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Use of fertilizer can double cocoa production - IDH (2012)

More than 300 guests from the cocoa industry, governments, NGOs, academia, and research institutes from 28 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe, were at this meeting to address some of the most pressing issues in cocoa sustainability. The fertilizer study was done in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. In these countries, entire regions, such as the famous cocoa belt of Soubre, are known to suffer from tree mortality and decline in yields. Fertilizer can be one of the solutions for the problems cocoa farmers and companies face. Until now little was known about fertilizer use for cocoa. Eg. How and to what extent does fertilizer affect cocoa farms? How much does it cost, and which returns on investment can be expected? This study shows that already after one year of application the foliage on degraded farms is widely rebuilt. “You can no longer see the sky” farmers say. We see a clear impact on production,despite significant variability in productivity explained by rainfall and the degree of maintenance. A rough calculation also shows that the estimated potential market for fertilizer is over 1 million tons. This represents a yearly revenue of at least US $ 500 million to the fertilizer in­dustry and credit institutions.

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Is Globalization Reducing Absolute Poverty? - Bergh & Nilsson (2014) - World Development

Is Globalization Reducing Absolute Poverty? - Bergh & Nilsson (2014) - World Development | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Using data from 114 countries (1983–2007), we examine the relationship between globalization and World Bank absolute poverty estimates. We find a significant negative correlation between globalization and poverty, robust to several econometric specifications... Introducing two instruments for globalization we also show that results are robust to correction for potential endogeneity... In particular information flows and more liberal trade restrictions robustly correlate with lower absolute poverty.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2014.04.007

 

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Climate change, agriculture and economic effects on different regions of Brazil - de Souza & de Moraesa (2014) - Env Dev Econ

Climate change, agriculture and economic effects on different regions of Brazil - de Souza & de Moraesa (2014) - Env Dev Econ | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

In this paper we assess the potential economic effects of climate change on Brazilian agriculture scenarios in different regions in a general equilibrium framework... Two different climate change impact scenarios are simulated...


Climate change impacts on Brazilian agriculture would have a relatively small economic effect on the Brazilian economy in aggregate terms, but with severe consequences at the regional level, making a strong case for losses that would be concentrated in the poorest regions and for the poorest workers and households in those regions.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1355770X14000126

 

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Valuing the impact of trade on local blue water - Biewald &al (2014) - Ecol Econ

Valuing the impact of trade on local blue water - Biewald &al (2014) - Ecol Econ | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

International trade of agricultural goods impacts local water scarcity. By quantifying the effect of trade on crop production on grid-cell level and combining it with cell- and crop-specific virtual water contents, we are able to determine green and blue water consumption and savings. Connecting the information on trade-related blue water usage to water shadow prices gives us the possibility to value the impact of international food crop trade on local blue water resources...

 

Our study found that globally, the international trade of food crops saves blue water worth 2.4 billion US$. This net saving occurs despite the fact that Europe exports virtual blue water in food crops worth 3.1 billion US$. Countries in the Middle East and South Asia profit from trade by importing water intensive crops, countries in Southern Europe on the other hand export water intensive agricultural goods from water scarce sites, deteriorating local water scarcity.

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.02.003

 

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Economic growth no cure for child undernutrition - Harvard (2014)

Economic growth no cure for child undernutrition - Harvard (2014) | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

A large study of child growth patterns in 36 developing countries finds that, contrary to widely held beliefs, economic growth has little to no effect on the nutritional status of the world’s poorest children. The study... found that economic growth was associated with small or no declines in stunting, underweight, and wasting — all signs of undernutrition...

 

These findings... emphasize that focusing on improving economic growth does not necessarily translate to child health gains... “Our study does not imply that economic development is not important in a general sense but cautions policymakers about relying solely on the trickle-down effects of economic growth on child nutrition”... 

 

The researchers analyzed data from nationally representative samples of children under three years of age taken from 121 Demographic and Health surveys done in 36 low- and middle-income countries between 1990 and 2011. They measured the effect of changes in per-head gross domestic product (GDP) on changes in stunting, underweight, and wasting. The findings showed no link between economic growth and undernutrition rates at a country level... Notably, no link was observed between economic growth and undernutrition in children from the poorest households who were at greatest risk.

 

Several explanations could account for the weak association between economic growth and reductions in child undernutrition... Growth in incomes could be unequally distributed, with poor people excluded from the benefits. And in households where there was increased prosperity, money might not necessarily be spent in ways that enhance the nutritional status of children. Improvements in public services that benefit health, such as vaccinations or clean water, may also lag behind growth in incomes. 

 

While direct investments in interventions that matter for child nutrition appear to be critical, the need for a more systematic and rigorous analysis of what specific health-related interventions would yield the greatest return remains to be conducted, say the authors... 

 

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/economic-growth-no-cure-for-child-undernutrition/

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(14)70025-7

 

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Projecting future crop productivity for global economic modeling - Müller & Robertson (2013) - Agricultural Economics

Projecting future crop productivity for global economic modeling - Müller & Robertson (2013) - Agricultural Economics | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Assessments of climate change impacts on agricultural markets and land-use patterns rely on quantification of climate change impacts on the spatial patterns of land productivity. We supply a set of climate impact scenarios on agricultural land productivity derived from two climate models and two biophysical crop growth models to account for some of the uncertainty inherent in climate and impact models. Aggregation in space and time leads to information losses that can determine climate change impacts on agricultural markets and land-use patterns because often aggregation is across steep gradients from low to high impacts or from increases to decreases.

