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258. World Water Day

March 22 is World Water Day. It was first proposed at the Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 to encourage member countries to organize activities on this day. Agriculture accounts for more than 70% of the world's water intake, and the SDGs cannot be achieved without the more productive and sustainable use of freshwater and rainwater in agriculture.

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257. International Day of Forests

March 21st is International Day of Forests. The United Nations has designated 1985 and 2011 as the "International Year of Forests”, and has engaged in various activities to respond to the global decline, deterioration  and sustainable management of forests. In 2012, March 21 every year was set as “International Day of Forests” to celebrate and raise awareness of forests and trees around the world. The theme for 2021 is "Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being”.
 

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256. Survival Limit Temperature Rise in Tropical Regions due to Global Warming

In recent summers, the intense heat and humidity add to the feeling of increasing discomfort. A study published in Nature Geoscience focused on a measure called wet-bulb temperature, an index that affects human health by considering both temperature and humidity. The wet-bulb temperature of 35°C is said to be the survival limit for humans and it is a concerning issue especially for the growing population in the tropical regions.

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255. Changes in Four Seasons Due to Global Warming

For Japanese people, plant changes such as the blooming of cherry blossoms serve as barometer to feel a sense of the four seasons. But how does climate change affect the four seasons? In the 1950s, the four seasons in the Northern Hemisphere occurred in a predictable and even pattern each year. However, climate change is causing significant deviations to the length and start dates of each season. A paper published in Geophysical Research Letters states that by 2100, summers could be extremely long and winters short in the Northern Hemisphere if climate change measures were not adequately addressed, and it could have a big impact on, people's health and the environment including agriculture.

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254. Nutrition and Nutrients Issues

In order to survive and live a healthy life, humans must get the nutrients they need from outside sources, which are most often obtained through food. Agriculture is a system artificially created to provide food efficiently, and an essential role of agriculture is to supply nutrition. Based on the premise that agriculture and nutrition are linked, this article briefly introduces some issues on nutrition and nutrients.

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253. Energy-related CO2 Emissions in 2020

According to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) released on March 2, 2021, global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020 decreased by 5.8% (about 2 billion tons), which is the largest annual decline since World War II and the largest absolute amount ever. On the other hand, emissions have since returned to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, and global emissions increased in December 2020 and were 2% higher compared to the same month a year earlier.

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252. Development of Agricultural Land Reclamation Technology in the Ethiopian Highlands Using Micro-dam Sediments


In many regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, land degradation such as soil erosion is increasing with the expansion of agricultural lands and deforestation to secure fuelwood, and it has a great impact on agriculture and living environment in the rural areas. In addition, although it is important to maintain soil moisture in order to increase food production in response to the increasing population, irrigation facilities are not sufficient and effective use of rainwater is required. At the project site in the Ethiopian Highlands, JIRCAS, in collaboration with local universities and local governments, has developed a farmland reclamation technology that utilizes micro-dam sediments and restores the function of the reservoir to mitigate the problem of sediment inflow.

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251. A Year into the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 11, 2021, which marks the 10th year since the Great East Japan Earthquake, is also the 1st year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. Many lives been lost and mobility containment measures to curb the spread of infection have resulted in a major shift in how people live, work, travel and interact. Although these changes have temporarily reduced anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, their medium- to long-term impacts are limited and countries need to take more ambitious climate change mitigation measures towards carbon neutrality. 

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250. COVID-19 and Field-oriented International Research Collaboration

As overseas business trips continue to be difficult due to coronavirus crisis, JIRCAS is exploring an international cooperation system with-corona, based on the trust developed through many years of cooperation, such as outsourcing experiments and data collection to local partners and working closely with them through online meetings. Taking the research project in Madagascar as an example, Tsukuba researchers and local teams have put in place a collaborative system to continue research activities and collection of data necessary to disseminate technologies that will lead to improved rice yields. Just recently, the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Madagascar visited the demonstration test site of the project.

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249. Millet Day

March 9th is “millet day” based on the Japanese pun for words. It is expected that millet will play such a major role in global food security and eradicating hunger due to its high nutritional value and wide adaptability to the agricultural ecological environment. At JIRCAS, we are conducting joint research with local partners on crops such as buckwheat species in Asia, amaranth in Africa, and quinoa in South America, which have high functionality and well adapted to harsh environments, but have not been sufficiently studied for stable production and utilization.

