Knowledge for Development

Developments

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


Iron biofortification of rice using different transgenic approaches

Hiroshi Masuda and colleagues from the Research Institute for Bioresources and Biotechnology in Japan describe seven transgenic approaches, and combinations thereof, that can be used to increase the concentration of iron (Fe) in rice seeds. Approaches examined by the scientists include the enhancement of the Fe storage capacity of grains through expression of the Fe storage protein ferritin, the introduction of the barley genes to enhance Fe uptake and translocation within plants, the enhancement of Fe translocation by overproducing the natural metal chelator nicotianamine. They also examined a number of combinations of the different approaches. All individual or combined approaches have the potential to further increase the Fe concentration of rice seeds.   http://www.thericejournal.com/content/6/1/40   (The Rice Journal, 19/12/2013)

28/03/2014


Optimising hydroponic growth systems for nutritional and physiological analysis of plants

A team of scientists from Australia, led by Simon J. Conn of the University of Adelaide, developed a protocol for an optimised plant hydroponic culture system that can be quickly and cheaply constructed, and that produces plants with similar growth kinetics to soil-grown plants. Hydroponic growth systems are a convenient platform for studying whole plant physiology, but in most hydroponic systems that the team tested grew plants poorly amenable to a number of common physiological assays, grew poorly.  The system they developed has the advantage of being a versatile platform for a myriad of physiological and molecular biological measurements on all plant tissues at all developmental stages. The paper presents 'tips and tricks' for the easy adoption of this hydroponic culture system.   http://www.plantmethods.com/content/9/1/4   (Plant Methods, 05/02/2014)

28/03/2014


Higher education for science, technology and innovation: Accelerating Africa’s aspirations

The Government of Rwanda and the World Bank co-hosted a high-level forum on 'Higher Education for Science, Technology and Innovation' in Kigali, Rwanda on 13 March 2014. The event brought together ministers of education and higher education, and experts from academia and the private sector. They discussed the alignment of higher education in Africa with the continent’s massive and largely unmet demand for engineers, scientists, health professionals and technicians. The forum also highlighted the importance of setting up regional centres of excellence in various disciplines such as agriculture, biotechnology, health, water and sanitation, and information and communication technologies.   http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/03/12/higher-education-in-science-and-technology-is-critical-for-africas-development   (World Bank, 12/03/2013)

28/03/2014


Human capital for agriculture in Africa

The key messages in this brief on tertiary agricultural education (TAE) produced by the World Bank are as follows: (i) The low level of human capital in Africa's agricultural sector remains a significant constraint to growth, poverty reduction, and food security on the continent; (ii) Agricultural education has been neglected for several decades and is poorly prepared to address the need for qualified professionals; (iii) African ministers and leaders have asked for 'a radically new approach' to agriculture education, as the current system is out of step with the job market. At present the students are passive receivers of knowledge with little ability to use it once graduated. The vision for change in learning paradigm within TAE sees future graduates receiving less theoretical knowledge and instead being capacitated to see and analyse reality, reflect if they have adequate knowledge or need to add more. In interacting with the world through experiential learning, graduates will be equipped with a toolbox of skills and methods, which they apply on the ground.    http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2014/03/19197973/human-capital-agriculture-africa   (World Bank, 01/03/2014)

28/03/2014


Strengthening research and knowledge systems

The International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP)'s new flagship programme 'Strengthening Research and Knowledge Systems' (SRKS) runs for five years from April 2013. SRKS aims to create: (i) effective enablers of information access who will ensure that both researchers and policy makers are informed by the latest research generated within their country, region and globally; (ii) a vibrant research community that can generate, publish and disseminate new research and knowledge and contextualise existing information to their local and national needs; (iii) skilled users of research information and knowledge who are able to understand and evaluate research information and articulate their research information and knowledge needs.   SRKS works with an international network of researchers, editors, publishers, librarians and ICT professionals to ensure that the research communication cycle works effectively. The programme builds on the Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) model.    http://www.inasp.info/work/what-we-do/programmes/srks/    http://r4d.dfid.gov.uk/Project/61088/    (INASP, 2013)

