Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security: FAO

In case you need some more “ammunition” for your policy-dialogue activities – also with a view to 2014 International Year of Family Farming:

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), the science-policy interface of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), aims to improve the robustness of policymaking by providing independent, evidence-based analysis and advice at the request of CFS. A report launched this week by the HLPE is focused on the potentials of smallholder agriculture (defined in a broad sense):

Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security

It stresses the importance of research for further development of agro-ecological approaches and states: “Research that involves smallholders in the definition of research priorities and the design and execution of research according to participatory and empowering methodologies is crucial. This is the best way to ensure that research results respond to the complex social and economic, as well as ecological, contexts of smallholders. In order to achieve this, research systems must be more accountable to smallholders in terms of their institutional priorities, the impact of their work, and their funding.” (p 82).

One of the recommended policy instruments is “Participatory research programmes including smallholders’ organizations” (p 107).

PS for the CELEP and ELD e-lists: In the report,”smallholder farmers” explicitly include livestock-keepers and pastoralists. 


Turn down the heat : climate extremes, regional impacts, and the case for resilience – full report (English)


This report focuses on the risks of climate change to development in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia. Building on the 2012 report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, this new scientific analysis examines the likely impacts of present day, 2°C and 4°C warming on agricultural production, water resources, and coastal vulnerability for affected populations. It finds many significant climate and development impacts are already being felt in some regions, and in some cases multiple threats of increasing extreme heat waves, sea level rise, more severe storms, droughts and floods are expected to have further severe negative implications for the poorest. Climate related extreme events could push households below the poverty trap threshold. High temperature extremes appear likely to affect yields of rice, wheat, maize and other important crops, adversely affecting food security. Promoting economic growth and the eradication of poverty and inequality will thus be an increasingly challenging task under future climate change. Immediate steps are needed to help countries adapt to the risks already locked in at current levels of 0.8°C warming, but with ambitious global action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many of the worst projected climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C.

Indigenous Peoples’ food systems & well-being: FAO Report

Interventions & policies for healthy communities

Download Full Report  – 19.5Mb

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome 2013

Indigenous Peoples in cultural homelands of the most rural areas of developing regions experience challenges in using their traditional food systems and to ensure food security and health despite the treasures of food biodiversity that could support well-being. This book is the third in a series promoting use of local food systems by Indigenous Peoples; the first defines the process to document local food resources, and the second describes food systems in 12 diverse rural areas of different parts of the world. Here we describe processes and findings from more than 40 interdisciplinary collaborators who created health promotion interventions for communities using local food systems. Included are participatory processes using local knowledge and activities specifically for local food; global overviews of Indigenous Peoples’ health circumstances, environmental concerns, and infant and child feeding practices; and nine specific case examples from Canada, Japan, Peru, India, Colombia, Thailand and the Federated States of Micronesia. Common themes of successful interventions and evaluations are given along with chapters on human rights issues and implications for policies and strategies. Throughout the 10 years of this research we have shown the strength and promise of local traditional food systems to improve health and well-being. This work is in context of the second United Nations’ International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Table of Contents

