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Bioeconomy

Bicycle frames made of bamboo, kerosene made from algae, trainer soles out of rice husks – there seem to be an infinite number of ideas when it comes to replacing fossil, finite raw materials with renewable, seemingly infinite resources. The proponents of the economic approach summarised as the bioeconomy are not only focusing on using renewable raw materials. Rather, they regard their concept of “biologising the economy” as an opportunity to redesign the global system of production and consumption in a manner guaranteeing a secure sustainable base in every respect. This would be a gain for all – human beings and the environment, business and consumers, North and South. It indeed seems an ambitious project. But can the promises made in the context of the bioeconomy really  be kept and, above all, what conditions  have to be fulfilled?

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Health

New infectious animal diseases that affect public health and have the capacity to cross borders will continue to emerge around the globe. These diseases could potentially develop human-to-human transmissibility; thus they incite public fear. A proactive approach to disease risk management that combines foresight, prevention, impact mitigation, early detection, and swift and effective responses is warranted.

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Family farming

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. What makes family farms so important is that they are the main producers of food consumed locally in both developed and developing countries. There are around 525 million family farmers, and they account for well over half of all agricultural production. Thus they play a crucial role in maintaining global food security. To raise awareness of this significance, but also to show governments and society what they have to do to support family farms in performing this important role is the notion behind the United Nations’ proclaiming the International Year of Family Farming.


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Rural development

Inclusive business models can help to address barriers and bottlenecks along agri-based value chains, thus unlocking superior economic value, providing much needed jobs for youth and women and improving rural livelihoods. It is a truism that projects in rural development can reckon with the best prospects for success if the target population is actively involved in them. However, this does not mean that a participatory and integrated approach can be implemented without any problems everywhere.


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Bioenergy

The biogas technology is an alternative energy source for cooking and lighting for the rural farmers. In a lot of ways, the technology is reducing the heavy dependence of rural population on biomass as their main source of energy. In Kenya for instance, wood fuel accounts for about 68 per cent of the total primary energy source. And with only 15 per cent of the Kenyans having access to electricity, this results to heavy depletion of the country's forest reserves and thus serious environmental degradation.

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Transboundary management

Transboundary river basins account for 45 per cent of the Earth’s land surface; 145 countries have to address the issue of how they can best manage the use of the common resource of water. Here, Agenda 21 suggests integrated water resources management. It is hoped that also through the participation of civil society, it will be possible to reduce potential conflicts over water issues. 


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Knowledge sharing

Over the last few decades, the range of agricultural extension and advisory services as well as the notions of which tools and methods are most suitable have seen fundamental changes. The concept of rural advising has long shifted from a linear transfer of technology to a pluralistic system of networks and innovations that brings the various stakeholders together and creates scope for mutual learning and exchange. More and more often, attempts are being made to move from the usual top-down transfer towards a demand-driven approach that actively involves farmers in the whole process – from prioritising and generating extension content to monitoring and evaluating the services. Regardless of the method or tool applied, it is ultimately always up to the farmers to make what they think is the right decision – and to hold responsibility for this decision.

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Renewable Energy

Energy poverty is always a prime component of poverty in developing countries, as the former head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Prof. Klaus Töpfer, never tires of emphasising. However, what form can future energy production take if it is to contribute to poverty reduction but must do so without damaging sensitive ecosystems and accelerating climate change?


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Marketing

The reliable provision of high-value goods is just one aspect of developing value-added chains. It is equally important to create a stable demand. But consumer preferences first have to be established before marketing strategies can be focused.
 

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Agricultural policies

Over the last few decades, notions of agricultural development and hence agricultural policies have changed, depending on the circumstances and ideas happening to determine global politics. Much has proven to be wrong if not even disastrous for rural regions and has caused precisely the opposite of what was originally intended. Our authors give accounts of the lessons learnt and of what nowadays appears to be the right approach – from the angle of development co-operation and the partner countries, research and civil society.


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Angola

The civil war in Angola, which has been raging for decades, has turned what once used to be Africa’s largest agricultural producer into a country that has to import the majority of its food. Now, the government and private investors are making efforts to revitalise the ailing agricultural sector. But do these large-scale projects still leave enough room for small-scale farmers?


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Nutrition

Opinions vary on the issue of two billion people with nutritional deficits. While there are those who advocate biofortification, others are opting for a balanced diet with a sufficient amount of fruit and vegetables.

