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European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and FAO approve COVID-19 technical support package

16 October 2020, London/Rome – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are stepping up their cooperation with a $ 3 million advisory technical cooperation package to help the agrifood sector in the EBRD’s regions to overcome the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

The package will also help to strengthen the longer-term resilience of the food system, including production, processing and transport. It includes immediate technical and policy assistance as well as strategic inputs to support the transformation of food systems after the crisis. The initiative will look at investment options for urban food, low or zero carbon value chains and more efficient distribution systems, including e-marketing.

Jean-Marc Peterschmitt, EBRD Managing Director, Industry, Commerce and Agribusiness, noted that the initiative complemented the €750 million in new loans the Bank had already committed to the agribusiness sector since the beginning of 2020.

“In addition to our regular support for investments in agribusiness,” he explained, “we have been active in providing short-term liquidity and working capital to the sector under the EBRD’s Solidarity Package. With the assistance provided by FAO, we will also offer technical guidance to local agrifood companies in the economies where we invest, to help them bounce back faster and adapt to post-COVID-19 realities.”

Keeping agrifood chains flowing

The pandemic has changed the way people buy and consume food. Fear of contagion has meant fewer visits to food outlets, with more people turning to e-commerce and online orders.

The collapse in tourism has also put a big dent in the hospitality industry, altering the demand for certain food products.

Agribusinesses and producers need to adapt to these evolving demands. At the same time, they need to adapt to new sanitary standards, labour shortages and logistics constraints.

According to FAO Investment Centre Director Mohamed Manssouri, as companies adjust to COVID-19, digital technologies, the advanced use of big data, food safety, food traceability and a focus on local foods will become more prevalent.

“Our main goal is to make food systems work under COVID-19 and avoid any unnecessary disruptions to agrifood supply chains by enhancing market transparency and ensuring proper dialogue between private players and local authorities. We also need to help the sector accelerate its transformation towards more resilient and sustainable business models, including low or zero carbon options, more inclusive solutions and more diversified sourcing from global supply chains as well as shorter supply chains, when possible.”

Building resilience

FAO and the EBRD are long-standing partners and responded to the coronavirus crisis with new initiatives. For example, they both stepped up their interactions with grain producers and traders in Serbia and Ukraine to establish operational protocols and develop practical recommendations for grain silo operations under COVID-19.

Under the technical support package, the two institutions aim to help Tunisia’s olive oil sector put all COVID-19 requirements in place for the 2020 harvest, while encouraging a shift towards higher value products for export, such as bottled olive oils.

In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, FAO and the EBRD will promote best practices to support the uptake of new technologies for more efficient livestock supply chains. In Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine, fruit and vegetable producers will receive support to enhance COVID-19 safety measures, increase real-time market information and share best practices for finding new marketing outlets, including B2B.

In October 2020, FAO and the EBRD celebrate 23 years of working together towards more sustainable and inclusive food systems, combining much needed expertise and investment capacity.

/Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.

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Dales dairy farm diversifies into ice cream production


FARMERS Fiona and Gary Robinson, who along with Gary’s parents and brother farm in Eldroth, have added another dimension to their dairy farm and have started producing their own ice cream using their farm’s milk.

“We wanted to add another income stream to the farm, whilst making the most of the high quality milk we produce,” said Fiona. “With continued pressure on prices, the choice for local dairy farmers seems to be expand or diversify.”

The dairy herd is all home-bred and grazed outside during the summer. She added: “As with most farmers, we are proud of our milk. The ice cream is an opportunity to capitalise on, and promote these things, whilst also creating a fabulous food product.”

The ice cream project has been developing over the last few years with Fiona and Gary researching recipes, attending ice-cream courses and, obviously, trying quite a lot of ice cream. In 2019, things took a big leap forward when they built a dedicated, ice-cream production room on the farm. With guidance from Craven District Council, they were able to get official dairy status, and Bouncing Cows Ice Cream was born. Fresh milk is now collected straight from the cows, pasteurised, and used to create a traditional ice-cream with only natural ingredients. Real strawberries, vanilla pods, and even gooseberry and mint grown on the farm, make up some of the flavours. Whilst setting up their own ice cream business would normally have been challenging, getting started during a global pandemic makes it even more difficult. A conversation with Andy and Kathy Swinscoe at The Courtyard Dairy, near Austwick set things rolling in a new direction. Unable to open the normally busy café, the Swinscoes hit upon the idea of using contactless vending machines to supply customers with cheese and coffee adding a frozen vending machine perfect for ice cream.