 

The four climate change impact scenarios supplied here were designed to represent the most significant impacts (high emission scenario only, assumed ineffectiveness of carbon dioxide fertilization on agricultural yields, no adjustments in management) but are consistent with the assumption that changes in agricultural practices are covered in the economic models. Globally, production of individual crops decrease by 10–38% under these climate change scenarios, with large uncertainties in spatial patterns that are determined by both the uncertainty in climate projections and the choice of impact model. This uncertainty in climate impact on crop productivity needs to be considered by economic assessments of climate change.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/agec.12088

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Education – not fertility – key for economic development - IIASA (2013)

Education – not fertility – key for economic development - IIASA (2013) | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

A new study... shows that improvements in education levels around the world have been key drivers of economic growth in developing countries that has previously been attributed to declines in fertility rates... 

 

Many demographers argue that as a consequence of declining birth rates the proportion of children in the population declines and this results in a “demographic window of opportunity,” where a larger proportion of people is of working age.

 

This observation—known as the demographic dividend—was widely assumed to be a direct linkage, and had led to policy prescriptions aimed at decreasing fertility. But... study shows that such a paradigm may be flawed. Reducing fertility is not enough... 

 

In countries where the fertility rate had declined but education levels did not increase, the economic development was not as pronounced as in countries where education levels also rose... 

 

http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/news/20131204-DemographyLutz.en.html

Original article:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13524-013-0245-x

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12 Doctoral Researchers in Agricultural / Development Economics - University of Göttingen (2013)

The University of Göttingen has position openings for 12 Doctoral Researchers in Agricultural / Development Economics to join the Research Training Group... “Transformation of Global Agri-Food Systems”... The positions are available from April 2014. Contracts will initially be for one year, with renewal option for a total of up to three years. The salary is in accordance with the German public service...

The GlobalFood RTG carries out research on restructuring agricultural markets, including the growing role of international food standards, changing consumer preferences, and the rapid expansion of supermarkets. Projects analyze the implications for supply chain governance, international trade flows, market efficiency, and impacts on rural poverty, food security, and nutrition in developing countries. In terms of methodologies, innovative econometric and experimental economics approaches are used. The research and training activities are carried out in cooperation with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC. The doctoral researcher positions are based in Göttingen (Germany), but will require international travel for data collection and exchange with collaborators...

Screening of applications will begin on 15 December 2013 and will end when the positions are filled... 

 

http://www.uni-goettingen.de/de/191980.html

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12 Doktoraden werden in Göttingen gesucht

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Did the commodity price spike increase rural poverty? Evidence from a long-run panel in Bangladesh - Balagtas &al (2013) - Ag Econ

Did the commodity price spike increase rural poverty? Evidence from a long-run panel in Bangladesh - Balagtas &al (2013) - Ag Econ | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

We assess the effects of the dramatic rise in agricultural commodity prices during 2007–2008 on income dynamics and poverty among rural households in Bangladesh. A unique panel data set allows us to put the effects of recent events in the context of long-run trends in income and poverty.


We use data from a nationally representative longitudinal survey of rural households in Bangladesh collected in four waves in 1988, 2000, 2004, and 2008. Nargis and Hossain... analysed income dynamics and poverty incidence for the first three waves, finding a declining trend in both the incidence and severity of poverty, aided in particular by human capital development and off-farm employment opportunities.


We update and extend the analysis to include data collected in 2008, at the height of a spike in agricultural prices. We find that the price of a balanced food basket increased by more than 50% during 2000–2008, while household income rose only 15%. As a result the incidence and severity of rural poverty in Bangladesh sunk to pre-2000 levels during 2004–2008. Thus, the price spikes in 2007–2008 helped push an additional 13 million people into poverty in rural Bangladesh.


Moreover, we find that the determinants of poverty have not been time-invariant. In particular, agricultural production, which had previously been associated with a higher incidence of poverty, served as a hedge against higher food prices during 2004–2008.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/agec.12066

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American Farmers Say They Feed The World, But Do They? - NPR (2013)

American Farmers Say They Feed The World, But Do They? - NPR (2013) | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

When critics of industrial agriculture complain that today's food production is too big and too dependent on pesticides, that it damages the environment and delivers mediocre food, there's a line that farmers offer in response: We're feeding the world. It's high-tech agriculture's claim to the moral high ground.

 

Farmers say they farm the way they do to produce food as efficiently as possible to feed the world... the world has more and more people, demanding more food. Yet there are fewer and fewer farmers, "and it's the duty of those of us who are left in the business, us family farmers, to help feed that world." That means growing more food per acre... which requires new and better technology: genetically engineered seed, for instance, or pesticides. 

 

And this is why the words "feed the world" grate on the nerves of people who believe that large-scale, technology-driven agriculture is bad for the environment and often bad for people... It doesn't answer the concerns that people have about modern agriculture — and it's not even true... Most of the second-biggest crop — soybeans — is fed to animals. 

 

Growing more grain isn't the solution to hunger anyway, she says. If you're really trying to solve that problem, there's a long list of other steps that are much more important. "We need to empower women; we need to raise incomes; we need infrastructure in the developing world; we need the ability to get food to market without spoiling." 

 

It seemed that this dispute needed a referee. So I called Christopher Barrett, an economist at Cornell University who studies international agriculture and poverty. "They're both right," he says, chuckling. "Sometimes the opposite of a truth isn't a falsehood, but another truth, right?" It's true, he says, that bigger harvests in the U.S. tend to make food more affordable around the world, and "lower food prices are a good thing for poor people." 

