A Busy Year for the Food and Agriculture Organization
In 2011, volatile food prices and the tragedy of another famine in East Africa forced world attention to focus on issues of food and agriculture.
As the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) moved to support farmers and pastoralists in the Horn of Africa and rally international support for long-term measures for reducing vulnerability in the region, it also continued to work on a number of other fronts as well.
One spot of good news—and a bright one at that—was the final eradication of rinderpest, a livestock disease that had plagued farmers for millennia.
2011 also saw the unveiling of FAO's new Save and Grow paradigm for sustainably, increasing food production by the world's millions of smallholder farmers. And a new edition of The State of World Agriculture highlighted how the gender gap in agriculture handicaps millions of women farmers and undermines the fight against hunger. FAO research shed light on the vast scale of food waste around the world, and a groundbreaking new study provided a unique look at the status of the land and water resources on which global food production depends. In 2011, FAO also provided updates on the status of key global fish stocks and improved information on world deforestation rates.
Read about these developments and more in this year-end wrap up.
FAO highlights from 2011
Satellite technology yields new forest loss estimates
A new, satellite-based survey by FAO provided new, and more accurate, information on changes in the world's forest cover, showing that forest land use declined between 1990 and 2005.
Scarcity and degradation of land and water represent growing threat to food security, reports major new FAO study
In November, FAO released the first edition of a new flagship publication, The State of Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture. According to the report, widespread degradation and deepening scarcity of land and water resources have placed key food production systems around the globe at risk, posing a profound challenge to the task of feeding a world population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050.
World Food Day focuses on swinging food prices
World leaders and international celebrities gathered in Rome to mark World Food Day 2011 with a call for greater investment in agriculture, more support for women farmers, and improved transparency in international agricultural commodity markets.
World hunger report 2011 warns that high, volatile prices set to continue
Food price volatility featuring high prices is likely to continue and possibly increase, making poor farmers, consumers and countries more vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity, according to the 2011 edition of The State of Food Security in the World report. The heads of the three Rome-based U.N. food agencies called for concerted international action to address the problem.
Global Soil Partnership for Food Security launched at FAO
FAO spearheads a new effort to safeguard soil resources critical to farmers and food producers.
Horn of Africa—Funding for agricultural recovery lagging, FAO warns
As world governments met in Ethiopia for an international pledging conference aimed at winning more aid for the Horn of Africa, FAO issued a warning that efforts to keep farmers and pastoralists on their feet, prevent the crisis from worsening, and speed progress toward recovery had not yet received adequate support.
Meeting on Horn of Africa calls for tackling root causes of famine
In July and August, FAO convened emergency meetings of governments, U.N. agencies and international organizations to rally support for life saving operations in the Horn of Africa and also stress the need to support farmers and herders in the region to prevent the situation from getting worse.
New fund for livestock biodiversity management launched
A new support fund designed to help developing countries conserve and sustainably use their livestock breeds under the auspices of the internationally-agreed Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources was launched by FAO in July.
In a historic victory of veterinary science, FAO and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) announced that thanks to a decades-long international cooperative effort, the cattle disease known as rinderpest had successfully been eradicated in the wild. The disease had been the bane of farmers for thousands of years, wiping out the farm animals on which their livelihoods depended.
FAO's next director-general selected
FAO Member countries elected José Graziano da Silva of Brazil as the next FAO director-general, starting in January 2012. Current FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf set to step down after 17 years of service.
Drought in Horn of Africa threatens millions
As the situation in East Africa continued to deteriorate, FAO again warned that the number of people facing severe food shortages was set to increase as the impact of drought, along with high food and fuel prices, continued to grip the region.
Putting nature back into agriculture—FAO launches its new Save and Grow initiative
In June, FAO announced a new initiative intended to produce more food for a growing world population in an environmentally sustainable way. The new approach calls for targeting mainly smallholder farmers in developing countries. Helping low-income farm families in developing countries—some 2.5 billion people—economize on cost of production and build healthy agro-ecosystems will enable them to maximize yields and invest the savings in their health and education.
Stemming post-harvest waste crucial to African food security
Grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa could total $4 billion, FAO and the World Bank report.
Cutting food waste to feed the world
Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year—approximately 1.3 billion tonnes—gets lost or wasted, an FAO-commissioned study reveals.
Closing the gender gap in agriculture
In the 2011 edition of its annual State of Food and Agriculture report, FAO focused on the "gender gap" in agriculture. The report's key finding—if women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million.
World food prices hit historic peak
January saw food prices spiking to a historic high, as FAO continued to track trends through its monthly Food Price Index updates.
Fish consumption reaches all-time high
A new edition of FAO's The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report found that while fisheries production reached a new-time high—thanks mainly to the growth of fish farming—the status of important fish stocks in the wild remained a cause for concern.
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Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria was likely responsible for more than 300 elephant deaths in Botswana this year, the country's wildlife department announced on Monday.
How Did Cyanobacteria Poison the Elephants?<p>Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins.</p><p>The cyanobacteria "was growing in pans" or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.</p><p>Reuben said the deaths had "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans."</p><p>"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating," added Reuben.</p><p>Similar elephant deaths have also been recorded in neighboring Zimbabwe.</p>
Climate Change to Blame?<p>Not all cyanobacteria are toxic but scientists say varieties dangerous to humans and animals are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.</p><p>Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p>
Elephant Paradise?<p>Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching. But Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.</p><p>Botswana's government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the deadly bacteria. In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.</p>
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