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What are we reading?

Recently released books, reports, manuals, etc.

Reclaiming food security

This book presents a critique of the dominant directions taken by public policy in the name of food security. He argues that food should not be treated in the same way as any other commodity and genuine food security should be firmly aligned with principles of food sovereignty, wellbeing, equity and ecological sustainability. He examines the history of pursuing increased agricultural production (at all costs), trade liberalisation, global market integration and increased marketing and why these approaches have failed to deliver food security. The author urges that we move towards a renewed conceptualisation of food security that embraces freedom for people and nations to lead happy, healthy and long lives.

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The transformative potential of the right to food: Final report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, calls for radical transformation of the world’s food systems. The emphasis in agricultural policy should shift from productivity to "well-being, resilience and sustainability", he says. The expert warns that the current food systems are efficient only from the point of view of maximizing agribusiness profits. "The food systems that we have inherited from the twentieth century have failed. Of course, significant progress has been achieved in boosting agricultural production over the past fifty years. But this has hardly reduced the number of hungry people." The Rapporteur also points at other effects of industrial agriculture, such as significant loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, fresh water pollution and climate change.

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Transcript speech Olivier de Schutter

Food Otherwise Conference, 22 February 2014, Wageningen, the Netherlands

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Transcript speech Vandana Shiva

Food Otherwise Conference, 21 February 2014, Wageningen, the Netherlands

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Dez qualidades da agricultura familiar

What is family farming, and what distinguishes it from entrepreneurial farming or family agribusiness? The confusion tends to be highest in places where the modernisation of agriculture has led society further away from farming. Jan Douwe van der Ploeg takes us into the world of family farming, which he says is considered to be “both archaic and anarchic, and attractive and seductive”.

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Scaling-up agroecological approaches: what, why and how?

Agro-ecology is a science, a social movement and a broad set of agricultural approaches. Scaling up agro-ecology requires a systematic search for combinations of techniques and strategies that fit specific ecological, social and political contexts. This discussion paper aims to support civil society and government actors by providing evidence of the centrality of agro-ecological approaches for sustainable agriculture. The author also highlights the challenges (along with specific actions) to scaling up agro-ecological approaches. These include breaking down ideological barriers, supporting farmer-to-farmer networks, creating supportive policy environments, empowering women and democratising the policy making process.

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Living with the Trees of Life: Towards the Transformation of Tropical Agriculture

Based on the career of Roger Leakey, the former Director of Research at the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, this book presents the experiences of real life situations in rural villages of remote and distant places. Living with the Trees of Life demonstrates how the multi-disciplinary science of agroforestry, which embraces biology, genetics, ecology, agronomy, horticulture, forestry, soil science, food science, and the social sciences, can offer hope from the doom and gloom often emanating from the tropics. Written in an accessible and engaging style that will appeal to both a professional and general readership, this book takes a more positive approach to the issues facing agriculture and highlights an innovative approach to resolving the big issues of poverty, malnutrition, hunger and environmental degradation including climate change.

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Agro-Ecological Intensification of Agricultural Systems in the African Highlands

There is an urgent need to increase agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa in a sustainable and economically-viable manner. Transforming risk-averse smallholders into business-oriented producers that invest in producing surplus food for sale provides a formidable challenge, both from a technological and socio-political perspective. This book addresses the issue of agricultural intensification in the humid highland areas of Africa – regions with relatively good agricultural potential, but where the scarce land resources are increasingly under pressure from the growing population and from climate change. In addition to introductory and synthesis chapters, the book focuses on four themes: system components required for agricultural intensification; the integration of components at the system level; drivers for adoption of technologies towards intensification; and the dissemination of complex knowledge. It provides case studies of improved crop and soil management for staple crops such as cassava and bananas, as well as examples of how the livelihoods of rural people can be improved. The book provides a valuable resource for researchers, development actors, students and policy makers in agricultural systems and economics and in international development. It highlights and addresses key challenges and opportunities that exist for sustainable agricultural intensification in the humid highlands of sub-Saharan Africa.

