Reuters blog archive
from Photographers' Blog:
By Susana Vera
The silence of a sleepy town and the flickering light of the street lamps greet Jorge Ibanez as he leaves his home before the crack of dawn in Pozo Estrecho, in the southeastern Spanish region of Cartagena, Murcia. With his baseball hat on and a cooler in his hand, he approaches a couple of men on a corner. They exchange timid hellos and engage in conversation as they wait for the car that will drive them to a potato field ready to be harvested.
Ibanez is a 20-year-old Spanish day laborer. A pair of rotten gloves and his baseball hat are his work uniform, a group of Moroccan men his work companions. Together they set out every morning to collect thousands of pounds of potatoes that will end up in the kitchens of northern Europe.
Different fields every day, but always the same sight: row after row of round yellow potatoes waiting to be picked up. Tractors work at night unearthing the tubers so that the day laborers can start collecting them as soon as the sun rises. Extreme heat is not good for potatoes, so the workers have to rush to finish before midday, when the sun is at its peak and the heat starts becoming unbearable, both for them and the spuds.
Ibanez’s hands have gotten used to moving fast. His back has also learnt to bend without breaking. Potatoes fly from the ground into his basket and then into 1,250 kilo (2,755 pound) potato sacks in no time at all. But when he sees the first truck approaching the field he knows it’s time for a cigarette. Other than picking potatoes like the rest of the crew, he’s also responsible for helping load the sacks onto the trucks. His youth and the fact that he’s a Spaniard give him the opportunity to do this slightly less taxing job. But he won’t leave the field until the last truck does, long after his working companions.
from The Human Impact:
As India's western state of Maharashtra reels from the worst drought in over four decades and millions of people face the risk of hunger, a top official has sparked outrage with a crass, insensitive joke that he should urinate in the region's empty dams to solve water shortages.
Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and former irrigation minister, referred in a speech last weekend to a poor drought-hit farmer who had been on hunger strike for almost two months to demand more water.
from Photographers' Blog:
County Antrim, Northern Ireland
By Cathal McNaughton
When the snow started falling on Thursday afternoon nobody in the Glens of Antrim could have predicted the devastating impact it would have on the farming community. Sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow fall combined with strong easterly winds produced 30 foot snowdrifts.
The rolling hillsides, where just a week previously daffodils had swayed in the breeze in the watery spring sunshine, now lay covered in an unseasonable layer of deep snow. But below the beautiful winter wonderland landscape the tragic reality of nature lay hidden - thousands of sheep buried with their farmers unable to reach them.
from Photographers' Blog:
By Herwig Prammer
The light is soft and warm, yet I am astonished at how cold it is. The thermometer says minus 15 degrees Celsius, but it feels far lower. In the car I did not recognize how strong the wind was blowing from the north.
Ernst Nekowitsch makes thatched roofs from reeds that grow along the shore of Lake Neusiedl, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Vienna, Austria. He tells me to have a look around. I will find his workers out in the reeds, he says.
from The Great Debate UK:
-Pamela C. Ronald is a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California. Raoul Adamchak is an organic farmer and Market Garden Coordinator at the University of California. The opinions expressed are their own.-
This week, the G20 Agriculture Ministers gathered for their first-ever meeting to discuss potential measures to address price volatility and record high food prices. The key to any long-term solution is acknowledging that we need to empower the very people whose lives are most affected by food shortages. Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people get their food and income by farming small plots of land. The potential of small farmers for getting us out of this and future food crises cannot be understated.
from Oddly Enough Blog:
Blog Guy, I have a huge complaint.
You're about to lose me and many of my friends, who are also German farming enthusiasts.
from Shop Talk:
Check out what we're hearing from top executives attending our Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago this week.
Kantar Retail Americas Chief Executive Ken Harris, a top industry consultant, said he sees a healthy appetite for strategic acquisitions in the food and grocery space this year as improving credit markets and a recovering U.S. economy tempt buyers.
from Commodity Corner:
More than a billion people go hungry each day -- about the same number as did in the late 1950s. That's both a "tragedy on a grand scale" and an "astounding success," according to a new report called "Millions Fed," produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
While the absolute number of hungry people is the same as it was 40 years ago, the proportion is dramatically smaller -- one in six today, compared to one in three then, the report said. It illustrates 20 successful case studies where progress has been made in the fight against hunger.
Some solutions come from science: new varieties of wheat, rice, beans, maize, cassava, millet and sorghum. Others deal with markets, government policies, or the environment.
Two farmers from the Sahel region of Africa, oft plagued by drought and famine, visited Washington last month to talk about solutions they found close to home -- one of the success stories trumpeted in "Millions Fed."
Almost 30 years ago, farmers in Burkina Faso experimented with a traditional technique called "zai," digging pits in their plots and adding manure to improve soils before the rainy season, resulting in dramatically better yields.
"There was a long period of drought in my village," Yacouba Sawadogo told reporters. "Many people left because their life was very, very difficult. But I decided to stay," he said, explaining how he taught others the technique.
In Niger, farmers manage trees on their land to prevent erosion, improve yields, and provide livestock fodder. Before, women had to walk 6 miles to get firewood, but now they have enough for themselves and to sell to others, said Sakina Mati, who coordinates tree projects in six villages.
The projects have improved 13 million acres of farmland and fed 3 million people, said Oxfam America, a development group that works with the farmers.
It's food for thought as rich nations ramp up efforts to help small farmers grow more food in poor countries. "In our approach toward solutions and programs, we really need to listen as well as talk," said Gawain Kripke of Oxfam.
"Solutions don't always come from us."
from The Great Debate UK:
Everybody wants to end hunger, but just how to do so is a divisive question that pits environmentalists against anti-poverty campaigners, big business against consumers and rich countries against poor.
The Food Chain Campaign is not about becoming vegetarian, say the Friends of the Earth, it is about putting pressure on the government to mitigate the damaging impact of meat and dairy production on the environment.
from The Great Debate:
Hans Binswanger is the former senior adviser to the World Bank on rural development in Africa. He is currently an independent agriculture and development consultant based in South Africa. The opinions expressed are his own.
The World Bank’s recent study of the prospects of commercial agriculture in Africa focused primarily on the Guinea Savannahs that cover some 600 million hectares, of which about 400 million can be used for agriculture. Less than 10 percent of this area is currently cropped, making it one of the largest underused agricultural land reserves in the world.