Knowledge for Development

Related developments

Beyond N and P: Toward a land resource ecology perspective and impactful fertilizer interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa

Initial results of experiments with multiple plant nutrients present in soils show that the proportion expressed as ratios impacts crop yields rather than absolute levels, indicating the existence of complex nutrient relations. These ratios are particularly important among Ca, Mg and K, between P and micronutrients and among the micronutrients themselves. Such ratios are shown to govern the ecological diversity of vegetation and spatial pattern of soils. It is therefore essential to include all essential nutrients in agronomic and fertilizer research. Limited amounts of optimal ratios of (micro)nutrients tuned to local soil chemical properties can have large impacts on yield and result in higher fertilizer uptake efficiency. (Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, 2015)


Governance of science, technology and innovation for food security in Africa: A conceptual framework for developing indicators

By John Ouma-Mugabe, Professor Science and Innovation Policy, University of Pretoria, South Africa   John Mugabe believes that despite the increasing importance of the governance of science, technology and innovation, there are no conceptual tools or empirically tested indicators – quantitative or qualitative – to provide the evidence base given the complexity of science–technology–society interactions. 


E-version of the Auditing Instrument for Food Security in Higher Education (AIFSHE) tool

The CTA/WUR/ACP Universities Auditing Instrument for Food Security in Higher Education (AIFSHE) is an open source tool that is now available online. In 2013, CTA embarked on a collaboration with the Education and Competence Studies Group and the Centre for Sustainable Development & Food Security of Wageningen University and Research Centre, ten universities in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and African regional university networks (ANAFE, RUFORUM, TEAM Africa) to develop the AIFSHE open source tool. In 2014, the draft version of the AIFSHE tool was used by the ACP universities to audit their food security programmes and determine their vision for the future. Since then the tool has been updated, endorsed by several vice-chancellors, principals and deans in regional fora in Africa and the Caribbean, and has been translated into French. The tool is an adaptation of the Auditing Instrument for Sustainability in Higher Education (AISHE), which enables universities to undertake their own self-assessments and to monitor changes over time based on 20 criteria used in the AIFSHE assessment protocol. If you would like to have access to the online tool please send an email to reference AIFHSE tool, attention Judith Francis.


Joint EIARD–SCAR working group on agricultural research for global challenges: Policy principles

The Joint EIARD–SCAR Strategic Working Group on Agricultural Research for Global Challenges (ARCH) has recently updated the main Agricultural Research (AR) and Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) policy principles and the linkages between them. It is argued that AR and ARD are increasingly interlinked due to the global scale of challenges such as climate change, food and nutrition security and access to natural resources. This action by the Joint EIARD–SCAR Strategic Working Group ARCH was considered necessary in moving from the Millennium Development Goals towards the Sustainable Development Goals, so as to create sustainable policy alliances on research for global challenges.    (PAEPARD, 25/01/2015)

8/03/2015’s expanded website tackles fertilizer market information needs to improve Africa’s food security

The newly expanded website gives farmers access to the best market information available and could provide a key to unlocking a green revolution in Africa. The new website is a powerful tool with many searchable statistics, media channels, market news, product catalogues and business directories, and provides the technical tools farmers and policymakers need to fuel Africa’s agricultural development. Designed in an easy-to-navigate, user-friendly format, the website connects fertilizer usage information across the continent and globally, and provides a rich collection of information on Africa’s fertilizer market to support rigorous data analysis.    (IFDC, 10/02/2015)

7/03/2015’s expanded website tackles fertilizer market information needs to improve Africa’s food security

The newly expanded website gives farmers access to the best market information available and could provide a key to unlocking a green revolution in Africa. The new website is a powerful tool with many searchable statistics, media channels, market news, product catalogues and business directories, and provides the technical tools farmers and policymakers need to fuel Africa’s agricultural development. Designed in an easy-to-navigate, user-friendly format, the website connects fertilizer usage information across the continent and globally, and provides a rich collection of information on Africa’s fertilizer market to support rigorous data analysis. (IFDC, 10/02/2015)


Ecosystem-based adaptation for food security in the AIMS SIDS: Integrating external and local knowledge

This paper critically reviews ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) approaches for food security under climate change, specifically for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) comprising the Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS) region. The focus is on integrating different knowledge forms. The authors assess current EbA approaches to food security, review methodologies for integrating local and external knowledge, and identify key gaps and actions for EbA for food security in the AIMS region and potentially further afield. To fill these gaps, suggested actions include knowledge identification and combination, learning from others and from history, using local champions, and regular monitoring and evaluating progress.    (Sustainability, 26.08.2014)


Narrowing the conventional versus organic farming system yield gap

Lauren Ponisio and colleagues of the Department of Environmental Science of the University of California found that two agricultural diversification practices – multi-cropping and crop rotations – substantially reduce the yield gap between organic and conventional farming systems. They revisited the question of how organic farming may contribute to global food production and compare organic and conventional yields with a new meta-dataset three times larger than those previously used (115 studies containing more than 1000 observations) and a new hierarchical analytical framework that can better account for the heterogeneity and structure in the data. Their robust analysis suggests that appropriate investment in agro-ecological research to improve organic management systems could greatly reduce or eliminate the yield gap for some crops or regions.  (The Royal Society Publishing, 10.12.2014)


Scientists breed nutritionally rich yam bean

African Yam bean is an orphan highly nutritious crop that is undervalued by policy makers. Plant breeders at the Department of Agricultural Production of Makerere University, are breeding yam beans to develop palatable varieties that are free of poisonous substances and adapted to tall grass savannah agro- ecological zones. 31 new accessions have been included in the CGIAR's Potato Center (CIP) gene bank, and about 60 farmer varieties of yam beans are now maintained at CIP. Makerere University and NARO researchers are optimistic that the yam bean will contribute significantly to food security because it is rich in protein, carbohydrates, zinc and iron and also improves soil fertility.   (FarmBizAfrica, 11/10/2014)


