African urbanization and food insecurity

Urbanization in Africa is rapidly growing: according to the UN Habitat report “The State of African Cities 2010,” by 2050, 60% of all Africans will be living in cities.

This scenario highlights unbalanced economic growth: people who leave the countryside to move towards cities, have to face a lack of social and economic opportunities and a new condition of urban poverty.

Read the Guardian article “Food security: an urban issue.” Perhaps peri-urban horticulture could be a way to provide employment and food for the growing urban community.

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Ensuring food security: Key resources

“ Food security is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life 

These lines from “the State of food insecurity, 2001” defined the concept of Food security, already recognized since the 1974 World food summit.

Ensuring food security requires a transversal approach that would take social, economic and political aspects into account.

The portal has published an annotated list of key concepts related to food security that may help your research.

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Population, poverty and climate change

Under the Policy Research Working Paper series, the World Bank has recently released the report Population, Poverty, and Climate Change.

According to the author Monica Das Gupta, the relationships between population dynamics, poverty, and climate change have now been recognized. Das Gupta lists the evidence that confirm this relationship and its effect on developing countries.

Countries in the Southern Hemisphere are not principally responsible for climate change, but these are the countries that will have to face natural disasters, food and water scarcity and conflict resulting from a changing world scene.

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When land is a commodity

While a strong emphasis is put on the importance of smallholder farming (2014 will be the International Year of Family Farming) there is an opposing trend that seems to be pushing ahead: land grabbing.

Nowadays, land grabbing means agricultural dispossession: land bought at very low prices by multinational corporations and private investors.  This land is supposed to be used for agricultural production, but it has also been grabbed for other purposes (mining, oil extracting, buildings, timber cutting).

For farmers and their families it means to be dispossessed. When people lose access to their land, they also lose their livelihood, their culture and traditions.

The amassing of lands has occurred many times also in the past, as Fred Magdoff states in the Monthly Review article Twenty-first-century land grabs: Accumulation by agricultural dispossession, the ways to do it have been changed but the goals are always the same.

Have a look at Land matrix, an interesting tool used for collecting and visualising information about large-scale land acquisitions.

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GMOs and the patent system

JanHuygenVanLinschoten“The real problem with GMOs is not about science, it’s about business models” said Richard A. Jefferson, inventor of a genetic marker and then an intellectual property expert and creator of a framework for open-source biological invention.

When we speak about GMOs from an economic point of view, how can we not think of patents? Maybe farmers around the globe would need a system to invent their own solutions, rather than be obliged to deal with few multinational companies which dominate the market.

In a recent interview published in Grist, Mr Jefferson discusses how unequal the patents system is, beginning from the etymological origin of the term that comes from Latin "patere," which means to lay open.

Jefferson suggests that we need to re-think intellectual property rights.  According to him, Monsanto's patents probably aren't even valid in most developing countries.  He says that the only thing that is stopping the average farmer from taking advantage of this patented property is the complicated nature of the patent system. So he and his team created as a portal to help navigate the system.

Can you break an IP stranglehold just by sharing the information freely? It's been done before. Click on the article to read about Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, the 16th century Dutch clerk who broke the Portuguese stranglehold on New World maps by copying them and making them freely available to all.



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What is a sustainable food system?

This video shows a very interesting Vietnamese model of a total no-waste food system

that integrates fish farming, raising livestock and growing fruit and vegetables, all on the

same farm. Could it be an applicable system to anywhere else?


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