Food security and Biofuels

Sunflower field © Rob Huntley iStock Images

Sunflower field © Rob Huntley iStock Images

A short extract of some of the main points raised during the course “Examining Issues around Global Food Security” by Dr Julie Flood from CABI at the Department of Continuing Education’s program of the University of Oxford on March 7th, 2014. The course aimed to highlight the issues of food security/insecurity, and particularly around growing of biofuels.

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Photostory: SDC visits Plantwise Sri Lanka

The story of support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for the Plantwise food security programme goes back to its inception in 2011. Since the start, SDC has been a major supporter of both in-country programme activities as well as global resources such as the Plantwise knowledge bank. Sri Lanka is one example of a Plantwise country that has shown particularly strong uptake of the plant clinic concept. This prompted Dr Carmen Thoennissen, an SDC senior advisor for the Global Programme Food Security, to join CABI staff and partners in Sri Lanka for 3 days to discover how the programme is unfolding on the ground and understand what makes it a success. Check out the photo story and read more after the jump

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2013 Global Food Policy Report: Nutrition in the spotlight

The development community has increased its focus on improving nutrition © Steve Evans (CC BY)

The development community has increased its focus on improving nutrition © Steve Evans (CC BY)

Last month, the International Food Policy Research Institute released its 2013 Global Food Policy Report. This report is the third annual report in this series which aims to give an overview of the food policy developments that have affected food security that year. This includes a review of the key highlights of the previous 12 months, the challenges faced and the possible opportunities for food policy in the coming year.

In 2013, the focus of discussion on food policy moved further towards nutrition. With the Nutrition for Growth summit in June, the effort committed to tackling undernutrition gained momentum with more than US$23 billion being pledged by development partners.

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The world’s last meal- what does a homogenous global diet mean for food security?

CAB Abstracts Globe_plusDietApple

You’d think, from the vast variety of international cuisines that line our high streets and supermarket shelves, that globalisation was widening the global palate. Recent evidence suggests it’s just not the case. As the global diet narrows, concerns are growing for the world’s food security and the ecological implications of setting up a ‘global monoculture’.

A recent PNAS study found that the variety of crops we are eating is narrowing. It found that in the last 50 years the global diet has homogenised on average by 16.7%. The highest rates of homogenisation are being seen in East and Southeast Asian and sub-Saharan countries. Diets are tending to ‘westernise’ with wheat, rice and oils becoming much more popular. More traditional local foods like sorghum, cassava and millet are contributing less to the global diet. Read more of this post

Crop diversification finds home for ‘orphan crops’

Farmer from Teso. Knowledge of orphan crops should conserved © Bioversity International/ Y.Wachira

Farmer from Teso, Kenya. Indigenous knowledge of orphan crops should be conserved © Bioversity International/ Y.Wachira

The term ‘orphan crops’ refers to plant species and varieties that of recent decades have been ignored by governments, seed companies and scientists due to their limited importance in global markets. Instead, only a few major staples have been of interest. From fruits and vegetables to grains and nuts, many orphan crops are highly nutritious, resilient to climate extremes and are well adapted to marginal soils. They are therefore of great significance for food security and the generation of income to the world’s poorest communities.

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Plantwise 2013 Highlights

PW collage

As we move into the New Year and all that 2014 has to offer it seems like a good time to review some of the achievements of 2013. Here are a few of the Plantwise highlights of 2013!

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2014: The International Year of Family Farming

Plantwise welcomes a new year with a renewed focus: ‘The International Year of Family Farming’ has begun. The UN General Assembly declared 2014 as the official year to draw attention to policy and practices which support livelihoods of smallholder farmers worldwide. That means this year is dedicated to the 2 billion+ people who depend on farming for their food and income, and who should all have access to the right resources to provide for their families. CABI and Plantwise celebrate this International Year of Family Farming by continuing to bring these resources to more farmers, in more communities than ever before.


Take a look back on some of the highlights from Plantwise’s work in over 30 countries promoting sustainable family farming during 2013, here in our recent newsletter and Year in Review video. For more information on what to expect for Family Farming’s commemorative year, visit the official website.

Plantwise Malawi Officially Launched

Contributed by Roger Day and Noah Phiri, CABI in Africa

Top national agricultural officials and CABI representatives gathered in Malawi recently to officially kick-off Plantwise operations, marking a new chapter for plant health development in the country.

With one small snip, Dr Wilfred Lipita cut the ribbon to officially launch the programme. Dr Lipita is the Controller of Agricultural Extension and Technical Services in Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and was representing the Minister, Dr James Munthali.

Earlier this year, Dr Lipita opened the very first plant clinic in Malawi. Since that pilot clinic, 12 more have been established in Mzimba and Lilongwe Districts, where trained plant doctors tend to farmers’ sick plants and help them to prevent their crop losses. Commending the Plantwise approach, Dr Lipita said at the launch event that “Plantwise could have helped us avoid the devastation caused by Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV).”  

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CABI takes home NEF Award for Innovation with Plantwise


CABI CEO Dr Trevor Nicholls with award presenter the BCC’s Dr Maggie Philbin

INSTITUTE OF DIRECTORS, LONDON- On Thursday 5 December, CABI received an Innovation Award at the 10th annual National Engineering Foundation (NEF) Innovisions Conference, in recognition for its landmark global food security programme, Plantwise.

Hosted by NEF and presenters from the BBC, the Innovation Awards were established to celebrate ‘game-changers’ proven to be the very best of innovation in public policy. Judges were looking for ideas which will not only promote sustainable growth, but also inspire others. Plantwise was chosen as the best example of government policy supporting innovation, with its unique approach to improving food security nurtured from the start by policies of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and government partners who have been key to its success.

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Something to be optimistic about this World Food Day


Today, October 16th, marks the internationally-recognized World Food Day. Around the world, events and media coverage draw awareness to the fact that for over 870 million people, hunger is still a defining daily issue. This figure, though still severe, has fallen one third in the past two decades. Progress is certainly being made, though maybe more varied across regions than would be hoped. Earlier this week, Concern Worldwide and partners IFPRI and Welthungerhilfe released the 8th annual Global Hunger Index (GHI), which shows that more than 23 countries have made significant progress to curb hunger and malnutrition since 1990, reducing their GHI scores by more than 50%; these include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Thailand among others. Still, the populations of over 19 other countries out of the 120 listed on the GHI remain in an ‘alarming’ or ‘extremely alarming’ state of hunger, in large part located in South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara. The theme of this year’s World Food Day ‘healthy people and healthy food systems’ points to a renewed focus on the need to see changes across the entire system in order to sustain improvements in food security. Of these 19 countries on the lower end of the list, Plantwise is currently working in 16, finding partners and opening plant clinics to support one key factor of this change, the plant health system. This World Food Day, CABI and Plantwise have pitched in to raise awareness in the Independent’s World Food Day special report here. The message: many of the answers are available today to support continued gains against hunger, while safeguarding health of the environment and resources for the next generation. If we can make these answers more accessible in the communities where they’re needed most, then next World Food Day we will see the healthy numbers continue to grow, and global hunger and malnutrition come closer to disappearing.


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