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New Publications: The best path to food security

Authors of a new study say encouraging smallholder farmers to produce more low-technology crops alongside the development of physical and social infrastructure to make markets more accessible is a strong pathway for improving livelihoods.

Near Zewai, in the maize belt of EthiopiaÂ’s Central Rift Valley, a mother and daughter transport maize grain to market by donkey cart. In this maize-dominated area, lysine inadequacy is a potential risk for weaning infants and young children, who could benefit from quality protein maize. The southern maize belt is a target area for the Nutritious Maize for Ethiopia (NuME) project, funded by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD). Adefris Teklewold/CIMMYT www.cimmyt.org
Near Zewai, in the maize belt of Ethiopia’s Central Rift Valley, a mother and daughter transport maize grain to market by donkey cart. Photo: A.Teklewold/CIMMYT

Traditionally, views on food security tend to fall into one of two extremes. The first praises the idea of high-technology, market-oriented approaches as offering enhanced productivity to improve food security by increasing farmers’ profits. This way of thinking is the basis of many development programs and was the foundation of the green revolution. High-technology approaches have led to the development of high-production hybrid varieties and programs to facilitate animal husbandry.

The second approach hails low-technology approaches as more effective at meeting food needs of rural communities. Experts who believe in low-technology argue that market-oriented approaches are often ineffective at raising food security and reducing poverty, and would rather see programs focus on improving interventions at a local level. Low-technology efforts dependent on local context include the use of integrated pest management and conservation agriculture.

Authors of a new study, which examined the food security of 540 households in northern Ghana, suggests that these two camps do not need to be treated as diametrically opposed. Rather, they say that each has its time and place.

The study findings show that a farmer’s proximity to a market predicts their level of food security, regardless of the type of plant they grow. The study showed that high-producing, high-technology crops do not always help improve food security and reduce poverty due to the increased production costs a farmer incurs by planting improved varieties, this is especially true when farmers have limited access to markets, or markets are far away. Low-technology crops have a strong, positive relationship to food security – regardless of market access.

The authors conclude by saying that encouraging smallholder farmers to produce more low-technology crops alongside the development of physical and social infrastructure to make markets more accessible is a strong pathway for improving livelihoods.

This study adds to the portfolio of publications urging this mental shift, including the popular new book “The Wizard and the Prophet,” which is framed differently but discusses the same issue.

At the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), efforts focus on both of these camps. Many scientists at CIMMYT work on improving livelihoods through breeding efforts, improving productivity, nutritional value, drought tolerance and resistance to pests and diseases, and other scientists and experts work on systems to unlock the agricultural potential to adapt to climate change, sustainably manage land, soil, nutrient and water resources, improve food and nutrition security, and ultimately reduce rural poverty.

Check out the full article: Food security, sweet potato production, and proximity to markets in northern Ghana. 2017. Glennaa, L., Borlub,Y., Gillc, T., Larsond, J., Ricciardie, V., and Adam, R. in Facets and check out other recent publication by CIMMYT staff below:

  1. Cuantificación de antocianinas mediante espectroscopía de infrarrojo cercano y cromatografía líquida en maíces pigmentados. 2017. Hernández Quintero, J., Rosales-Nolasco, A., Molina Macedo, A., Miranda Piliado, A., Willcox, M., Hernández Casillas, J. M.,  Palacios-Rojas, N. In: Revista Fitotecnia Mexicana v. 40, no. 2, p. 219-225.
  2. Temperature-dependent phenology of Plutella xylostella (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae): Simulation and visualization of current and future distributions along the Eastern Afromontane. 2017. Ngowi, B.V., Tonnang, H., Mwangi, E.M., Johansson, T., Ambale, J.,  Ndegwa, P.N., Subramanian, S. In: PLoS One v. 12, no. 3 e0173590, p. 1-24.
  3. Genetic analysis of tropical quality protein maize (Zea maysL.) germplasm. 2017. Njeri, S. G., Makumbi, D., Warburton, M.L., Diallo, A., Jumbo, M.B., Chemining’wa, G.N. In: Euphytica no. 213:261.
  4. Genetic diversity among selected elite CIMMYT maize hybrids in East and Southern Africa. 2017. Masuka, B., Biljon, A., Cairns, J.E., Das, B., Labuschagne, M., MacRobert, J.F.,  Makumbi, D., Magorokosho, C., Zaman-Allah, M., Ogugo, V., Olsen, M., Prasanna, B.M., Amsal Tesfaye Tarekegne, Fentaye Kassa Semagn. In: Crop Breeding & Genetics V. 57 no. 5, p. 2395-2404.
  5. Advances in crop insect modelling methods—Towards a whole system approach. 2017. Tonnang, H., Bisseleua, D.H.B., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Salifu, D., Subramanian, S., Ngowi, B.V., Guimapi, R.Y.A., Bruce, A.Y., Kakmeni, F.M.M., Affognon, H. D., Niassy, S., Landmann, T., Ndjomatchoua, F.T., Pedro, S.A., Johansson, T., Tanga, C. M., Nana, P., Fiaboe, K.M., Mohamed, S.F., Maniania, N.K., Nedorezov, L.V., Ekesi, S., Borgemeister, C. In: Ecological Modelling v. 354 p. 88-103.
  6. Spatial panorama of malaria prevalence in Africa under climate change and interventions scenarios. 2018. Kakmeni, F.M.M., Guimapi, R.Y.A., Ndjomatchoua, F.T., Pedro, S.A.,  Mutunga, J., Tonnang, H. In: International Journal of Health Geographics v. 17, no 2, p. 1-13.
  7. Genetic gains in wheat in Turkey : winter wheat for dryland conditions. 2017. Keser, M., Gummadov, N., Akin, B., Belen, S., Mert, Z., Taner, S., Topal, A., Yazar, S., Morgounov, A.I.,  Sharma, R.C., Ozdemir, F. In: The Crop Journal v. 5, no. 6, p. 533-540.
  8. Comparative performance of ground vs. aerially assessed RGB and multispectral indices for early-growth evaluation of maize performance under phosphorus fertilization. 2017. Gracia-Romero, A., Kefauver, S.C., Vergara, O., Zaman-Allah, M., Prasanna, B.M., Cairns, J.E., Araus, J.L. In: Frontiers in Plant Science v. 8, p. 1-13.
  9. Rapid breeding and varietal replacement are critical to adaptation of cropping systems in the developing world to climate change. 2017. Atlin, G.N., Cairns, J.E., Das, B. In: Global Food Security v. 12, p. 31-37.
  10. The situation of women in the agribusiness sector in Africa. 2017. Adam, R., Osano, P.,  Birika, J., Ndede Amadi, A.A., Bwisa, H. In: Development in Practice v. 27, no. 6, p. 892-898.