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248. Food Waste Index Report 2021: Food waste is equivalent to 23 million 40-ton trucks annually

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released the Food Waste Index Report 2021 early this month. According to the report, more than 930 million tons of food sold in 2019 were dumped in the trash, equivalent to 17%  or about 23 million 40-ton trucks of the foods that would have been available to consumers in homes, restaurants and stores. Including foods lost in the production, processing and distribution processes, one-third all food is lost without being consumed.

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247. Rapidly Changing Food Choices in Low- and Middle-income Countries

Over the past century, the global food system has undergone dramatic changes in response to population dynamics and urbanization, increased food production, and increased trade and distribution. For those involved in agriculture, nutrition and health, the biggest challenge over the next few decades will be to develop policies to achieve a sustainable and healthy diet. On top of this, knowledge of how individuals and households make food decisions in various situations is required. Global Food Security has published a paper on rapidly changing food systems and food choices in low- and middle-income countries.

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246. Forest Fires and Climate Change

In February 2021, forest fires in Tochigi and Gunma continued to spread for several days, and evacuation advisories were issued to neighboring residents. In recent years, forest fires have frequently occurred particularly in eastern Australia and California and have caused great damage, but they are suspected to be related to climate change. A paper published in npj Urban Sustainability described the recent Australian bushfires as "Apocalypse now" after a war film by Francis Ford Coppola.

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245. Progress of Commitments to the Paris Agreement

In February 2021, the Secretariat of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change published the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the 75 Parties to the Paris Agreement submitted by 31 December 2020 (NDC Synthesis Report). To reach the 1.5°C goal, emissions in 2030 must be reduced by 45% compared to 2010 but the report indicates that only 1% reduction can be expected at this stage. 

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244. Nature Food: Impact of COVID-19 on Food and Recommendations

A commentary article in Nature Food, published in February 2021, describes the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems from various angles, including economic and social system shocks, food system disruptions, and the gaps in coverage of essential health and nutrition services. These effects are disproportionately large for vulnerable groups, especially low- and middle-income countries, women, young children, adolescents, the elderly, migrants and displaced persons. Also, nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables are more affected by inadequate value chains as compared to staple foods.

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243. Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases

In January 2021, with the inauguration of the the U.S. President Biden, one of the first actions of the new administration was the return to the Paris Agreement. On February 26, the Biden administration's Interagency Working Group announced that it would make decisions based on scientific evidence, and tentatively returned the social cost per ton of greenhouse gases to the levels of the Obama administration at $51 for carbon dioxide, $1,500 for methane and $18,000 for nitrous oxide.

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242. Synergistic Effects of Climate Change and Public Health Policies to Achieve the Paris Agreement

Toward the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global warming well below 2°C, countries are preparing to materialize their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). A paper published in The Lancet in February 2021 showed the synergistic effect (co-benefits) of climate change and public health policies toward the achievement of the Paris Agreement.

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241. UNEP Report on Making Peace with Nature

The burden on the environment caused by humans has gradually increased for almost half a century, and is now causing a planetary emergency. In February 2021, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) published a synthesis report titled "Making Peace with Nature" with practical recommendations on how to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies,  and build a sustainable future.

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240. JIRCAS’ Efforts toward the Utilization of Yam Genetic Resources

As an initiative to utilize the diverse genetic resources of Guinea yam, one of the most important crops in West Africa, JIRCAS has been developing technologies to improve the efficiency of research in breeding and agronomy such as selection of a diversity research set in addition to application of genomic information. These achievements are expected to contribute to solving the food crisis and extreme poverty in Africa through the development of improved varieties that utilize the wide range of genetic diversity of this crop.

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239. Impacts of Food System on Biodiversity Loss

In February 2021, the British think tank Chatham House published the report “Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss". The global food system has been shaped by the ‘cheaper food’ paradigm over the past 50 years. Without a change in the food system, biodiversity loss will accelerate and it will even be impossible to sustain human survival. The United Nations Food System Summit is scheduled to be held in 2021 and will provide a unique opportunity for food system transformation.