Introduction ( Download   – 2 Mb )
Chapter 1
Why do Indigenous Peoples’ food and nutrition interventions
for health promotion and policy need special consideration? ( Download  – 730 Kb )
Chapter 2
Health disparities: promoting Indigenous Peoples’ health through
traditional food systems and self-determination ( Download   – 854 Kb )
Chapter 3
Global environmental challenges to the integrity of Indigenous Peoples’ food systems ( Download   – 819 Kb)
Chapter 4
Infant and young child complementary feeding among Indigenous Peoples ( Download   – 716 Kb)
Case Studies
Chapter 5
Promotion of traditional foods to improve the nutrition and health
of the Awajún of the Cenepa River in Peru ( Download   – 957 Kb)
Chapter 6
The Dalit food system and maternal and child nutrition in Andhra Pradesh, South India ( Download   – 1 Mb)
Chapter 7
Gwich’in traditional food and health in Tetlit Zheh, Northwest Territories, Canada: phase II ( Download   – 970 Kb)
Chapter 8
Inga food and medicine systems to promote community health ( Download   – 905 Kb)
Chapter 9
The value of Inuit elders’ storytelling to health promotion during times
of rapid climate change and uncertain food security ( Download   – 990 Kb)
Chapter 10
Culture-based nutrition and health promotion in a Karen community ( Download   – 2.2 Mb)
Chapter 11
The Nuxalk Food and Nutrition Program for Health revisited ( Download   – 846 Kb )
Chapter 12
Let’s Go Local! Pohnpei promotes local food production and nutrition for health ( Download   – 1.1 Mb)
Chapter 13
Tasty tonoto and not-so-tasty tonoto: fostering traditional food culture among
the Ainu people in the Saru River region, Japan (Download   – 871 Kb )
Future Directions
Chapter 14
What food system intervention strategies and evaluation indicators
are successful with Indigenous Peoples? ( Download   – 912 Kb)
Chapter 15
Human rights implications of Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and policy recommendations ( Download   – 1.1 Mb)
Chapter 16
Policy and strategies to improve nutrition and health for Indigenous Peoples ( Download   – 872 Kb)
References ( Download   – 1.3 Mb)
Appendices ( Download   – 1.5 Mb)
Index (Download   – 742 Kb )
Photographic section (Download   – 4 Mb )

Transgene Flow from Bt Brinjal: a real Risk?

Bt brinjal too can create super weeds. 

Gene flow from a transgenic plants has remained a contentious issue. In the absence of experimental data, the task to pinpoint exactly as to how much is the potential risk, especially in centres of diversity, becomes daunting. The GM industry has often used lack of experimental data to show there is no cause for concern. It has happened in India, in the case of Bt cotton, and more recently when the moratorium on Bt brinjal came in 2010.

John Samuels of the Novel Solanaceae Crops Project, Penzance, Cornwall, UK, has raised some valid concerns, based on available data, in an excellent paper published in Trends in Biotechnology (Vol 31, Issue 6, June 2013). Admitting that transgene flow from Bt brinjal to wild, weedy and cultivated relatives is a major biosafety concern, he writes in an article Transgene Flow from Bt Brinjal: a real Risk?(URL: “in preliminary risk assessment tests in India in 2007, only four spiny species were tested for interfertility with S.melongena  ( They found only Solanum incanumL. (the nearest wild relative of brinjal) to be crossable; however, the production of hybrid progeny was not investigated.” With such limited scientific studies available, obviously gene flow was considered to be not much of a problem.

Citing various reasons like inadequate experimental methodologies and erroneous nomenclature of the parent species, John Samuel tells us that the biosafety implications of hybridisation remained compromised. Looking through the research data now available, he says that six wild relative species and four cultivated species have the potential to crossbred with the transgenic Bt brinjal. I have taken this table out from the article for an easy understanding.

Table 1 Solanum species of India known to cross with brinjal
Species Common name Status
S. aethiopicum L. Scarlet eggplant Cultivated
S. cumingii Dunal Wild brinjal Wild
S. incanum L. Bitter tomato Wild
S. insanum L. Weedy brinjal Wild
S. macrocarpon L. Gboma eggplant Cultivated
S. marginatum L.f. White-margined nightshade Wild/introduced
S. ovigerum Dunal Brinjal landraces Cultivated
S. torvum Sw. Pea eggplant Sometimes cultivated/introduced
S. violaceum Ortega Indian nightshade Wild
S. virginianum L. Bitter brinjal Wild


His conclusion: “Furthermore, the risk assessment of pollen-mediated transgene flow from Bt brinjal, if cultivated in Bangladesh or the Philippines, should not rely on the inadequate, previously undertaken ERA (Environmental Risk Assessment) tests.” Hope the scientists as well as the science administrators are listening. Especially in the light of latest revelations that show how super weeds are becoming a nuisance in United States and Canada.

Revealed: How US State Department ‘Twists Arms’ on Monsanto’s Behalf

Selling seeds, selling out democracy: US State Department does biotech industry’s bidding

– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

The U.S. State Department does the bidding of biotech giants like Monsanto around the world by “twisting the arms of countries” and engaging in vast public campaign schemes to push the sale of genetically modified seeds, according to a new report released Tuesday by Food & Water Watch.

