Knowledge for Development


News items relevant to the policy dialogue on S&T for Development.

The world celebrates World Water Day, 22 March 2014

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 47% of the population could be living under severe water stress by 2050. Modern irrigation practices, including centre pivot irrigation systems, can help improve crop productivity and yields. However, irrigation is also the source of excessive water depletion from aquifers, erosion, and soil degradation. More farmers are using innovative practices to utilize water more efficiently and in lesser quantities to produce more nutritious foods. Using rainwater harvesting, zai pits (a traditional land rehabilitation technology invented by farmers in Burkina Faso), micro-irrigation, bottle irrigation, gravity drip buckets, rotational grazing systems, and other water-saving practices can all help maintain or create sustainable agricultural landscapes. Consumers too can profoundly reduce water waste and consumption, through the food choices they make each day.   (Food Tank, 19/03/2014)


UNESCO's 'Women in Science' interactive tool

Women in Science, a new interactive tool produced by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), presents the latest available data for countries at all stages of development. By highlighting trends in different regions and countries, this tool provided a unique view on International Women’s Day (8 March 2014). The tool allows for exploring and visualising gender gaps in the process that leads to a research career, from the decision to get a doctorate degree to the fields of research women pursue and the sectors in which they work. It presents internationally comparable data produced by the UIS. This means that the indicators can be accurately compared across countries with very different contexts for women in science.   It is particularly useful for those interested in a global perspective on the gender gap in research, especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The data tool shows just how important it is to encourage girls to pursue mathematics and science at a young age.   Available in English, French and Spanish, it can be easily embedded on your website, blog or social media sites.   (UIS, 2014)


Policy: The art of science advice to government

In Nature Peter Gluckman, New Zealand's chief science adviser, offers his ten principles for building trust, influence, engagement and independence (Issue 507, March 2014). His own experience is of a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy in a small advanced economy. Other countries have different forms of government and different cultural histories of public reason; high-level scientific advice may be provided by individuals, councils or academies, or a combination. Nevertheless, these guidelines are relevant to all those providing advice to senior levels of government.   Gluckman’s ten principles are: Maintain the trust of many; Protect the independence of advice; Report to the top; Distinguish science for policy from policy for science; Expect to inform policy, not make it; Give science privilege as an input into policy; Recognize the limits of science; Act as a broker not an advocate; Engage the scientific community; and Engage the policy community.   (Nature, 13/03/2014)


Challenges for European policy coherence for food security in Africa

Michael Brüntrup, of the German Development Institute, writes about the ongoing debate on how to harness policy coherence for development (PCD) in Europe to improve food and nutrition security in poor countries. PCD enables the screening of the EU’s external and internal policies for their development implications, to help detect negative impacts and develop mitigation measures. According to Brüntrup, these screening exercises often fall short of expectations because of the contradictory internal interests behind EU policies. He points to the more fundamental problem with achieving PCD for African food security: the differential and often opposing impacts of a given EU policy for different target groups and for different circumstances. This makes an objective coherence judgment extremely difficult. Discussing the case of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and agricultural trade regime, he believes PCD in the area of food security is bound to remain patchy, and may be limited to addressing some particularly damaging side-effects of European policies only.   (AfricaEU2014 blog, 16/10/2013)


Main science and technology indicators (MSTI)

OECD’s MSTI database provides a set of indicators that reflect the level and structure of the efforts undertaken by OECD member countries and seven non-member economies (Argentina, China, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Chinese Taipei) in the field of science and technology from 1981 onwards. These data include final or provisional results as well as forecasts established by government authorities. The indicators cover the resources devoted to research and development, patent families, technology balance of payments and international trade in R&D-intensive industries.   The latest OECD estimates confirm the recovery of gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD) in 2012. In the OECD area, the level of R&D spending rose by 2.7% in real terms from 2011 to stand above pre-crisis levels for a second straight year. This growth has been driven by a strong recovery in R&D performed by business (+3.5%), which has offset subdued growth of R&D expenditures in higher education institutions (+1.4%) and in the government sector (+0.9). Government R&D budgets remained stable or declined in a majority of countries, reflecting the impact of widespread fiscal consolidation.    (OECD, 17/01/2014)


