Agriculture / Animal Feeding / Animal Production / Food security / ILRI / Opinion piece / PA / Research / USA

World Bank president on chicken wings, chicken feed, Super Bowl Sunday (and, ahem, CGIAR)

Honey Soy Glazed Chicken Wings

Chicken wings cooked with honey and soy (photo on Flickr by TheDeliciousLife).

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim became a champion and (sort of) celebrity spokesperson for agricultural-research-for-development this week to the delight of those of us in that (not so celebrity) world. The added bonus for the 700 or so staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is based in Africa and works throughout the developing world for better lives through livestock, is that his lede featured chicken wings and chicken feed.

Kim’s opening improbably also featured that unacknowledged greatest of all American holidays, ‘Super Bowl Sunday’, in which Americans of all tribes gather in homes and consume vast quantities of snack foods (Wikipedia trivial pursuit of the day: This is the second-largest day of food consumption in the United States after Thanksgiving) while watching the final game in the National Football League playoffs.

‘One bit of bad news for millions of Americans during the Super Bowl’, the World Bank president begins in an opinion piece published in America’s popular news aggregator and blogger website, the Huffington Post, ‘was that chicken wings were suddenly more expensive.’

From this modest, if unexpectedly diverting, opening, Kim deftly if abruptly segues into the causes and implications of this national (not quite) disaster: drought, climate change, global hunger, declining agricultural productivity.

‘The cause, in part, was the U.S. drought last summer. The drought was the most widespread in more than 50 years, and it drove up the cost of chicken feed. . . .

‘The bad news for the 850 million undernourished people around the world is that erratic weather is affecting food production globally. High and volatile food prices have become the new normal, and more and more extreme weather events are partly to blame. . . .

Mozambique, Maputo

Fast food restaurant in Maputo, Mozambique’s fast-growing capital city where food riots have occurred in recent years due to rising prices of staple foods (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

‘Looking ahead, feeding the world will get harder with each passing year. We need to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed the 9 billion people who will be living on the planet by then.

‘Climate change is making that challenge more difficult.

‘It is no secret that agriculture is a major part of the climate problem — it generates 32 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. But, by changing the way we grow our food, it can become part of the solution.

Done right, we can increase agricultural productivity, make farmers better able to ride out droughts or floods, and pull greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere into the soil. Agriculture can be climate smart and if we get it right, it can be a triple win.

‘So what will it take?’ Kim asks rhetorically? ‘A combination of age-old methods like better mulching and crop rotation, together with improved water and livestock management, more accurate weather forecasting and crop insurance, and new crops like scuba rice that survive longer under water, and drought-tolerant maize that thrives despite erratic rainfall.

It means ramping up agricultural research through groups like CGIAR, the Global Agricultural Research Partnership, so they can focus on climate-proofing food crops and make agriculture a carbon sink. . . .

Girl and chickens in household doorway in Nigeria

A girl shares the entrance to her house with a family of chickens in Oyo State, Nigeria (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

‘For many Americans’, the World Bank chief concludes, ‘the higher price of chicken wings was bad news. But the good news that could emerge from food-price sticker shock is that more people will ask what we can do in agriculture to help stop climate change while still feeding the world.’

Read the whole article on the Huffington PostWhat can we learn from expensive chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday?, 5 Feb 2013.

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