22/02/2021 WORLD NEWS 21
No 1

Somalia: Urgent scaling up of emergency response needed, as 2.65 million people are projected to be in acute hunger

FSNAU-FEWS NET report indicates large-scale food and nutrition insecurity due to multiple threats

Photo: ©FAO/Isak Amin/Arete/FAO
Figure: A woman receives items to help care for her livestock as part of FAO’s livelihoods support for vulnerable households. Baki District, Somalia.
FAO News - 17 February 2021, Mogadishu - Over 2.6 million people in Somalia are expected to be in extreme food insecurity according to the latest joint technical assessment released by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). The report cites poor rainfall, flooding and desert locusts among the main contributing factors and warns that the situation could worsen through mid-2021 in the absence of large-scale and sustained humanitarian assistance.
FAO and the Government of Somalia have emphasized the urgency to increase support to sustain ongoing desert locust control and surveillance efforts, and to provide rapid emergency assistance over the coming months.
"Despite relative progress, there has been a new upsurge of desert locusts that has destroyed crops. We will continue working as a combined force to combat the threat of desert locusts and mitigate the potential of a more devastating outcome," said Said Hussein Iid, Somalia's Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation.
The report highlights that desert locusts will continue to pose a serious risk of damage to both pasture and crops countrywide through mid-2021. In addition, available forecasts indicate an increased likelihood of below-average rainfall during the 2021 Gu (April-June) season across most of the country, which would further exacerbate food and nutrition insecurity for millions of people.
"With the Government's support, our teams and partners have maintained operations in control and surveillance, while delivering crucial humanitarian assistance and livelihood support during extremely challenging circumstances. Expanding the emergency response is crucial and underway, with a focus on interventions aimed at reducing food consumption gaps, saving lives, and protecting and preserving livelihoods," said Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Representative in Somalia.
From July to December 2020, assistance reached more than 1.8 million people per month on average in parts of Somalia. This large-scale humanitarian and government support helped to minimize the magnitude of the crisis and funding is needed urgently to boost efforts to reduce the new food security threats the country is currently facing.
Food insecurity expected to deteriorate
Approximately 1.6 million people face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes in the presence of planned humanitarian assistance during the first quarter of 2021. An additional 2.5 million people are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), bringing the total number of people experiencing acute food insecurity to 4.1 million. This also includes approximately 840 000 children under the age of five who are likely to be acutely malnourished, including nearly 143 000 who are likely to be severely malnourished.
According to FSNAU-FEWS NET, from April to June 2021, food insecurity is expected to deteriorate, largely among poor rural, urban and displaced populations, due to the multitude of threats and crises. Humanitarian assistance must be sustained through mid-2021 to prevent Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes for nearly 2.7 million people.
"Somalia's long-standing crises are compounded now by the ‘triple threat' of the COVID-19 pandemic, desert locust infestations and climatic shocks," said the UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Adam Abdelmoula, who also serves as the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia. "We must continue to work with all humanitarian partners to ensure the most vulnerable Somalis are able to withstand the challenges and build resilience against future shocks. I urge all partners to work together across the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding paths to address the root causes of these crises and build lasting solutions that leave no one behind," he added.
No 2

FAO and Japan urge increased responsible investment for greener, stronger agri-food systems

