Knowledge for Development

Selected publications

Publications and reports in the field of S&T for Development in ACP countries.

How realistic is the prospect of low-carbon rice production? Lessons from China

In this feature article, Sheng Zhou and Xiangfu summarize some realistic methods for reducing methane emissions in rice production. They present some case studies of efforts to mitigate methane emissions, such as irrigation management, the use of suitable rice cultivars (e.g. water-saving and drought-resistant rice, WDR) and combinations of different fertilizers. The production, oxidation and transport of methane in rice fields are influenced by many factors, including the rice cultivars, the cultivation system, water regimes practiced, and types of fertilizer. Simultaneously, soil carbon sequestration in rice fields is a key potential approach for turning rice fields from being a source of greenhouse gas emissions to being a carbon sink.The  authors describe how and how much methane is produced from rice paddies, and give examples of mitigation measures. Promising techniques include water management, organic amendments during the growing season, fertilization regimes and the use of appropriate rice cultivars, with the first two having the greatest impact. Mid-season drainage, intermittent irrigation or pre-harvest field drying may also reduce methane fluxes. The first case study details mitigation by water management and choice of rice cultivar, while the second explains the potential of different combinations of fertilizers. The authors conclude that low-carbon rice production requires combining available mitigation options into comprehensive packages. Knowledge of the soil microbe communities associated with the leading rice cultivars is essential for recommending appropriate mitigation strategies.


Building a new generation of agricultural scientists in Africa: networking universities – capturing economies of scale

In this feature article, Adipala Ekwamu, Malcolm Blackie and Joyce Lewinger Moock focus on the experiences of an African-led and -managed organization, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Africa (RUFORUM), which aims to capture regional economies of scope and scale, to support innovative curriculum design, fill crucial gaps in the availability of postgraduate degrees, and ensure a quality standard for courses. RUFORUM, through its innovative programmes in its member university system and its established regional convening power is an effective advocate for transformation of tertiary agricultural science training and research. Currently, Africa records the lowest numbers of PhDs per 1000 inhabitants and the lowest contribution to global knowledge resources (∼2%). The recent surge of renewed interest in the agricultural sector as an engine of economic growth in Africa has resulted in many new initiatives and the strengthening of ongoing programmes that have been identified as successful. Operating in 18 countries, RUFORUM has a mandate to oversee graduate training and specialized networks in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries. Under the guidance of senior African professionals, RUFORUM has grown from a crop-based network of 10 agricultural faculties into a regional broad-based consortium of 32 universities in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.  RUFORUM assumes that development is more likely to occur where there is an active, well-informed critical mass of locally based agricultural professionals to conduct relevant research. Another assumption is that the results of such research are more likely to be applied by strengthening a demand-driven research agenda – via linkages to smallholder farmers, small- and medium-sized agro-based enterprises post the farm gate, community organizations and policy makers to ensure the relevance and impact of such research, and by matching training and education to the potential job market.In 2014–2018, RUFORUM will strengthen and scale its core activities, while stepping up its representational role for higher education. 


CAAST-Net Plus Magazine Issue 3, June 2014

Topics in this issue of the CAAST-Net Plus magazine include: ST&I and the EU-Africa Policy Agenda; EU-Africa Health Research Cooperation; EU-Africa Platform for Climate Change Research Cooperation; Food & Nutrition Matters in the EU-Africa Partnership (by Judith Francis of CTA and Gerard Ralphs); Horizon 2020 know-how; Strategic Communication and Networking. 


Universities as potential actors for sustainable development

In their paper, Michael von Hauff and Thuan Nguyen of the Technische Universität in Kaiserslautern, Germany argue that Universities can contribute to solutions for major challenges of the 21st century such as increasing environmental and socio-economic crises, inequalities of income and wealth, and political instabilities by integrating the concept of sustainable development (SD) in research, organisation, and by educating future decision makers. Through university curricula, future decision makers can learn the competences needed to solve ecological, social, and economic problems in societies. The authors discuss the observation that universities in Germany fall behind internationally in implementing sustainable strategies and present an approach to how universities can implement the holistic concept of SD. They further analyse the current state of implementing sustainability strategies at universities, and how the success of these implementation efforts can be evaluated and fostered.    (Sustainability, 19/05/2014)


