While many of us are focused on our national politics, it’s a big world out there. And food, agriculture and people drive it. Today’s wrap includes globally focused food and agricultural stories that may interest you.

Researchers Use Climate-Tracking Tools to Predict Drought, Help Mitigate Effects. Interesting story out of UC Santa Barbara. The UCSB/U.S. Geological Survey Climate Hazards Group (CHG) has been able to anticipate drought and poor harvests in Somalia and Ethiopia.

CHG is part of the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). Its work may help international agencies “foresee potential food deficits and mount response efforts more rapidly than ever before.”

UC ANR Leader Weighs in on Secure, Sustainable Food Supply. Glenda Humiston, who leads UC’s Agriculture and Natural Resources division, recently weighed in on global food security. The thought piece was published by the United Nations Association – UK. The thrust of the article is that “coordinated action will require fundamental changes on the part of producers, consumers and governments.” Another takeaway:

“If we are to find some practical ideas to achieve food security and sustainability we must develop a better understanding of the multiple competing narratives that lead to competing strategies – and the loss of a coherent public voice with the power to demand sustainability.”


Related: Read my Q&A with former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Kenneth Quinn (now president of the World Food Prize), who discusses a range of issues, including the potential of agriculture to build food security…and diplomatic bridges. He told me:

I explained how, in 1959, at the height of the Cold War and, arguably the most dangerous moment in human history, Nikita Khrushchev visited Iowa. A discussion he had with a farmer at a corn crib led to exchanges over the next several decades between American and Soviet agricultural experts. This process had nothing to do with the number of nuclear weapons we were pointing at each other but had everything to do with building some sense of understanding and being able to work together. Agriculture was the vehicle that helped defuse the situation and promote peace.”

Healthiest Hearts in the World Found. From the BBC’s health editor, James Gallagher, an interesting news piece about the Tsimane people in Bolivia. A fascinating overview of the traditional diet is included, which contains more carbohydrates than might be found in the average U.S. diet, more lean protein and much less fat. Another factor? A significantly higher level of physical activity and lower levels of smoking. (And no processed food). UC Santa Barbara professor Michael Gurven was interviewed for the story, and offered this:

“I would say we need a more holistic approach to physical exercise rather than just at the weekend.”

Guyana Tribe Goes Hi-Tech to Protect Its Land. An absolutely fascinating piece from the BBC’s Gemma Handy about the Wai-Wai people of Guyana…and how they’ve partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to use technology to protect their land and resources. Members of the Wai-Wai community are using smart phones, GPS and a range of apps to accomplish a range of tasks, including “measure and gather carbon stock samples, keep track of fish and food supplies, and also oversee a series of community wellbeing initiatives ranging from school attendance figures to a happiness index.”

Related: Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe discusses food sovereignty with assistant editor Teresa O’Connor and how it may lead to improved health. She said:

“So, our biggest lesson is to understand that we need to take the time to work with the land we come from, and not just have dominance over it. That’s the big picture of why I do what I do. It really is about healing historical trauma, empowering people to feel comfortable in their own identity and helping people have the resources to walk in a modern world – with their ancestors beside them, helping them to make good decisions towards their health.”


Malaysia: A Makeover for the World’s Most Hated Crop. Hint: Palm Oil. Can genetic engineering make a difference? This longer piece, published by the Pulitzer Center, is part of a project/series about palm oil and sustainability. Written by Wudan Yan (a food fellow at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism). Note: This piece also appeared in Nature.

Despite its bad reputation, oil palm is the most productive oil crop in the world. Oilseed rape (canola) currently produces only about one-sixth of the oil per hectare — soya bean only one-tenth. But oil-palm plantations still aren’t getting as much as they could out of their plants.”

Editor’s Note: If you haven’t visited the Pulitzer Center site, do so…and bookmark it. It’s an award-winning, non-profit journalism organization that generates support to surface “underreported global affairs.” Bonus: crosses media platforms and sponsors an amazing outreach/education program for schools and universities. Site users can even add to lesson plans.

Have a great week!