Knowledge for Development

Developments

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


Research on camel milk’s potential neglected

More research on camel milk is needed to develop potentially valuable dairy products for marginalized communities in desert regions. This was one of the conclusions of the first international meeting on ‘Milk, factor of development’ (Rennes, France, in May 2014). Of the 10,000 studies of milk published each year, only about ten are devoted to camel milk.  Bernard Faye, a camel milk expert with CIRAD, France, argues that as a result little is known about the proteins in camel milk, which differ structurally from those in other milks, and consequently about methods to preserve it. Unlike cow milk, whose shelf life can be extended from weeks to months by sterilizing it using ultra-high temperature (UHT) treatment, a similar process has yet to be found for camel milk.   (Rural 21, 21/06/2014)

2/09/2014


Researchers set sight on free range chickens as demand soars

Recent research in Kenya revealed that 40% of those who buy chicken products prefer free-range varieties because of their nutritional value. Whereas indigenous brands of chicken were traditionally kept as a side activity, farmers are increasingly growing them on a commercial scale. Recently, the Kenya Agricultural Research institute (KARI) has stepped up its research to increase the productivity of indigenous chickens. Its research is focusing on making improvements in feeding and nutrition, the selection and breeding of genotypes for eggs and meat lines, and the development of management packages for disease control. To boost the dissemination of the results of its research on indigenous chickens, KARI has trained over 60 indigenous chicken service providers at the Kenya Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (KASAL) indigenous chicken project.  In turn, the service providers are reaching over 200,000 farmers with improved technologies.   (Farm Biz Africa, August 2014)

2/09/2014


Results of the 2013 Harvesting Nutrition contest

Three projects have been selected as winners of the Secure Nutrition Knowledge Platform’s 2013 Harvesting Nutrition contest for bridging the gaps between nutrition and agriculture and food security. The contest attracted 50 submissions for projects around the world seeking to showcase their efforts to improve the impact of agriculture and/or food security interventions on nutrition outcomes.  The winners are: –          Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) in Zambia (http://www.ifpri.org/book-741/node/8349),–        Shamba Shape-Up, in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda (http://www.shambashapeup.com) and–        N2Africa, in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe (http://www.n2africa.org)   (Secure Nutrition, 2014)

2/09/2014


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)

2/09/2014


Vitamin A-enriched bananas for East Africa in the pipeline

Scientists at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia, have developed new varieties of banana with enhanced beta-carotene content. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body. The beta-carotene bananas are now being tested in a nutritional experiment. The (human) trials are to last for six weeks, and conclusive results will be known by the end of 2014. In addition, over the next three years, an elite line of banana plants is to be selected and used in multi-location field trials in Uganda. According to the scientists, banana varieties with enhanced beta-carotene content could be grown by farmers in Uganda, where about 70% of the population survive on the fruit by 2020.  These new varieties could be an important contribution to solving a worldwide health problem. According to the WHO, an estimated 250 million preschool children are vitamin A-deficient, and an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 of these children become blind every year, with half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.   (Journal21, 2/07/2014)

2/09/2014


Africa science plan attacked

Scientists have raised concerns about Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) that African heads of state adopted on 2 July 2014. This ten-year pan-African science and innovation strategy prioritizes the use of research to drive economic and social development across the continent. The success of the strategy will depend on the quality of research projects in individual countries. To help scientists win domestic support for research programmes, STISA plans to set up a research and innovation council that will bring together academies and funders to coordinate national activities. It will also take control of a European Union-funded competitive grant scheme that has spent almost €14 million on research projects in water and sanitation, agriculture and energy. But critics fear that the strategy’s top-heavy administrative structure and lack of firm pledges may render it ineffective. They also believe that its aims may be beyond the continent’s limited resources, especially given that it contains few financial commitments. However, despite their concerns, critics agree that STISA is an improvement on its predecessor, Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA).   (Nature, 25/06/2014)

2/09/2014


Six innovations revolutionizing farming

In 1798, economist Thomas Malthus predicted that the world would exceed its food supply by the late 20th century. While he was right to identify the challenges of feeding a growing population with a finite amount of land, in the last half century agricultural production has tripled. Innovations in farming technology made this possible, in particular on smallholding farms. The Guardian newspaper crowd-sourced the science community to identify the innovations that have made a difference and found that the following technologies are driving the increase in agricultural productivity: dairy hubs, deep placement of fertilizers, mobile apps, high roofed greenhouses, new feeding systems for farm animals and farm management software and training.    (The Guardian, 8/07/2014)

2/09/2014


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)

2/09/2014


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)

2/09/2014


Global food security: CIRAD and INRA suggest innovative lines of research

CIRAD and INRA have joined forces to conduct joint, long-term programmes to address novel issues at the interface between more conventional lines of research in  food security. Their collaborative programme, Transitions to Global Food Security (GloFoodS), was launched in Montpellier in June 2014. The programme will be guided by four main questions: (i)  How does food security governance affect farming practices and land use? (ii) In what way do food transitions – how we consume – affect the equation between food requirements, farming practices and land use? (iii) How do changes in agricultural production practices and systems affect food transitions and households’ access to food? (iv) How do agricultural production practices interact with the efficiency and sustainability of agrifood processes, particularly with regard to losses and wastage?   (CIRAD, 16/07/2014)

2/09/2014


Pan-African Cassava Surveillance Network – PACSUN

Scientists from agricultural research centres in Africa met at a workshop in Saint-Pierre, Reunion, from 10 to 13 June 2014 to contribute to the war against pests and diseases of cassava. The workshop resulted in the establishment of a pan-African network for surveillance of cassava diseases (PacSun) that will provide expertise in understanding the viruses and bacterial diseases that attack cassava in Africa; pool data via a website; develop applications with simple diagnostic fields on mobile phones for the benefit of African producers; and propose measures appropriate to each country to control the spread of pandemics such as cassava brown streak disease. The workshop participants also called for the establishment of an international transit cassava centre that would exchange of cassava cuttings between African countries, which is currently prohibited because of the risk of spreading cassava mosaic disease and brown streak disease.   (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, 2.07.2014)