(International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria)The report, Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda, which pulls from over 900 State Department diplomatic cables (obtained via WikiLeaks), reveals an environment wherein US ambassadors act as sales representatives for the global biotech industry.

U.S. ambassadors and their staffs actively lobby foreign governments to adopt pro-biotechnology policies and laws, create “rigorous public relations campaigns to improve the image of biotechnology” and challenge “commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules — including opposing genetically engineered (GE) food labeling laws.”

“It really goes beyond promoting the U.S.’s biotech industry and agriculture,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It really gets down to twisting the arms of countries and working to undermine local democratic movements that may be opposed to biotech crops, and pressuring foreign governments to also reduce the oversight of biotech crops.”

As FWW reports, the State Department has gone to great lengths to see that biotech companies’ desires are met:

  • The U.S. State Department’s multifaceted efforts to promote the biotechnology industry overseas: The State Department targeted foreign reporters, hosted and coordinated pro-biotech conferences and public events and brought foreign opinion-makers to the United States on high-profile junkets to improve the image of agricultural biotechnology overseas and overcome widespread public opposition to GE crops and foods.
  • The State Department’s coordinated campaign to promote biotech business interests: The State Department promoted not only pro-biotechnology policies but also the products of biotech companies. The strategy cables explicitly “protect the interests” of biotech exporters, “facilitate trade in agribiotech products” and encourage the cultivation of GE crops in more countries, especially in the developing world.
  • The State Department’s determined advocacy to press the developing world to adopt biotech crops: The diplomatic cables document a coordinated effort to lobby countries in the developing world to pass legislation and implement regulations favored by the biotech seed industry. This study examines the State Department lobbying campaigns in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria to pass pro-biotech laws.
  • The State Department’s efforts to force other nations to accept biotech crop and food imports: The State Department works with the U.S. Trade Representative to promote the export of biotech crops and to force nations that do not want these imports to accept U.S. biotech foods and crops.

“It’s not surprising that Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow want to maintain and expand their control of the $15 billion global biotech seed market, but it’s appalling that the State Department is complicit in supporting their goals despite public and government opposition in several countries,” said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of Organic Consumers Association. “American taxpayer’s money should not be spent advancing the goals of a few giant biotech companies.”

“The biotech agriculture model using costly seeds and agrichemicals forces farmers onto a debt treadmill that is neither economically nor environmentally viable,” said Ben Burkett, President of the National Family Farm Coalition.  “An overwhelming number of farmers in the developing world reject biotech crops as a path to sustainable agricultural development or food sovereignty.”

“Thanks, Monsanto. And thanks, State Department. Not only are you selling seeds, you’re selling out democracy,” Hauter concludes.

Enhancing agricultural livelihoods through community institutions in Bihar, India (English)

Author(s): Behera, Debaraj; Chaudhary, Arvind Kumar; Vutukuru, Vinay Kumar; Gupta, Abhishek; Machiraju, Sitaramachandra; Shah, Parmesh
Source: World Bank | January 2013
Inline image 1
Bihar’s agriculture sector employs more than eighty percent of the labor force and more than fourfifths of these farmers are small and marginal. They have one of the lowest agricultural productivity in India that has not increased due to several constraints. Jeevika, a project jointly supported by the World Bank and the Government of Bihar, has piloted, customized and eventually scaled-up several innovative livelihood interventions to improve the well-being of poor households in Bihar. A number of innovative aspects account for the success of these livelihoods programs in the state. Foremost among these is the fact that it was implemented through community-driven and community-owned institutions. The institutional platform that was facilitated by the project has enabled the creation of a single-window system at the doorstep of small and marginal farmers. Farmers can now demand better services from the public sector, access credit from commercial banks, and experiment and customize various technologies. This note will focus on System of Crop Intesification’ (SCI), which has evolved from a well-known farming methodology called System of Rice Intensification. It has been customized and adopted for wheat, green gram, oil seeds and vegetables in Bihar. The participant farmers have witnessed 86% increase in rice productivity and 72% increase in wheat productivity. The profitability of rice cultivation has increased 2.5 times and has almost doubled for oil-seeds. Since 2008, implementation of SCI has contributed to an additional income increase of around US$10.7 million.  Read more >>