 

For instance, Chinese pigs are growing fat on cheap soybean meal grown by farmers in the U.S. and Brazil, and that's one reason why hundreds of millions of people in China are eating much better than a generation ago — they can afford to buy pork. So American farmers who grow soybeans are justified in saying that they help feed the world.

 

But Mellon is right, too, Barrett says. The big crops that American farmers send abroad don't provide the vitamins and minerals that billions of people need most. So if the U.S. exports lots of corn, driving down the cost of cornmeal, "it induces poor families to buy lots of cornmeal, and to buy less in the way of leafy green vegetables, or milk," that have the key nutrients. In this case, you're feeding the world, but not solving the nutrition problems... 

 

In focus groups, many people said that if feeding the world means more industrial-scale farming, they're not comfortable with it... He tells farm groups that they'll have to find another message. They'll need to show that the way they grow food is consistent with the values of American consumers.

 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/09/17/221376803/american-farmers-say-they-feed-the-world-but-do-they

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

(i) I'm not sure Barrett is right on this one: If in one situation cornmeal is cheap and in the hypothetical other scenario (where American farmers do not produce bigger harvests and thereby lower prices) it is not, what is the impact on poor households spending behaviour? If cornmeal is more expensive, poor families will have to spend more money to make sure they have at least enough cornmeal to fill their stomachs and not feel hungry, and less money is left over to buy fresh produce or some animal products. However, if cornmeal is cheap, those families can satisfy their basic dietary energy requirements with relatively less money, i.e. more is left that they can spend on fruit and veggies – if they do so (and not rather spend it on candy or mobile phone credit) is another story. 

 

(iii) I find the statement deeply troubling that "many people said that if feeding the world means more industrial-scale farming, they're not comfortable with it". This means those people put their comfort (and their longing for the good old days that never were) above the most basic needs of poor and hungry people elsewhere; they rather accept that children are undernourished than accepting a realistic idea of farming. How morally right(eous) is that? (It may well be that there are more preferable ways to feed the world, but that's not what those people said: They suggested that IF feeding the world means more industrial-scale farming, they'd rather see the poor suffering...) 

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China's clean-water program benefits people and the environment - Stanford (2013)

China's clean-water program benefits people and the environment - Stanford (2013) | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Rice farming near Beijing has contaminated and tapped the city's drinking water supply. For the past four years, China has been paying farmers to grow corn instead of rice, an effort that Stanford research shows is paying off for people and the environment.

 

The brown, smog-filled skies that engulf Beijing have earned China a poor reputation for environmental stewardship. But despite China's dirty skies, a study led by Stanford environmental scientists has found that a government-run clean water program is providing substantial benefit to millions of people in the nation's capital.

 

The Miyun reservoir, 100 miles north of Beijing, is the main water source for the city's more than 20 million inhabitants. Greater agricultural demands and a decline in precipitation, among other factors, have cut the reservoir's output by two-thirds since the 1960s. The water has also become increasingly polluted by fertilizer and sediment run-off, and poses a significant health risk.

 

Similar conditions shut down Beijing's second largest reservoir in 1997; shortly after, officials began implementing a plan to prevent the same from happening to the Miyun reservoir. The system follows the successful model established by New York City, in which the government and wealthier downstream consumers provide payouts to upstream farmers, who in turn modify their agricultural practices to improve water conditions.

 

In the case of China's Paddy Land-to-Dry Land (PLDL) program, farmers are paid to convert their croplands from rice to corn, a solution that reduces both water consumption and pollution. Rice paddies are constantly flooded and are often situated on steep slopes, leading to significant fertilizer and sediment runoff. Corn, meanwhile, requires much less water, and fertilizer is more likely to stay in the soil.


The program is indicative of China's recent efforts to improve living conditions for its rural citizens. "At the top, China sees environmental protection and poverty alleviation as vital to national security," said Gretchen Daily, a biology professor at Stanford and senior co-author on the study. "The challenge is in implementing change.  It's amazing that in four short years, the government got everyone growing rice in this area to switch to corn, which greatly improved both water quality and the quantity that reaches city residents downstream."

Farmers earn almost six times more money growing rice than corn, so the government compensated farmers with funds that more than made up the difference. Door-to-door surveys revealed that the compensation program had mostly improved peoples' livelihoods. Farmers were making more money and, because corn is a less time-intensive crop to grow, they had more time to pursue other activities.

 

Water quality tests showed that fertilizer runoff declined sharply while the quantity available to downstream users in Beijing and surrounding areas increased. Even with overpaying for corn, the program provides a significant net benefit. The program cost about $1,330 per hectare of farmland to implement, but produced $2,020 per hectare of benefits, calculated as the value of increased water yield and improved water quality... 

 

The researchers calculated that people on both ends of the deal were receiving similar returns: upstream landowners were experiencing a 1.2 benefit-cost ratio and downstream consumers were experiencing a 1.3 benefit-cost ratio. Altogether, the program has generated a 1.5 benefit-cost ratio... 

 

The PLDL could serve as a model for similar programs already underway throughout Latin America and Africa. One of the key drivers of the PLDL's success, Daily said, was the government's willingness to adapt the program on the fly to meet the needs of the farmers. For example, while other compensation schemes have set hard long-term payout limits, when conditions in Miyun changed and farmers said they weren't being fairly compensated, China upped the payments...

