Knowledge for Development


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

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)


WECAFC issues recommendations on grouper, snapper and queen conch

The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) adopted management recommendations on queen conch (large-sized sea snails) and spawning aggregations of grouper and snapper at its 15th biennial session in March 2014. To address the decline or disappearance of spawning aggregations of grouper and snapper in the Caribbean, the Commission recommended a regional seasonal closure for all commercial and recreational fishing activities of Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus). All identified spawning areas in the region will be closed between 1 December and 31 March, beginning in December 2014. The Commission recommended WECAFC develop a regional plan for the conservation and management of queen conch (Strombus gigas), for adoption by the WECAFC in 2016. The resolutions adopted by the Commission addressed illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, invasive lionfish control, and voluntary guidelines on small-scale fisheries, among others.   (IISD, 31/04/2014)


Global network combats food contamination

The EU-funded MycoRed research project set out to develop a range of production and handling methods which will reduce both pre- and post-harvest contamination in the cereal feed and food chains. MycoRed covers issues ranging from the optimisation of plant resistance and fungicide use, to novel post-harvest and storage practices and the design and application of new food processing technologies. In addition to cereals, specific technologies have been designed to be integrated along the food/feed chains associated to wheat, maize, grape, nuts and dried fruits. Relevant documentation can be found on the project's website.  (MycoRed project, 03/2014)


Near real-time frost mapping system for tea plantations in Kenya

RCMRD/SERVIR-Africa and the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK) have developed and installed Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) in Kenya to support an automated frost mapping system to alert plantation managers of notable upcoming temperature changes. The near real-time frost mapping system identifies and displays frost-impacted areas by analysing night-time land surface temperature data from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites. Each morning, within a few hours of data collection, the system emails user-friendly maps identifying areas with high potential for frost to the Kenya Meteorological Service (KMS), TRFK, and agricultural insurance companies. In addition to the satellite data-derived products, the system will soon incorporate numerical prediction model forecasts to help map areas of potential frost up to 3 days in advance.  (SERVIR, 28/01/2014)


Launch of global land cover SHARE database (GLC-SHARE)

The FAO has launched a comprehensive geospatial database that standardises the information from numerous sources all over the world, using internationally accepted definitions. The harmonised land cover datasets cover most of the globe and provide information on eleven different types of land cover which have been gathered by different countries and organisations. The new database, the most-reliable global view of planetary land cover assembled to-date, could be used for land use forecast and climate change impact monitoring, for example.   Press release:         SHARE website:   (FAO, 17/03/2014)


Sugar cane industry: environmental threats, prospects for bioeconomy

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) senior research fellow Francis Johnson talks to Engineering News about the contrasting management practices of the sugar cane industry in developing countries. Most countries with sugar cane farms face similar environmental problems: water shortage, nutrient run-off, biodiversity loss, chemical leach, air pollution, and so on.  Johnson argues that the ways countries draft and enforce legislation associated with the growing of sugar cane will decide upon the sustainability of the industry. In South Africa for example, the widespread practice of burning sugar cane prior to harvest causes air pollution and loss of biomass (cane trash) while post-harvest cane residues could otherwise be burned to generate electricity and heat. In the much smaller country Mauritius however, the adoption of modern cane farming practices and standards have helped mitigate negative environmental impacts of the industry.  Ideas for public-private partnerships to improve the industry abound and most are self-evident: grow sugar cane where the land naturally allows it, help the industry attain standards, enable reporting and enforcement, associate liability for environmental damage, develop and market by-products with added value, etc.  (Engineering News via SIANI, 28/03/2014)


Tomato skin – a natural lining for metal cans

The European BIOCOPAC project developed a novel bio-lacquer for metal food packaging designed to meet current demand for sustainable production and safety. The natural lacquer was developed from tomato skins, a by-product that food processors often treat as waste. The lacquer can be applied to the internal and external surfaces of cans used for foodstuffs. Researchers started by analysing tomato waste, and continued with the development of an experimental method of extracting cutin (a waxy ‘polymer’) from tomato peel and create lacquer sheets. The innovation is expected to provide can manufacturers with an environmentally friendly solution they can offer to food processors worldwide.  (BIOCOPAC project, 03/2014)


