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New books – Family Farming: A way of life

Empowering smallholder farmers in markets: Experiences with farmer-led research for advocacy

Giel Ton and Felicity Proctor (Eds), 2013, Wageningen: CTA-AGRINATURA-LEI, 140p. ISBN 978-94-6173-891-2

The Empowering Smallholder Farmers in Markets programme (ESFIM) creates a space for learning-by-doing on institutional modalities to bridge the gap between the research community and national farmer organisations on issues relating to smallholder market access. It generates research-informed proposals for change in the enabling/disabling institutional environment and it supports the capacities of national farmer organisations to engage in related advocacy activities.

This book describes the dynamics in eleven countries that were included in the programme between 2008 and 2013. Context mattered and this is demonstrated in the diversity in themes prioritised and selected in each of the countries. These ranged from research on modalities of collective marketing to the generation of evidence on the impact of seed programmes, the design of market information systems and electronic trading systems to the legal and administrative hurdles that prevent smallholders from selling to government procurement programmes. The chapters give insight in the advocacy strategies of national farmer organisations and their use of research and evidence to strengthen the voice of smallholder farmers and formulate pro-active proposals for change.

The Future of Indian Agriculture

Yoginder K Alagh, 2013, 220 p, Rs.90, ISBN 13:978-81-237-6736-6

Locating India’s resource endowments in the context of its fast growing economy, the book assesses the growing demands on the country’s agricultural sector. In doing so, it discusses the distinctive and rapidly diversifying food needs in rural and urban areas, the supply potential of India’s agricultural resources and the impact of technology. Modelling an alternative growth path, the book offers policy solutions to the challenges of inflation, poverty and food security. Written by one of India’s foremost agricultural economists, the book offers incisive insights on the future of Indian agriculture.

Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources

A summary report
FAO, 2013, ISBN 978-92-5-107752-8

FAO estimates that each year, approximately one third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted. This food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security, but also to mitigate environmental impacts and resources use from food chains. Although there is today a wide recognition of the major environmental implications of food production, no study has yet analysed the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective.

This FAO study provides a global account of the environmental foot print of food wastage (i.e. both food loss and food waste) along the food supply chain, focusing on impacts on climate, water, land and biodiversity. A model has been developed to answer two key questions: what is the magnitude of food wastage impacts on the environment; and what are the main sources of these impacts, in terms of regions, commodities, and phases of the food supply chain involved–with a view to identify “environmental hotspots” related to food wastage.

Feeding India: Livelihoods, Entitlements and Capabilities

Bill Pritchard, Anu Rammohan, Madhushree Sekher, S. Parasuraman, Chetan Choithani, 2013, Routledge, 194 p., Paperback: £24.99; ISBN 978-0-415-52967-9

Food security is one of the twenty-first century’s key global challenges, and lessons learned from India have particular significance worldwide. Not only does India account for approximately one quarter of the world’s under-nourished persons, it also provides a worrying case of how rapid economic growth may not provide an assumed panacea to food security.

This book takes on this challenge. It explains how India’s chronic food security problem is a function of a distinctive interaction of economic, political and environmental processes. It contends that under-nutrition and hunger are lagging components of human development in India precisely because the interfaces between these aspects of the food security problem have not been adequately understood in policy-making communities. Only through an integrative approach spanning the social and environmental sciences, are the fuller dimensions of this problem revealed. A well-rounded appreciation of the problem is required, informed by the FAO’s conception of food security as encompassing availability (production), access (distribution) and utilisation (nutritional content), as well as by Amartya Sen’s notions of entitlements and capabilities.

Wake up before it is too late

Trade and Environment Review 2013, UNCTAD/DITC/TED/2012/3

Farming in rich and poor nations alike should shift from monoculture towards greater varieties of crops, reduced use of fertilizers and other inputs, greater support for small-scale farmers, and more locally focused production and consumption of food, a new UNCTAD report recommends.

The Trade and Environment Report 2013 warns that continuing rural poverty, persistent hunger around the world, growing populations, and mounting environmental concerns must be treated as a collective crisis. It says that urgent and far-reaching action is needed before climate change begins to cause major disruptions to agriculture, especially in developing countries.

More than 60 international experts contributed to the report’s analysis of the topic. The Trade and Environment Report 2013 recommends a rapid and significant shift away from “conventional, monoculture-based… industrial production” of food that depends heavily on external inputs such as fertilizer, agro-chemicals, and concentrate feed. Instead, it says that the goal should be “mosaics of sustainable regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers and foster rural development”. The report stresses that governments must find ways to factor in and reward farmers for currently unpaid public goods they provide – such as clean water, soil and landscape preservation, protection of biodiversity, and recreation.

The report emphasizes that a shift is necessary towards diverse production patterns that reflect the “multi-functionality” of agriculture and enhance closed nutrient cycles. Moreover, as the environmental costs of industrial agriculture are largely not accounted for, governments should act to ensure that more food is grown where it is needed. It recommends adjusting trade rules to encourage “as much regionalized/localized food production as possible; as much traded food as necessary.”