Knowledge for Development

Judith's pick - Early November 2014

12/11/2014 - Judith Francis

Dear colleagues,

The October-November is being prepared and will be send out in a week's time. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here.

For now, we would like to share with some interesting new developments.


The Universities of Hohenheim and Kassel/Witzenhausen invite applications of German university alumni who are coming from and having their actual residence in a developing country (according to DAC-list) and who are working in the field of organic agriculture. Participants will take part in a two weeks training programme (02–13 February 2015) in Germany that includes a guided visit to the world's leading international organic fair BioFach 2015 in Nuremberg.

Closing date is approaching fast: 21 November 2014. Find the calls here (University of Hohenheim) and here (University of Kassel/Witzenhausen).


In our last newsletter, we featured an article by Sue Farran on 'Intellectual property, traditional knowledge and food security in Pacific island countries'.  Here below, we reproduce one of the comment we received and Sue's response. Write to or register to become a K4D member to send or post your comments.

Comments on Sue’s article

"1. My main concern is that the article oversimplifies the issues and thus comes across as an activist piece (or maybe that's what you are hoping for?). For example at the top of page 4 the article concludes that WTO member countries (who must adopt TRIPS-compliant IP laws) are worse off than non-WTO member countries, but doesn't substantiate this claim. There are so many arguments that could be made on both sides and it's impossible to tell why the author has made this conclusion.

2. The piece is also not entirely accurate, and this may be due to the oversimplification. For example the author states that breeders favor plant breeder rights over patent rights but I seriously doubt this to be true, and there's no evidence to support the assertion.

3. Further to my first point, the conclusions of this piece are quite strong and broad and one-sided but are hardly substantiated in any way. Perhaps this is due to the brevity of the article, which may be a necessity(?) but it seems that such conclusions should be backed by better arguments and/or limited in scope to something much narrower. Perhaps she can pick one of the conclusions and focus on it, providing better evidence and analysis."

Response from Sue Farran


Obviously this was written for a broad readership not specifically lawyers.  Clearly there is scope for different opinions on this topic. If the person who write this is interested in more legalistic pieces he might like to look at

Sue Farran 'That plant is my ancestor’: dilemmas for intellectual property in developing countries, food security and Pacific island countries’ (2014) 4 (4) Queen Mary Intellectual Property Journal 277-296

Sue Farran 'Aid, trade and constructions of property: the place of indigenous traditional knowledge in development strategies: a Pacific perspective' published in the Development Studies Journal (Taylor Francis) - available by open access at

Or the article: ‘Intellectual Property and Food Security in Least Developed Countries’ with Forsyth, M. (2013) 34 (3) Third World Quarterly 521-538."


Science, technology and innovation in the context of development – an overview of concepts and corresponding policies

Different perspectives on the inter-relationships between science, technology and innovation (ST&I), the multiple dimensions of development (ecological, economic, social and cultural) and of sustainability (economic, environmental, and social) are explored. In addition to outlining underlying scientific concepts and detailing the change of paradigm in ST&I policy over the past decades, Anna Schwachula of the Centre for Development Research, at the University of Bonn, Germany (ZEF) and co-authors note the complexity of analysing the potential impacts of ST&I on society and propose three scientific models. The authors focused on how the OECD, World Bank and UNESCO defined and operationalized ST&I for development and conclude that by emphasizing the economic aspects of developments, social and environmental dimensions are side-lined. The lack of institution-wide consensus on key concepts is observed and caution against applying a universal blueprint and call for a discussion of a broader range of conceptualisations and pathways along the science-policy interface to determine to what extent these could be used for developing countries.

(ZEF, 06/2014)


Using the concepts of resilience, vulnerability and adaptability for the assessment and of agricultural systems

There is  clear conceptual overlap and often the inter-changeable use of resilience, vulnerability and adaptability, which have emerged as the dominant concepts in the study of disturbance and change of social-ecological systems. . The authors, Daniel Callo-Concha, of the Centre for Development Research, at the University of Bonn (ZEF), Germany and colleagues, argue that the driving methodological and operational criteria for their application cannot be unambiguously separated. They believe it is difficult to identify guiding principles for the operational application of each and stress that their operationalisation require consistency in approaches and protocols to ensure their coherent use. They conclude that the conceptual and operational integration of resilience, vulnerability and adaptability would perhaps lead to a more complete portrayal of the behaviour of agricultural systems in changing situations.