 

Still, despite the many clear positives coming out of the PLDL so far, implementing these programs requires sensitive considerations. "When is it right to tell people that they've got to change their way of life for the benefit of society?" Daily said. "These are tough political and ethical issues, and it doesn't always make sense for everyone. Yet resource pressures are intensifying everywhere. We've got to find ways of compensating people that are fair, and of opening new opportunities. In most cases, there will be no simple, ideal solution, as we can see with the controversy over New York City's approach. These efforts underway in China today are important experiments with lessons for cities everywhere." 

 

Original study: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1312324110

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"When is it right to tell people that they've got to change their way of life for the benefit of society? These are tough political and ethical issues... In most cases, there will be no simple, ideal solution."

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The true raw material footprint of nations - UNSW (2013)

The true raw material footprint of nations - UNSW (2013) | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

The amount of raw materials needed to sustain the economies of developed countries is significantly greater than present indicators suggest, a new Australian study has revealed. Using a new modelling tool and more comprehensive indicators, researchers were able to map the flow of raw materials across the world economy with unprecedented accuracy to determine the true “material footprint” of 186 countries... from 1990 to 2008. 

 

The study... reveals that the decoupling of natural resources from economic growth has been exaggerated. The results confirm that pressures on raw materials do not necessarily decline as affluence grows and demonstrates the need for policy-makers to consider new accounting methods that more accurately track resource consumption. 

 

“Humanity is using raw materials at a level never seen before with far-reaching environmental impacts on biodiversity, land use, climate and water... By relying on current indicators, governments are not able to see the true extent of resource consumption. Now more than ever, developed countries are relying on international trade to acquire their natural resources, but our research shows this dependence far exceeds the actual physical quantity of traded goods” ... 

 

In 2008, the total amount of raw materials extracted globally was 70 billion metric tons – 10 billion tons of which were physically traded. However, the results show that three times as many resources (41% or 29 billion tons) were used just to enable the processing and export of these materials... because these resources never leave their country of origin, they are not adequately captured by current reporting methods.

 

They have used a new indicator they call the “material footprint” to more accurately account for these ‘lost’ resources and have developed tools that could assist policy-makers in future. Economy-wide accounting metrics (such as Domestic Material Consumption or DMC) currently used by certain governments and intergovernmental organisations... only account for the volume of raw materials extracted and used domestically, and the volume physically traded.

 

These indicators suggest resource-use in wealthy nations has increased at a slower rate than economic growth – something known as relative decoupling – and that other countries have actually seen their consumption decrease over the last 20 years – something known as absolute decoupling... But the study authors say when their “material footprint” indicators are factored in these achievements in decoupling are smaller than reported and often non-existent... 

 

Original article: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/08/28/1220362110.abstract

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The roles of risk and ambiguity in the adoption of the system of rice intensification (SRI): evidence from Indonesia - Takahashi (2013) - Food Sec

The roles of risk and ambiguity in the adoption of the system of rice intensification (SRI): evidence from Indonesia - Takahashi (2013) - Food Sec | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Producing adequate food supplies has been a long-standing concern throughout human history. Technological innovation in agriculture has been crucial in meeting a growing population’s demand for food. For example, the introduction and diffusion of fertilizer-responsive, high-yielding varieties of rice, exemplified by the Green Revolution since 1966, have dramatically improved rice production despite growing human population pressure on land, and they have helped substantially to alleviate hunger and poverty... To meet future needs for food, it is essential to reduce factors used in production, such as land and water, while increasing productivity.

 

One potentially promising technology for yield-enhancement is the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) developed in the mid-1980s in Madagascar. SRI is a set of improved rice management practices based on several core components with some adjustments to local conditions... Although some scientists have debated whether SRI’s reputed yield advantages are credible... recent studies show widespread evidence for SRI’s apparent yield gains...

 

However, despite SRI’s potential for raising yields, its acceptance has been low and discontinuance rates have been high among users in the Indonesian locale we studied. Using original panel data combined with field experiments in rural South Sulawesi, Indonesia, this paper has explored factors explaining these adoption behaviors in this local setting.

 

Regression results confirmed that risk aversion is an important reason for the low uptake. In particular, risk-averse farmers are significantly less likely than risk-neutral farmers to use SRI... Moreover, even though SRI potentially saves water, we found that farmers without irrigation facilities and those distant from irrigation canals are significantly less likely to use all SRI practices. These findings suggest that expanding irrigation capacity as well as reducing uncertainty about the timing and amount of water released for irrigation is important for improving adoption of SRI... 

 

Another constraint that hampers the spread of SRI was the increased labor requirement... this partly reflects the greater input of family labor on farm. Thus, the actual profitability and labor productivity are not as high as one would expect. Indeed, Takahashi and Barrett (2013) showed that the increased farm income under SRI was achieved at the cost of the decreased off-farm income, and net income gains of SRI were attenuated. In all likelihood, many farmers hesitate to shift to intensive rice management practices in order to maintain livelihood diversification...

 

Given the significance of farmers’ risk aversion, the development of an insurance market that compensates farmers for loss of production may also work... This study has suggested several reasons why SRI adoption has been meager... Further research and evidence are needed before asserting more concrete conclusions.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Just as most of SRI boils down to good agricultural practices, the limitations (high labour requirements) and recommendations (better irrigation, provision of insurance) are also widely applicable. And where farmers follow good agricultural practices, use a lot of labour on their crop, and have access to reliable irrigation and to insurance and financial markets, it would be very surprising if yields wouldn't be raised whatever the specific system is.  