Bouncing Cows Ice Cream is now available from several local businesses, including Cross Leigh Stores in Austwick, The Courtyard Dairy and the Dalesbridge Camping Centre.

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Russia is the world’s fourth largest banana consumer

Russia ranks 4th in the world in terms of banana consumption per person per year, and banana imports to Russia are forecast to continue to grow in the coming years. This was reported by Clinton Machado, head of Maersk’s Banana and Pineapple Shipping Division, at the 17th International Banana Convention.

Latin America remains the main banana exporter. The combined share of all supplies from Latin American countries is 73% of all exports. Most of the bananas grown in Latin America are exported to the United States and Europe.

“In 2019, global banana exports reached 20 million tons, up 5% compared to 2018. The Philippines and Ecuador remain the largest banana exporters in the world,” said Clinton Machado.

The main importing countries of Philippine bananas are China and Japan, but exports to these countries decreased slightly in 2019 due to the opening of trade between China and Cambodia. According to the Ministry of Agriculture of Cambodia, the export of bananas to China during the first five months of 2020 amounted to 121 thousand tons, and by 2021 the country plans to double the volume shipped.

“According to the forecasts of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the world’s banana production will increase to 126 million tons by 2029,” Clinton Machado added.

India is the world’s largest banana producer, but most Indian bananas are intended for the domestic market. According to Clinton Machado, government investment in the industry has allowed Indian producers to export more of their products, and if this initiative is successful, India will be able to supply bananas to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions.


Source: fruitnews.ru

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Plant-based diet can fix food inequality, cut premature deaths says report


Premature deaths in low- and middle-income countries due to unhealthy diets, under-consumption as well as over-consumption are an emerging concern. Exactly 75 years since the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was established — which also marks the World Food Day on October 16 — there may be a need to push for a change in food consumption patterns.

Food consumption patterns vary widely and can best be characterised by massive inequality. The same has been underlined in report Bending the Curve: The Restorative Power of Planet-Based Diets, according to which there is a need to strike a balance in how countries consume their food. And a shift to plant-based diet, the report highlighted, may be the need of the hour. 

The report was published by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on October 9, 2020.

But this dietary shift will impact different countries differently: While some countries will need to reduce their consumption of animal-source foods, others may need to increase them, according to Brent Loken, WWF Global Lead Food Scientist and lead author of the report.

For example, different consumption patterns are observed in the richest and poorest countries, with European countries consuming approximately 600 grams per day more food (1,800 g / day) than African countries (1,200 g / day).

Consumption varies widely: Although under-nutrition and obesity affect almost all countries, the rate of underweight people is up to 10 times higher in the poorest countries as compared to other countries, the report stated. The rate of overweight / obese people is up to five times higher in the richest countries.

Additionally, the shift may also cut premature deaths by 20 per cent, the report added.

The shift will not only improve human health by preventing over-consumption of any food, but will also reverse the biological loss that has occurred till now and improve environmental health, according to the report.

“Some countries may see greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions decrease, while others may see them increase. Some countries will need to radically transform current diets while others may need instead to work to hold on to traditional dietary patterns and resist a transition to a more Western diet,” Loken said.

According to the report:

One in three people either eat too little or too much. The current consumption pattern is not balanced across the globe. But by just shifting the diets to more plant-based will cut down carbon emissions by 30 per cent; wildlife loss by 46 per cent; agriculture land use by 41 per cent and premature deaths by 20 per cent.

A greater shift to plant-based diets can help cut more environmental loss, the report added. According to the report, a sustainable environment and human health can be achieved by following a few lifestyle changes that include:

  • Eating more sustainable food
  • Eating more plant-based food and less animal-based food
  • Eating healthy and locally grown and minimally processed food
  • Eating lots of diverse food rather than consuming just one kind

The report offered a detailed analysis of food consumption patterns in 147 countries and six regions and the national dietary guidelines (NDGs) across 75 countries. For each country and region, the impacts of diets were assessed on various environmental and health indicators.