(ZEF, 01/03/2014)


Science-practice interactions for effective climate change adaptation: identifying new approaches for collaboration between Europe and low-income countries

Although research can provide context-specific data, analysis and knowledge for climate change adaptation, yet in practice, the potential of science-practice interaction is still underdeveloped. Funds for research on climate change adaptation will considerably increase in the coming years. It is therefore important to explore ways of channelling the funds to promising research that can provide context-specific data, analysis and knowledge for climate change adaptation in low-income countries. This policy brief summarises the key findings and recommendations of an international expert workshop organised by the German Development Institute (Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, DIE), the EU project CIRCLE-2 (Climate Impact Research & Response Coordination for a Larger Europe), and the German Aerospace Centre – Project Management Agency (PT-DLR). Two key recommendation are: 

  • Extend the basis for identification of knowledge needs beyond literature review and the advice of a limited number of experts and high-level stakeholders. 
  • Funding agencies need to provide sufficient time and resources for science-practice interaction and should reconsider its incentives structures for research. 

(DIE, 29/01/2014)


Unpacking postharvest losses in Sub-Saharan Africa: a meta-analysis

Knowledge of the magnitude of postharvest losses (PHL) in sub-Saharan Africa is limited. Hippolyte Affognona, of ICIPE, Nairobi, Kenya and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to expose the nature and magnitude of PHL, and the kinds of interventions that have been attempted to mitigate the losses. Their findings reveal inadequacies of loss assessment methodologies that result in inaccurate PHL estimates. Moreover, losses are often economic rather than physical product losses. Overall, technologies for loss mitigation fail to address the dynamics of supply chains.

(World Development, 31/08/2014)


The road to sustainable tuna aquaculture

A sustainable and commercially viable aquaculture production for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is possible based on results of the EU-funded project TRANSDOTT, which was completed in September 2014. established. The project built on several previous projects, such as the development of a hormone-based method to make fish reproduce in captivity. It also involved scaling up tuna production and making the endeavour economically viable. Some problems needed to be tackled first: to make the aquaculture more sustainable. Fish-based feed was step-by-step replaced by vegetable feed, to overcome cannibalism and to prevent wall collisions due to poor eye-sight. Some experts believe the best course of action for the Bluefin is to reduce the quotas to let the wild populations increase to some approximation of their original size.

(CommNet, 04/07/2014)


Can Sub-Saharan Africa's plural seed systems survive?

Regulatory bodies in Africa could use DNA fingerprinting to characterize and license seeds from the informal seed systems and to establish the legitimacy of these systems in regulatory frameworks and markets. Such recognition may help to diversify informal seed systems and deliver all types of seeds to farmers in diverse agro-ecologies. But this also would require open and inclusive markets. Leonard Haggai of the East Africa hub of the Future Agricultures Consortium reports that many participants of the Regional Dialogue on Strengthening African Seed Systems held in July 2014 raised doubts about the ability of scientists and policy analysts to influence seed policies that could support more open and plural seed systems. Reasons for their doubts are the current technological lock-in to few hybrid cash crops, the narrow interests of powerful actors in the sector and the non-organised smallholder farmers who cannot mobilise the political support for investments in a diversified seed system.

(IDS KNOTS, 07/08/2014)


Scientists breed nutritionally rich yam bean

African Yam bean is an orphan highly nutritious crop that is undervalued by policy makers. Plant breeders at the Department of Agricultural Production of Makerere University, are breeding yam beans to develop palatable varieties that are free of poisonous substances and adapted to tall grass savannah agro- ecological zones. 31 new accessions have been included in the CGIAR's Potato Center (CIP) gene bank, and about 60 farmer varieties of yam beans are now maintained at CIP. Makerere University and NARO researchers are optimistic that the yam bean will contribute significantly to food security because it is rich in protein, carbohydrates, zinc and iron and also improves soil fertility.

(FarmBizAfrica, 11/10/2014)




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