28/03/2014


Agriculture: steps to sustainable livestock

Mark Eisler, Michael Lee (both working at the School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, UK) and colleagues highlight eight strategies to cut the environmental and economic costs of livestock farming systems while boosting net gains for the quantity and quality of the food they produce. Examples of their strategies are: feed animals less human food (using local crop residues and opening marginal areas to grazing); raise regionally appropriate animals (using adapted breeds reduces the cost of feed and veterinary services); keep animals healthy (with better animal management to contain transmissible disease and lower animal density); and adopt smart supplements (supplement made from plant extracts found locally can provide feed protein, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ammonia). The authors suggest that governments and policy-makers should support research efforts to identify the most beneficial microbes and most limiting nutrients, as well as low-cost ways to deliver them. Other strategies include eating meat of better quality, tailor practices to local culture, track cost and benefits, and study best practices.   http://www.nature.com/news/agriculture-steps-to-sustainable-livestock-1.14796   (Nature, 06/03/2014)

28/03/2014


Rice fortification through soaking’ method

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is testing a new rice fortification technique in Bangladesh to enrich it with the vital nutrient zinc. While zinc fortified fertiliser is available, only 30-40% of farmers use it, and 70-80% of zinc fertiliser is of sub-par quality. In rice’s journey from farm to fork, milling and polishing also removes the zinc from rice. As the most consolidated part of the farm-to-fork process, mills have the greatest potential reach. This is where GAIN is exploring increasing the nutrient density of rice through ‘fortifying at soak’. Fortifying at soak is the process of adding micronutrients to the water rice soaks in at the mill. By adding nutrients to the soaking water the rice absorbs the nutrient directly into the grain avoiding the removal of the nutrients during milling and polishing.    http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/gain-partner-zone/gallery/2014/mar/13/rice-fortification-in-pictures   (The Guardian, 18/03/2014)

28/03/2014


Conservation agriculture: factors for its successful promotion in Sub-Saharan Africa

IFAD and the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Organisation (CCAFS) commissioned two studies with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) to identify supporting and hindering factors for the adoption of conservation agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. The first reviewed the effects of conservation agriculture on crop yields, identifying the agro-ecological and management conditions that favour positive crop responses. The second study, explored the merits of an assessment tool to predict the likelihood of conservation agriculture adoption in a given project region.   The key findings from the first study proved that the combination of the three main principles of conservation agriculture are not, in many situations, an option. For instance, no-tillage has to be associated with mulching to result in higher crop yield. Additionally, crop rotation has to be an integral component with farmers moving from continuous mono-cropping systems to the inclusion of different crop types and preferably vegetables. These two factors are, for many smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, the bottlenecks to adoption. Crop residues have several other competing uses on the farm, in particular as feed for livestock.    The second study explored the degree of accuracy of the qualitative expert assessment tool for conservation agriculture adoption (QAToCA). It discovered that the QAToCA tool can help in identification of the socio-ecological niches (e.g. preferences, prices, production objectives etc.) and specific sites for successful promotion of diverse CA practices and technologies.   http://ifad-un.blogspot.nl/2014/03/conservation-agriculture-factors-for.html   (IFAD social reporting blog, 25/03/2014)

28/03/2014


'Out-scaling farm innovation': 2013 workshop proceedings and recommendations.

The Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), organised a National Workshop on Outscaling Farm Innovation on 3-5 September 2013. Since India made considerable investment in technology systems and farmers’ development programmes, farmers have taken lead in inventing new methods of sharing within farming communities. The workshop served as a platform to share, improve and out-scale these farming innovations. The themes covered were crop practices, natural resource management, mechanization and post-harvest activities, livestock, cultivation of high value commodities, diversification, energy, institutional requirements, policy issues, etc. This publication summarises the discussions and the recommendations that emerged from the event.     http://www.apaari.org/publications/outscaling-farm-innovation-2013.html   (APAARI, 2014)   

28/03/2014


Update on 2nd Caribbean Science and Agriculture Film and Video Competition “Adding Value to Local Foods”

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation – ACP/EU (CTA), in collaboration with the Caribbean Council for Science and Technology (CCST), The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), The University of the West Indies (UWI), Columbus Communications Trinidad Limited (FLOW Trinidad) and the Trinidad & Tobago Film Company, launched the second Caribbean Science and Agriculture Film and Video Competition in October 2013The main objective of this competition is to encourage the use of ICTs by young professionals in improving the environment for agricultural science and innovation in the Caribbean region.

