Knowledge for Development

Judith’s pick – End of April 2014

25/04/2014 - Judith Francis

Dear colleagues,

Find below a short selection of recent developments and publications relevant to agricultural research and development in ACP countries: work on soil data is going global while diets around the world are losing their diversity, putting the agricultural systems' capacity for resilience at risk.

The next K4D newsletter will feature new lead articles on "Research Collaboration in a Globalised World".

The expert meeting 'CTA Top 20 agricultural innovations for ACP smallholder farming systems' will start on Monday 28 April 2014. Find the programme here:


EU-AFRICA ROADMAP 2014–2017 includes cooperation in science, technology and innovation and higher education

Five joint priorities have been identified for EU-Africa cooperation within the joint Africa European Strategy (JAES) framework for the period 2014–2017 namely; (i) Peace and security; (ii) Democracy, good governance and human rights; (iii) Human development; (iv) Sustainable and inclusive development and growth and continental integration and (v) Global and emerging issues. 

In the priority area 3 "Human Development": two of the key areas for cooperation are inter alia (a) Science, technology and innovation; and (b) Higher education. Agriculture, food security and food safety are identified under priority area 4, “Sustainable and inclusive development”. Climate change and environment are to include sustainable land management, and biodiversity issues (including resilient ecosystems and green growth and innovation) are captured in priority area 5, "global and emerging issues".


'Towards a globalized diet: more food, less diversity, more associated risks'

This comprehensive study by Colin Khoury of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and co-authors from related research institutes provides evidence of change in the relative importance of different crop plants in national food supplies worldwide over the past 50 years. This study of the global food supply thoroughly documents and confirms for the first time what experts have long suspected: over the last five decades, human diets around the world have grown ever more similar – by a global average of 36 % – and the trend shows no signs of slowing, with major consequences for human nutrition and global food security. The study suggests that growing reliance on a few food crops may also accelerate the worldwide rise in obesity, heart disease and diabetes, which are strongly affected by dietary change and have become major health problems. Many crops of considerable regional importance – including cereals like sorghum, millets and rye, as well as root crops such as sweet potato, cassava and yam – have lost ground. Many other locally significant grain and vegetable crops – for which globally comparable data are not available – have suffered the same fate. Another danger of a more homogeneous global food basket is that it makes agriculture more vulnerable to major threats like drought, insect pests and diseases, which are likely to become worse in many parts of the world as a result of climate change.

Note – Can the research and policy communities afford not to consider the globalisation of diets and the reliance on fewer crops in more depth? The implications for the future of food and nutrition security are far reaching, both for the economies and natural environment. Similar research efforts should be extended to livestock – see for example Patterson’s article. A few weeks ago I read that Chinese researchers have begun to consider the implications for food and farming of the loss of indigenous genetic resources which are more resilient.

Press release:




(CIAT, 29/01/2014)


Towards improved soil information for quantification of environmental, societal and economic sustainability

International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC – World Soil Information, Wageningen) has recently published this large report in which information needs for soil data at an increasingly fine spatial resolution are being discussed.

The need for appropriately scaled, consistent and quality assessed soil information in support of studies of food productivity, soil and water management, soil carbon dynamics and greenhouse gas emissions, and the reduction or avoidance of land degradation are first discussed. Soil variables considered most critical for current and likely future model-based assessments are identified and new cost effective measurement methods that may reduce the need for conventional laboratory methods are evaluated. The status and prospects for improving the accuracy of soil property maps and tabular information at increasingly detailed scales (finer resolution) for the world is addressed. The scope for collecting large amounts of site specific and project specific soil information, possibly through crowd-sourcing and consistently storing screening and analysing such data are discussed within the context of ISRCI's emerging Global Soil Information Facility (GSIF), together with the possible institutional implications.

GSIF-related activities are currently being embedded in global initiatives Such as the FAO-led Global Soil Partnership (GSP),, the ICSU World Data System, and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) that promote participatory approaches to data sharing. In order to consolidate its world information services, ISRIC is collaborating with national institutes and international organisation with a mandate for soil resource inventories.

(ISRIC, 05/2013)


Indigenous perceptions of soil erosion, adaptations and livelihood implications: the case of maize farmers in Northern Ghana

Francis Issahaku Malongza Bukari, at the University of Development Studies in Ghana, investigated the nature of soil erosion on maize farms, the effects of soil erosion on maize crop farmers and the effectiveness of local control measures on output levels and the livelihoods of the farmers. The study revealed that the major effects of soil erosion were found to be the loss of fertile soils, reduction in the cultivable land area, the reduction in the crop yield and a fall in the living standards of farmers’ households. Adaptive strategies to reduce the effects of soil erosion included shifting cultivation, ridging across slopes, planting on raised mounds and avoidance of deep ploughing. Farmers who successfully applied traditional soil protection methods improved their output levels per land area and the standards of living of their families. The author recommends that modern agricultural extension services should complement, and not replace, the local knowledge systems in order to ensure sustainability in this farming region.

(Journal of Natural Resources and Development, 07/10/2013)


What difference has CAADP made to Tanzanian agriculture?

Brian Cooksey of the Future Agricultures Consortium (secretariat at IDS, Sussex, UK) examined the impact of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) on Tanzania's agricultural sector. In this paper he discusses how CAADP relates to national and regional policy initiatives (including the country's Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plan, the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania, and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition) and their governance; the possible impacts of CAADP on spending on agriculture in the country; and the extent of the influence and inclusion of civil society organisations on agricultural policy processes. The author concludes that CAADP-related agricultural expenditure was minimal, regressed after recent elections, and left out agricultural research activities in the country.

(Future Agricultures Consortium, 11/2013)


The Economics of Climate Change in the Pacific

Asian Development Bank identifies in this comprehensive report the effects and quantifies the costs of the adverse outcomes of climate change to the Pacific island economies, with details provided for selected key sectors including agriculture, fisheries, tourism, coral reefs, and human health. It presents policy recommendations and action steps for the countries to minimise or mitigate these impacts. Some of the report's findings include the following: the combination and interaction of geographic, economic, environmental, and demographic factors are expected to make the Pacific region particularly sensitive to climate change; mainstreaming climate change actions in development planning is crucial to minimise the impacts of climate change; an adaptation strategy is key to addressing the multitude of climate change impacts. This publication is available for a fee as well as free download.

(ADB, 11/2013)


The latest USP-IRETA newsletter of March 2014 has been uploaded to our website. Of note among other interesting developments in the Pacific region, the December 2013 report on postharvest handling in Fiji. 

Download the PDF here:


The Grenadines Marine Resource and Space-use Information System (MarSIS)

The Grenadines Marine Resource Space-use Information System (MarSIS) is a project of the Centre for resource management and environmental studies of the University of the West Indies, Barbados. MarSIS brings together a variety of social, economic and environmental information drawn from both scientific and local knowledge into a single information system. The system has been created to integrate a wide range of marine-based knowledge and provide people with a more complete information base for coastal marine planning and management. MarSIS will be used to identify critical fishery habitats (essential fish habitats, nursery areas, endangered species); areas of high biodiversity; important marine ecosystems (mangrove, sea grass, coral reefs); areas of high cultural and recreational importance; areas important for fishing, marine-based tourism, yachting and shipping; areas of land-based sources of pollution, human threat and potential space-use conflict.

(MarSIS, 2014)




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