The dietary patterns assessed were:

  • Current diet: Average diet currently consumed by the citizens of a country
  • National dietary guidelines: Dietary guidelines put forward by the government department concerned of each country
  • Flexitarian: Plant-based, but allows for moderate animal-source food consumption, including meat.
  • Pescatarian: Replacing meat with two-thirds fish and seafood and one-third fruit and vegetables.
  • Vegetarian: Replacing meat with two-thirds legumes and one-third fruit and vegetables.
  • Vegan: Replacing all animal-source foods with two-thirds legumes and one-third fruit and vegetables.

The WWF also launched a new platform known as Planet-Based Diets Impact & Action Calculator. One can calculate their consumption and find out the impact caused by his / her diet on the environment.

The platform also shows national level impacts. This will help people living anywhere in the world to make a conscious decision by finding out if their diet is good for them as well as their environment.

The platform has a unique tool that allows users to customise diets based on calorie intakes of 13 different food groups. 

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GHI: Hunger at serious level in Bangladesh


People waiting for food aid at Motijheel area of Dhaka on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh ranks 75th in the 2020 Global Hunger Index, and is considered highly vulnerable to a worsening of food and nutrition insecurity caused by the overlapping health, economic, and environmental crises this year

Bangladesh is among the 40 countries that are considered to have “serious” hunger levels, according to the 2020 Global Hunger Index (GHI).

Bangladesh has ranked 75th among 107 countries in the 2020 GHI, with a score of 20.4, rising from last year’s rank of No 88.

Launched on Friday, the 2020 GHI has also identified 11 countries with “alarming” levels of hunger. 

The GHI is an annual global report jointly published by Concern Worldwide and its partner Welthungerhilfe.

This year’s GHI launch takes place against the backdrop of a global pandemic, which threatens 13 years of progress in the fight against hunger.

The Global Hunger Index report categorizes countries into moderate, serious, or alarming hunger levels. 

In the virtual launch marking World Food Day, the keynote address was delivered by Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO Health Emergencies Program. 

This was followed by a discussion by a panel of global experts, including Hasina Rahman, assistant country director of Concern Worldwide, Bangladesh; Dr Robyn Alders, senior consulting fellow, Chatham House Centre for Universal Health; and Dr Sinead Walsh, deputy director general, Irish Aid.

Hasina Rahman said: “In Bangladesh, we are now looking at a possible doubling of the country’s poverty rate this year for the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Furthermore, Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to a worsening of food and nutrition insecurity caused by the overlapping health, economic, and environmental crises of 2020.

“At this crucial moment, we must act together to reshape our food systems as fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly in order to address the current crises, prevent other health and food crises from occurring, and chart a path to Zero Hunger by 2030,” she stressed in the panel discussion.

The official data used in calculating the 2020 rankings does not yet reflect the damaging impact which Covid-19 has had on countries.

“Even before Covid-19, the world was already off track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. That negative trajectory has been forcefully exacerbated by the events of this year and the economic downturn is affecting every corner of the world,” Concern Worldwide Chief Executive Dominic MacSorley said. 

“The phenomenal impact of these multiple crises – combined with the ongoing effects of climate change and conflict – is rapidly escalating food and nutrition insecurity for millions, especially for those who were already most vulnerable,” he added.

Experts argued in the GHI report launch that only by taking both an integrated and holistic approach to global and environmental health will it be possible to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.

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‘Eat less meat to help the climate’ doesn’t apply to everyone – here’s why | DW | 16.10.2020

Environmental researchers have long touted the benefits of eating less meat and animal products, not only to improve our health but also the health of the planet.

Direct and indirect emissions from the livestock sector — which includes cows as well as goats, sheep, pigs and poultry — are responsible for the equivalent of 7.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide every year, roughly 14.5% of all human-caused emissions. 

That’s according to estimates from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which points out that about 65% of the sector’s emissions can be linked to cattle in the form of beef and dairy production. 

