Knowledge for Development

Knowledge for development

This website supports the policy dialogue on S&T for agricultural and rural development in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It enables the ACP scientific community - primarily agricultural research and development scientists and technologists, policy makers, farmers and other stakeholders and actors - to share and review results of national and regional efforts and collaborate to harness science and technology for the development of agriculture in their countries.

We are pleased to forward the July/August 2014 issue of the CTA and S&T Knowledge for Development (K4D) e-newsletter. In this issue, we place emphasis on (i) sorghum research and value chain development, (ii) extension policy and, (iii) emerging issues in trans-disciplinary research and academic publishing among others. We have also adopted a new format for the K4D newsletter and a new email delivery system using mailchimp which we hope you appreciate.  30/07/2014
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Sorghum is crucial for food and nutritional security for over 300 million people, particularly for communities living in arid and semi-arid lands in sub-Saharan Africa. Its ability to grow in harsh environments where other crops would not survive is an added advantage. Sorghum has also been endorsed by the regional economic communities in sub-Saharan Africa as one of the strategic commodities for targeted investments. In addition to its food use as grain or in syrup, it has wider commercial potential for the production of fodder, alcoholic beverages (e.g. beer) and biofuels. While in the past sorghum had attracted less research investment than other staple crops e.g. cereals such as wheat, rice and corn, sequencing of the genome has provided added opportunities for varietal improvements including enhancing nutritional properties and boosting yield under a range of conditions. Researchers all over the world in both developed and developing countries are conducting research on this crop.  
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Sorghum in Africa: research opportunities and priorities

by Eva Weltzien, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Mali
In her lead article, Eva Weltzien, principal scientist at ICRISAT-Mali describes how sorghum breeders across Africa have been able to develop improved varieties resistant to Striga, and tolerant of high salinity and low phosphorus conditions using local landraces, as well as reintroduce landraces that may have been lost. She notes that the germplasm base must be well known and understood and particular varieties chosen appropriately and in consultation with local stakeholders and farmers to know what varieties might be most suitable. Due recognition of the local knowledge which guides the final selection is critical. 28/07/2014
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Potential for sorghum in food security and economic development among communities in arid and semi-arid lands in Africa

by Florence Wambugu, CEO and Nehemiah Mburu, Business & Project Manager, Africa Harvest
In their lead article, Florence Wambugu and Nehemiah Mburu of Africa Harvest describe how the Africa Harvest organisation is partnering with international research centres of the CGIAR and local national agricultural research institutes (NARIs) to improve the crop. Examples from Kenya and Tanzania show that improved access to high-quality certified seeds, intensification of production and adoption of good agronomic practices have led to increased productivity, stronger market links and higher volumes being traded between the two countries. 28/07/2014
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Sorghum is largely produced and consumed by the local population in the soudano-sahelian region of Cameroon. Public health problems related to mycotoxins are not found in the region  and whether sorghum and sorghum products avoid mycotoxin contamination or whether local postharvest practices are effective against mycotoxins is considered. The observed low incidence levels of mycotoxins in raw dry sorghum grains from northern Cameroon could be linked to pre- and post-harvest strategies to prevent crop contamination e.g., yearly crop rotation, irrigation in hot and dry weather, use of pesticides to reduce insect populations, the drying of crops to a safe moisture level, and protective storage.    (InTech Publishers, 2013) 28/07/2014
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Researchers from CIRAD, IRD and their partners have recently demonstrated that sorghum genetic diversity distribution in eastern Kenya was linked to the ethnolinguistic origin of farmers. The researchers took stock of local sorghum varieties grown by households from three ethnolinguistic groups. They characterised the structure of sorghum genetic diversity within the three areas and tested the link with farmers' ethnolinguistic structures. Distribution of sorghum varieties was associated with ethnolinguistic structures. Introduced varieties, obtained through the formal varietal improvement system, were uniformly distributed within the three ethnolinguistic groups, while several local varieties identified by the farmers were unequally distributed among these groups. This work emphasized the relevance of the local scale for studying the evolutionary processes of crops. (PLOS One, 06/2014) 28/07/2014
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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) 28/07/2014
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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) 28/07/2014
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The results of a recent paper published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics comparing Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) conducted with cowpea farmers in Tanzania, using an open RCT with a double-blind RCT ( used in medical science) were discussed by Venezuelan journalist and blogger Francisco Toro. The results were surprising and put into question the standard methodology that agricultural scientists commonly use to assess the success of the introduction of new agricultural technologies. Toro sums it up: 'In the open RCT, Tanzanian cowpea farmers who knew they were getting improved seed easily outperformed farmers who knew they were getting traditional seed. But in the double-blind study, farmers who weren’t told whether the seed they got was improved or not performed just as well whether that the seed they received was improved or traditional. In fact, farmers who used traditional seed without knowing it did just as well as farmers who used improved seed, whether they knew it or not. Only farmers who knew the seed they were given wasn’t improved lagged behind in productivity.'   (Francisco Toro's blog, 09/04/2014) 28/07/2014
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Guiding principles for communicating scientific findings in a manner that promotes objectivity, public trust, and policy relevance have been proposed by Kevin C. Elliott (Michigan State University, US) and David B. Resnik (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, US) . These are based on current ethical, conceptual, and empirical studies of objectivity and conflicts of interest in scientific research. Both conceptual and empirical studies of scientific reasoning have shown that it is unrealistic to prevent policy-relevant scientific research from being influenced by value judgments. Conceptually, the current dispute over an EC report on its regulatory policy for endocrine-disrupting chemicals illustrates how scientists were forced to make value judgments about appropriate standards of evidence when informing public policy. Empirical studies provide further evidence that scientists are unavoidably influenced by a variety of potentially subconscious financial, social, political, and personal interests. The authors conclude that when scientific evidence is inconclusive and major regulatory decisions are at stake, it is unrealistic to think that values can be excluded from scientific reasoning. Thus, efforts to suppress or hide interests or values may actually damage scientific objectivity and public trust, whereas a willingness to bring implicit interests and values into the open may be the best path to promoting good science and policy.   (Environmental Health Perspectives, 01/ 07/2014) 28/07/2014
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Integrated pest management (IPM) has hardly been adopted in developing countries, despite its theoretical prominence and sound principles. These are the findings of a research project conducted by scientists from CIAT, IRD, CIP, University of Greenwich, Cornell University and Wageningen UR. They found 51 potential reasons why IPM adoption by developing country farmers is low. The most frequently mentioned obstacle was 'insufficient training and technical support to farmers'. Different adoption obstacles were identified than in high-income countries. Developing-country respondents rated 'IPM requires collective action within a farming community' as their top obstacle to IPM adoption. Respondents from high-income countries prioritised the 'shortage of well-qualified IPM experts and extension workers'.   http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/02/19/1312693111  (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and IRD (FR), 25/02/2014) 28/07/2014
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