Laying the foundation for trans-disciplinary faculty collaborations: actions for a sustainable future

In this special issue on 'Education and Skills for the Green Economy', Linda Vanasupa of California Polytechnic State University and colleagues present an answer to how academics can successfully participate in trans-disciplinary projects. Based on their own experience in an ongoing research cooperation programme, the authors offer a post-industrial era metaphor for trans-disciplinarity – that of a complex dynamic system – that helped them work through the unexpected encounters in the process of transformative learning. They describe the systemic conditions that are repeatedly reproduced including: conflict, existential crisis, transformation and renewed vitality which would have been overlooked or interpreted as a hindrance to their work. These insights serve as socially robust body of knowledge to support the effective participation of academics in projects of a trans-disciplinary nature.   (Sustainability, 14/05/2014)


Family farming and prospects – challenges and prospects: in-depth analysis

This document discusses the definitions, challenges and future prospects of family farming in the EU. It provides: (i) a definition of the concepts of family farming and an overview of the main figures available; (ii) an examination of the current and new challenges in economic, demographic, sociological and territorial terms; and (ii) an analysis of the future prospects for family farming. The authors, Sophia Davidova, University of Kent, UK and Kenneth Thompson of the University of Aberdeen, UK argue that the main economic challenges to family farms are access to farming resources such as land and capital, and access to markets, particularly in terms of bargaining power in the food chain. One of the key economic drivers of future changes within the family farming sector is the differential between farm incomes and incomes in the rest of the economy. Technological progress and structural change will offset certain disadvantages of some but not all family farms in respect to economic efficiency. More knowledge-intensive and innovative management will allow some family farms to grow, capture economies of scale, and maintain and increase their competitiveness in the European and world market. Family farming – often by pluri-active and diversified households – is likely to continue to dominate EU farming structure despite trends towards larger non-family farms.   (European Parliament, 04/2014)


ICSU World Data System (WDS) strategic plan 2014-2018 published

This document, produced in consultation with WDS Members of the International Council for Science (ICSU), outlines five strategic targets that the WDS Scientific Committee (WDS-SC) considers to be important for international collaborative scientific research: (i) make trusted digital data repositories and services an integral part of international collaborative scientific research; (ii) nurture active disciplinary and multidisciplinary scientific data services communities; (iii) improve the funding environment for data services; (iv) improve the trust in, and quality of, open scientific data services; and (v) position ICSU-WDS as the premium global multidisciplinary network for quality assessed data.   (ICSU WDS, 06/2014)


Atlas of African agriculture research and development

The 'Atlas of African Agriculture Research & Development', published by IFPRI, presents a broad range of geospatial data resources that provide insights into the obstacles and opportunities facing smallholding farmers in Africa. Organised around seven themes (footprint of agriculture, growing conditions, role of water, drivers of change, access to trade, and human welfare), the atlas covers more than 30 topics, with maps and supporting text.   (IFPRI, 30/06/2014)


Proceedings of the GlobalFood symposium 2014 (April 2014)

The Second GlobalFood symposium was held in April 2014 in Göttingen, Germany. It focussed on new research findings and policy challenges related to the transformation of the global agri-food system A document containing detailed abstracts of the conference papers is available for download.   (University of Göttingen, 05/2014)


The Auditing Instrument for Food Security in Higher Education (AIFSHE)

This document is an adaptation of the AISHE book (Auditing Instrument for Sustainability in Higher Education, DHO 2001). It offers a description of the concept and details on each of the 20 criteria used in the AIFSHE assessment protocol.