But it’s not just emissions that are a problem for the planet: Animal husbandry dominates about three-quarters of agricultural land, pollutes water and drives deforestation, particularly in the Amazon rainforest.

Why billions of people still need meat

It certainly wouldn’t hurt the Western world to reduce its meat consumption — Europeans, for example, consume twice as much meat as the global average and roughly three times as much dairy. But it’s a very different story for the global south. 

More than 1.5 billion people around the world can’t afford a diet that meets the required levels of essential nutrients, according to FAO estimates, and animals provide a vital source of protein in the form of milk, meat and eggs.

“You can find nutritious foods in many things — pulses, fruits and vegetables. But the livestock sector is key, and dairy is key,” Carin Smaller, director of agriculture, trade and investment at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), told DW. 

A major report on world hunger and climate change released this week by Ceres2030, a collaboration between the IISD, the International Food Research Policy Institute (IFPRI) and Cornell University in the US, highlighted the connection between livestock, livelihood and land.

“In these areas where we see significant hunger, livestock are integrated into the farm production: the cow creates manure, which fertilizes the maize, which both the humans and the livestock eat. Livestock is a key piece of maintaining this system,” said Isabelle Baltenweck of the International Livestock Research Institute, a contributor to the Ceres2030 report. 

The report made the point that cereals such as rice and maize have helped many countries to meet minimum calorie needs, but said the focus on these crops has “discouraged the production of a diversity of cultivated and non-cultivated foods, including animal-sourced foods, that provided better nutritional outcomes.”

Read more: Climate finance hits hurdle in greening meat and dairy

Angeline Kadiki, a sorghum farmer, inspects her small grains crop thriving in the dry conditions in the Mutoko rural area of Zimbabwe

Cereals such as rice (above), maize and sorghum (below) have helped alleviate hunger, but aren’t always enough

Livestock’s role in ending hunger

Livestock also allow millions of farm workers, pastoralists and smallholders with limited access to land to make a living, said Baltenweck. This critical support, along with the recognized nutritional benefits, make animals an important part of the efforts to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. 

The Global Hunger Index revealed this week that some 690 million people around the world faced chronic hunger in 2019 — that’s more than twice the population of the United States. “In the decade to come economic growth will help reduce poverty and hunger around the world, but it won’t be enough, especially for farmers,” said David Laborde, a senior research fellow with the IFPRI.

If nothing is done to address the issue, the FAO has projected that the number of people suffering from extreme hunger could grow to 840 million over the next 10 years. The problem is expected to be severely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences, largely in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

$330 billion needed to ‘end hunger’ by 2030

The Ceres2030 project, an in-depth survey of more than 100,000 agricultural reports and articles published in the last 20 years, found that it would take an additional $330 billion (€282 billion) to reach the UN sustainable development goal “to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.” 

According to the report, for this goal to be reached international donors would need to provide an additional $14 billion per year, with low- and middle-income countries making up the difference with an annual $19 billion. 

Infographic showing the Global Hunger Index for 2020

The money would go toward improving food storage, transport and processing systems. It would also increase training, networking and financial support for farmers, especially for young people and women who are often excluded. Women, who make up about two-thirds of livestock keepers in low- and middle-income countries, are also more likely to experience food insecurity.

At the farm level, these funds would also go toward developing climate-friendly solutions like more resilient crops and green farming technology to help the livestock sector curb its agricultural emissions.

“There’s no shortage of ideas and innovation and technologies, but they’re not being adopted and used by the poorest,” said Smaller. She gave the example of dairy yields in some parts of Africa, which can be up to 20 times below what they are in developed countries.

“If we can increase the productivity of those cows, not only do we provide more dairy products to people living in these low-income countries and where there are high levels of hunger, but we also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each liter of milk,” she said.

With more productive cattle, herd size could be limited — as could the levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas also produced by cattle that is responsible for nearly half of all livestock emissions.