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Agricultural biodiversity for resilient farming systems: What knowledge is needed to release potential and overcome constraints?

This report is an adaptation of the knowledge mapping study conducted by the Stockholm Resilience Centre for Hivos and Oxfam Novib’s Agrobiodiversity@knowledged programme. The report identifies agrobiodiversity’s potential for food security, smallholder livelihoods, and the environment in the face of global change. Using a theoretical framework based on resilience thinking, it analyses the potential role of knowledge and knowledge flows in change processes. Data collected through literature study and consultations with key actors is used to identify where constraints on knowledge or knowledge flows can form barriers and where strengthened knowledge can contribute to positive change through releasing the potential of agrobiodiversity for resilient farming systems. The study revealed a broad range of successful cases showing how agricultural biodiversity – through the actions and management of smallholder farmers and their organisations – has contributed to strengthened livelihoods as well as to more resilient ecosystems. Sample cases are presented in this report.

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Meat Atlas: facts and figures about the animals we eat

The report presents a global perspective on the impacts of industrial meat and dairy production, and illustrates its increasingly devastating impact on society and the environment. The way we produce and consume meat and dairy needs a radical rethink. The Meat Atlas aims to catalyse the debate over the need for better, safer and more sustainable food and farming and advocates clear individual and political solutions.

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Mountain farming is family farming: A contribution from mountain areas to the International Year of Family Farming 2014

Family farming is the main type of land use in mountain areas around the world. Yet mountain farming is rapidly transforming everywhere, due to population pressure, out-migration, urban encroachment, mining expansion and increasing claims on land for conservation. A testament to the diversity and commonality of mountain farming, this report provides a collection of case studies from mountain areas across the world. It aims to raise awareness about mountain family farming and to encourage appropriate support for mountain areas. This report highlights opportunities for mountain family farmers to continue to develop organic farming practices, strengthen local and regional co-operation and seize niche marketing opportunities.

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Flyer: Food Otherwise Conference

A two-day conference with leading thinkers and do-ers, workshops, excursions, films and inspiring initiatives.

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Learning for rural change: 14 stories from Ethiopia

Many rural development initiatives attempt to improve the lives of small-scale farmers. Some succeed, some fail – but all of them can offer valuable lessons for the future. In a two-phased documentation workshop, a group of experts working in IFAD-funded projects in Ethiopia described, analysed and wrote down some of their most promising experiences. This book presents the results of their work. The fourteen articles provide different lessons and challenges relevant for professionals in the field of agriculture and rural development.

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Ending poverty: Learning from good practices of small and marginal farmers - The Self Employed Women’s Association’s Exposure And Dialogue Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization

This publication is intended for FAO and SEWA staff and other development practitioners. It has three objectives. First, it shares and records a small subset of experiences gained and good practices identified by participants, and summarizes some of the lessons learned. Second, it aims to serve as a reference for other organizations who may wish to embark on a similar collaboration. Third, drawing on a few of the personal and technical documents prepared by FAO participants following the four Exposure and Dialogue Programmes, this publication documents some of the practices, mechanisms, and models that make SEWA an exemplary organization in addressing grassroots issues using a needs-based, capacity-development approach.

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Towards co-creation of sciences : building on the plurality of worldviews, values and methods in different knowledge communities

With regards to knowledge, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is science. But there are also local, endogenous, and traditional ways of knowing that successfully guide the lives of many people across the world. These can be considered as expressions of science in their own right. They are however often excluded in favour of mainstream science which continues to form the basis of formal education and which receives the gross of public funding. This book presents the worldviews, values, methods and concepts of four different knowledge communities in Ghana, India, Bolivia and the Netherlands. The authors argue that a plurality of sciences is the best option to meet the sustainability challenges of our time.