Africa-EU university boost: Commission backs plan to double size of partnership scheme

The African Higher Education Harmonisation and Tuning event, jointly organised by the European Commission and African Union Commission on 27 March 2014, focused on student mobility, recognition of qualifications and credits, as well as the development of new and joint degree programmes. Over the next seven years, it is envisaged that the new 'Erasmus+' programme will provide grants for 25,000 African students and academics to study or train in Europe, and around 2,750 African researchers will receive support. One of the aims of the meeting was to double the scope of the initiative from 60 African universities and 130 000 undergraduate students to 120 universities by 2015. Overall, it seeks to improve institutional evaluation and to implement a framework for quality assurance and accreditation.  (EU-Africa Chamber of Commerce, 25/03/2014)


Update on the Caribbean Science and Agriculture Film and Video Competition: 'Adding Value to Local Foods'

In October 2013, 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 'Adding Value to Local Foods'. This thematic focus responds to the Caribbean food and nutrition policy priorities on food availability and utilisation which emphasise promotion of the sustainable production, commercialisation and consumption of safe, affordable, nutritious quality Caribbean food commodities/products. The competition encourages creative, technology savvy young professionals (persons 18-35 years) with a passion for communicating ideas and an interest in leveraging science and technology for agricultural and economic development to participate. Eighty-four (84) entries were received from 12 countries; Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Suriname, the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago.   The dominant theme selected by entrants was; 'Promoting the benefits of local foods', followed by 'Processing option' and 'Consumer/market driven approaches'. Following the evaluation by the expert panel, sixty (60) teams were selected to participate in a hands-on customised training workshop in film and animation that was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad from 7-11 April 2014. Next steps: Each team will be assigned two mentors; a scientist and an expert in film and video production who will oversee the final production of films and videos for showcasing during the competition finals. The deadline date for submission of videos is 1 July 2014. All of the films and videos will be broadcast on-line over a four week period. Winners will be chosen by on-line audiences as well as a jury of scientists and film makers.  Click this link to browse through the photos of the latest training workshop. Previously published information on the competition.The competition website and the competition's facebook page. Download the press release.


Analysis of the impact of research cooperation on food security between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa

This survey forms part of Work package 1 of the 7th framework programme CAAST-Net Plus project ‘Advancing SSA-EU cooperation in research and innovation for global challenges’. The aim of Work package 1 is to contribute to strengthening the research and innovation cooperation between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa for addressing the global food security challenge. The main objective is to provide a knowledge base for the elaboration of a food and nutrition security platform to address Europe - Africa joint ST&I priorities for achieving improved FNS outcomes.  The survey is being undertaken by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP­EU (CTA). We welcome your participation and appreciate your support in completing the survey. We agree to share the findings with you. List of acronyms used: CAADP: The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme CBO: Community Based Organization EC: European Commission EU Funded: EC/EU member states  FNS: Food and Nutrition Security NGO: Nongovernmental Organisations S&T: Science and TechnologyN.B. Any information you provide will be strictly confidential and only generalized reports will be generated and circulated. However, we would appreciate it if we can contact you directly for a supplementary interview, if necessary. Start the survey now.


EU-Africa roadmap 2014-2017 includes cooperation in science, technology and innovation and higher education

Five joint priorities have been identified for EU-Africa cooperation within the joint Africa European Strategy (JAES) framework for the period 2014–2017 namely; (i) Peace and security; (ii) Democracy, good governance and human rights; (iii) Human development; (iv) Sustainable and inclusive development and growth and continental integration and (v) Global and emerging issues.  In the priority area 3 "Human Development": two of the key areas for cooperation are inter alia (a) Science, technology and innovation; and (b) Higher education. Agriculture, food security and food safety are identified under priority area 4, “Sustainable and inclusive development”. Climate change and environment are to include sustainable land management, and biodiversity issues (including resilient ecosystems and green growth and innovation) are captured in priority area 5, "global and emerging issues".


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)