Producing enough food for a rapidly growing population, and taking care of our planet are two of the world's biggest challenges.
Displaying 1-20 of 39 key documents
Source: UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
This document presents a collection of selected papers produced for and discussed at the Second International Conference on Early Warning, in Bonn, Germany, in 2003, and four regional conferences in Africa, Asia/Pacific, America and Europe. The conferences focused on integrating early warning into sustainable development policy. The document notes the failure of scientists, policymakers, local authorities and other relevant actors to use early warning systems efficiently, and makes suggestions for improvement. It highlights challenges, lessons learnt and possible trajectories for further development of early warning systems, and outlines key steps towards strengthening frameworks, finding resources, and designating responsibilities. Key areas for action include improving data collection, ensuring that warning systems focus on people and achieve gender balance, and creating platforms for early warning dialogue.
Source: UNESCO International Hydrological Programme | July 2012
This collection of papers was presented at a conference on linkages between climate change, water, conflict and migration, held in September 2011 at The Hague, in the Netherlands, where the discussion focused on: capacity building and resilience in climate hotspots; conflict prevention; and a legal framework to protect environmental migrants.
The publication includes a conference summary and a background document providing an overview of how climate change, water stress and environmental problems are increasingly seen as major threats to human security. Also included are papers that explore connections between these issues from the perspective of vulnerability; put forward a research and capacity-building agenda for climate-induced migrations; and review current literature, evidence and implications for policymaking on the environment, climate change and human displacement.
Source: ICRISAT | January 2012
This paper looks at how climate change could affect the rate of phenological development — biological events related to climate, such as flowering — and rainfall patterns during the growing season. The authors suggest that these changes may result in mismatch between water demand by crops and water availability from rainfall.
The paper describes a project that combines a new analysis of meteorological data with previously published data on climatic changes to assess the expected consequences of this mismatch for food security.
The authors illustrate how understanding how key crops might be affected by climate change in the Asia-Pacific region can help farmers, community workers and policymakers to prepare and adapt. Strategies include timing of planting, managing rainwater resources, use of new varieties, alternate crops and shifts in geographic distribution of crops.
Source: APN and University of South Pacific | June 2010
This paper reports on national coral reef management plans developed in Pacific Island countries by consultation between scientists and policymakers. Reef experts re-visited these projects one year after initial consultation to evaluate their progress. The outcome of this evaluation, and a literature review, are also included in the report.
The project targeted four countries heavily dependent on coral reefs: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu. For each country, two-day workshops followed the development of a national dossier that included a series of issues considered in developing coral reef plans, such as fisheries and potential impacts of climate change. The results show variable progress between the four countries, and a need to improve collaboration between government departments and ensure that management systems are sustainable. All countries lacked an overarching policy, as well as the human resources needed to implement their national plans and meet the challenge of translating policies into actions that lead to sustainable management of coastal ecosystems.
Source: Food Security (2011) | April 2011
This journal article investigates the significance of drought and other water-related constraints in South Asia compared with other limitations to the production of four major food crops — wheat, rice, sorghum and chickpea — in five South Asian farming systems.
The study was based on a survey of 330 'expert informants'. It indicates that water shortages and constraints such as high-cost irrigation or flooding of low-lying fields contribute to no more than 30 per cent of current yield gaps in major food crops. Other constraints contribute the most to yield losses, particularly soil infertility and poor management of fertiliser, weeds, pests and diseases. The respondents suggested interventions to address these constraints and improve food security, which include biotechnology and improvements in soil fertility.
Source: The Royal Society Philosophical Transactions B | 12 October 2011
This special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Science explores how vaccines can fulfil their full potential for addressing global health challenges. It charts the progress to date, reviewing successes as well as challenges in the development and distribution of both human and veterinary vaccines.
The articles describe how vaccines can help mitigate and treat the world's major infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, as well as chronic diseases, such as cancer. They explore vaccine policy and financing, ways to accelerate the development of new vaccines, issues surrounding public acceptance, and the logistics of getting vaccines to where they are needed. Also discussed is the use of vaccines to treat diseases in livestock — making an important link between health interventions, agricultural output and economic consequences.
The papers in this issue were presented at the meeting, 'New vaccines for global health', held at the Royal Society in London, United Kingdom, in November 2010.
Source: International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV)
This report details the proceedings of the 2nd World Seed Conference, held on 8–10 September 2009 at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters, to investigate the role of plant breeding in improving seed quality and crop varieties that are crucial for food security.
