Knowledge for Development

Judith's pick- September 2014

02/09/2014 -

Dear Readers

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Below, we're sharing a number of recent developments we spotted during our recent web research. We consider EADI’s Policy Paper on North-South research partnerships and SparksforChange’s blogpost on Managing research collaborations highly relevant for inspiring genuine improvements in South-North collaborative research programmes. The preliminary results of SPC’s testing of new e-monitoring technology of tuna fishing in the Pacific deserve world-wide attention. It is certainly worth following how public and private agencies in Trinidad & T0bago will benefit from the recently completed high-resolution aerial map of their entire country. But the other developments we have listed in this Judith’s pick are relevant too and worth knowing about.

North-South research partnerships: Academia meets development?

This working paper examines recent experiences in North-South research partnerships, identifying worst and best practices. It draws on work undertaken by the EADI Sub-Committee on Research Partnerships over the last two years. The paper explains that research partnerships are not immune to the typically unequal, biased donor-recipient relations that have plagued international development cooperation for decades. It argues that despite improvements in recent years, entrenched behaviour and enduring practices still affect the quality and effectiveness of research partnerships. Power relations influence the ability to combine capacity building aspirations with the drive for academic excellence. Mounting pressure to publish research outcomes fast in journals edited in the North, combined with harsh competition for funding, seriously limit the time and scope available to establish equitable partnership frameworks and support institutional capacities. The paper calls for addressing funding, knowledge and power issues in development research partnerships. (EADI Policy Paper Series, June 2014)

Managing research collaborations: Bridging disciplines, knowledge systems and cultures

This posting outlines four ways to improve scientist-stakeholder collaborations in environmental management. It points to the need to develop committed relationships; use facilitation to address common problem communication gaps; create a culture of critical reflection among participants; and utilize expanded measures of success. SparksforChange argues that these four elements are important because an increasing number of research programmes in natural resource management are being developed using collaborative or social learning approaches. However, the details of these collaborative and social research components often remain hidden in proposals and published conclusions. Sparksforchange calls for scientists to be more explicit about how these components work, how they will be assessed, and how we can build capability to improve them.  (Sparksforchange, 17/06/2014)

New technology for monitoring tuna fishing in the Pacific  

New technology for monitoring tuna fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is being tested on two large Chinese tuna longliners under the Taipei flag. The e-monitoring system uses high-definition video cameras, GPS and a central computer unit to record all events and video footage and with which the information gathered can be analysed by experienced longline fishing experts and observers. As part of this test, the e-monitoring results will be compared with information collected by two independent fisheries observers who were assigned to each vessel to carry out their regular tasks of observing and recording the catch. The project partners are Tri Marine, National Fisheries Developments (NFD), Yi Man Fishing Company, Satlink, FFA, SPC, Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). They presented preliminary findings of this test at the meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s annual Scientific Committee to be held in Majuro in August 2014. Implementing e-monitoring technology in all or parts of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean fisheries will require logistical and legal frameworks to be put in place at national and regional levels. (SPC, July 2014)

Trinidad to complete high-resolution aerial mapping of entire country

Trinidad & Tobago will soon complete high-resolution aerial mapping of the entire country, and produce imagery and elevation data. The new dataset will form the basis of the planned National Spatial Data Infrastructure. Further outcomes of this aerial mapping project will include elevation models, design of settlement layouts, planning and development of infrastructure such as roads, development of flood mitigation plans, disaster management planning and assessing the quantity and quality of state lands. The imagery and elevation data will be available to all public agencies in Trinidad & Tobago. (Caribbean GIS, 06/06/2014)

Sweet potatoes in Cameroon: Nutritional profile of leaves and their potential new use in local foods

The leaves of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), especially the beta-carotene fortified varieties, are rich in functional macro- and micronutrients such as dietary fibres, antioxidants and other micronutrients deficient in the predominantly starchy staples of most nutritionally vulnerable Africans. Geneva O. Nkongho, University of Buea, Cameroon, and an internal group of colleagues, evaluated the nutrient content of young leaves and succulent green stems of local and exotic varieties using standard analytical procedures. They found that the leaves soften Gnetum africanum vegetable sauce giving it an acceptable appearance, texture, flavour and taste, and can be readily used to substitute for Talinum triangulare (waterleaf) in the preparation of G. africanum sauce during periods of waterleaf scarcity. These leaves can therefore improve the nutritional base in African (especially Cameroonian) diets for the nutritionally vulnerable in rural and urban communities. (African Journal of Agricultural Research, Vol 9(18), pp 1371-1377, May 2014)

Measuring success: local food systems and the need for new indicators

In June 2014, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), USA, published this report for policy makers, analysts and researchers, who often use sets of indicators to assess whether a farming system, or new technology, is succeeding. These indicators focus almost exclusively on production. But just as weight alone is not a good measure of human health, a single-minded focus on production is an inadequate measure of the health of a farming system. Indicators of other aspects of agriculture such as the nutrition, health, environmental sustainability, rural development and other needs of the population also need to be taken into account. In partnership with the Main Street Project, IATP has developed a new set of indicators that better represent the diverse benefits of local, agro-ecological food systems that could be tracked over time.  (IATP, 3/06/2014)


Changing water availability during the African maize-growing season, 1979–2010

Lyndon Estes of Princeton University, USA, and colleagues have used a new bias-corrected meteorological dataset to analyse changes in precipitation, potential evapotranspiration and water availability in 20 African countries between 1979 and 2010, and the factors driving changes. With this dataset, they have filled a gap in understanding how global climate change is impacting African agriculture. The found that maize-growing areas in Southern Africa, particularly South Africa, benefitted from increased water availability due in large part to falling demand driven primarily by declining net radiation, increasing vapour pressure and falling temperatures (with no effect from changing wind speed), with smaller increases in supply. The Sahelian countries and Ethiopia experienced strong increases in water availability driven primarily by increased rainfall, with little change or small reductions in demand. However, intra-seasonal variability of water supply increased in West and East Africa. Only a small number of countries, mostly in or near East Africa, experienced declines in water availability due to decreased rainfall, but exacerbated by increasing demand. Much of the reduced water availability in East Africa occurred during the more sensitive middle part of the maize-growing season, suggesting negative consequences for maize production.

See also Princeton Journal Watch, Molly Sharlach’s blog, of 21/07/2014.