Knowledge for Development


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

New Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences

The Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES) is hosted by the University of Tlemcen in Algeria. PAUWES offers two world-class graduate programmes, a Master of Science in Water and a Master of Science in Energy. The Institute provides state-of-the art facilities, cutting-edge technical and policy knowledge from its internationally renowned faculty and experts, as well as networking opportunities and scholarships for students and researchers.   


New research findings on agricultural water use and adaptation in Africa

Working with national partners in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, WorldFish, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the University of Osnabruck (Germany) have released the results of an analysis of climate change adaptation in food production in the Chinyanja Triangle in southern Africa. The project has identified a number of shifts in agricultural practices in response to climate-related changes. As weather becomes less predictable, local communities have embraced fish farming and small-scale irrigation. In response to reduced rainfall, farmers are increasing water storage and do not drain their ponds for longer periods of time. Communities endowed with a surplus of land have also begun to trade with communities with more water resources. While these changes have helped mitigate some of the effects of climate change, the researchers found that increases in irrigation and aquaculture are straining local water supplies. The project recommends that farmers plant trees along the rivers to increase shade cover, decrease evaporation, and reduce erosion. Other best practices include: distancing crops from the streams' banks to decrease siltation; creating ridges to slow run-off; and planting crops earlier to make use of residual moisture.    (IISD, 04/2014)  


Obstacles to integrated pest management adoption in developing countries

Soroush Parsa, at International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cali, Colombia and an international team of researchers, gathered the opinions of a large and diverse pool of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) professionals and practitioners from 96 countries to understand the low adoption rate of IPM among farmers. Analysis of responses revealed many unique statements on obstacles, the most frequent of which was 'insufficient training and technical support to farmers'. The obstacles were grouped into six themes: research weaknesses, outreach weaknesses, IPM weaknesses, farmer weaknesses, pesticide industry interference, and weak adoption incentives. Respondents from developing countries and high-income countries rated the obstacles differently. As a group, developing-country respondents rated 'IPM requires collective action within a farming community' as their top obstacle to IPM adoption. Developing-country participants appear to worry significantly more about weaknesses inherent within IPM itself. The authors believe the findings highlight the value of improving the active participation and representation of developing-country experience and perception in the IPM adoption debate.   (PNAS, 24/02/2014)  


New guide to help reduce pesticide pollution in aquatic ecosystems

In Europe, the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive requires EU Member States to develop National Action Plans with objectives, targets and measures to reduce the risks associated with applying pesticides. This study describes a new user guide to identify suitable measures to reduce pesticide pollution at the stream catchment scale. The guide was developed in Germany and it focuses on pesticide contamination via spray drift and surface runoff. Drainage through the soil from agricultural land was not included in the guide. The first step in the guide is to survey and map the catchment landscape for relevant  features, including vegetation buffer strips, the type of buffer vegetation, the slope of  agricultural fields and 'flow paths' that concentrate runoff, for example, gullies formed by  soil erosion or drainage ditches. The next step involves using an 'identification key' to assess the potential for pesticides to enter water bodies, based on information in the landscape survey. The guide gives details of how effective such measures are in reducing exposure, and how feasible and acceptable such measures are likely to be. Users of the guide can compare the different measures to decide which measure or combination of measures to adopt.    (European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, 01/05/2014)   


Field guide to non-chemical pest management in cowpea production

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN, Germany) is supporting non-chemical pest management on tropical crops that are commonly grown by small landholder farmers through the project 'Online Information Service for Non-chemical Pest Management in the Tropics' (OISAT). OISAT is a web-based information system to distribute information on non-chemical pest management for small-scale farmers in the tropics and sub-tropics. This field guide provides farmers with practical guidelines and alternatives to eliminate the use and their dependence on synthetic pesticides for the management of cowpea pests.    Editor’s note: Clementine L. D. Binso, of INERA, Burkina Faso, won a top place in the 3rd Africa-wide Women in Science competition for her work on hermetic triple bagging technology for cowpea storage.     (PAN, 2014)   


