A comprehensive societal change is in progress in many rural regions throughout the world. More and more people are moving to the cities, the role of agriculture is diminishing, while the manufacturing and service sectors are increasingly determining economic development. These developments, which shaped the fortunes of the now highly industrialised countries in the nineteenth century and those of the middle-income countries in the late twentieth century, are now confronting many countries of the developing world with major challenges. How can they make this transformation process not only effective and efficient, but also socially equitable and sustainable?
Until the late sixties, Tanzania was the world’s leader in sisal production. But the advent of synthetic fibres brought about a collapse of the industry that it took very long to recover from. Now cultivation and processing of this natural fibre, which is both environmentally friendly and used in a wide variety of areas, is experiencing a new upswing in northern Tanzania.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rice self-sufficiency is an important political objective for many Asian countries. However, factors such as non-sustainable production methods, the rush for farmland or a lack of young peasants to look after the paddies can easily jeopardise self-sufficiency.
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.
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?
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. It could also provide new sources of income for farmers.
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.
The cooperative model has been sidelined in development cooperation for many years – for various reasons. On the one hand, cooperatives have been completely overestimated as an instrument and expected to solve a whole bunch of problems at one stroke. On the other hand, they were long misused for state purposes and have therefore been regarded with mistrust. The fact that the United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives is a good opportunity to take a closer look at this special form of enterprise. We wish to give you an idea of the range of manifestations that the cooperative model has taken worldwide and of the role that cooperatives can play in overcoming rural poverty.
The recent Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa claimed the lives of 11,300 people. In all, 25,601 persons were infected. But these are only the official numbers for the three countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – the true number of victims is thought to be considerably higher. How could the crisis assume such dramatic proportions? The authors give accounts of their analyses on Ebola outbreak and response, but also of their personal experiences during their work in the countries concerned.
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.
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.
In the debate about food security and poverty alleviation the fishery sector is mostly mentioned only in passing, if at all, even though at least one billion people depend on fish as the main source of animal food and at least one-tenth of the world population depend for their livelihood on fisheries and aquaculture. The World Bank and FAO estimate that demand for aquatic food will continue to rise. But around one-third of all fish populations are already overfished. Large-scale illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries worsen the problem, and also contribute to loss of revenues, employment and fish supplies for local populations. Numerous other factors, such as environmental pollution, littering and increasing extraction of raw materials from the seabed, and also natural disasters and climate change have an impact on the state of the oceans. How can we succeed in using aquatic resources sustainably while at the same time ensuring that inequalities in access to them are eliminated so that small-scale fishers and aquaculture communities also benefit from the value chains? Our authors present the challenges, lessons learned and approaches to solutions from the point of view of development cooperation, civil society and science.
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.
Just three years after the 2007/2008 food price crisis, prices for staple foods and agricultural commodities are on the rise again. There is cause for concern about food security. The authors in this issue of Rural 21 have explored the following questions: What are the reasons for the new price increases? How are affected countries and the international community of states responding to the situation? How can future food (price) crises be prevented?
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.
Fragility is a huge challenge for rural development – and a very multifaceted one. Fragile states are lagging especially far behind in achieving the MDGs. In what ways do fragile states inhibit the development of rural regions, and how can these inhibitions be countered? What role can civil society play in overcoming internal or cross-border conflicts?
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.
Kashmiri saffron, famous for its uniqueness in the world, is facing multiple challenges. The government is supporting the farmers with a range of measures. It recently launched a weather-based crop insurance scheme, which the farmers had long been calling for. However, it is unable to do anything about the deterioration in prices brought about by fake products.
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.
Land is probably the most valuable asset that rural communities possess in the developing world. In this section, we present examples of how conflicts over land tenure and access to land can be solved against the background of different legal frameworks.
Despite years of persistent efforts it has so far proved difficult to establish sustainable systems of land management in Paraguay’s small farmer sector. The reasons for this are shown in a study by the Centre for Rural Development (SLE).