The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2011 Shows Agriculture Innovation Is Key to Reducing Poverty, Stabilizing Climate

Report provides a roadmap for food security and agricultural investment, revealing 15 high- and low-tech solutions that are helping to reduce hunger and poverty in Africa


Worldwatch Institute today released its report State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet,
which spotlights successful agricultural innovations and unearths major
successes in preventing food waste, building resilience to climate
change, and strengthening farming in cities. The report provides a
roadmap for increased agricultural investment and more-efficient ways to
alleviate global hunger and poverty. Drawing from the world's leading
agricultural experts and from hundreds of innovations that are already
working on the ground, the report outlines 15 proven, environmentally
sustainable prescriptions.

"The progress
showcased through this report will inform governments, policymakers,
NGOs, and donors that seek to curb hunger and poverty, providing a clear
roadmap for expanding or replicating these successes elsewhere," said
Worldwatch Institute President Christopher Flavin. "We need the world's
influencers of agricultural development to commit to longstanding
support for farmers, who make up 80 percent of the population in

State of the World 2011 comes at a
time when many global hunger and food security initiatives-such as the
Obama administration's Feed the Future program, the Global Agriculture
and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the United Nations World Food
Programme (WFP), and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development
Programme (CAADP)-can benefit from new insight into environmentally
sustainable projects that are already working to alleviate hunger and

Nearly a half-century after the Green
Revolution, a large share of the human family is still chronically
hungry. While investment in agricultural development by governments,
international lenders and foundations has escalated in recent years, it
is still nowhere near what's needed to help the 925 million people who
are undernourished. Since the mid 1980s when agricultural funding was
at its height, the share of global development aid has fallen from over
16 percent to just 4 percent today.

In 2008, $1.7
billion dollars in official development assistance was provided to
support agricultural projects in Africa, based on statistics from the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a
miniscule amount given the vital return on investment. Given the current
global economic conditions, investments are not likely to increase in
the coming year. Much of the more recently pledged funding has yet to be
raised, and existing funding is not being targeted efficiently to reach
the poor farmers of Africa.

"The international
community has been neglecting entire segments of the food system in its
efforts to reduce hunger and poverty," said Danielle Nierenberg,
co-director of Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project. "The
solutions won't necessarily come from producing more food, but from
changing what children eat in schools, how foods are processed and
marketed, and what sorts of food businesses we are investing in."

locally raised crops to school children, for example, has proven to be
an effective hunger- and poverty-reducing strategy in many African
nations, and has strong parallels to successful farm-to-cafeteria
programs in the United States and Europe. Moreover, "roughly 40 percent
of the food currently produced worldwide is wasted before it is
consumed, creating large opportunities for farmers and households to
save both money and resources by reducing this waste," according to
Brian Halweil, Nourishing the Planet co-director. State of the World 2011
draws from hundreds of case studies and first-person examples to offer
solutions to reducing hunger and poverty. These include:

  • In
    2007, some 6,000 women in The Gambia organized into the TRY Women's
    Oyster Harvesting producer association, creating a sustainable
    co-management plan for the local oyster fishery to prevent
    overharvesting and exploitation. Oysters and fish are an important,
    low-cost source of protein for the population, but current production
    levels have led to environmental degradation and to changes in land use
    over the last 30 years. The government is working with groups like TRY
    to promote less-destructive methods and to expand credit facilities to
    low-income producers to stimulate investment in more-sustainable
  • In Kibera, Nairobi, the
    largest slum in Kenya, more than 1,000 women farmers are growing
    "vertical" gardens in sacks full of dirt poked with holes, feeding their
    families and communities. These sacks have the potential to feed
    thousands of city dwellers while also providing a sustainable and
    easy-to-maintain source of income for urban farmers. With more than 60
    percent of Africa's population projected to live in urban areas by 2050,
    such methods may be crucial to creating future food security.
    Currently, some 33 percent of Africans live in cities, and 14 million
    more migrate to urban areas each year. Worldwide, some 800 million
    people engage in urban agriculture, producing 15-20 percent of all food.
  • Pastoralists
    in South Africa and Kenya are preserving indigenous varieties of
    livestock that are adapted to the heat and drought of local
    conditions-traits that will be crucial as climate extremes on the
    continent worsen. Africa has the world's largest area of permanent
    pasture and the largest number of pastoralists, with 15-25 million
    people dependent on livestock.
  • The Food,
    Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) is
    using interactive community plays to engage women farmers, community
    leaders, and policymakers in an open dialogue about gender equity, food
    security, land tenure, and access to resources. Women in sub-Saharan
    Africa make up at least 75 percent of agricultural workers and provide
    60-80 percent of the labor to produce food for household consumption and
    sale, so it is crucial that they have opportunities to express their
    needs in local governance and decision-making. This entertaining and
    amicable forum makes it easier for them to speak openly.
  • Uganda's
    Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) program is
    integrating indigenous vegetable gardens, nutrition information, and
    food preparation into school curriculums to teach children how to grow
    local crop varieties that will help combat food shortages and revitalize
    the country's culinary traditions. An estimated 33 percent of African
    children currently face hunger and malnutrition, which could affect some
    42 million children by 2025. School nutrition programs that don't
    simply feed children, but also inspire and teach them to become the
    farmers of the future, are a huge step toward improving food security.

The State of the World 2011
report is accompanied by other informational materials including
briefing documents, summaries, an innovations database, videos, and
podcasts, all of which are available at
The project's findings are being disseminated to a wide range of
agricultural stakeholders, including government ministries, agricultural
policymakers, farmer and community networks, and the increasingly
influential non-governmental environmental and development communities. In
conducting this research, Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project
received unprecedented access to major international research
institutions, including those in the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research(CGIAR) system. The team also interacted
extensively with farmers and farmers' unions as well as with the banking
and investment communities.

The Worldwatch Institute was a globally focused environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C., founded by Lester R. Brown. Worldwatch was named as one of the top ten sustainable development research organizations by Globescan Survey of Sustainability Experts. Brown left to found the Earth Policy Institute in 2000. The Institute was wound up in 2017, after publication of its last State of the World Report. was unreachable from mid-2019.