… or how to attain UN millennium goals without reducing hunger by Helena Robling If you follow the news on international development, you know that we are in the midst of some exciting times right now. The era of the UNs Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has come to an end and it is time for evaluation … Continue reading The Magical Hunger Numbers
The finalized text for the Sustainable Development Goals was published on August 1st. I was curious to see what it had to say on sustainable food and agricultural systems. I summarize my thoughts below for a quick impression; thereafter you can find a blow-by-blow list of all instances where the SDGs mention food or agriculture … Continue reading Food In the Sustainable Development Goals: Great Ideas, But What About Demand?
So… I have a really exciting announcement for you – Food (Policy) For Thought is growing! We [now I can say “we”! Woot!] have a new guest contributor, Helena! I’ll let her introduce herself in person, so without further ado – welcome on board, Helena! Hey everyone. I’m Helena from Stockholm and I will from now on … Continue reading Does it matter if we say food loss or food waste?
I hope you had a jolly Christmas season surrounded by your loved ones! As we segue into normal life again, I am lucky enough to have a continued break until the beginning of January, which makes for a lot of time to read, reflect, and practice Spanish 😉 I have a trifecta of interesting news tidbits … Continue reading From Soils to Plates
In my agricultural history class, we talked about the vast differences in farming between regions, which is also reflected in the average farm size in different areas. This motivated me to go into more detail about where farm holdings are the smallest or largest, and to do some research on reasons behind it. This is … Continue reading Fun Facts About Farm Size
Do you sometimes feel you are getting overwhelmed by news and don’t know where to start? But going back to old-fashioned print newspapers is not an option because you spend most of your waking hours in front of the computer (hi! join the club!) and, anyhow, you like topic-specific content, but not allllll of the … Continue reading On The Radar: The FAO’s Food & Agriculture Spotlight
Think of “food” and “North Korea” and chances are you will be reminded of the near-yearly news items speaking of hunger, starvation, and malnutrition in the country. However, times might be changing, at least if you believe Andrei Lankov, professor of Korean Studies at Seoul University. In this Al Jazeera piece, he argues that the “myth of starvation” is over due to the moderate economic growth in the country driven by semi-legal private enterprises starting to bloom. Yet, the situation of the current food system is still dire and stuck between the bizarre and the fascinating in this neo-Stalinist state. Inspired by Lankov’s article, here are 10 facts about food (shortages) in North Korea you might not know:
1. According to Lankov, “this year, North Korea enjoyed an exceptionally good harvest, which for the first time in more than two decades will be sufficient to feed the country’s entire population. Indeed, according to the recent documents of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), North Korea’s harvest totaled 5.03 million tonnes of grain this year, if converted to the cereal equivalent. To put things in perspective, in the famine years of the late 1990s, the average annual harvest was estimated (by the same FAO) to be below the 3 million tonne level.“
2. However, the WFP and FAO estimate that despite the 3-year improvements in food production, there are still shortages particularly for protein-rich foods, and child malnutrition remains widespread, said the Wall Street Journal in November of last year. 84% of the population’s households were estimated to have borderline or poor food consumption.
3. One of the main reasons for the ongoing problems is a combination of outdated farming practices and a lack of access to agricultural inputs such as fertilizers due to international trade sanctions. This account of a North Korean farmer-turned-emigrant is fascinating (though sad) in describing farming conditions reminiscent of the early 20th century: “As North Koreans do not have good equipment or much fertilizer, we got used to doing most of the work by hand rather than with the help of machinery. In spring when weeds bagan to sprout it would be time to plough the fields and this could be done by ox or with tractors. But in North Korea, in addition to fuel being too expensive, there aren’t many tractors for the farmers to use, so most of the ploughing is done by oxen. As you can probably guess, the oxen were therefore very valuable animals, and we needed to keep them healthy for the entire year’s farming work. While oxen could help plough the fields, they were useless at dealing with weeds. So when new weeds appeared in the fields again, they had to be removed by hand because the chemicals we had were not sufficient. Between spring and autumn, we did back breaking work, weeding the field about four times with a hoe. Not wanting to waste even the weeds, we also used a sickle to cut them down to make compost with them. This compost helped make the soil better, so every summer or autumn we made compost after doing the weeding.” It also serves as a good reminder that the mechanization of agriculture has, indeed, had a massively beneficial impact on farmers’ lives, despite the calls to go back towards a more natural way of farming…
The celebrations surrounding today’s International Women’s Day have given rise to a number of great resources recognizing the importance of women in agriculture. Instead of writing my own contribution, I thought I’d give you a handy link roundup for your surfing and perusal pleasure – have fun! From Food Tank: 23 Women Changing Food. Is … Continue reading Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s Celebrate with a Women In Agriculture Link Roundup!
Have you heard of agroecology? This is a holistic agricultural production system that is similar to organic methods, but yet not exactly the same. The Christensen Fund has made a great infographic that compares and contrasts the agroecological with the conventional system from sky to soil: As this handy policy brief explains, “based on a … Continue reading Agroecology: The Alternative of the Future?
I was looking through the photojournalist site VII (a great time suck if you ever feel like being unproductive in the most enjoyable of ways; and a superb array of photos of course) and stumbled upon this series on Farming in Gaza. I would highly encourage you to head on over to check out the … Continue reading Farming in Gaza – a Series of Challenges