Call for world’s top researchers to collaborate

Suvendrini Kakuchi, a Sri Lankan journalist based in Japan, writes about Japan's strategic plan to internationalise higher education, increase the number of foreign researchers, teachers and students at Japanese institutions and contribute to world-class innovative research. To encourage globally competitive research collaborations at the nation’s public universities, Japan will invite professors, associate and assistant professors and laboratory staff, including graduate students from overseas, to conduct joint research projects in Japan lasting for five to 10 years.   (University World News, 31/01/2014)


The role of international partnerships post-2015

Hala Sabri, a woman scientist and member of the international office at the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology in Pakistan, discusses the post-2015 development agenda and reflects on the role international collaboration could play in developing the 'new' MDGs. According to Sabri, meaningful international partnerships should bring together governments, institutions, aid agencies and industries to rally around specific local development issues, and work on an even footing introduce change locally by building on existing structures and community initiatives. Multinational partnerships are drivers of change: they permit the transfer of knowledge and with, for example, regional centre of expertise, they facilitate the adaptation of knowledge and technologies to local challenges. Sabri believes international partnerships are especially relevant in sharing successful technological developments across regions, given that the relationship is based on equal footing, i.e. the partnerships' beneficiaries have the liberty to reflect upon and transform successful technologies to their reality.   (University World News, 09/03/2014)


Revealing the unwritten realities of doing PhD field research

A new publication by PhD students from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS, Sussex, UK) shares previously undocumented insights into the realities and challenges of fieldwork. The IDS Bulletin 'New Perspectives from PhD Field Research', goes beyond typical textbook subjects such as research design, data collection and results analysis and discusses the actual lived experiences and challenges that students face when conducting fieldwork. It comprises seven articles covering locations from Ecuador to Bolivia, Mexico, Kenya, Swaziland, Germany, Nepal, China and India. The nature of the authors’ experiences and the topics they reflect on are equally wide ranging, covering, for example: performance and rituals in ethnographic research on peace building; the necessity of engaging with politics in water management, and; the disjuncture between gendered legislation and urban planning. By providing new insights into a variety or research topics, innovations for fieldwork practices, and important reflections on the human experience of PhD research, the authors hope that the Bulletin will benefit both students and the wider community of development practitioners working on the ground.   (IDS, 13/03/2013)


Better livestock diets to combat climate change and improve food security

New research of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria shows that the projected transition of livestock systems from pure grazing diets to diets supplemented by higher quality feeds will cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 23% by 2030. While the reduction of meat in the diets is often seen as a way to reduce GHG emissions, the paper explains that farmers would find it more profitable in coming years to expand livestock production in mixed systems – where livestock are fed on both grass as well as higher quality feed –rather than in pure grass-based systems. Such a development would lead to a 23% reduction of emissions from land use change in the next two decades without any explicit climate mitigation policy. This new study projects that the increasing cost of land and continued yield increases in the crop sector will lead to shifts to richer animal diets in the future. Such diets are efficient not only from the perspective of greenhouse gas reduction, but also from farm profit maximization and food production.   (IIASA, 25/02/2014)


Efficiency of extensive livestock systems in harsh environments

A recent study conducted by CIRAD in four different world regions shows that extensive dairy systems in Mali can be more efficient than intensive systems in Reunion Island, and just as efficient as semi-intensive systems in western France. The research team at CIRAD obtained this result using the emergy methodology, which uses one type of unit to evaluate all the resources consumed to generate food or non-food products. This methodology takes into account the complex and multifunctional nature of livestock systems, especially extensive ones. Emergy could be a useful tool enabling decision-makers to develop livestock policies adapted to suit individual contexts, and to thereby meet the growing demand for livestock products.   (CIRAD, 07/02/2014)