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Rural women

“Empowering rural women is crucial for ending hunger and poverty,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women, held annually by the international community on the 15th October. What this can look like in practice is demonstrated by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) with the example of the groundnut value chain in West Africa.


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Biodiversity

Many countries in the South can (still) boast an unbelievable level of biological diversity. However, awareness of their value is not always there – despite their great potential for food and nutrition security.


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Resilience

Improving watershed conservation and household food security has been one of the major development challenges in the semi-arid areas of northern Ethiopia. The initial survey by ILRI’s Improving Productivity and Marketing Success project has revealed that physical conservation measures alone do not result in higher farmers’ income. However, the introduction of market-oriented commodity development such as beekeeping, sheep-fattening, and high value crops resulted in farmers’ income rising fivefold from 2005 to 2009.


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Microfinance

Agriculture is the basis for the livelihoods of the rural Congolese population. Yet despite its considerable potential, the sector and its many smallscale producers are barely served by microfinance institutions. The lack of adapted financial products for development of the farming sector is one of the reasons for the country’s continuing dependence on food imports.

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Markets

Rural markets play a key role in generating rural income, especially for small farmers. But these markets are often insufficiently developed and/or small farmers cannot access them. What are the reasons behind this, how can markets be better designed to fulfil their key functions and allow effective participation by small farmers despite global change?

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Food losses

Roughly one third of the food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted – 1.3 billion tons per year. Even if these estimates are subject to numerous uncertainties, one thing is beyond doubt: every kilogramme of food that is produced but not consumed is one too many. For it embodies valuable, wasted resources such as land, water, agricultural inputs and energy, unnecessary CO2 emissions have been released into the atmosphere, farmers have lost not only income but also a valuable part of their nutrition, and consumers pay the increased prices that result. Our authors analyse the dimensions of these losses and the underlying complex web of causes and show how approaches have to be designed against the background of global challenges such as climate change and food security.


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Youth

Young people are the future. And they need employment. For many African countries, creating these employment opportunities is a challenge, and in post-conflict states such as Liberia the hope for a sustainable peace adds an additional dimension to the task.


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Water

Particularly in arid and semi-arid regions, sound water management is crucial to food security for the population and to preserving natural resources. The most sustainable measures are those involving the locals in planning and implementation.


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Marginality

In overcoming hunger and poverty, a special focus must be given to marginalised rural communities –  those people living on the edge of society and having no or limited access to markets or networks to fulfil their basic needs.

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Ecosystem services

Since the 1990s, the concept of payments for ecosystem services has been gaining ground internationally. Today’s projects above all focus on achieving an optimal balance between the conservation of valuable ecosystems and poverty alleviation.

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Responsible investments

Since the 2007/2008 world food price crisis at the latest, the international community has tirelessly reiterated the key role played by the agricultural sector and rural areas in efforts to combat hunger and poverty. The many years of neglect of the sector in international cooperation – and in many of the policies adopted by the affected countries themselves – is now to be remedied as quickly as possible. Large sums have been pledged and, in the best case, have been deployed. But will those for whom they are intended, namely the smallholders and rural poor, profit from all this investment? What shape must investments take in order that they really reach the target group? And which – desired and undesired – side effects are to be expected? Our authors have explored all these questions and more.

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Gender

In numerous publications, the FAO and the World Bank have emphasised that a country’s economic development could improve considerably if women were no longer barred access to important resources. However, despite individual success stories, there is still a long way to go.


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Organic farming

Is organic agriculture, which does not seek output maximisation, able to feed a growing world population, or will it always remain a fine but small niche? Can smallholders in the South achieve stable incomes by converting to organic production? Or is it possibly even grossly negligent to entice them to join the markets – doubtlessly expanding – for organic food as they may never actually be able to enter them due to the high quality standards and entry costs? While our authors do not have simple answers to these questions, they are very instructive.


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Climate change

Agriculture is a major contributing factor to climate change; at the same time, it is one of the areas most affected by climate change, which is jeopardising global food security. Alternative practices are required both to make agriculture more resilient to and reduce its contribution to climate change.


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Agroforestry

Agroforestry systems bear a considerable potential to reconcile income security in rural regions with the conservation of natural resources – provided that a suitable political framework is in place.

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Agriculture

New cultures or cultivation methods can provide higher yields, better income prospects and more sustainable production. However, it is not always easy to convince farmers of the advantages and find first movers.

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Food security

Against the background of a growing world population, finite natural resources and numerous threats such as climate change and political conflict, securing world food supplies remains the challenge that the international community of states faces.


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