Rome/Tokyo, 19 February 2021 – Japan is stepping up funding for FAO in three key areas, Vice-Minister for International Affairs at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Makoto Osawa told Director-General QU Dongyu, as the two officials met virtually today. Osawa went on to list the strengthening of agricultural supply chains in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; the promotion of traditional healthy diets; and statistical capacity.
Additional funding requests were working their way through the Japanese parliament, Osawa added, and were expected to be approved. His country, he stressed, accorded FAO “first rank” significance.
Director-General QU paid tribute to Japan’s record of generously funding international development over the last 50 years and encouraged the country to maintain high levels of engagement.
He noted that funds channelled through FAO had a multiplying effect, drawing attention to the additional opportunities for the Japan to showcase its expertise.
Both Qu and Osawa expressed high hopes for the UN Food Systems Summit, with Qu highlighting FAO’s leading role in both pre-Summit technical assistance and post-Summit implementation.
The two participants concurred on the need to plug the investment gap in offsetting greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture and food production. They noted that while the sector is often said to be responsible for a quarter of emissions, the share of investment allocated to “greening” it is less than five percent of total money flows into agri-food systems.
There was also agreement on the need for greater private, responsible investment in the field. Director-General QU pointed out that where governments set the example, the private sector will follow, often with manifold increases.
Vice-Minister Osawa invited FAO to help establish common standards on economic, social and governance investment in agri-food systems. He alluded to boosting crop production while protecting tropical forests as an example of his government’s funding priorities. The Minister also pointed to Japan’s presence in FAO’s governing structures as a factor apt to promote solid policy coordination.
Director-General QU referred to FAO’s Hand-in-Hand geospatial platform, which offered a wealth of funding opportunities in the sector. He noted that while initial perceptions were that the platform mostly concerned developing countries, middle-income nations were increasingly expressing interest in the platform and its benefits.
There was joint appreciation of the FAO-curated Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS). Currently, 62 GIAHS sites are recognized around the world, with 11 sites in Japan. The programme bridges the gap between food security concerns, landscape preservation and the maintenance of fragile cultural traditions. The Director-General expressed interest in expanding the GIAHS approach to include contemporary and more recent sites of agricultural production across the world: he noted that the applied value of GIAHS goes beyond paying tribute to the agricultural ingenuity of the past, drawing lessons and benefits today and in the future.
Agri-system approaches must be holistic to succeed, the Director-General concluded, amid a sense that FAO’s and Japan’s agendas had further converged ahead of September’s Food Systems summit.
Science news


The mop1 mutation affects the recombination landscape in maize

Meixia Zhao, Jia-Chi Ku, Beibei Liu, Diya Yang, Liangwei Yin, Tyshawn J. Ferrell, Claire E. Stoll, Wei Guo, Xinyan Zhang, Dafang Wang, Chung-Ju Rachel Wang, and Damon Lisch
PNAS February 16, 2021 118 (7) e2009475118


Meiotic recombination is regulated by both genetic and epigenetic factors such as DNA methylation. In maize, we found that the mop1 mutation removes CHH (where H = A, T, or C) methylation that is immediately adjacent to sites of frequent recombination in both chromosomal arms and pericentromeric regions. We further found that the mop1 mutation increased meiotic recombination frequencies in chromosomal arms but decreased them in pericentromeric regions. Our data demonstrate that although CHH methylation is present at a much lower level than CG and CHG methylation, it has a substantial effect on recombination frequencies, suggesting an important role for RNA-directed DNA methylation in meiotic recombination in maize.


Meiotic recombination is a fundamental process that generates genetic diversity and ensures the accurate segregation of homologous chromosomes. While a great deal is known about genetic factors that regulate recombination, relatively little is known about epigenetic factors, such as DNA methylation. In maize, we examined the effects on meiotic recombination of a mutation in a component of the RNA-directed DNA methylation pathway, Mop1 (Mediator of paramutation1), as well as a mutation in a component of the trans-acting small interference RNA biogenesis pathway, Lbl1 (Leafbladeless1). MOP1 is of particular interest with respect to recombination because it is responsible for methylation of transposable elements that are immediately adjacent to transcriptionally active genes. In the mop1 mutant, we found that meiotic recombination is uniformly decreased in pericentromeric regions but is generally increased in gene rich chromosomal arms. This observation was further confirmed by cytogenetic analysis showing that although overall crossover numbers are unchanged, they occur more frequently in chromosomal arms in mop1 mutants. Using whole genome bisulfite sequencing, our data show that crossover redistribution is driven by loss of CHH (where H = A, T, or C) methylation within regions near genes. In contrast to what we observed in mop1 mutants, no significant changes were observed in the frequency of meiotic recombination in lbl1 mutants. Our data demonstrate that CHH methylation has a significant impact on the overall recombination landscape in maize despite its low frequency relative to CG and CHG methylation.
Figure 1: Strategy to construct the backcross (BC1) populations and measure recombination frequency. (A) Genetic pipeline to construct backcross populations from different F1 genotypes. B73 and Mo17 are two maize inbred lines. (B) Schematic diagram to measure recombination frequency. A (a) and B (b) represent polymorphic markers between the B73 and Mo17 genomes.
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