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Crop yields in EU-27 expected to be higher despite extreme weather conditions - EC (2013)

Crop yields in EU-27 expected to be higher despite extreme weather conditions - EC (2013) | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

This year's total cereal production in the EU-27 is forecast to be well above 2012 levels and above average compared with the past five years, in spite of the unusually prolonged winter for western and central Europe and heavy rainfall in May and June. This forecast is based on JRC analyses (with data up to 10 June 2013), using an advanced crop yield forecasting system. It provides yield estimates for the main crops throughout the EU and identifies the areas most affected by stress conditions.

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Re-examining the Reported Rates of Return to Food and Agricultural Research and Development - Hurley &al (2014) - AJAE

At odds with a vast body of economic evidence reporting exceptionally high rates of return to investments in agricultural research and development (R&D), growth in public R&D spending for food and agriculture has slowed in numerous, especially rich, countries worldwide. The observed R&D spending behavior is consistent with a determination that the reported rates of return are perceived as implausible by policy makers.

 

We examine this notion by scrutinizing 2,242 investment evaluations reported in 372 separate studies from 1958 to 2011. We find that the internal rate of return (IRR) is the predominant summary measure of investment performance used in the literature despite methodological criticisms dating back more than a half century. The reported IRRs imply rates of return that are implausibly high. We investigate the reasons for these implausibly high estimates by analytically comparing the IRR to the modified internal rate of return (MIRR).

 

The MIRR addresses several methodological concerns with using the IRR, has the intuitive interpretation as the annual compounding interest rate paid by an investment, and is directly related to the benefit-cost ratio... Our recalibrated estimates of the rate of return are more modest (median of 9.8% versus 39% per year); however, they are still substantial enough to question the current scaling back of public agricultural R&D spending in many countries.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aau047

 

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Global poverty could be up to a third higher than reported - U Bristol (2014)

With over one billion people in the world living on less than $1.25 per day, the World Bank aims to end ‘extreme poverty’ by 2030. But new research suggests that global poverty figures could be underestimated by up to a third, and calls for more robust measurement in the future. 


The World Bank figures are widely used by the international community and play a significant role in international strategies to reduce poverty. Critics argue that its estimates are flawed because the ‘dollar a day’ poverty line is too arbitrary, and insufficiently anchored to any specification of basic human needs. 


Researchers... looked at... Vanuatu, taking into account not just their finances but also shelter, sanitisation, water, information, nutrition, health and education to build up a more comprehensive picture of poverty, deprivation and inequality.

 

The study... concludes that the World Bank is reporting a ‘rosy’ picture because the poverty line is set too low due to its narrow definition... The findings come amidst considerable controversy surrounding the international ‘dollar a day’ measure used to monitor progress against the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals and the future direction of the post-2015 development agenda... 


The study found that five per cent of all children in Vanuatu live in poverty, as defined by the international ‘dollar a day’ measure. But a much greater proportion (17 per cent) live in poverty defined by the national food and basic needs poverty line; and absolute poverty, where people are deprived of two or more basic human needs, affects 16 per cent of children... 

 

“The current international poverty line of a dollar a day seriously underestimates global poverty levels. In the context of Vanuatu, our triangulated results suggest under­estimation of poverty by at least a third in the population aged 17 years or under. If the World Bank had in fact used a poverty line grounded in basic needs, rather than its present artificial one which only looks at one monetary measure, the total number of poor people in the world would increase substantially... 


“It shows that measurement issues are extremely important and that different approaches can have a substantial impact on the level of poverty and deprivation measured and identified. We hope these findings will be taken into account in the future to ensure more robust analysis is carried out to give a clear picture of the social and economic challenges facing developing countries.”

 

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2014/april/global-poverty.html

 

Original article. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1440783314523867

 

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Does Agriculture Really Matter for Economic Growth in Developing Countries? - Awokuse & Xie (2014) - Canad J Ag Econ

Does Agriculture Really Matter for Economic Growth in Developing Countries? - Awokuse & Xie (2014) - Canad J Ag Econ | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

This paper revisits the debate on the role of agriculture in promoting economic growth in a selection of nine developing countries. We investigated the causal linkages between agriculture and gross domestic product growth with the aid of directed acyclic graphs, a recently developed algorithm of inductive causation.

 

The results suggest that while agriculture could be an engine of economic growth, the impact varies across countries. In some cases, we found strong evidence in support of the agriculture-led growth hypothesis. In contrast, the results for some other countries indicate that having a vibrant aggregate economy is a prerequisite for agricultural development.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cjag.12038

 

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World food prices and poverty in Indonesia - Warr &al (2013) - Austral J Ag Res Econ

World food prices and poverty in Indonesia - Warr &al (2013) - Austral J Ag Res Econ | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Spikes in international food prices in 2007–2008 worsened poverty incidence in Indonesia, both rural and urban, but only by small amounts. The paper reaches this conclusion using a multisectoral and multihousehold general equilibrium model of the Indonesian economy.

 

The negative effect on poor consumers, operating through their living costs, outweighed the positive effect on poor farmers, operating through their incomes. Indonesia's post-2004 rice import restrictions shielded its internal rice market from the temporary world price increases, muting the increase in poverty. But it did this only by imposing large and permanent increases in both domestic rice prices and poverty incidence.

 

Poverty incidence increased more among rural than urban people, even though higher agricultural prices mean higher incomes for many of the rural poor. Gains to poor farmers were outweighed by the losses incurred by the large number of rural poor who are net buyers of food, and the fact that food represents a large share of their total budgets, even larger on average than for the urban poor.