The Sustainable intensification of European agriculture

This report comprises the first systematic analysis of sustainable intensification (SI) of the European agricultural sector and argues it must be the paradigm within which future agricultural policy is made in the EU. Three key points are made. First, the agricultural input which needs to be intensified across all of Europe is knowledge per hectare. This means knowledge in managing delicate ecosystems, knowledge to ensure that pollinator populations thrive, knowledge to make water management minimise flooding, as well as knowledge to achieve more food output per hectare. Second, the EU needs to devise a measurement tool for environmental farming performance. It would be strongly preferable to build on an EU-wide set of indicators already developed, for example the Joint Research Centre’s IRENA indicators. And third, in addition to better enforcement of existing environmental regulations, and using policy measures under the CAP, changes in farming practices must also come from farmers and private actors themselves. This report was the initiative of the Public Utility Foundation for Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) and launched at the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS).   (PAEPARD, 24/06/2014)


Underutilised wild edible plants in the Chilga District, north-western Ethiopia: focus on wild woody plants

In this article, Mekuanent Tebkew, University of Gondar, and colleagues at other Ethiopian universities report on a study of the distribution, diversity, role, management conditions and associated traditional knowledge of underutilised wild edible plants in north- western Ethiopia. Despite the extraordinary number of ecological zones and plant diversity, the diversity of plants is under threat due to the lack of institutional capacity, population pressure, land degradation and deforestation. An adequate documentation of these plants also had not been conducted. The researchers found 33 wild edible plants that are used by local communities to supplement staple foods, to fill food gaps and for recreation. As these communities apply only elementary management practices to some wild edible plants, special attention is required to sustain the benefits of these plants.    (Agriculture & Food Security, 26/08/2014)


New study charts the global invasion of crop pests

The world’s most important crop-producing countries will be fully saturated with pests by the middle of the century if current trends continue. Crop pests include fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, nematodes, viroids and oomycetes. This is the main conclusion of a recent study by Daniel Bebber and colleagues at the University of Exeter, UK, concludes. Using global databases to investigate the factors that influence the number of countries reached by pests and the number of pests in each country, the researchers identified the patterns and trends in their spread. They also identified the pests likely to be the most invasive in coming years, including three species of tropical root knot nematode whose larvae infect the roots of thousands of different plant species; Blumeria graminis, a fungus that causes powdery mildew on wheat and other cereals; and the Citrus tristeza virus which had reached 105 of 145 countries growing citrus by 2000.   (Global Ecology and Biogeography via University of Exeter, 27/08/2014)


International Food Security Assessment, 2014-24

This report of the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS) assesses and projects food security of 76 low- and middle-income countries based on two key determinants: food production and import capacity. Between 2013 and 2014, it is expected that the food security for these 76 countries will improve and the number of food-insecure people will fall by 9%, from 539 million in 2013 to 490 million in 2014. The share of the population that is food insecure in these countries is expected to decrease from 15.5% in 2013 to 13.9% in 2014. In Africa, the biggest changes are projected for Tanzania, Chad, and Madagascar.   (USDA, June 2014)


Frontiers in Food Policy: Perspectives on sub-Saharan Africa

This book is a compilation of research stemming from the Global Food Policy and Food Security Symposium Series, hosted by Stanford University from 2010-2013 by the Center on Food Security and the Environment (FSE). This book brings together contributions policy experts from around the world in the fields of food and agricultural development. They examine the major themes of hunger and rural poverty, agricultural productivity, resource and climate constraints on agriculture, and food and agriculture policy. With a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, the volume also draws on lessons from other parts of the world, notably Asia.   (Stanford Center on Food Security and the Environment, 7/07/2014)


Climate Change, Water and Agriculture

Water withdrawals from rivers and lakes for irrigation, household and industrial use has doubled in the last 40 years. At a global level, some 1.2 billion people live in basins where the physical scarcity of water is absolute. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions. This OECD report looks at what can be done to stop this worsening trend, starting now. The report argues that strategies for adapting agricultural water management to climate change need to target five levels of intervention, and the linkages among them: (i) on-farm: adaptation of water management practices and cropping and livestock systems; (ii) watershed: adaptation of water supply and demand policies in agriculture and with the other water users (urban and industrial) and uses (ecosystems); (iii) risk management: adaptation of risk management systems against droughts and floods; (iv) agricultural policies and markets: adaptation of existing agricultural policies and markets to the changing climate and (v) interactions between mitigation and adaptation of agricultural water management.   (OECD, 19/06/2014)


Fundamentals of agricultural sustainability or the quest for the Golden Fleece

This paper highlights different aspects of development sustainability and identifies its drivers in the fields of agriculture, nature and the environment, including those of a human, cultural, social and political nature, together with components of metabolism, genetics, energy, environment and farm management.  Marc Janssens, University of Bonn, Germany, and colleagues argue that sustainability approaches should be precisely documented using exact parameters and avoiding unproven social or emotional elements. Quantitative cost–benefit ratios are proposed as sustainability indicators. The article concludes that sustainability is an ideal state in an area of conflict between environmental change, evolution of life and thermodynamic laws. It cannot be defined as a stable state, but as a state of relative stability during a certain but limited period of time. Sustainability strongly depends on a reliable energy resource that, in thermodynamic terms, enables the preservation of order in an open (eco-) system at the expense of the order of the environment.    (Journal of Natural Resources and Development, 5-06/2014)


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)


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)


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 (,–        Shamba Shape-Up, in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda ( and–        N2Africa, in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe (   (Secure Nutrition, 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)