The proceedings contain the presentations, discussions and conclusions from a one-day policy forum and the five sessions of the two-day expert forum. Areas covered include the importance of genetic resources for plant breeding, access and benefit sharing; plant variety protection; and the importance of seed quality in agriculture.
The conclusions emphasised the importance of encouraging plant breeding to enable the production and distribution of high-quality seed. Participants highlighted the International Treaty on Plant and Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture as an innovative instrument for achieving food security through conservation and access to genetic resources, and the importance of protecting intellectual property. They also recommended that countries develop the capabilities needed to determine seed quality and certify seed varieties.
The conference was organised by the FAO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, the International Seed Federation and the International Seed Testing Association.
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute | May 2011
This paper aims to assess the suitability of using self-reported food security indicators to assess the welfare impact of the 2007–2008 global food crisis. It tests the usefulness of data from the Gallup World Poll (GWP) — a survey of self-reported food insecurity conducted before, during, and after the crisis — as an alternative to modelling estimates produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the US Department of Agriculture, and the World Bank.
The results suggest that although trends vary across countries, global self-reported food insecurity fell between 2005 and 2008, with the most reasonable estimate indicating 60–250 million fewer food-insecure people over that period. This trend contrasts with what was estimated by modelling-based methods. It is driven by rapid economic growth and limited food price inflation in China and India, among other heavily populated countries.
Source: Elsevier | May 2010
This special issue of the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability presents a collection of interdisciplinary scientific articles and commentary on biodiversity. It includes new research in key areas such as food security and climate change.
It also reviews major initiatives that will be released or discussed during 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity. These include the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a new remote sensing project called the Group on Earth Observations — Biodiversity Observation Network, and key issues such as access and benefit sharing.
Source: UNU - Merit | 2009
This paper considers the potential role of 'innovation brokers' — intermediary organisations that help build links in innovation systems and facilitate multi-stakeholder interaction — in developing countries' agriculture. The authors suggest that to encourage organisations to take on this role, policies that encourage institutional learning and experimentation must be put in place. A first step must be mapping the strengths and weaknesses of the existing innovation system.
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) | January 2010
This article, written by scientists in Niger and the United States, assesses the suitability of solar-powered irrigation for improving food security in rural regions of West Africa. The authors describe an irrigation system that combines drip irrigation with a photovoltaic solar-powered water pump, and test its efficacy and impact through household surveys and field data. They find that solar-powered drip irrigation is cost-effective and significantly boosts household incomes and nutritional intake.
Source: Food Nutrition Bulletin | December 2006
This paper explains how interdisciplinary collaboration in health, nutrition, and agriculture has helped the Millennium Villages Project in 12 African villages meet the Millennium Development Goals.
Global science is increasingly under pressure to become more interdisciplinary. Econutrition is a good example of a cross-sector concept that joins environmental and human health, focusing on crosscutting areas such as agriculture and ecology.
Soil erosion and decreasing biodiversity causes environmental damage that lowers food production. A lack of food results in malnutrition and illness that, in turn, lead to poorer labour productivity and poorer agricultural management.
The Millennium Villages Project emphasises community engagement and leadership, and the case study from the Nyanza Province near Lake Victoria in Kenya illustrates that this can work well in improving nutrition.
One-fifth of adults in the area have HIV and many have malaria and TB. People in the region go hungry for up to seven months a year and are malnourished. The villagers constructed a health clinic and organised teams of community healthcare workers trained in nutrition.
Farmers receive fertilisers and plants if they donate ten per cent of their harvest towards a school lunch programme that concentrates on providing missing nutrients. For example, by adding local crops such as sweet potatoes common vitamin A deficiencies are eliminated. The key to success, say the authors, is to ensure that farmers are supported, especially in producing a variety of crops.
Source: African Journal of Food Agriculture Nutrition and Development
This review article, published in the African Journal of Food Agriculture Nutrition and Development, considers how policy interventions can protect vulnerable African nations from the increasing nutrition insecurity caused by the global economic crisis.
The author, Suresh Babu from the International Food Policy Research Institute, argues that the global recession has reduced foreign investment in, and demand for exports from, developing countries.
This has resulted in unstable commodity prices, lower earnings and reduced access to food, forcing people to adopt cheaper and less balanced diets that lead to higher levels of malnutrition.
Babu reviews past crises, including Indonesia in the aftermath of El Niño in 1997, to build a framework of potential policy interventions.
In the short-term, this includes subsidising fertilisers, distributing nutrition supplements and providing income support. In the medium to long-term, social safety net programmes, investment in research, and institution building are needed, says Babu.
Source: IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Conference | October 2005
This article describes how a network of sensors, linked by software and the Internet, can provide an automatic satellite-based surveillance system for disasters such as volcanoes, wildfires and flooding.
