IFPRI Kampala Weekly Newsletter ed 9 Dec 2013
Hello, and welcome to the IFPRI Uganda Strategy Support Program’s weekly news digest.
This weekly collection of recent news articles related to agriculture in Uganda is compiled from online news sources. We also include links to recent publications on agricultural and policy-related research topics pertinent to Uganda.
In news this week, we report on the central role of women in agriculture, CIMMYT's efforts to halt a maize disease and an article on aflotoxins.
Under agricultural and food policy related research, we provide links to papers on:
- Book links food security to political stability
- New Report Offers Solutions to Close Global Food Gap
- Simple Food Group Diversity as a Proxy Indicator for Iron and Vitamin A Status of Rural Primary School Children in Uganda
Thank you, and enjoy.
The editor of a recent UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report has concluded that smallholder farmers must be in research to reduce poverty. In doing this, one challenge will be to include female farmers without resorting to tired, traditional gender assumptions that women are the victims in the context of agriculture.
It is well reported that female farmers are central to smallholder farming; they account for up to 50 per cent of the agricultural labour force in some parts of the developing world. Despite this, reports and academic papers often claim that women suffer unequal access to productive resources, such as new technologies, and their constraints and needs must be identified in agricultural interventions. Such sentiments are well reflected in an FAO report on women in agriculture.
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is leading collaborative research efforts to control the deadly maize lethal necrosis (MLN) disease that is devastating crops in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. First identified in farmers' fields in eastern Africa in 2011, MLN results from the combined infection of two plant viruses and can cause nearly 100 percent crop loss.
CIMMYT is spearheading efforts to identify sources of MLN resistance and is developing a strategy to contain the disease by studying it and the pests that contribute to its spread. A CIMMYT-Kenya Agricultural Research Institute MLN Screening Facility and Maize Doubled Haploid Facility was also launched to help speed development of MLN-resistant varieties.
Is Africa ready for GM?
Even as food insecurity continues to afflict impoverished and disaster-affected populations around the continent, African policymakers and consumers remain deeply divided over the potential harms and benefits of genetically modified (GM) foods, which advocates say could greatly improve yields and nutrition.
A recent study published in the journal Food Policy, titled Status of development, regulation and adoption of GM agriculture in Africa, shows that heated debates over safety concerns continue to plague efforts to use GM crop technology to tackle food security problems and poverty
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that billions of people in the developing world are chronically exposed to aflatoxin, a natural poison on food crops which causes cancer, impairs the immune system, inhibits growth, and causes liver disease as well as death in both humans and animals.
According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) aflatoxins contaminate one-quarter of the global food supply and over half the world’s population; 4.5 billion people are exposed to high, unmonitored levels, primarily in developing countries. In sub-Saharan African alone, an estimated 26,000 people die annually of liver cancer associated with aflatoxin exposure.
Book links food security to political stability
While drought-withered crops and starving livestock make cover stories, policymakers’ actions taken now to address “food security stressors” ultimately could have more impact worldwide than “biophysical drivers” like climate change and water scarcity. This is the contention of a new book edited by Cornell’s Christopher B. Barrett, “Food Security and Sociopolitical Stability” (Oxford University Press, 2013). The book points to a surge of urban food riots in low- and middle-income countries when food prices spiked in 2008 and 2011 – and cautions that the most destabilizing effect of higher food prices might be induced competition for land, water, fisheries, even animal and plant genetic material, any of which can spark violence.
New Report Offers Solutions to Close Global Food Gap
World Resources Institute
A new report offers solutions to meet the world's growing food needs, while advancing economic development and environmental sustainability. The analysis finds that the world will need 70 percent more food in order to feed 9.6 billion people in 2050. Produced by the World Resources Institute (WRI), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Bank, the Report was launched during the 3rd Global Conference on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security and Climate Change, in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 3, 2013.
The Report finds that boosting crop and livestock productivity on existing agricultural land is critical to saving forests and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but that the world is unlikely to close the food gap through yield increases alone. The new report finds that crop yields would need to increase by 32 percent more, over the next four decades than they did in the previous four to avoid more land clearing.
Hedwig Acham, Gaston Ampek Tumuhimbise, Joyce K. Kikafunda, 2013, Food and Nutrition Sciences 4(12):1271-1280
Children in resource poor settings are at a high risk of inadequate iron and vitamin A intake when diets lack diversity and are dominated by staple foods. Yet comparative information on diet quality among school children is scarce. The objective of the study was to assess the potential of simple food group diversity to serve as a proxy indicator of iron and vitamin A status among rural school children in Uganda. A cross sectional correlation model of associations between Food Group Diversity (FGD) and iron and vitamin A status was used. We analyzed 8 schools in Kumi District, Uganda, randomly selected from the 34 schools that participated in the main part of the study. Our sample included primary school children, aged between 9-15 years (n = 172). Food group diversity and food variety (FV) were calculated from both a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) and a 24-hour dietary recall. The FGD and FVS were tested against iron (as serum ferritin) and vitamin A (as serum retinol) status. The FGD (based on FFQ data) was 9.6 (±1.9). There was a positive correlation between 24-hour recall and FFQ for consumption of cereals (Corr. Coef = 0.28; p < 0.05), which was also the most highly consumed group (98.9% & 86.9% by FFQ and 24-hour recall; respectively). Consistent with other studies, increase in the number of food groups significantly increased serum ferritin and serum retinol measures (p < 0.001). Presence of at least one food item in the “roots & tubers”; “cereals”; and “pulses/nuts”, significantly increased serum ferritin and serum retinol concentrations (p < 0.01). We speculate that simple food group diversity may reflect intake and serve as a simple indicator of iron and vitamin A status among school children. Strategies aimed at increasing dietary diversity in the community may benefit the families of these children and improve their micronutrient status.