4/03/2014


CTA as partner – EU FP7 PACE-Net Plus project

CTA is a member of a consortium of 16 partners involved in the EU 7th Framework Programme PACE-Net Plus project “Pacific Europe Network for Science, Technology and Innovation.” This 3-year project with a budget of €3 million is coordinated by IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), France.Considering the results of past and ongoing initiatives supporting EU-Pacific ST&I cooperation, PACE-Net Plus will: Support EU-Pacific policy dialogue in ST&I, including dialogue on innovation issues. Reinforce EU-Pacific ST&I cooperation, focusing on 3 major societal challenges (in the field of health, demographic change and wellbeing; food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio-economy; and climate action, resource use and efficiency, and raw material). Encourage coordination by promoting the implementation of joint EU-Pacific actions. Enhance cooperation on innovation issues, by helping to bridge the gap between public and private sectors. Strengthen Pacific-EU research cooperation partnerships, through the promotion of Horizon 2020 and other programmes among the Pacific research community, as well as Pacific opportunities for European researchers. Together with the University of Papua New Guinea (UNPG), CTA will co-lead work package 2 (WP2) “Strengthening the EU-Pacific ST&I cooperation in the field of food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio-economy.”  CTA is also a partner in WP 4 on “Enhancing the cooperation on innovation issues to tackle the societal challenges which is led by UNIDO/UNPG”, WP 5 on “Strengthening the Pacific-EU research cooperation partnerships” and WP 6 “Support to the bi-regional policy dialogue in ST&I.”  Consortium meetings have been held in Noumea, New Zealand/Australia and most recently, EU-based partners met on 10 February 2014 in Brussels, Belgium. More information about this project and the partners is available on the project website www.pacenet.eu.

4/03/2014


Update on CTA Top-20 Innovations for Smallholder farmers

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation – ACP/EU (CTA), launched a call for proposals in December 2013 on innovations in use or which have potential in smallholder agricultural production systems in ACP countries and which, if known and widely promoted, can benefit other farming communities. Due to statutory requirements, we extended the deadline to 09 March.We have received approximately 200 entries from 41 countries in the ACP-EU region so far. 30% were submitted in French. Most of the proposals fall in the category farmer-led, followed closely by research-led and university-led innovations.   What’s Next Proposals will undergo a three-step evaluation based on the pre-determined evaluation criteria :1)    Preliminary review:A jury consisting of a multidisciplinary & bi-lingual (en/fr) panel of scientists, extension agents and farmers will do a preliminary review of the entries, which should lead to a shortlist of about 40-50 proposals.2)    Voting on shortlist:Through our network of agencies, farmers will be invited to vote on the shortlist and about 30 that have the highest potential to change smallholders’ lives will be selected3)    A high-level international expert panel will choose the top 20 innovations.4)    The top 20 will be published and widely disseminated.CTA wishes to thank all those who submitted proposals. We are counting on your continued support as we go through the next stages. We look forward to announcing the 20 top in the near future.Earlier, the call: http://knowledge.cta.int/Dossiers/CTA-and-S-T/Fellowships-grants-calls/Call-for-Proposals-CTA-Top-20-Innovations-for-Smallholder-farmers

4/03/2014


Biofuel production and its implication on food security: Case study from Zambia

M. Y. Teweldemedhin and L. Mwewa of the Department of Agriculture, Polytechnic of Namibia, Namibia present a comprehensive review of the status quo of developments bio-fuels including support measures driving the social, environmental and economic impacts of their development. Their key findings indicated that, if the biofuel market proves lucrative, there is possible diversion of labour and land to bio-fuel projects and that competition of input use might lead to reduction of food production and high food prices. However the price of bio-fuel feedstock from jatropha in Zambia was not attractive enough to encourage farmers to grow more jatropha which has raised major concerns by policy makers.    http://www.academicjournals.org/journal/AJAR/article-abstract/A05DC3E42807    (African Journal of Agricultural Research, 18/12/2014)

28/02/2014


Integrating mitigation and adaptation into development: the case of Jatropha curcas

Three transnational research projects that were funded during the first phase of ERA-ARD have produced an editorial in GCB Bioenergy about jatropha. They conclude that jatropha has potential to contribute to sustainable rural development in Africa, but that at present it is not sufficiently productive and profitable to play that role. Strong efforts along the whole value chain from the production of jatropha seed until its end use will be indispensable in achieving this goal.   http://goo.gl/5Ny0ry     http://www.era-ard.org/fileadmin/SITE_MASTER/content/Muys_et_al__GCBB_2013_online_first_12_13__15.pdf   (ERA-ARD, 2013)

28/02/2014


Biofuel implementation projects in Fiji

Fiji's Department of Energy has a biofuel implementation programme, and this webpage serves as a portal to the department’s various projects. The department has successfully commissioned and installed three biofuel mills on the islands of Koro, Rotuma and Cicia. These mills are to serve the communities in terms of a consistent supply of clean green fuel and to uplift the standard of living through the provision of economic activity that is associated with the mills. Each mill has been designed to cater for the copra produced in all three islands.     http://www.fdoe.gov.fj/index.php/energy-security/biofuel/biofuel-implementation-projects    (FDOE, 2013)