Milk protein from the high-producing Holstein cows source of lactose intolerance

Humans who exhibit symptoms of lactose intolerance could be unable to digest A1, a protein most often found in milk from the high-producing Holstein cows favoured by American and some European industrial dairies. The A1 protein is much less prevalent in milk from Jersey, Guernsey, and most Asian and African cow breeds, where, instead, the A2 protein predominates. The difference between A1 and A2 proteins is subtle. The A2 variety of beta-casein mutated into the A1 version several thousand years ago in some European dairy herds. Two genes code for beta-casein, so modern cows can either be purely A2, A1/A2 hybrids, or purely A1. Milk from goats and humans contains only the A2 beta-casein, yet not everyone likes the flavour of goat milk, which also contains comparatively less vitamin B-12 – a nutrient essential for creating red blood cells.  Editor’s note: Another reason to promote local breeds for dairy production? Consumer adoption of dairy products in developing countries could well be determined by the content of A2 protein.   (Mother Jones, 12/03/2014)


Sustainable integrated aquaculture development in Sierra Leone

Olapade Olufemi Julius, lecturer in Aquaculture and Fisheries Management at Njala University, Sierra Leone and Regional Coordinator at CORAF/WECARD, describes the recently launched fish-cum-rice, piggery and poultry production project (SIARP) in Sierra Leone. Through the introduction of appropriate technological interventions compatible with grassroots experience, it is hoped that this integrated agriculture and aquaculture technology will sustain judicious and economical use of water, land and other resources. Within such systems, the components in the farm's nutrient cycle are used more efficiently.   (DRUSSA, 24/01/2014)


Exploring the interface between informal and formal innovation in seed development in South Africa

Rachel Wynberg and Laura Pereira, of the Department of environmental and geographical science, University of Cape Town, South Africa present preliminary results of their study into the relationship between formal and informal seed innovation systems in South Africa. They argue that a more responsible formal innovation system requires new incentive structures that integrate social benefit, environmental sustainability, agrobiodiversity and food and nutrition security and that is more inclusive in serving the needs of resource-poor farmers. This shift necessitates a transformation in formal seed innovation regimes through the process of ‘disruptive innovation’ – innovations that meets the needs of those not served by the dominant institutional and organizational systems. Their work forms part of an ongoing research process to elucidate factors that contribute towards building a more just and sustainable seed innovation system in South Africa, and that makes use of the diverse knowledge bases in the country in order to improve the country’s food security and make it more adaptive to potential future stresses.   (Progress Project, 10/12/2013)


Evolution of some observed climate extremes in the West African Sahel

Ly Mouhamed and colleagues of the AGRHYMET Regional Center in Niger, have analysed the evolution of some extreme temperature and precipitation indices over a large area of West Africa. Using daily observations of rainfall and temperature available at the AGRHYMET Regional Center for the 1960–2010 period, they identified a general warming trend throughout the region during that period, namely through a negative trend in the number of cool nights, and more frequent warm days and warm spells. This was the case not only for locations inside the continent, but also for those in coastal areas. Trends in rainfall related indices are not as uniform as the ones in temperatures. Nevertheless, a general tendency of decreased annual total rainfall and maximum number of consecutive wet days characterises the study period. Policy implications of these trends may include investment and promotion of low cost and environmentally friendly energy production systems, the redesign of infrastructure and production systems to account for higher risks of losses due to floods and/or droughts, and the promotion of research for more heat tolerant crop/animal species and cultivars/breeds.   (Weather and Climate Extremes, 25/08/2013)


Uganda's coffee sector works towards a climate resilient value chain

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD, Canada), along with Uganda's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (MoTIC), Makerere University (MAK), and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) worked together during a six-month period in 2013 to provide a platform for dialogue on climate risk management among actors along the coffee value chain. The study found that climate hazards such as droughts, floods and changing rainfall patterns already negatively affect all actors along the coffee value chain, but in different ways and to different extents. Results also showed that coffee farmers and processors generally tend to be more vulnerable to climate hazards than traders, middlemen and exporters, due to their limited diversification, weak organisational capacities and the unfavourable policy environment. As a result of this pilot initiative, for the first time in Uganda, climate risks were integrated into trade-related issues at the ministerial level. A related briefing note has been published 'Promoting an Integrated Approach to Climate Adaptation: Lessons from the coffee value chain in Uganda'.   (IISD, 18/03/2014)


Determination of postharvest pod storage on viability and seedling growth performance of cocoa