Food traceability systems: differences in willingness to pay for food safety

In a paper presented at the 2014 International Conference on Food Security and Nutrition, Francesca V. Hansstein of the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, China, investigates recent findings on consumer knowledge and attitudes towards food traceability across the European Union (EU), China, and North America. A critical review of academic articles published between 2003 and 2013 was performed and a total of sixteen studies were selected. Results indicated that consumers are paying increasing attention to food safety and quality but they are still unfamiliar with the concept of traceability, especially in China. Willingness to pay for food safety differs across countries and segments of population. Age, education, income and food safety concerns are the factors that mostly influence consumer acceptance of traceability and its attributes. Hansstein recommends that both producers and policy makers should work together to increase consumer awareness about the benefits offered by Food Traceability Systems.   (AgEcon Search, 2014)  


Information technology applied to the process of traceability in the wheat supply chain

The adoption of traceability systems in the food chain is a market differentiator for manufacturing firms. It is appreciated by consumers and is increasingly common after the occurrence of certain problems related to food consumption. Legislation, quality standards and best practices now govern the traceability process. This paper by Monica Sherer and Maria Gomes of UEPG, Brazil, addresses the main regulations that establish procedures for ensuring the safety of food in terms of traceability, and also presents the evolution of information technologies in this area. Although, the latter are still being developed, there are still many opportunities for growth and innovation. As a result, it is possible to see the commonalities between the models of traceability, and also to identify the points of the supply chain of wheat in which the processes are focused.  (African Journal of Agricultural Research, 24/04/2014)  


New fisheries monitoring system unveiled

The Namibia Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau has urged all fishing companies that have not yet installed the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) of the ministry to do so urgently. The VMS, that monitors activities of fishing vessels at sea, was acquired and installed in 2002, but became obsolete over the years and was unable to perform to the ministry’s satisfaction. The ministry then started to explore possibilities of upgrading the system to acceptable international standard and acquired the present system. With the upgraded system the ministry is now able to track all licensed fishing vessels operating both in Namibian, as well as in international waters. The VMS supplements monitoring, control and surveillance through area control and science by way of the mapping of fleet dynamics.  (New Era Namibia, 17/03/2014)  


'Sènèkèla’: new mobile information services for Malian farmers

'Sènèkèla' is the new mobile information services for Malian farmers developed with the help of IICD, Orange Labs, RONGEAD and the Malian Institute of Rural Economy (IER). The 24-hour information service comprises an SMS/USSD information service and a call centre, serviced by specialised agricultural experts. It provides information on the prices in different markets in the regions of Sikasso and Koulikoro, and information on crops such as corn, shea butter, onion, cashew and shea nuts.  (IICD, 02/04/2014)  


EC launches pilot to open up publicly funded research data

Valuable information produced by researchers in many EU-funded projects will be shared freely as a result of a Pilot on Open Research Data in Horizon 2020. Researchers in projects participating in the pilot are asked to make the underlying data needed to validate the results presented in scientific publications and other scientific information available for use by other researchers, innovative industries and citizens. The Pilot on Open Research Data in Horizon 2020 does for scientific information what the Open Data Strategy does for public sector information: it improves and maximises access to and re-use of research data generated by projects for the benefit of society and the economy.   (European Commission, 16/12/2013)  


Dryad Digital Repository: making the data underlying scholarly publications accessible and reusable

The Dryad Digital Repository is a curated resource that makes data underlying scientific publications accessible, freely reusable, and citable. Dryad provides a general-purpose home for a wide diversity of data types. Non-profit membership is open to any stakeholder organisation, including but not limited to journals, scientific societies, publishers, research institutions, libraries, and funding organisations. Publishers are encouraged to facilitate data archiving by coordinating the submission of manuscripts with their data to Dryad. Dryad originated from an initiative among a group of leading journals and scientific societies in evolutionary biology and ecology to adopt a joint data archiving policy (JDAP) for their publications, and the recognition that easy-to-use, sustainable, community-governed data infrastructure was needed to support such a policy.  (Dryad, 2014)  


Integrated coastal management: lessons in capacity building and good governance

This issue published by START International (Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training) explores prevailing knowledge on the policy nexus between coastal management and coastal adaptation, with special emphasis on the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) framework in promoting the health of marine and coastal ecological systems. ICZM provides a framework for sustainably managing the coast by supporting spatial and sectoral integration and coordination of activities in the coastal space.  (START International, 19/02/2014)  


Press Release - CTA TOP 20 Innovations

To capture the ideas and harness the potential of ACP innovators, the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) launched a call for proposals, in December 2013, to unearth and award 20 TOP innovations that are transforming smallholder farms in Africa, the Caribbean and The Pacific. Journalists from ACP countries are welcome to engage in this one-of-its-kind contest by interviewing both innovators and end-users.Download the press release (PDF) below. 