Monitoring and evaluation for climate change adaptation and resilience: A synthesis of tools, frameworks and approaches

This report published by the SEA Change (Vietnam) and UKCIP (UK), is a synthesis and summary of frameworks for the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of climate change adaptation and resilience (CCAR) interventions, with a specific focus on international development projects and programmes. The objective of this report is to: (i) provide an easy-to-read synthesis of current adaptation and resilience M&E resources, frameworks, and approaches so that practitioners are able to more easily identify the information and tools that are most relevant to their needs; (ii) provide a short analysis of the 'state of play' of adaptation and resilience M&E guidance, identifying key themes and reflecting upon gaps and future priorities. The synthesis exposes a considerable overlap between some of these M&E frameworks, but also very important differences in approach, methodology, and intended audience. Among the key findings was a strong demand for an overarching, comprehensive document that would help M&E practitioners and CCAR programme managers understand the state of play of CCAR M&E, and also provide guidance in choosing which materials are best suited to the needs at hand.   (SEA Change CoP, 15/05/2014)   


Benchmarking survey of research uptake management in Sub-Sahara African universities

In May 2014 the DRUSSA programme (Development  Research Uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa) released the summary report of its second comprehensive survey among the participating 24 African universities, covering institutional priorities, policies for research, staffing for research management and uptake, and current research and research uptake activities. The report compares the universities’ 2014 responses to a 2012 survey and begins to map evidence of change of institutional research uptake capacity. Key findings include: strong leadership for institutionalisation; more dedicated posts, incentives for partnerships, and mechanism to assess impact; slow progress in putting recording systems in place; and low capacity in science communication and dissemination.   (DRUSSA, 06/05/2014)   


Vegetables to combat the hidden hunger in Africa

In this article, published in Chronica Horticulturae, the journal of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), tropical agronomist Gérard Grubben from the Netherlands and co-founders of the Eastwest Seed Company sketches the scope of vegetable production for the domestic African markets and its importance for improvement of nutrition and health for the poorer population. Grubben notes that emphasis has remained on research and development of energy rich staple crops (cereals, tubers, pulses) and cash crops. Compared to tropical Asia, the vegetable sector in Africa is lagging behind as a result of weak research, breeding, training and extension services, an insufficient seed distribution network and low purchasing power. The author believes many policy makers ignore the nutritional and economic value of vegetables. For example, in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Senegal, high-tech vegetable production for export to Europe and the Arabia Peninsula or for the small supermarket segment in the regional big cities has been supported with ample donor funding. The huge traditional domestic market, of crucial importance for the nutrition of the increasingly urbanised population, is almost devoid of public support. Gérard Grubben is sharing a copy of the article on our website.   (via, 02/05/2014)


Vitamin A: Moving the food-based approach forward

Ted Greiner, professor of nutrition at Hanyang University, South Korea explains why food-based approaches to combating vitamin A deficiency continue to be largely ignored by governments and donors. According to Greiner, this may be partly because the way of viewing food-based approaches has largely been informed by the community which supports micronutrient supplementation. Food-based approaches may be perceived as competitive or distracting and are thus slandered, for example claiming they are unproven or even ineffective. To the contrary, Greiner shows, it is the supplementation approach that fails to improve vitamin A status and is even lacking in proof of impact on young child mortality in real life settings. Rather, a wide variety of common and indigenous foods are proven effective in improving vitamin A status even in short-term trials. Food-based approaches are complex to implement and to evaluate and take time to mature and exert impact. But unlike supplementation, they reach all members of the community, are safe for pregnant women, have no side effects, are sustainable, and confer a wide range of benefits in addition to improving vitamin A status. Food-based approaches are also often portrayed as being expensive, but this is only true from a 'donor-centric' way of viewing costs. From the point of view of host countries, communities and families who grow vitamin A rich foods, the economic benefits are likely to outweigh the costs.   (FAO and WHO, 2013)   


Review of African medicinal plants with anti-diabetic potentials

Researchers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and the Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, produced a systematic review of all the in vivo anti-diabetic studies conducted between January 2000 and July 2013 on African plants to take a closer look at some relevant plants from the continent's sub-regions. The researchers found that plants of the Asteraceae and Lamiaceae families are the most investigated, and West Africa has the highest number of investigated plants. Although promising results were reported in many cases, only a few studies reported the partial characterisation of bioactive principles and mechanisms of action. The authors hope that government agencies, pharmaceutical industries, and the scientific community will investigate some of these plants in the future and explore avenues for commercialisation.   Recent research has dealt with the characterisation of bioactive principles. See our 'Herbs and medicinal plants' dossier:     (Planta Medica, 17/02/2014)   


Crop yields and global food security: Will yield increases continue to feed the world?

