Monthly Archives: April 2008

Food, Fuel, Fertilizer

It’s easy to feel far from the farming world here in the city.  Reporting on the global food crisis yesterday got me wondering how farmers here in the U.S. are faring.  The picture’s way too complicated to capture in a few hours but I did talk to farmers and agronomists who explained that despite great prices for crops they’re really apprehensive about the soaring cost of “inputs,” mainly fuel and fertilizer.  Here’s the story.

Food Crisis

The UN has just finished an emergency meeting on the global food crisis.  We (at PRI’s The World) took it as an opportunity to review the causes of the crisis and some of the proposed solutions. Here’s my report. We followed it with a piece from Vietnam where rice is in short supply. That was followed by an interview on the pace of change in China where economic growth is gobbling up farmland and fuelling demand for meat, both factors in the rising price of food worldwide. I thought it was a good sequence.

I learned a lot from a briefing by three leaders of organizations in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) which is pushing for much more investment in agricultural research.   Joachim von Braun of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington began his remarks with a comment that stuck with me:

“Before I come to the policy issues I want to point out that the nutrition system of the bottom billion of the world population is at risk when they are not shielded from these price rises. The higher food prices lead poor people to limit their food consumption and shift to even less balanced diets with harmful effects on health in the short and long run. The child which is not appropriately nourished under the age of 3 for a couple of months will be harmed for the rest of its life.  So the question whether these food price increases will stop and come down again and whether then everything would be back to normal is a market-related question. Concerning people it’s a different issue. We have to keep in mind the nutrition situation of the poor.”


Campaign 2008

I tried to get a bit of perspective on race and the presidential election by going outside the U.S. today.

Here’s the story.  

The World in Words

PRI’s The World is experiencing a burst of multimedia activity. 

Alex Gallafent is blogging and twittering from the Amazon rainforest:

And Patrick Cox has just launched his new language podcast The World in Words.  Here’s Patrick chatting about it with The World’s Technology Correspondent Clark Boyd:

Here’s the link to episode #1:

And here’s the RSS feed:

Enjoy!  I can’t wait to listen myself.


Young China

Congrats to my colleagues at PRI’s The World Mary Kay Magistad (correspondent), Jennifer Goren (editor), and Traci Tong (producer) on winning this year’s Lowell Thomas Award for best radio news or interpretation of international affairs from the Overseas Press Club. The judges said their 7-part series Young China about  Beijing’s one-child policy “stood out for the depth and breadth of its reporting on a complex topic.”

Eastern Congo

Human rights groups and other NGOs are calling for implementation of January’s peace agreement in Eastern Congo. They say the violence goes on.  They’re urging the appointment of a special independent human rights advisor to the region to keep tabs on civilian protection. Here’s the joint statement from Human Rights Watch and others. Here’s my story on PRI’s The World. 


I am also researching war’s end in Bosnia. I head off to Sarajevo in May to do some reporting. In preparation I met Friday with Andras Riedlmayer, a bibliographer in Islamic Art and Architecture at Harvard’s Fine Arts Library. Andras is an expert on the cultural destruction (churches, mosques, libraries, etc) that occurred during the war and has testified several times at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. I am indebted to him for a stack of background materials and some intriguing story ideas.