28/02/2014


Point of view: Making science count in government

Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK, explains why science is an essential component of policy-making. In Boyd's opinion, the scientific community does not always understand its role in this process. Science advice for policy faces two difficulties, the issue of where authoritative comment stops and political point of view starts, and the low-dimensional view of a multi-dimensional (or complex) problem usually taken by scientists. These two difficulties create a gap between the scientists' views of what policy outcomes should look like, and what these outcomes actually are once they have been through the mangle of policy development. This can be the source of dissatisfaction among scientists and can create an unsatisfactory dynamic between scientists and policy-makers. The role of science should be to provide information to those having to make decisions, including the public, and to ensure that the uncertainties around that information are made clear. It is thus important for scientists to stick to the evidence and its interpretation. Boyd uses a recent example involving the control of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in the UK to illustrate his point.    http://elife.elifesciences.org/content/2/e01061    (eLife, 02/07/2013)

28/02/2014


Three years of Joint Programming on agriculture, food security and climate change with FACCE-JPI

The Joint Research Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE-JPI), jointly led by INRA and BBSRC, celebrates its 3-year anniversary with the launch of its first biennial Implementation Plan, show-casing the role of FACCE-JPI in the research on the interplay between agriculture, food security and climate change. The Plan addresses subjects that are central to FACCE’s ambitions, for example the improvement of agricultural soil quality, the sustainable intensification of European crop and livestock systems and plant disease epidemiology under climate change. It also foresees the creation of a network of experimental climate change studies on crop and grassland systems. After three years of activity and already five joint actions launched, FACCE-JPI is no longer working at the level of coordination of national policies, but more ambitiously on alignment and convergence of these, around a commonly agreed Strategic Research Agenda (SRA).    http://presse.inra.fr/en/Resources/Press-releases/three-years-of-Joint-Programming-with-FACCE-JPI   (INRA, 13/11/2013)   

28/02/2014


The Global State of Young Scientists – project report and recommendations

In January 2014, the Global Young Academy (GYA) published 'The Global State of Young Scientists' (GloSYS). This report, authored by Catherine Beaudry (Canada) and Irene Friesenhahn (Germany), provides a snapshot of recent scientific literature and new analyses of the state of young scholars in different world regions. GloSYS identified global deficits and a need for action in the following areas: Mentoring and support structures; focused training; transparency and fairness; working conditions; and cultivating values. The GloSYS study provides a framework, against which future progress can be monitored. The central findings of a precursor project and the resulting recommendations from GloSYS can serve as a basis to improve the state of young researchers throughout the world.        http://www.interacademies.net/News/PressReleases/23349.aspx    (GYA, 21/1/2014)    

28/02/2014


Diversity of global rice markets and the science required for consumer-targeted rice breeding

To understand better the importance of the different traits that make up the quality of the rice grain and obtain a full picture of rice quality demographics, a research team led by Mariafe Calingacion of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has engaged with local experts across the world to perform a full assessment of all major rice quality trait characteristics and importantly, to determine how these are combined in the most preferred varieties for each of their regions. Physical as well as biochemical characteristics have been monitored and this has resulted in the identification of no less than 18 quality trait combinations. This complexity reveals the extent of the specificity of consumer preference. Further assessment of these combinations at the variety level reveals that several groups still comprise varieties which consumers can readily identify as being different. This emphasises the shortcomings in the current tools available to assess rice quality. Only with additional tools and research, will it be possible to define directed strategies for rice breeding which are able to combine important agronomic features with the demands of local consumers for specific quality attributes.     http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0085106    (PLOS ONE, 14/01/2014)  

28/02/2014


Managing fisheries from space: Google Earth improves estimates of fishing weirs catches

Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak and Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, Canada, looked at recent technological advances that could help with the monitoring of fishery catches. Statistics submitted by countries to the FAO frequently neglect or under-report the contribution of small-scale fisheries, as well as illegal catches and discards. Trying to tackle this problem, the researchers have used freely available global satellite imagery via Google Earth, to count intertidal fishing weirs off the coast of six countries in the Persian Gulf. Combining the number of weirs with assumptions about daily catches and the length of the fishing season they estimated that the fishing gear contributed to a regional catch is up to six times higher than the officially reported catches. These results provide the first example of fisheries catch estimates from space, and point to the potential for remote-sensing approaches to validate catch statistics in fisheries.     http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/11/27/icesjms.fst178.1    (ICES Journal of Marine Science, 17/09/2014)   

28/02/2014