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Interesting Links: Food/Agriculture Edition

June 2, 2011

If you’re looking for cutting edge agricultural development research, look no further than the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). I’m interested in some of their recent articles on African climate change vulnerability mappingclimate change adaptationirrigation potentialsoil fertility potential, nutrition value chains, and “Arab Spring” Economics

India’s booming economy and desire for international clout has prompted this dramatic increase in aid to Africa.

Mr Singh promised $5 billion of loans on easy terms over the next three years for Africans willing to trade with India, plus another $1 billion to pay for education, railways and peacekeeping. It is a steep rise in aid and assistance—last year India gave a mere $25m to Africa

On the flip-side, Indian hunger has only increased; 40% of the population is now malnourished  Swati Narayan analyzes the problem.

India’s experience shows that economic growth does not necessarily improve the lives of the poor, or give them more food security. Edward Carr, a development geographer, has a helpful postmodern critique of “food security” as commonly understood. He makes the case that we must incorporate societal factors (like perception, knowledge and power) into existing understandings of production and distribution:

Studies…revealed that despite broad food shortages, the cause of food insecurity was not the lack of food in a given place. Rather, it was influenced by access and production, both of which related to social roles and status…By examining how social differentiation and categories are (re) produced with reference to material conditions, we can understand how livelihoods resources are classified, valued, and integrated into particular food security strategies. In other words, we must shift the conceptual point of entry for food security from broad biophysical and/or economic conditions to a focus on the ways in which these conditions are apprehended, and reshape, society and knowledge in particular contexts. In so doing, we can build a body of generalizable knowledge on the role of society in food outcomes that integrates the social into already complex considerations of the biophysical and economic factors that affect hunger in the developing world.

He then goes on to outline a conceptual model that he demonstrates using his field experience in Ghana.

On a related note, a plea to incorporate the insights of anthropology (social and cultural factors) into development considerations.

Is the political tide finally shifting on biofuels? Let’s hope so. In the meantime Britain is buying up African land to plant biofuel crops.

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