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Food prices have soared to record highs and are projected to increase further in the coming decade, pushing millions of people into hunger and fueling political unrest around the world. The Worldwatch Institute's recently released report, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, shows that diversifying food production to include local and indigenous vegetables can help communities boost their self-sufficiency and protect vulnerable populations from price shocks.
"The solutions to the price crisis won't necessarily come from producing more food, but from listening to farmers, investing in indigenous vegetables, and changing how foods are processed and marketed," said Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project (www.NourishingthePlanet.org).
Mainstream agricultural approaches have tended to focus on a handful of staple crops, such as rice, wheat and maize, and to promote the use of expensive, high-tech inputs, creating an unsustainable and vulnerable food system. Last year's drought in Russia that damaged a third of the country's wheat harvest, together with widespread flooding in Pakistan and Australia, caused price shocks around the world. Skyrocketing food prices are especially destabilizing in poor, import-dependent countries such as those in Africa, where households spend up to 80 percent of their income on food. In Egypt, the world's leading wheat importer, a 70-percent rise in wheat prices helped trigger the recent wave of protests that swept the country. Subsequent unrest across the region is raising fears about global instability.
State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet is accompanied by informational materials, including briefing documents, summaries, an innovations database, videos, and podcasts, all available at www.NourishingthePlanet.org. The project's findings are being disseminated to a wide range of agricultural stakeholders, including government ministries, agricultural policymakers, and farmer and community networks, as well as the increasingly influential nongovernmental environmental and development communities.
Source: Worldwatch Institute
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