.

Overall, the event was a huge success and provided some much needed and appreciated insight into the state of the world’s food systems and how adaptation to changing climate factors can affect the biodiversity of the food we eat, as well as the importance of biodiversity in our food systems.

Watch the full session here:

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.

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