G20 Faces Obstacles in its Efforts to Spread Good Farming Practices
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Spreading good ideas and practices in farming sounds like a simple enough goal, but can be immensely complicated not just on a global level but also locally.
Ahead of the G20 meeting in Montpellier, France, on agricultural research and development, which begins on Monday, Mark Holderness gives a telling example from his time working in Bangladesh. He urged female farmers to plant cleaner rice seeds, those that did not look dirty and discoloured. Sure enough, using healthier rice seeds led to a big increase in yield.
“The women were very excited, but for cultural reasons they could not share their discovery by going from village to village, but they did make a video to spread the word,” said Holderness in a phone interview from Rome. “That video went all [a]round Bangladesh and eventually reached west Africa.”
Holderness is executive secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), which was established to shift the focus of agricultural research and development to meet the needs of the world’s poor, the group most affected by the two big food crises in the past four years. Those crises were fuelled by several global trends: growing population, expanding incomes in emerging countries such as China and India, conversion of food crops to biofuels, and climate change.
The Montpellier meeting underlines the importance that G20 countries are putting on agriculture, especially in the developing world. G20 agriculture ministers held their first summit in Paris in June, where they agreed an action plan to deal with volatility in food prices. The focus of this week’s meeting will be a bigger version of what Holderness experienced in Bangladesh.