The system, or 'Sensorweb', uses data from low resolution, high frequency sensors to trigger imagery from high resolution instruments. The low-resolution data is collected regularly (twice a day or more) from instruments such as NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS).
Anomalies, such as hotspots in the case of fires and volcanoes or surface water for floods, are automatically detected. The SensorWeb then sends a request to a higher resolution satellite such as Hyperion, which is very sensitive in the infrared spectrum, to request data over the area of interest. These data can then provide disaster managers with early warnings of adverse events.
Source: The Earth Observer | January 2009
This article, written by Chris Funk of the US GS, outlines how the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) uses satellite data and statistical forecasts to provide early warnings of potential droughts in sub-Saharan Africa.
Funk outlines the role of satellite data in FEWS NET at all stages of the crop-growing season — from scenario building before the season to calculating the water balance during it and assessing yields at the end. Focusing on food security outlooks for East Africa in late 2008, Funk describes how data from NASA's Aqua and QuikSCAT satellites can be used to track moisture and wind conditions over the Indian Ocean and Africa, and how these help anticipate hydrologic conditions in the future to predict shortfalls.
Funk emphasises the need to combine such data with socio-economic analyses of, for example, crop prices, grain stores, political conditions and agricultural inputs. This will help maximise the accuracy and effectiveness of early warnings of drought and food shortages.
Source: Progress in Physical Geography | April 2009
This review article describes how remote sensing data can and are being used to map and monitor disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, flooding and wildfire.
The authors summarise the main satellites and sensors used in disaster monitoring and their characteristics. They also discuss in more detail the data and techniques used for individual types of disaster, outlining the advantages and drawbacks to each. In particular, they describe the methods most commonly used to analyse optical, thermal, radar and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data.
The authors summarise ongoing initiatives using remote sensing data for disaster management, including Sentinel Asia and the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters. Potentially useful emerging systems such as the Disaster Monitoring Constellation are briefly discussed.
Source: Nature Nanotechnology | November 2007
This commentary, by South African scientists Thembela Hillie and Mbhuti Hlophe, examines nanoscience's potential to solve the technical challenges associated with removing pollutants from water. The authors describe a range of nano-based water treatment technologies already in the marketplace and discuss how nanofiltration membranes can be used in low-cost methods to produce safe drinking water. They highlight a case study in South Africa where such membranes were used to treat brackish groundwater.
The authors emphasise the importance of technology transfer in getting nano-based solutions to the countries that need them, arguing that direct transfer does not often work. Rather, what developing countries need are approaches that combine technology transfer with technology adaptation and adoption — involving local stakeholders in establishing water treatment devices and developing local capacity to use them.
Source: Current Science | February 2006
The authors of this article analysed simulation results from a regional climate model for the northern Indian Ocean to predict likely changes in the strength and frequency of tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal from 2041–2060.
They find that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases will lead to more frequent cyclones in the region, particularly during the post-monsoon period. In addition, the number of intense cyclones and storm surges will increase. These results are consistent with other trend analyses that show intensification of cyclones in the bay during the last century.
But the research described in this paper only deals with simulations from one future climate scenario. To obtain better regional climate projections, the authors suggest it is necessary to examine simulations from more scenarios.
Source: Nature | September 2008
The authors of this article use satellite data to examine trends in the maximum intensities that cyclones can achieve during their lifetimes.
Results from previous analyses of tropical cyclone trends have been questioned due to a lack of consensus regarding data reliability. Moreover results have not been matched to theory because the focus has mainly been on changes in mean tropical cyclone statistics.
In this article, the authors conclusively show significant increases in the maximum wind speeds achieved by the strongest cyclones across all ocean basins except the South Pacific Ocean, with the largest increases occurring over the North Atlantic and northern Indian Oceans.
These findings are consistent with the idea that as seas warm, cyclones become more intense because the ocean has more energy that can be converted to tropical cyclone wind.
Source: International Journal for Equity in Health | January 2005
The WHO has provided its own estimates of how non-communicable diseases are set to rise in developing countries. These authors pool data from national registries and international databases to compare data on the differing burden from individual diseases. They outline the risk factors associated with the diseases.
The main three killers are cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The paper ranks different types of cancer by how many people in developing countries they kill (lung and breast cancer are the deadliest) and also ranks diabetes prevalence by country (India, followed by China, has the highest prevalence).
To tackle these diseases, say the authors, people need to look closely at the risk factors in their life – eating healthily and exercising can do much to reduce the chances of getting one of these diseases.