 

The main beneficiaries of higher food prices are not the rural poor, but the owners of agricultural land and capital, many of whom are urban based.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8489.12015

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

... the big question if lower food prices are good or bad for the poor - with increasing urbanisation lower food prices are probably mostly good for the poor (at least the urban ones). However, long-term implications are still not addressed: If prices are too low for too long, this might reduce the incentives to invest in and engage in agriculture, thus reducing the food supply in the long run (and driving up prices). 

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Phonehtet Aung's curator insight, January 18, 1:34 AM

food prices affects poverty as increasing food prices in Indonesia affected people. increasing prices of food would affect mostly the poor, as their gains would be outweighted by the high prices of food they need to buy as food is a large part of their budgets although farmers might gain profits by selling what they grow at higer prices .Farmers are not the main beneficiaries but they might have a higher income than the poor of other occupations beacuse of the high food prices

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The future of food demand: understanding differences in global economic models - Valin &al (2013) - Agricultural Economics

The future of food demand: understanding differences in global economic models - Valin &al (2013) - Agricultural Economics | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

Understanding the capacity of agricultural systems to feed the world population under climate change requires projecting future food demand. This article reviews demand modeling approaches from 10 global economic models participating in the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP). We compare food demand projections in 2050 for various regions and agricultural products under harmonized scenarios of socioeconomic development, climate change, and bioenergy expansion.

 

In the reference scenario (SSP2), food demand increases by 59-98% between 2005 and 2050, slightly higher than the most recent FAO projection of 54% from 2005/2007. The range of results is large, in particular for animal calories (between 61% and 144%), caused by differences in demand systems specifications, and in income and price elasticities. The results are more sensitive to socioeconomic assumptions than to climate change or bioenergy scenarios. When considering a world with higher population and lower economic growth (SSP3), consumption per capita drops on average by 9% for crops and 18% for livestock. The maximum effect of climate change on calorie availability is -6% at the global level, and the effect of biofuel production on calorie availability is even smaller.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/agec.12089

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Making sustainable intensification work on sound evidence - Spielman (2013) - SciDev

Making sustainable intensification work on sound evidence - Spielman (2013) - SciDev | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

A new narrative is slowly taking hold of today's collective thinking about productivity, growth and poverty reduction in developing-country agriculture: the concept of sustainable intensification... practices and technologies that help farmers systematically improve the management of their crops, soil, trees, livestock and water —  what I will call 'new agronomy'... 


A focused approach to helping farmers simultaneously improve yields and manage natural resources sustainably... a range of practices, including strategic crop rotations to minimise pest and disease threats; interspersed planting of nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs with crops to improve soil health; and elimination of tillage to retain moisture under crop residues. Improved cultivars and chemical fertilisers may play an important role in these systems, but they do not take centre stage... 

 
Some of these practices... have generated controversy over their technical performance and environmental footprint. Debates rage around precisely how these systems contribute to yields, soil carbon and nitrogen content, groundwater use, greenhouse gas emissions or reduced use of chemical inputs.


Debates also rage around the wider replicability of these systems... Can SRI, with its humble beginnings among smallholder rice farmers in Madagascar, make its mark on rice yields in north-eastern and southern India? Many already claim that these new agronomic ideas are a big success. But others cry foul. As a result, what seem like innocuous agronomic recommendations — changes in planting dates, sowing methods and irrigation practices — have become subjects of international controversy. 
 
How can these debates be settled? Ultimately, future research into, and widespread adoption of, new agronomic practices for sustainable intensification will require more than just good agronomy. It will take effective evaluations and plausible forecasts of social and economic impacts that demonstrate where new practices might work, where they might falter and what the trade-offs might be for individuals, society and the environment.
 
But in many cases, evidence of impact tends to rely on agronomic studies conducted under near-ideal conditions — for example on a research station or in a progressive farmer's field where agronomists can control the experiment. These do not always capture 'on the ground' realities in developing countries.
 
Enter the economist, who brings an insistence on rigorous evidence under real-world conditions... what looks like a good yield may not make much economic sense when prices and costs are considered... For example, economists are interested in farmers' behaviour given a particular agronomic practice, whereas agronomists hold people constant in their study of plant, soil and water behaviour...

Economists can do three things well: evaluate the economic impact of a new agronomic practice, forecast its welfare impacts at scale and shoot down bad ideas. When it comes to evaluation, they can explore how diversity within a given population — in terms of wealth or education, for example — affects costs and benefits, or poses trade-offs...
 
Economists can also assess promotional efforts such as demonstration trials, targeted input subsidies, or farmer field schools. Or they can investigate why farmers do not adopt new practices — exploring farmers' feelings about risk or their aspirations for the future... And economists can take findings from the field and peek into the future, simulating alternative scenarios about food prices, poverty or environmental outcomes... 

 

http://www.scidev.net/global/sustainability/opinion/making-sustainable-intensification-work-on-sound-evidence-1.html

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"What looks like a good yield may not make much economic sense when prices and costs are considered." Indeed, this is a challenge in many fields: simply because something works (perhaps even better than the alternative) does not mean it is necessarily the best option because it can well be (much) more costly, whether in terms of money or time/labour... 

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On Science, Communication, Respect, and Coming Back from Mistakes - Wired (2013)

On Science, Communication, Respect, and Coming Back from Mistakes - Wired (2013) | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

A couple of unpleasant and deeply dismaying things have happened in the science blogosphere in the past 36 hours or so. I’m posting on it, along with a growing number of other science bloggers, in order to stand in solidarity with a fellow blogger and to ensure her voice is not silenced... 


One of the bloggers at the SciAm network is Danielle N. Lee, Ph.D., a biologist who also writes about increasing science’s engagement with women and people of color... 