Joseph Kofi Saajah of the Ghana Cocoa Board and Bonaventure Kissinger Maalekuu at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, have determined how storage of cocoa pods (from a hybrid cocoa variety) affects seed viability, when stored in containers for a specific period. Having analysedthe results, the researchers recommend: (i) that farmers continue carting and/or storing cocoa pods in their traditional storage containers; (ii) the hybrid pods meant for propagation ideally should be planted within 0-15 days after harvest (DAH) for maximum viability; (iii) management of cocoa industry should ensure adequate and even distribution of 'gardens' (cocoa stations) to prevent farmers holding harvested pods beyond 15 DAH.   (Journal of Agricultural Science, 03/2014)


Australian chocolate makers link with Vanuatu farmers

Adelaide University Professor Randy Stringer, who has been working with Vanuatu cocoa bean producers under the Pacific Agribusiness Research & Development Initiative (PARDI), sent samples of beans from many communities to Australian chocolate makers. Feedback was received and in the case of Vanuatu, chocolate makers found that the drying and fermentation process after harvest needed to be improved in order to create better beans. Indeed, one of the major challenges faced by the farmers is the need for improved drying methods, to stop the beans being tainted by smoke. Moves are afoot to take on this challenge: drier trials are being set up across the different islands in different conditions, so that farmers can adapt these driers for the ecosystems they have.   (Radio Australia, 21/03/2014)


Evaluation of bioactive components of 10 amaranth varieties

W. Akinyi Nyonje and colleagues from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya, conducted a series of experiments to determine the phytochemical and anti-nutrient content of ten amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) varieties at two growth stages, before and after flowering. Amaranth vegetable is widely consumed in Kenya and contributes to the alleviation of food insecurity. It is reported to have bioactive components such as antioxidants that help in protecting the body from long-term degenerative diseases. However, amaranth vegetable has also been shown to contain some anti-nutrients which may bind nutrients and reduce their bioavailability in the body. Results showed significant differences in the phytochemical and anti-nutrient content among the varieties and at the different harvest stages. As the plants matured, the anti-nutrient content increased. The anti-nutrient activity also increased with maturity, from vegetative to post-flowering stage. It is recommended that amaranth leaves be consumed before flowering as they have generally lower anti-nutrients. Among the ten varieties, A. cruentus had the lowest anti-nutrients and the highest phytochemicals concentrations.    (Journal of Agricultural Science, 03/2014)


Assessment and valuation of Pest suppression potential through biological control in European agricultural landscapes (APPEAL)

This research programme conducted by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the Universität Innsbruck (Austria), and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ, Germany) investigates the relationship between land use and biodiversity, and between biodiversity and the ecosystem service of biological control. Furthermore, it provides a framework for estimating the value of biological control. As a model pest, APPEAL uses cereal aphid. The results generated are intended to support assessing multiple ecosystem services by providing a clear and adaptable structure for incorporating ecosystem service values into land-use change scenarios. A key research question looks into the advantages and disadvantages of biocontrol services as compared to conventional plant protection.   (APPEAL, 2014)


Research reveals true value of cover crops to farmers, environment

A team of agronomists, entomologists, agro-ecologists, horticulturists and bio-geochemists from the Pennsylvania State University's College of Agricultural Sciences, led by Meagan Schipanski, has been developing a framework for considering a suite of ecosystem services that could be derived from agricultural land. The team quantified the benefits offered by cover crops across more than 10 ecosystem services. Benefits included increased carbon and nitrogen in soils, erosion prevention, more mycorrhizal colonisation – beneficial soil fungus that helps plants absorb nutrients – and weed suppression. By integrating a suite of ecosystem services into a unified analytical framework, the researchers highlighted the potential for cover crops to influence a wide array of ecosystem services. They estimated that cover crops increased eight of 11 ecosystem services. In addition, they demonstrated the importance of considering temporal dynamics when assessing management system effects on ecosystem services.  Editor’s note: Cover cropping has been practiced by smallholder farmers in developing countries for several years. This research confirms the reasoning for maintaining this practice.  (Pennsylvania State University, 18/03/2014)


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