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Archive for July 2010

Halving Hunger Through “Business as Unusual”

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet

By Alex Tung

This interview with Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is part of a regular interview series with agriculture and food security experts.

Name: Shenggen Fan

Affiliation : Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Location : Washington, DC

Bio: Shenggen Fan is Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).  He has over 20 years of experience in the field of Agricultural Economics. He is currently an Executive Committee member of the International Association of Agricultural Economists. He has worked in academic and independent research institutions, including Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at the University of Arkansas and the National Agricultural Research in the Netherlands.   Fan received his Ph.D. in applied economics from the University of Minnesota and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Nanjing Agricultural University in China.

Fan’s work in pro-poor development strategies in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East has helped identify how to effectively allocate public spending in reducing poverty and generating agricultural growth.

About “Halving Hunger:”

Currently, 16 percent of the world is undernourished.  In his recently published report, Halving Hunger: Meeting the First Millennium Development Goal through “Business as Unusual”, Fan voiced his concern that efforts to meet the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of undernourished people by 2015 are “moving in the wrong direction.”  Taking projected population growth into account, the number of undernourished needs to fall by an average of 73 million per year in the next five years. Continuing to conduct “business as usual” will clearly not suffice in meeting this goal. As such, Fan outlined five innovative approaches to go about “business as unusual:”

  1. Investing in two core pillars: Agriculture and social protection
  2. Bring in new players
  3. Adopt a country-led and bottom-up approach
  4. Design policies using evidence and experiments
  5. “Walk the Walk”

According to Fan, these “unusual” approaches are already showing success.  The next step is to apply them on a larger scale in new locations to have a real impact on reducing global hunger.

In your report, you called for countries to “Walk the walk.” What are key factors hindering countries’ progress in fulfilling their commitments?  What could be done to encourage them to do so?

Failure to summon political will and resources is one of the key factors that hinders countries from fulfilling their commitments. To ensure the commitment of policymakers, the general media and popular communication sources should provide the public with evidence-based information and knowledge. In addition, strong institutions and governance should be promoted to support the implementation of commitments both by governments and donors. To add accountability and keep progress on track, timely and transparent monitoring of implementation is required.

Regarding “new players in the global food system” or emerging donors – What are essential elements of a fair, “mutually beneficial” relationship?  Is there any danger of partnership become exploitation, and where do you draw the line?  What measures can be taken to ensure foreign investment generate real results that benefit the local community?

A mutually beneficial relationship between emerging donors and recipient countries needs to enhance long-term benefits and minimize any potential harm, particularly to vulnerable groups. The essential elements of such a relationship include: fair competition with local enterprises; strong linkages of investments with domestic markets; engagement of the local workforce; and the adoption of higher environmental and labor standards.

Many emerging donors, such as China, place the bulk of their investment in areas like infrastructure or construction. Considering the goal of eradicating hunger, do you believe aid should continue in this direction? How can emerging donors synchronize their work with providers of more traditional or “mainstream” development aid?

Indeed, emerging donors need to diversify their investments into other areas such as agriculture and rural areas to have an impact on decreasing hunger. Emerging donors should increase transparency and cooperation in aid delivery. Through dialogue with traditional donors, common standards in the aid system should be set. This will help to avoid duplication and create synergies with other donors.

These emerging donors should also ensure that their trade with and investments in developing countries will benefit other developing countries and bring win-win opportunities.

Many of the hungry are located in countries with unstable political environment, where a country-led approach may be difficult to achieve. What is the best course of action for those providing aid to these countries?

Fan: While humanitarian aid is important for countries with unstable political environment, aid for long-term country-led development is also needed. Aid donors should support the building up of country capacity for setting investment priorities and designing investment plans. Increased investment is needed for domestic institutions such as universities and think tanks that can provide evidence-based research for policymaking and strategy formulation.

In your report, you mentioned the success of “positive deviance” in designing sound policy solutions – why do you think this approach works compared with traditional approaches?

Positive deviance in policy making can be achieved through experimentation. This approach increases the success rate of reforms since only successful pilot projects that have been tried, tested, and adjusted are scaled up.

Finally, let’s talk about IFPRI’s work; What role does IFPRI currently play or plan to play in the future in helping donors (countries, private, multilateral agencies) effectively direct their aid and shaping programmatic response in developing countries to meet MDG1?

IFPRI will continue to provide evidence-based policy research as an international public good which is relevant for decision makers at all levels. Our research on public spending, for example, has been and will be guiding investment priorities and strategy formulation for effective poverty and hunger reduction in developing countries. Through its country support strategy programs which are located countries, IFPRI will also continue to help to build their own capacity to drive their own investment plans and strategies.