Three agricultural scientists, Drs Tony Fischer, Derek Byerlee and Greg Edmeades, have written a 640-page reference book (published by ACIAR, it is free to download and available in print) on global crop yield prospects and food security. This book, well received by experts in the field, considers the influences behind crop area and yield change over the past 20 years in the key breadbasket regions of the world for wheat, rice, maize, and soybean, along with 20 other important crops. It provides some answers and considers the opportunities for future yield prospects through lifting potential yield and closing yield gaps to 2050. After years of research the authors concluded: (i) progress in potential yield, when the best management practices and varieties are used, continues (+0.7% annually); (ii) yield gaps between potential and actual farm yields vary greatly across crops and regions (gaps over 100% for some crops such as maize); (iii) closing the large yield gaps in developing countries would seem the quickest and most feasible intervention for lifting progress (more research and public investment needed); and (iv) technological prospects exist for raising rates of potential yield progress, for example through increasing photosynthesis, utilising untapped diversity in crop gene banks, low-cost molecular markers for desirable genes and genetic engineering.   (ACIAR, 08/05/2014)   


Novel plant bio-resources: Applications in food, medicine and cosmetics

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is the editor of a book entitled Novel Plant Bioresources: Applications in Food, Medicine and Cosmetics, recently published by John Wiley & Son. The book serves as the definitive source of information on under-utilised plant species, and fills a key niche in the understanding of the relationship of human beings with under-utilised plants. After an introductory section which sets the scene with an overview of the historical and legislative importance of under-utilised plants, the main four parts of the book are dedicated to the diverse potential application of novel plant bioresources in food, medicine, ethno-veterinary medicine and cosmetics. Examples and contributors are drawn from Africa, Europe, the USA and Asia. The economic, social, and cultural aspects of under-utilised plant species are addressed, and the book provides a much needed boost to the on-going effort to focus attention on under-utilised plant species and conservation initiatives. By focusing on novel plants and the agenda for sustainable utilisation, Novel Plant Bioresources highlights key issues relevant to under-utilised plant genetic resources, and brings together international scholars on this important topic.   (Wiley-Blackwell, 04/2014)   


Guidelines for assessing nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes and practices

The FAO Guidelines for assessing nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes and practices is a reference guide and practical tool for conducting high-quality surveys of nutrition- and health-related knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) at the community level. The manual is written for people in charge of planning, implementing and evaluating food security and nutrition projects; these include project managers, nutritionists, health workers, planning and evaluation specialists and many others. The manual includes definitions and key indicators for nutrition- and health-related knowledge, attitudes and practices. It provides useful guidance for planning and conducting a KAP survey, and for analysing and reporting the survey results. The manual also provides model questionnaires (modules) to help standardise survey efforts across the world.    (FAO, 2014)  


Cameroon: understanding the range of perspectives that influence food security policy

In this article, Adam Sneyd, political scientist at the University of Guelph, Canada, argues that Cameroon could achieve a more sustainable and equitable food system if greater policy attention were  directed toward understanding the range of perspectives that compete to influence food security policy. Assessing the 'footprint' of new interests in this area, Sneyd's analysis suggests that food security policy in Cameroon could be more responsive to the ways new sources of finance, direct investment and trade affect differential impacts on the local availability, accessibility and adequacy of food. For example, a more participatory policy regime would reflect contrasting opinions and enhance policy on each dimension of food security. The author concludes that decision-makers will need to assess local perspectives on the potential multidimensional food security footprint of financial deals, direct investments or trade relations in order to secure the sustainability of the sector.   Read Sneyd’s Policy brief:     (Sustainability, 09/04/2014)   


A sourcebook for decision makers on how to improve livestock data

This sourcebook on livestock data, published by the World Bank, FAO and ILRI, summarises the activities and outputs of the Livestock in Africa: Improving Data for Better Policies project. It provides guidance to decision makers responsible for collecting and analysing livestock data from different perspectives on how to systematically address livestock data-related issues within the context of the national agricultural statistical system. In particular, it first develops the skeleton of a sound livestock statistical system – consistent with the demand of livestock information by stakeholders and the principles of the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics (World Bank, 2011). It then presents a sample of methods and tools – and associated examples – designed to improve the quantity and quality of livestock data available to decision makers.   (FAO, 2014)