 

On Thursday, Dr. Lee received an email from someone who represented himself as the blog editor at Biology-Online.org, which is a blog platform and aggregator, and a partner site with SciAm. The editor asked if Dr. Lee would be interested in contributing to their site. After some Q and A back and forth regarding whether this was work for pay or for free, and after hearing that there was no compensation, Dr. Lee responded: "Thank you very much for your reply. But I will have to decline your offer. Have a great day." According to emails which Dr. Lee screengrabbed, here was the editor’s response: "Because we don’t pay for blog entries? Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?" 


I want to just let that sink in for a minute. A professional was asked to work for no compensation. She declined politely. And was called a whore.

Now, let’s be clear: Lots of us get asked to work for free lots of the time. I probably get approached at least once a week... Sometimes we say yes, if the opportunity is right; sometimes we decline if we are overworked already or if the non-monetary compensation being offered is not aligned with whatever else we want or need to do... 

 

So that’s the first thing that happened. Here is the second: At her SciAm blog, Dr. Lee wrote a post about the email encounter, the insult, and her completely reasonable woundedness. She said in part: "It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious to me that I was supposed to be honored by the request." 


And at some point Friday evening, her post vanished. It was apparently taken down by Scientific American... We know the takedown was deliberate because Mariette DiChristina, SciAm’s editor-in-chief, confirmed the action in a tweet... 

 

So let’s just unpack what happened. According to Dr. Lee, the only notice she received that her post was considered inappropriate was its vanishing from the blog site. SciAm did not communicate with her about it other than by the tweet above. And SciAm said nothing about the uncalled-for abuse of one of their bloggers by one of their partnership representatives. 

 

It is worth adding here that other bloggers on the SciAm network have protested that there have never been any standards elucidated or curbs indicated on what they can write... who does science, and what barriers they encounter as they try, is an integral part of the conduct of science...

 

So I’m going to hope that SciAm reverses course on this. By the testimony of their other bloggers, plus the guidance those bloggers say they were given, SciAm had no justification for taking down that post. If they felt Dr. Lee’s account was inaccurate, they should have said so. If they found her language inappropriate, the better response would have been to flag the post in some manner, obscuring it with an image or temporarily replacing it with a notice — instead of creating the appearance of censorship by disappearing it entirely — while they communicated with Dr. Lee and worked with her to bring her post under whatever their standards are.

 

And while and even before they did that, they should have censured their partner, and made it clear that they do not support a scientist, a professional woman, any woman being called a whore ever — let alone by a representative of a site with which SciAm has a relationship.

What’s happened instead, to this point, is that SciAm has silenced a blogger, implicitly criticized her, and explicitly not criticized a partner representative who abused one of their own people. These are not smart or moral actions, and they do not reflect well on a storied and respected brand. I think that SciAm can still make this right. I hope they do.

 

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/10/on-science-communication-respect-and-coming-back-from-mistakes/

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2008 economic crisis could be to blame for thousands of excess suicides worldwide - BMJ (2013)

Researchers are suggesting that the 2008 global economic crisis could be to blame for the increase in suicide rates in European and American countries, particularly among males and in countries with higher levels of job losses. In 2008, the International Labour Organization estimated that the number of jobless worldwide would reach approximately 212 million by 2009, an increase of 34 million compared with 2007. The World Health Organization raised concerns of the crisis' impact on global health and called for action to monitor and protect health, in particular amongst the poor and vulnerable.

 

Available studies only report data from a limited number of countries and there have been no systematic investigations into the broader international pattern or the sex/age groups and regions most affected. In this study, the first to look at international trends in suicide, researchers... used the latest available data from 54 countries to assess changes in suicide rates following the 2008 crisis... 

 

In 2009, there was a 37% rise in unemployment and 3% falls in GDP per capita, reflecting the onset of the economic crisis in 2008. All European groups experienced rises in unemployment in 2009 and 2010. Unemployment rates started rising in USA and Canada in 2008 followed by dramatic increases in 2009-10. In 2009, the overall male suicide rate rose 3.3%, with an excess of 5000 male suicides in all countries studied.

 

These increases were mainly seen in the 27 European countries (4.2%) and 18 American countries (6.4%) studied. The largest increase in Europe was seen in 15-24 year old men and in 45-64 year old men in America. There was no change in suicide in European females and a small increase was seen in American females... Rises seemed to be associated with the magnitude of increases in unemployment, particularly for males and in countries with low pre-crisis unemployment levels.

 

The researchers say that this study documents a "marked rise in suicide following the 2008 global economic crisis"... The study adds to other evidence suggesting that the 2008 global economic crisis caused subsequent rises in suicide in affected countries... This is consistent with the documented increases in suicide during past recessions, such as the Great Depression in the 1930s... 

 

In the 20 European countries with available data for 2010, their analysis indicated an even larger increase in male suicide in 2010 (10.8%) than in 2009. The researchers conclude that "urgent action is needed to prevent the economic crisis from further increasing suicides" and that labour market programmes may "help offset the impact of recession on suicide".

 

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-09/bmj-2ec091313.php

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5239

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Pest-eating birds mean money for coffee growers - Stanford (2013)

Pest-eating birds mean money for coffee growers - Stanford (2013) | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

This is the first time scientists have assigned a monetary value to the pest-control benefits rainforest can provide to agriculture. Their study could provide the framework for pest management that helps both farmers and biodiversity.

