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Judith's pick - March 2015

11/03/2015 - Judith A. Francis

Changes are coming to K4D website. In our final newsletter, we have captured some of the new thinking and changing dynamics on science, technology and innovation (STI) in agriculture. This is only fitting as STI was the genesis and raison d’être of K4D since it was launched in early 2004. The future looks bright for STI for agriculture and rural development if the momentum is sustained and STI policy and practice are further mainstreamed into national systems which are adequately resourced. Let us, therefore, hope that Queen Elizabeth or some other highly respected national or world leader does not have to ask the experts in the not too distant future ‘How did you get it wrong?’; ‘How did you miss the signals?’ if agricultural sector performance does not improve or perhaps drops and millions of smallholder farmers are further impoverished and their families malnourished and displaced.

In this newsletter, we provide four new feature articles on: (i) ethics of innovation in agriculture by Kristal Jones; (ii) innovation and inclusive development by Lynn Mytelka; (iii) research on higher education and science and innovation policy by Marle Jacobs; and (iv) governance of science, technology and innovation for food security in Africa by John Ouma-Mugabe.

We also highlight some of the documents generated through the 2014 CTA and S&T activities linked to food and nutrition security. These include: (i) the Africa-EU STI FNS road map from the CTA international forum; (ii) the Seed systems, science and policy book which includes a policy brief; (iii) the online ‘Auditing instrument for food security in higher education (AIFHSE)’ tool and (iv) the publication of the 40 papers by African women and young professionals in science linked to the theme “Feeding 1 billion in a changing world”. These are an essential part of our strategy of empowerment and engagement of scientists in STI policy making.

Please also find below an interesting selection of recent developments and publications which you can find on our website. I invite you to continue to explore all the resources available on the K4D website. You can also connect with us via Twitter or Facebook

How to redefine innovation and development: An African perspective
Gillian Marcelle sees the value in the recently approved science, technology and innovation strategy for Africa (STISA 2024) and suggests that the global knowledge divide will provide the push for redefining and reimagining STI so that STI delivers its maximum potential.

Improving markets for seeds and fertilizers in West Africa
 This World Bank analysis points to the need for pragmatic solutions that are easy for individual countries or groups of countries to implement in the near term while longer-term progress towards full harmonization of trade rules and quality control procedures for improving farmers’ access to quality seeds and fertilizers by West African governments, through ECOWAS and other regional bodies. (World Bank, 10/02/2015) 

World crop diversity survives in small farms from peri-urban to remote rural locations
 As much as 75% of global seed diversity in staple food crops is held and actively used by a wide range of smallholder farmers, with the rest in gene banks. This is the conclusion of a study by Karl Zimmerer, Steven Vanek and colleagues from the GeoSyntheSES (Geographic Synthesis for Social-Ecological Sustainability) Lab at Penn State University, USA. They looked at new census data from 11 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and combined the data with field observations to develop an understanding of who is farming what and exactly where.

Access to Seeds Index
 The Methodology Report of the Access to Seeds Index 2015 is now available. It describes the methodology for both the Global Index and the Regional Index for Eastern Africa.

The technological edge for animal feed producers
New portable devices are helping the animal feed industry to blur the lines between the lab and the field. By eliminating the need to ship samples to centralized labs, handheld analysers provide fast, actionable results at the point of need. The ability to test at multiple stages in the supply chain is important for traceability as well as quality. (, 19/12/2014)

Effects of combined traditional processing methods on the nutritional quality of beans
 [RE7] Researchers of Makerere University, Uganda, have developed a processing method for production of fast cooking bean flours and assessed the effect of processing on the nutritional characteristics of the flours. Overall, they found that combined processing of beans improved the nutritional quality of dry beans and the resulting precooked flours need shorter cooking times compared with whole dry beans. (Food Science & Nutrition, 14/02/2015)

Recent progress of hyperspectral imaging on quality and safety inspection of fruits and vegetables
 Hyperspectral imaging (HSI), a rapid, non-destructive, and chemical-free method, is emerging as a powerful analytical tool for product inspection by simultaneously offering spatial information and spectral signals from one object. This paper focuses on recent advances and applications of HSI in detecting, classifying and visualizing quality and safety attributes of fruits and vegetables. (Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 20/01/2015)

Nanotechnology in agriculture, livestock and aquaculture in China: A review
 Nanotechnologies are widely used for rapid detection and diagnosis, notably for clinical examination, food safety testing and animal epidemic surveillance. In this article, the authors review more than 200 reports on nanoscience in agriculture, livestock and aquaculture in China since the 1990s.  (Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 31/12/2014)

Supporting a regional agricultural sector with geo & mainstream ICT – the case study of Space4Agri Project[
 The Space4Agri (S4A) project aims to demonstrate how a knowledge platform can be set up for effectively monitoring cropping systems, water stress and the impacts of climate change on specific regions, and for sharing this information at regional and national levels. The platform has been designed to allow various data workflows and could result in significantly spurring socio-economic development and creating new growth opportunities for famers, as well as agri-business and other companies. (AGRIS Online Papers in Economics and Informatics, 31/12/2014)

Capacity building for climate change adaptation in the Pacific
Valuable resources from a UNDP Pacific regional November 2014 training workshop on building capacity on climate change adaptation

The Ocean and the Human Family - World Oceans Day 2015
Young people up to age 24 can participate in a contest for the Mundus maris Award 2015– We Are All Connected To The Ocean for celebrating the World Oceans Day 2015, 8 June 2015.

Doctoral scholarship SOAS: The economics of food and agriculture
 Deadline: 1 May 2015