Knowledge for Development

Developments

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


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.   http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/news/20140225-PNAS.html   (IIASA, 25/02/2014)

10/04/2014


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.   http://www.cirad.fr/en/news/all-news-items/articles/2014/ca-vient-de-sortir/perspective-25-emergy-method-shows-the-efficiency-of-extensive-livestock-systems   (CIRAD, 07/02/2014)

10/04/2014


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.   http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/a1-milk-a2-milk-america   (Mother Jones, 12/03/2014)

10/04/2014


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.     http://goo.gl/zg9Ijm   (DRUSSA, 24/01/2014)

10/04/2014


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.   http://www.progressproject.eu/news/1260-whose-innovation-counts-by-prof-rachel-wynberg-and-dr-laura-pereira/   (Progress Project, 10/12/2013)

10/04/2014


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.   http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212094713000066   (Weather and Climate Extremes, 25/08/2013)

10/04/2014


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'.   http://www.iisd.org/media/press.aspx?id=270   (IISD, 18/03/2014)

10/04/2014


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.   http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/jas/article/view/33445   (Journal of Agricultural Science, 03/2014)

10/04/2014


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.   http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacific/radio/onairhighlights/australian-chocolate-makers-link-with-vanuatu-farmers/1283092   (Radio Australia, 21/03/2014)

10/04/2014


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.    http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/jas/article/view/33443    (Journal of Agricultural Science, 03/2014)

10/04/2014


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.   http://www2.ekol.slu.se/appeal/   (APPEAL, 2014)

10/04/2014


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.  http://news.psu.edu/story/308073/2014/03/18/research/research-reveals-true-value-cover-crops-farmers-environment  (Pennsylvania State University, 18/03/2014)

10/04/2014


Science competitions promote innovation: Feeding 1 billion in Africa in a changing world

The great success of the 3rd Africa-wide Science Competitions ‘Feeding 1 billion in Africa in a changing World’ which extended over the period 2012-2013 clearly demonstrates how much CTA, FARA, IFS and partners* value the scientific contributions of Africa’s women scientists and young professionals in addressing the challenges that Africa faces.   

28/03/2014


The Integrated seed sector development (ISSD) Ethiopia programme

This is the website of the Integrated seed sector development (ISSD) Ethiopia programme, an initiative implemented by Bahir Dar University, Haramaya University, Hawassa University, Mekelle University and Oromia Seed Enterprise, with a technical support from Wageningen UR Centre for Development Innovation (CDI). The ISSD programme is strengthening the development and operation of regional, national and international seed companies; consolidating and scaling up of local seed businesses (i.e. seed producer cooperatives); promoting partnerships and innovations; and supporting the development of enabling policies and institutions as well as by sharing knowledge and experiences learnt by using multiple communication channels. The Programme Management Unit of ISSD is hosted by Haramaya University and located in Addis Ababa. Thematic research areas include: Effect of quality seed on crop productivity; Seed treatment; marketing  approaches; delivery mechanisms; varietal replacement; early generation supply; storage conditions.   A similar project was started in Tanzania and Mozambique. See (24/02/2014): http://www.kit.nl/kit/KIT-Development-Policy-ampamp-Practice-DEV-Nieuws/DEV-Nieuws/DEV-Nieuws-2014/KIT-and-CDI-in-the-field-Seed-sector-development-in-Mozambique-and-Tanzania.html   http://issdethiopia.org/index.php/about/about-us   (ISSD Ethiopia, 2014)

28/03/2014


Story: Vegetable seedlings' business offers advantages over formal seed supply approach for smallholders

The Koga irrigation scheme in Ethiopia was finalised in May 2012 and more than 10,000 households residing in the irrigation scheme have started year-round crop production. Because many farmers in Koga irrigation scheme are new to irrigated vegetable crops production and post harvest handling practices, they do not know how to produce and process seeds of different vegetable crops and thus need to purchase imported seed from local private vegetable seed retailers. This situation posed a number of issues. The quantity of each imported seed package is too much for what the farmers require and the price of packed vegetable seeds is often too expensive for most smallholders. On top of this, most farmers do not have adequate knowledge and skills to raise and manage vegetable seedlings. This situation is creating a favourable environment for small entrepreneurs to raise and market vegetable seedlings in the area in the way that's practical and affordable for the scheme's smallholders. These local businesses create trust among farmers and input suppliers, often serving as alternative extension service providers with their expertise as seedling producers.    http://lives-ethiopia.org/2014/01/15/vegetable_seedlings/   (LIVES Ethiopia, 15/01/2014)

28/03/2014


Efficacy of some spices as sorghum grain protectants

Mohammed Suleiman, at the Department of Biology, Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina, Nigeria, carried out a series of experiments to determine the efficacy of three edible spices – garlic (Allium sativum L.), chili pepper (Capsicum frutescens L.), and ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) against the weevil Sitophilus zeamais reared on sorghum grains. All the spices applied at varying amounts resulted in 100% adult mortality, showing similar effects to the conventional insecticide Permethrin. The strong aroma and contact toxicity of the spices give them the protectant properties looked for in natural pest management strategy.   http://www.academicjournals.org/journal/AJAR/article-abstract/27D9A1244784   (African Journal of Agricultural Research, 02/2014)

28/03/2014


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