Alex Tung is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

Thank you for reading! As you may already know, Danielle Nierenberg is traveling across sub-Saharan Africa visiting organizations and projects that provide environmentally sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.  She has already traveled to over 19 countries and visited 130 projects highlighting stories of hope and success in the region. She will be in Gabon next, so stay tuned for more writing, photos and video from her travels.  

If you enjoy reading this diary, we blog daily on  Nourishing the Planet, where you can also sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly blog and travel updates.  Please don’t hesitate to comment on our posts, we check them daily and look forward to an ongoing discussion with you.

You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

To win in 2010, ignore the national polls.

I keep seeing on TV and the internet that the polls say things don’t look good for Democrats in November.  That’s just sad and it’s totally unacceptable.

Here’s what I think is the best way to win, in spite of the polls:

Bust your butt helping to Get Out the Vote in your community.  No one of us can affect what’s happening someplace else so we have to concentrate on what we can accomplish.

I can carve out a piece of my neighborhood and make sure as many Democrats get their ballots in as possible.  My friends (none are immune from my badgering) can do that in their neighborhoods.  If enough of us do that then the Dem candidates take our town, and our county and we exceed expectations for votes at the state level from our county.

If every one of us does that in our own neighborhoods, towns, counties and states, when we poke our heads up on November 1, things will be looking pretty good for the Dems.

For those who haven’t been active in the party before, get connected to your local DNC chapter.  The state party knows as we get close to election day who hasn’t voted yet.  They’ll send it to the local chapter regularly.  On election day, they will send out the “not voted yet” list every hour or two.  In November 2008, we would keep contacting people until they dropped off the list.

There are more of us than there are of them.  If we all voted every election, we would always win.


The Iowa GOP wants to strip President Obama of his citizenship for having accepted an award from a foreign ruler (in this case, The Nobel Prize).

Their basis for this is the first Thirteenth Amendment, which was never ratified by a sufficient number of states.

“If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.”

“How we ended the Great Recession?” (Open Thread)

The article written by Princeton Economics Professor Blinder and Moody Analytics Economist Dr. Mark Zandi lays out the case how effective the stimulus (ARRA) and TARP programs had been in ending the recession and putting this country back on the path of economic recovery. The alternative scenarios proposed by the authors using their models are scary indeed..

Innovation of the Week: For Pest Control, Following Nature’s Lead

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

It might feel counterintuitive, but the more varieties of vegetables, plants, and insects that are included in a garden, the less vulnerable any single crop becomes. Mans Lanting of ETC Foundation India wrote in LEISA Magazine in 2007 that the best method of approaching pest control is to learn to live in harmony with pests instead of trying to fight them. By harnessing the natural state of vegetation and pests, a farmer can create “a system in which no component can easily dominate” and in which soil and crop quality is greatly improved.

In other words, the tendency for traditional farming to give preference to specific crops, to plant in clean rows, to weed out any invasive plants, and to use chemicals to prevent pests and disease is actually creating a need for these pesticides and fertilizers. Soil fertility decreases when crops are harvested, and growing a single crop means that the soil is further stripped of nutrients with each season, requiring the use of inputs that, according to Lanting, lead to an imbalance in plant nutrition and increase vulnerability to pests and diseases. This introduces the need for pesticides, which cost more money and create toxic runoff that can damage the local environment.

The result is a self-perpetuating war against infertile soil and a burgeoning pest population.

Instead, Lanting recommends taking an alternative approach, mimicking the diversity that takes place in nature and creating a garden that relies on natural systems to provide nutrients as well as pest and disease control.

Farm biodiversity can be improved by integrating border crops, trees, and animals. Farmers can also include trap crops-crops that attract insects away from the main crop-which include Indian mustard, sunflower, marigold, soybeans, and French beans, as well as crops that promote insect predators such as pulses for beetles, okra for lace wing, and coriander, sorghum, and maize for trichogramma (small wasps). Visual barriers can be used to help “hide” crops from pests. The diamond backed moth, for example, has to be able to see cabbage in order to find it-and destroy it before a harvest.

Nourishing the Planet saw some of these techniques being implemented at Enaleni Farm, a demonstration farm run by Richard Haigh in Durban, South Africa. Haigh cultivates traditional maize varieties that are resistant to drought, climate change, and disease, and he practices push-pull agriculture, which uses alternating intercropping of plants that repel pests with ones that attract pests in order to increase yields. He also applies animal manure and compost for fertilizer. Haigh likes to say that his farm isn’t organic, but rather an example of how agro-ecological methods can work. (See Valuing What They Already Have)

Using these methods, a farmer will have a garden with at least 10 crops, creating an ecosystem that resembles one found in nature. The soil is more fertile, and the insects and diseases are distracted and preyed upon so that their impact is less concentrated. In a sense, a farmer needs to let the garden get wild in order to protect it from the wild.