Some other sustainable practices include:

  • Making use of crop residues (including stems, leaves, husks, roots and seeds) to feed animals, reducing the need for purchased feed
  • Managing grazing lands to increase the quality of vegetation that animals eat, and at the same creating potential carbon sinks
  • Improving animal health through feed supplements and veterinary care, increasing livestock productivity
  • Introducing energy-efficient technologies like anaerobic digesters, which break down manure into biogas, a source of renewable energy

Looking for ‘a global green agricultural revolution’

Although donations this week have reached a total of $300 million from the governments of Spain, Norway, Australia and Germany and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — the latter two also co-funded the Ceres2030 project — calls are growing louder for more to be done.

German Development Minister Gerd Müller, for example, pointed out that the planet has the potential to feed 10 billion people and that a “global green agricultural revolution” akin to the Fridays for Future climate movement would be needed. He called for more support — both financial and political — from global players like China, the US, the European Union and the African Union.

Smaller, too, called for more. 

“If people are serious about achieving this goal of ending hunger, protecting the climate and improving the incomes of the world’s poorest producers, then everybody’s going to need to contribute,” said Smaller. “It’s definitely not going to happen just with the traditional G-7 donors.”

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FAO helps Govt fight locust outbreak

THE United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is assisting the government to fight the African migratory and red locusts that have invaded various parts of the Zambezi region.

In a statement released last week, FAO Namibia’s communications associate, Phillipus Tobias, said they have stepped in to help the government deploy more spraying teams and by making available more bio-pesticides as well as strengthening the government’s surveillance and monitoring systems.

At the moment, agricultural extension officers are battling the spread of locusts, following reports of a second wave of swarms in Zambezi and surrounding regions since June 2020.

According to Tobias, the dense locust swarms are mostly in the flood-prone areas of Kabbe North and South as well as Katima Rural, and are destroying pastures and could threaten crops during the upcoming summer planting season.

The teams deployed to spray the locusts consist of around 410 extension officers from different regions of the country.

One of these teams recently undertook a spraying mission to Sanzo and Kasaya cattle posts near the Zambezi River in the Kabbe South constituency.

Kasaya area is heavily affected by swarms of locusts that can easily be seen from a distance and the team deployed there used a vehicle-mounted sprayer to cover three to five hectares in about 10 minutes. Agricultural extension officer at Kongola in Zambezi region Dorthea Shiimi said she believes that the use of an environmentally friendly pesticide is the best option to eradicate the locusts.

Gift Kamupingene, FAO Namibia national project coordinator said the main challenge the government faces in controlling the outbreak is the lack of manpower, but he expressed optimism that the fight will be won.

He said FAO Namibia will continue complementing government efforts to bring the situation under control and will strengthen capacities at both national and local levels for better preparedness in future.

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Filipino farmers demand support as food, hunger crisis surge amid pandemic


IN the rural areas of the Philippines, the coronavirus pandemic coincides with the general retreat of agriculture.

Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson of farmers’ group Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan), said the continuing trade liberalization of agriculture and the recent passage of the Rice Tarrification Law resulted in huge losses among rice farmers, vegetable and backyard livestock growers while small coconut farmers have been reeling from the low price of copra for some time now.

“The lockdowns further worsened the difficulty of rural communities as they were abruptly cut off from their markets,” he said.

To mark this year’s World Food Day celebration on October 16, Geronimo called on the government for “reflection and action to protect the human right to food of Filipinos and to support local food production.”

“The inability of the country to feed its own citizens amidst the pandemic manifested in hunger situation that continues to worsen,” said Geronimo, citing the latest survey by the Social Weather Stations.

According to the new survey, 20.9 percent of Filipinos experienced involuntary hunger at least once, 15.8 percent of whom were categorized as having experienced moderate hunger, while 5.1 percent were described as going through severe hunger.

The survey also showed a trend of rising hunger. For July, hunger was up 4.2 points from 16.7 percent in May and a total of 12.1 points from 8.8. in December 2019.

As the Philippines recorded 336,926 coronavirus infections, which is the highest in Southeast Asia, the country’s economic performance is also seen as among the worst in the Southeast Asian region.

“In a moment like this, it is more important than ever to recognize the need to support our food heroes – farmers and workers throughout the food system – who are making sure that food makes its way from farm to fork even amid disruptions as unprecedented as the current Covid-19 crisis,” added the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

“World Food Day should, as a result, be considered as an opportunity to call for global cooperation and solidarity to make sure the threats Covid-19 is posing to food security and agricultural livelihoods are confronted and the most vulnerable are able to get back on their feet,” it said.