Sorghum and finger millet agricultural innovations

Bio-Innovate Africa launched a multi-national research consortium aiming to develop more productive sorghum and finger millet cultivars. The project proposes an approach that will employ both upstream and downstream technologies to enable development of new tools for improvement of sorghum and finger millet productivity leading to the adoption of improved, disease- and drought- tolerant sorghum and finger millet varieties by the smallholder famers. The project will employ diverse research approaches ranging from comparative genomic tools to field experiments and participatory on-farm activities.   (Bio-Innovate, 2014)


Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

The IPCC published its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on 31 March 2014. The Panel’s scientists have revised estimates, pointing to significant losses with a temperature rise of just two degrees Celsius in food producing regions. In previous reports, only a rise by three to four degrees Celsius was thought to have a significant impact on agricultural production. The changes in scientists’ estimates of how climate change will affect agriculture are some of the most remarkable in the report. AR5, looking at the major food crops of corn, wheat, and rice, says that yields are likely to start decreasing by 2030 and decline up to 2% a decade (climate change seems to be affecting crops already, but so far this has been offset by improvements in crop yield). Sections of the report relevant to agriculture can be found under the section "Global and sectoral aspects" and there is a special chapter (Chapter 7) on food security and food production systems.   The UN-IPCC report:  Global and sectoral aspects:  Food security and food production systems:  (IPCC, 31/03/2014)


Farming system evolution and adaptive capacity: insights for adaptation support

Jami Dixon and colleagues at the School of Earth and Environment (University of Leeds, UK) investigate how historical (climatic, economic) trends have influenced farming system adaptive capacity in Uganda. By comparing two farming systems, they note three major findings: (1) similar trends in farming system evolution have had different impacts on the diversity of farming systems; (2) trends have contributed to the erosion of informal social and cultural institutions and an increasing dependence on formal institutions; and (3) trade-offs between components of adaptive capacity are made at the farm-scale, thus influencing farming system adaptive capacity. To identify the actual impacts of future climate change and variability, the authors highlight the importance to recognise the dynamic nature of adaptation. In practice, areas identified for further adaptation support include: shift away from one-size-fits-all approach the identification and integration of appropriate modern farming method; a greater focus on building inclusive formal and informal institutions; and a more nuanced understanding regarding the roles and decision-making processes of influential, but external, actors. More research is needed to understand farm-scale trade-offs and the resulting impacts across spatial and temporal scales.  (Resources, 27/02/2014)


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)


The use of indigenous ecological resources for pest control in Africa

David Grzywacz of the Natural Resource Institute (University of Greenwich, UK) and colleagues investigated two examples of crop protection practices in Africa that harness locally available biological resources. The researchers examined the use of the pesticidal plant Tephrosia vogelii, and the harvesting of the endemic insect virus Spodoptera exempta (SpexNPV). Both of these can be produced locally and have shown promise in trials as inexpensive and effective tools for pest control. Their use is currently being scaled up and evaluated by researchers on the continent. This focus on these unconventional crop protection systems illustrates the need to explore further the potential of locally-available natural resources to replace expensive imported agricultural inputs. The authors of the paper argue that the countries’ regulatory environment must evolve to facilitate the registration of new products and the establishment of supply chains that benefit the local producers and help them improve upon the production methods.   (Food Security, 02/2014) 


Regional survey of inland fisheries in the UEMOA

UEMOA (Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine; West African Economic and Monetary Union) with the help of the consortium led by the IRD, France, has compiled the results of a regional survey on inland fisheries in eight member states and made them accessible via an online web atlas. This portal offers up-to-date documentation and statistics on inland fisheries capacity, exploitation, services and value chains for each one of the countries. Reviews, data and national and regional analysis on the topic of inland fisheries and aquaculture can also be downloaded from the website. Statistical data especially is useful for decision makers looking to compare and learn from the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in neighbouring countries.  (UEMOA, 2013)


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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