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Climate-smart agriculture sourcebook

There has been a rapid uptake of the term Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) by the international community, national entities and local institutions, in the past years. However, implementing this approach is challenging, partly due to a lack of tools and experience. Climate-smart interventions are highly location-specific and knowledge-intensive. Considerable efforts are required to develop the knowledge and capacities to make CSA a reality. The purpose of the sourcebook is to further elaborate the concept of CSA and demonstrate its potential, as well as its limitations. This sourcebook is a reference tool for planners, practitioners and policy makers working in agriculture, forestry and fisheries at national and subnational levels, dealing with the effects of climate change.

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Climate-smart agriculture - Success stories from farming communities around the world

There are many projects that are testing or promoting climate-smart agriculture, but few have shown widespread uptake. This booklet showcases 16 initiatives that are having a widespread impact on food security, adaptation to climate change and climate change mitigation, covering large areas of land and improving the lives of millions of people. With examples from both the developed and developing world, the initiatives include innovative agricultural interventions (Chapter 1 in this booklet), initiatives that address climate-related risks (Chapter 2) and policies and institutions that underpin adaptation to and mitigation of climate change (Chapter 3). In some cases, particularly in the policy domain, the support for climate-smart agriculture is a side-benefit rather than the core objective of the initiative; in others, it is the main focus. But ultimately, all the cases meet the threepart goal of improving resilience to climate change, enhancing food security and livelihoods, and reducing agriculture’s climate footprint.

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Smallholders, food security, and the environment

This easy-to-read overview of family farming gets right to the point: smallholders form a vital part of the global agricultural community. This is one of the three key messages of the report. In Asia and sub-Saharan Africa smallholders are responsible for supplying 80% of local food. Yet they are often relegated to infertile soils, and face threats from large-scale land grabs and policies that are biased against them. The second message is that smallholder productivity depends on well-functioning ecosystems. Historically the two have always supported each other and understanding of these interactions and practices to strengthen them have been continuously refined. The authors argue that intensification needs to focus on strengthening the natural processes responsible for ecosystem services such as pest control, nutrient cycling, and water retention. This requires a redefinition of the relationship between agriculture and the environment; the report’s final key message. An array of sustainable agriculture intensification approaches already exist: conservation agriculture, agroforestry and integrated pest management. Sustainable intensification also requires the removal of policy barriers, more research and better provision of information to smallholders. What the report lacks is a reflection on the wealth of farmers’ own experiences: the practices they have devised, which include some of those mentioned above, and cases where farmers themselves have managed to transform research and policies to strengthen food security and the environment. Such examples could offer an important contribution to the authors’ call “to facilitate sustainable, autonomous smallholder livelihoods adapted to local conditions and to enable smallholders to develop their own futures.”

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Seeds for Life: scaling up agrobiodiversity

This report warns that unless urgent action is taken to revive global seed diversity and farmers' knowledge, food systems now and in the future will be unable to adapt to climate change. For thousands of years of agriculture, farmers have increased seed diversity and deepened their complex knowledge, to give them to tools to deal with the multiple challenges of farming. But the industrialisation of farming in recent decades has meant that this seed and knowledge is rapidly disappearing. The resulting loss of germ plasm from which to breed and adapt new crops means that farmers and food systems are increasingly vulnerable in the face of climate change. Report warns of the dangers of leaving a reduced agricultural gene pool for future generations - but it also shares inspiring stories of farmers around the world who are working to revive seed diversity. The report gives key recommendations for policy and practice to revive resilient food systems, so that future generations may also be able to farm and eat.

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Golden Illusion: The broken promise of GE 'Golden Rice'

GE ‘Golden’ rice is a genetically engineered (GE, also called genetically modified, GM) rice variety developed by the biotech industry to produce pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene). Proponents portray GE ‘Golden’ rice as a technical, quick-fix solution to Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), a health problem in many developing countries. However, not only is GE ‘Golden’ rice an ineffective tool to combat VAD it is also environmentally irresponsible, poses risks to human health, and compromises food security.

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