Geronimo said the Philippine government “has not acknowledged that the uncertainty of livelihoods and the fear of hunger are the main reasons the lockdown failed to stop people from going around and ignore the call to ‘stay at home.’”

“Despite the importance of food access and the role that food producers’ play in this situation, food production and distribution are never really given serious attention in the government’s Covid-19 response,” he said.

“In fact, rice importation through the Rice Tarrification Law continued in the same manner that imported pork, poultry and other agricultural products continued,” added Geronimo.

According to Geronimo, the government should push for the strengthening of the capacity of small food producers to feed the country.

“This entails the localization of food system where production is reclaimed by small-scale farmer-producers through asset reforms and redirection of food production toward satisfying the food needs of local communities and poor consumers,” he said in a statement.

The farmers’ group also aired their other demands to ensure food security in the country.

These include the strengthening of support to local food production by providing comprehensive and subsidized farming support, improving sustainable farming technologies and enabling market access; fast-tracking agrarian reform in both public and private lands for farmer-tillers to have control over lands and make the land more productive; ensuring the non-reversal of agrarian reform through exemptions, exclusions and conversions; and reviewing real estate developments especially on irrigated rice lands as this further worsens food insecurity.

Katarungan also urged the government to review tourism projects in areas where food production, instead of tourism, is more attuned to the needs of local people; pass the coconut levy trust fund bill and use the coco levy fund to improve the living conditions of coconut farmers especially in this period of pandemic; and repeal the rice tarrification law, saying it “has proven to be anti-farmer and inimical to the need for strengthening local food production.” (SunStar Philippines)

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NSS offers online skill development plan | Kochi News – Times of India

KOCHI: To ensure skill development and entrepreneurship among students and help them spend time at home during the pandemic productively, National Service Scheme (NSS) of vocational higher secondary education (VHSE) in association with the NSS of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) launched a new online skill-development programme ‘Jeevanam Jeevadhanam’ on Thursday.
The project aims to give short online certification training courses in around 12 sectors related to livestock rearing which could be developed as an entrepreneurship or livelihood using the infrastructure available at home.
These include scientific method of raising cows and goats, how to run a profitable poultry, pig or rabbit farm, and making and selling milk, meat and egg products at home. The training sessions are taken by the faculty of KVASU with the support of entrepreneurship development directorate at the varsity. Nearly 2,000 VSHE students across the state have registered for the week-long training courses.
On Thursday, the inaugural session was on rearing goats and how to make it a profitable livelihood. The session was taken by Dr A Prasad, assistant professor, veterinary college Mannoothy. In the coming days, there will be sessions on other sectors.
“Even though the primary aim of the programme is to keep the students engaged during the pandemic, it serves a larger purpose of nurturing the entrepreneurship skill in them. Moreover, it could be a livelihood for the family too. Out of nearly 600 students who have attended the session on Thursday, 116 have shown interest to start goat-rearing at their house. So we will arrange a separate session for them to help them buy goats through various projects at LSG level,” said P Ranjith, state programme coordinator, NSS-VHSE.
The sessions are taken using videos and presentations from various farmers from the field. “However, we advise students to not look at it in the commercial level. It is just a beginning step for them to learn the skills at home and gradually develop it into an entrepreneurship,” Ranjith said.

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Why we need small fish

UN International Sustainability Goal 2 states that hunger must be banished from the world by 2030, and that all people must have access to sufficient safe and nutritious food sources all year round. ‘When it comes to food security, we often tend to look at the global food supply as a whole’, Bavinck explains. ‘However, it’s just as important to examine whether that food is accessible – that is, affordable and available – and whether the quality is high enough.’

These three pillars of food security – availability, accessibility and quality – were the focus areas of the Fish4Food project sponsored by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). As part of the project, Bavinck and his research team investigated the small-fish food chain, which constitutes an important food source for poorer consumers in cities in the southern hemisphere. What are the strengths of the chain, and where are the weak links?