To read more about chemical-free farming practices see: In Botswana, Cultivating an Interest in Agriculture and Wildlife Conservation, Malawi’s Real Miracle, Emphasizing Malawi’s Indigenous Vegetables as Crops, and Finding ‘Abundance’ in What is Local.

Thank you for reading! As you may already know, Danielle Nierenberg is traveling across sub-Saharan Africa visiting organizations and projects that provide environmentally sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.  She has already traveled to over 18 countries and visited 130 projects highlighting stories of hope and success in the region. She will be in Benin next, so stay tuned for more writing, photos and video from her travels.  

If you enjoy reading this diary, we blog daily on  Nourishing the Planet, where you can also sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly blog and travel updates.  Please don’t hesitate to comment on our posts, we check them daily and look forward to an ongoing discussion with you. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

All The Unemployed Are Lazy Slobs…Except Me.

I’ve been told I make pretty convincing arguments for stuff. I got most of my PUMA friends to vote for Obama, even if some of them went the teabagging route since.

I was captain of the debate team and wrote the speech that won my ex-girlfriend Student Council President in Senior year of High School.

So I take it upon myself to real hammer home the liberal/progressive messaging. I’ve found it tough as you’ve no doubt heard. Today, I tried taking on unemployment…it ended in a disaster. I thought invoking myself would work. My friends like me. They know I’m not a lazy slob. They know how hard it was for me to find a job after I lost mine at ABC. They know my experience. I would be the perfect reason why unemployment benefits should be extended.  

Welcome to Nourishing the Planet’s Diary

4140237995_2bc5254e4e_m.jpgWelcome to the Nourishing the Planet project diary on Motley Moose. As world hunger numbers top 1 billion, we are reporting from on the ground in sub-Saharan Africa to both inform global efforts to eradicate hunger and raise the profile of these efforts. Meeting with farmers, farmers groups, NGO’s, journalists, funders, and policy makers, the Nourishing the Planet is assessing the state of agricultural innovations-from cropping methods to irrigation technology to agricultural policy-and highlighting the all too often untold stories of hope and success. To read more, previous Motley Moose entries by Nourishing the Planet can be found here and to find out more about the project see our blog. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Questions? Comments? Please contact Worldwatch Senior Researcher Danielle Nierenberg at

Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Part 5

This is the fifth part of an analysis of the swing state Pennsylvania. It focuses on the traditionally Republican region between the Democratic strongholds in the southeast and southwest. The last part can be found here.



Outside the Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia metropolis, Pennsylvania is a very different place. Political analysts often label this area “the T,” while others call it Pennsyltucky.

Popular culture mythologizes Pennsyltucky as red-neck capital – a rural region dominated by NASCAR-loving red-necks. Politically, James Carville compared Pennsyltucky to Alabama without the blacks.

In fact, this stereotype is inaccurate on two accounts.

More below.

Provocative Open Thread: Can Feminism be Right Wing?

Wake up, Moose! Come on. Stop sleeping. Summer’s lease hath all too short a date. It’ll be the mid terms soon. Time to shake that shaggy ass and get up off those dusty haunches. You’ll be needed come November. Just leave that grass alone (not mentioning anyone by name) and get up onto your hoofs!

Where are they now? Ou sont les neiges d’antan? Where are the snows of yesterday? Bushy Blasky and Prickly Allen? Where battling feminists JJC and Michelle? Where imagistic Kysen and empathetic Sricki? Where hot-hob Hubie and down-under Shaun? Where Gadfly and Btchakir and all my friends beside?

Ou sont les neiges d’antan?

OK. I get it. You’re tired. You’re bushwhacked. You fought to elect a democratic president and congress… and waddya get? Trouble. Compromise. Legislation. Grey zones. More legislation. Imperfection. Sell outs. Corporatists. Pragmatists. Idealists on a stick. In other words.. Politics.

To use more ponsy French: plus ca change.

But how to goad the somnolent beast out its slumber? What woke it up before? What made the Moose strut, run, and use its horns like a Spanish bull in frenzy?

Hmmm. I know. I remember the most commented diaries. So here we go. This has got everything that gets you going my Moosey Friends. Feminism. Palin. Sexism. Liberalism. And even a bit of I/P in the mix like a Tequila slammer with nitro, triple sec and glycerine.

Follow me below the fold if you dare.  


Hi folks!

Once more into the harsh wilderland of the Intertoobs we venture forth, in search of sustenance for our young and our weak.  We use cunning and guile to lure the juicy calories into our traps and carry our quarry back to our nest at the end of the day.  Our Shaman cannot survive on her own so we feed her and sit at night around the fire and listen to her strange but stirring invocations.

We don’t understand her