2/09/2014


UWI Mona and China Institute sign sweet potato research agreement

The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS) have signed a research agreement focused on developing and innovating technologies to preserve the shelf-life and quality of sweet potato and its by-products. Under the agreement, the Laboratory of Crop Science at UWI Mona will further develop the Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) technology to extend the shelf-life of sweet potatoes, while the Xuzhou Sweet Potato Research Center, China  will investigate the selectivity of the different genotypes of sweet potato and conduct basic experiments on their storability under standard storage conditions.    (UWI Mona website, 08/07/2014)

2/09/2014


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)

2/09/2014


State of rain

The US Geological Survey has released a satellite-based rainfall monitoring dataset specifically designed to support the early detection of drought around the world. Developed as a partnership between the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Climate Hazards Group, this new dataset allows experts specializing in the early warning of drought and famine to monitor rainfall in near-real-time, at high resolution, over most of the globe (from 50°N to 50°S). The new dataset, named the Climate Hazards Group Infrared Precipitation with Stations (CHIRPS), reaches back to 1981 to place rainfall observed from space into the historical setting of over three decades of rainfall data collected at ground stations worldwide. CHIRPS data can be incorporated into climate models, along with other meteorological and environmental data, to project future agricultural and vegetation conditions.   (Geospatial & Engineering International Conference, 03/07/2014)

2/09/2014


Major research initiative to leverage smallholder agriculture with remote sensing

The Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente, the Netherlands, has launched the Spurring a Transformation for Agriculture through Remote Sensing (STARS) project to identify how Earth observation data products may help improve current information and decision support systems in the smallholder farming in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The project will be executed in close collaboration with research institutes in West and East Africa, Bangladesh, Australia, Mexico and the United States. Smallholder farmers often use small plots with variable boundaries, they often grow multiple crops and crop varieties on the plot at the same time, using a rich variety of farm practices. STARS will identify what remote sensing information is available for specific groups of smallholder farmers and how that information can be provided to inform decision making. STARS, which will last for 20 months, will develop open data products to be used by the wider research community.   (ITC, 18/06/2014)

2/09/2014


Different perspectives on irrigated rice by three large dams in the Sahel

The Global Water Initiative (GWI) in West Africa has compiled this report with recommendations to improve the performance of rice production systems in irrigated areas. The report is based on lessons learned from three case studies analyzing the strategies, aspirations and constraints of different categories of farmers living around the dams at Bagré (Burkina Faso), at Sélingué (Mali) and at Niandouba (Senegal). The report is available only in French.   (B. Guèye, IIED, June 2014)

2/09/2014


Strengthening African seed systems: Technical, economic and policy challenges

In July 2014, a regional dialogue on ‘Strengthening African seed systems: Technical, economic and policy challenges’ took place in Nairobi, Kenya, hosted by Future Agricultures and the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development. The workshop examined the institutional, social and political dimensions of getting seed technologies into use, and highlighted the challenges of increasing access. This subject is important because seed systems are a crucial element in any effort to improve agriculture in Africa. Inadequate attention in the past to building and supporting viable and effective seed systems was as a key reason why the original Green Revolution had a very limited impact in Africa. The workshop was informed by the AGRA’s Africa Agriculture Status Reports 2013 (http://agra-alliance.org/our-results/agra-status-reports/#.U_YbQWPgWjk) and  the African Union Commission’s African Seed and Biotechnology Programme (ASBP) Second Communiqué on Integrated Sector Development (http://pages.au.int/caadp/events/second-communique-integrated-seed-sector-development). The proceedings will be published on the Future Agricultures website.   (Future Agriculture, July 2014)

2/09/2014


Farmer-selected local varieties certified in Mali

In June 2014, farmers in Mali produced seeds of eight varieties of cowpea, fonio (Digitaria exilis), millet and sorghum, which were certified by Mali’s national seed laboratory, the Laboratoire National des Semences (LABOSEM). This was a significant step for Mali, where the trade in uncertified seeds is technically illegal, even though 92–99% of seed demand is supplied by informal exchange among farmers. Improved varieties of important local crops such as Bambara groundnut do not always exist, and certification of local seed varieties has been difficult, mostly due to administrative challenges and the limited capacity to produce varieties that meet the quality standards required for certification. This first-time certification was the result of the work of Bioversity International and its local partners in Mali since 1999, to encourage farmers to experiment and evaluate different varieties of local crops, strengthen the dialogue and support between the formal and informal seed sectors, and train farmers in quality seed production of varieties that are better adapted to local conditions.    (Bioversity International, 9/07/2014)

2/09/2014


Agro-Value Chain Finance and Climate Adaptation: The role of the banking sector

In June 2014, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) published this brief to stimulate thinking and discussion on ways to design and deliver agricultural finance that supports adaptation to a changing climate for all actors along agro-value chains from producers to exporters. Agricultural finance refers to financial services (savings, transfers, insurance and loans) that are needed by the agricultural sector. This brief primarily targets the banking sector, particularly credit institutions, involved in financing agro-value chains in developing countries, particularly in Africa. The brief builds on the results and recommendations of a six-month pilot initiative on mainstreaming climate risk along the coffee value chain in Uganda, which was conducted in 2013 through a partnership between the Ugandan Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Makerere University (MAK) and IISD.    (Julie Dekens & Susan Bingi, IISD, June 2014)

2/09/2014


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 (http://www.mainstreetproject.org), 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).

2/09/2014