Bavinck and his team discovered that the small-fish food chain is often surprisingly robust, but is also under threat from several developments. These include dwindling fish populations in certain coastal areas, the greater economic value of larger fish species and farmed fish, and the use of chemical preservatives. ‘But there are opportunities here, let’s not waste them.’

Research in India and Ghana

Fish4Food looked at the small-fish food chain in various coastal and inland cities in India and Ghana. Both countries have a strong culture of fish consumption, and many city-dwellers (particularly the less wealthy) eat many types of small fish. Via a large survey, the research team collected consumption data and spoke to people about the entire food chain, from fishers to consumers, and specifically also to female traders. Lastly, the quality of the fish was examined in collaboration with three other international research projects, including IKAN-F3 (also run by researchers at the University of Amsterdam and focusing on Indonesia).

The chain is functioning efficiently, but is under threat

The results in a nutshell:

  • The small-fish supply chain is surprisingly efficient: In all the locations studied by Fish4Food, the supply chain worked remarkably well. Small fish was affordable and available in large quantities, despite the fluctuations in seasonal supply and fishers’ ability to head out to sea. ‘This is a striking find, since these chains involve thousands of people and have many vulnerable links.’
  • The role of female traders: In Ghana, the entire processing and trading chain turned out to be run primarily by female traders, even across large distances. This contrasts with India, where women play a far more limited role, and only in local commerce. External developments will therefore have different effects on the incomes of female traders in India and Ghana.
  • Dwindling fish populations: In certain waters, such as those along the West-African coast, fish populations have dwindled and in some cases disappeared. However the Ghanaian supply chain has remained intact due to the arrival of international companies (including one Dutch business), whose large-scale industrial ships can manage larger catches further from the coast. ‘One positive aspect is that large international companies can help maintain the supply of affordable fish. The fact that local fishers are catching less and less is still worrying, however’ Bavinck warns. In India, national trade companies have risen in importance. ‘This will influence the income of local female traders, as these companies are controlling a larger share of the market.’
  • Poor quality: ‘We were shocked at the quality of the fish’, Bavinck says. ‘Our partners in Ghana and India detected widespread use of formalin as well as other chemicals. Better processing methods and more robust food-security policy would allow massive improvements to be made’, Bavinck stresses. ‘Cheap test kits allowing market superintendents to measure chemical additives would be of great value.’

Fish on the political agenda

Small fish offer big opportunities: they reproduce quickly and are in plentiful supply, are very nutritious, and the supply chain is surprisingly effective. However, Bavinck believes there is still too little attention devoted to small fish on the international agenda. ‘Globally, people focus mainly on the so-called high-end fish that are farmed and shipped primarily to wealthy consumers, in Europe and elsewhere. Small fish are of less commercial interest, except in the fish meal industry. Fish meal made from wild fish is an important ingredient in the fish-food used in farming. Since the fish meal industry has expanded considerably in recent decades, one major source of concern is its potentially negative impact on the food security of poorer communities’, Bavinck explains.

Bavinck also points out the importance of small fish and other marine food sources within a broader oceanic context. ‘Oceans are being used for an increasingly wider variety of activities – take seabed mining or power generation, for example. But we mustn’t forget that the oceans are an important source of food, and calculations show that oceans could potentially supply much more food than they already do. This is important in connection with the predicted increase of human populations.’

In conjunction with other international partners, Fish4Food is working to place small fish more firmly on the political agenda. ‘Let’s seize the opportunities that are there.’ In any case, a two-day seminar scheduled for February 2021 at the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) will be dedicated to the topic. Fish4Food will also be organising more debates on small fish in India and Ghana.

Fish4Food (Fish for security in city regions of India and Ghana: an interregional innovation project) was launched in 2016 and receives funding from the NWO WOTRO programme. The project is coordinated by Prof. Maarten Bavinck and Dr Joeri Scholtens at the University of Amsterdam.

IKAN-F3 (Innovative Knowledge About Networks – Fish For Food) was launched in 2018 and will run until 2021. It is also funded by the NWO WOTRO programme, and analyses the supply chain for small fish in Indonesia. The project is run by Dr Gerben Nooteboom and Prof. Maarten Bavinck, University of Amsterdam.

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