 

In recent years, Stanford biologists have found that coffee growers in Costa Rica bolster bird biodiversity by leaving patches of their plantations as untouched rainforest. The latest finding from these researchers suggests that the birds are returning the favor to farmers by eating an aggressive coffee bean pest, the borer beetle, thereby improving coffee bean yields by hundreds of dollars per hectare. The study is the first to put a monetary value on the pest-control benefits rainforest can provide to agriculture, which the researchers hope can inform both farmers and conservationists.

 

"The benefits that we might get are huge," said Daniel Karp... "There's lots of unrealized value in these small patches of rainforest. This looks like a sustainable, win-win opportunity for pest management." The researchers hope that the work will improve conservation efforts in heavily farmed areas by illustrating to farmers the financial benefits of leaving some land in its natural state, while also guiding governments toward the best conservation methods.

 

By some accounts, coffee is the world's most economically profitable crop, and its harvest supports the livelihoods of some 100 million people globally. Coffee beans around the world, however, are threatened by the pervasive beetle... "It's the only insect that competes with us for coffee beans," Karp said. "It's the most damaging insect pest by far, causing some $500 million in damage per year." ... 

 

Five species of birds contributed to cutting infestation rates in half, and these birds were more abundant on farms featuring more forests. "Depending on the season, the birds provide $75 to $310 increases in yield per hectare of farmland," Karp said. The birds' activity could become even more valuable if the beetle infestation worsens. The scientists found that the closer the forests were to the farms, the greater benefit the birds provided. Specifically, smaller stands of trees – roughly the size of a few football fields – situated throughout crop fields provided better levels of beetle protection than the much larger forest preserves set on the outskirts of farms.  

By differentiating the financial gains of different conservation strategies – large but distant preserves versus small, local stands of trees – Karp thinks the study could provide a framework for introducing similar efforts in agricultural zones around the world. "This work suggests that it might be economically advantageous to not farm in certain areas of a plantation," Karp said. "We're going to start trying to generalize these results so that farmers, conservationists, land managers and governments can use them anywhere to make simple estimates of what they might gain in pest protection by protecting certain patches of the landscape." 

 

Original study: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.12173

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A Marxist theory is (sort of) right - Economist (2013)

A Marxist theory is (sort of) right - Economist (2013) | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

The Prebisch-Singer hypothesis (PSH) was a staple of leftist economics during the second half of the 20th century. Raúl Prebisch and Hans Singer, working independently, showed that the “terms of trade” between primary products and manufactured goods tended to decline over time. In other words, producers of crops and raw materials gradually became poorer relative to producers of cars and household appliances. If true, the theory would have important implications for world trade; it would suggest that commodity-focused economies must diversify into other sectors or risk falling ever further behind richer countries.

 

A new paper by the International Monetary Fund discusses the PSH. The authors examine 25 commodities... Since 1900, around 50% of the commodities show clear downward relative price slopes. About 25% show a clear upward slope... in dollar terms many commodity prices have trended upward over the past century. So countries that produce high levels of primary products have, over time, done worse than economies which rely on manufactured goods. The authors cautiously conclude that "in the majority of cases the PSH is not rejected".

 

What can primary producers do about this? ... Kaddour Hadri, suggested that commodity-dependent economies should take advantage of short periods of price spikes to invest in alternative industries. But many commodity-dependent economies fail to do this... 

 

But... commodity producers have been fighting against the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis for the last century. Many have shifted production away from commodities which do relatively badly against manufactured goods. The development of the soybean market, as well as shifts towards farming of chicken and pork, are some examples of this. None of these commodities appears in the IMF paper, so it does not tell a complete story. Still, and oddly enough, the IMF seems to have turned up some evidence support a bit of Marxist economic theory. 

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Farmer harvests cash from bio-fortified bean varieties - The Star

Farmer harvests cash from bio-fortified bean varieties - The Star | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

James Mwaura has been growing maize, wheat, tomatoes, beans and other crops for many years. However, he has discovered a new secret - bean seed multiplication. He says seed production fetches twice the income he normally gets from grains and there is also a ready market for his produce... 

 

Mwaura has been contracted to grow new improved bean varieties by the department of plant science and crop protection, University of Nairobi Kabete Campus, through support from the Bio Innovate Programme and in partnership with TruFoods Ltd... 

 

Mwaura is the only farmer in Kenya who works with Bio Innovate Programme on value added bean technologies for enhancing food security, nutrition, income and resilience to cope with climate change in Eastern Africa.

 

He is growing seeds of the first ever bio-fortified bean varieties which are rich in iron and zinc micronutrients and are best for canning purposes in his five-acre piece of land. More than 2 billion people worldwide suffer from malnutrition due to lack of iron and zinc, according to World Food Organization... 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Interesting how the introduction of biofortified crops can spread benefits that go beyond their intended nutritional impact. 

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Using elicitation mechanisms to estimate the demand for nutritious maize - Banerji &al (2013) - IFPRI

Using elicitation mechanisms to estimate the demand for nutritious maize - Banerji &al (2013) - IFPRI | Food & Economics | Scoop.it

In this paper we assess (a) consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for a recently developed variety of maize that is high in provitamin A in the context of a public health intervention and (b) the performance of three elicitation mechanisms in estimating WTP in a field experiment in Ghana... 


The basic design of the experiment involved random allocation of consumers to one of three elicitation methods. This was augmented to include treatment arms to address the effect of (1) participation fees and (2) nutrition information on WTP... 


In the absence of information on the nutrient density of the new maize variety, subjects are willing to pay less for it than the existing varieties; however, nutrition information transforms this discount into a substantial premium.

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