Knowledge for Development

Feature articles

Agro-processing – a Kenyan Perspective: Enhancing food security and farmers’ livelihoods

Kenya is considered food-insecure, with a general deficit in production, particularly of staple foods; maize, wheat, beans, rice and sugar, and this is supplemented by imported food commodities. Postharvest losses, especially of perishable produce are high, while poor postharvest handling of cereal maize and related products compromises food safety because of aflatoxin contamination putting farm families, livestock and consumers at risk, further exacerbating the food insecurity situation.Kenya’s Agriculture Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) contributed to a restructuring of the agricultural sector and encompasses cross-cutting issues of climate change, youth and gender engagement as well as industrialisation and finance. However, the sector continues to be negatively impacted by several binding constraints.


Transitioning from public to private sector agricultural extension: drivers, challenges and implications for policy, practice and research

Agricultural extension systems everywhere are experiencing unprecedented changes and transformations, accompanied with tremendous challenges for all involved. Historically conceived as a public service targeting farming populations with agricultural information and technologies, the private sector and civil society are increasingly playing a role. There are new clients (including the diverse actors in entire agricultural value chains located in urban areas versus the traditional focus on rural farmers; large-scale commercial farmers as opposed to subsistence small-scale farmers, youth, women); and new messages. Despite the problems with public-sector extension systems, private-sector provision will not resolve all of them. Evidence supports pluralistic systems with both public and private actors performing different roles and targeting different extension needs in a coordinated manner. The transition to private sector provision needs careful planning.


Ecological sustainability in times of change – how to measure success?

Agricultural production is being impacted by changes in climate, ecology and the environment. At the same time, agricultural intensification, population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation also impact upon the ecology and environment. In this context, achieving ecological sustainability is often seen as a desirable goal. But what is ecological sustainability? The meaning appears to be different when viewed through the lenses of various experts e.g. environmentalists, sociologists or economists. Nevertheless it is essential to have a clear understanding of what is meant in a specific situation or context. This goal may be as elusive as the goal of “sustainable development” for which several, sometimes contradicting definitions exist, and for which consensus on how to attain it, still has not been reached. 


Policy writeshop: 'Improving Effectiveness of Extension and Advisory Services' 20-23 August 2013

CTA hosted a team of experts on extension and advisory services from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries as well as Europe and the United States in August 2013.The purpose was to review the results of six CTA commissioned case studies as well as case studies commissioned by  the 'Africa Extension Reform Group' (AERG), entitled ‘Transforming Agricultural Extension in Africa: A Continent-Wide Study of Agricultural Extension Workers at the Grassroots’, to derive lessons for policy and practice.This CTA policy learning workshop served as a platform for knowledge exchange on extension and advisory services and charting new areas for further exploration. The presentations and key messages from the workshop are provided. Case study templates for commissioning new studies were reviewed and updated. The synthesis report and policy brief will soon be available.  --Click to read the key messages by Judith Francis.

Tuesday 20 August 2013 - Friday 23 August 2013

Changing Landscape of EU International Cooperation in Research and Innovation: What are the opportunities if ACP countries invest in their own ARD capabilities?

Sustainable improvement of human well-being depends crucially on knowledge, its production, organisation, distribution, appropriation and wise use. Access to information, the capacity to generate and use scientific and technological knowledge and human innovation give institutions and countries an edge. For ACP countries, past development efforts that ignored local circumstances, technologies and systems of knowledge wasted enormous amounts of time and resources and have failed to achieve the desired result: "sustainable development".


Are investments in agricultural research making a difference in the ACP region, and why the need to monitor investments?

Mr Othieno lives in Busia District in Kenya. He used to grow maize to feed his family of six. Every season, he could only harvest 2 bags of maize from his acre of land. This was not enough to feed his family and send his children to school. In 2007, he participated in an on-farm evaluation of new varieties of sweet potato (orange-fleshed sweet potato). He learned that he can plant and sell seedlings of these new varieties. He became a member of an innovation platform where farmers interact with extension, researchers and agribusiness discussing farmers’ challenges and the potential for improving their livelihoods. He volunteered to be trained as a seed multiplier of the promising and proven varieties of sweet potato and, became known within his village and surrounding villages as a good source of planting materials. In 2009, he earned around US$1,000 by selling his cuttings to fellow farmers within one season. In 2010, he received new cuttings of tested varieties and earned US$1,600 within the season. With his new earnings, he is able to feed his family, send his children to school, build a new house, expand his farm and has bought 3 cows. An average African farmer earns less than a dollar a day.


Encouraging private investment in agricultural research: Myth or necessity for developing countries

Joshua Ariga is an economist with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), P.O Box 2040, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, 35662. USA. Tel: +1 (256) 381 6600. Email: jariga[at] . Web: www.ifdc.org_____The focus for many developing countries is on increasing both public and private investments for improving the performance of the agricultural sector; an issue that is being pursued at national, regional and international levels. Identifying the right technologies, developing output and input markets, prioritizing agriculture in national development strategies, and private-public partnerships are important aspects for a successful research and development (R&D) and technology adoption framework. Agricultural R&D has the potential to reduce costs and/or raise output and therefore to shift the supply curve to the right. The InterAcademy Council and other public and private agencies have recognized the critical role of S&T in economic and social development and have recommended a doubling of public agricultural R&D funding by 2015.


ACP and EU policymakers want evidence that science can and will deliver: the chicken and the egg

Science is a critical instrument for growth and development. Such is the policy rhetoric of many ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) nations and their counterparts in the European Union (EU). The Heads of State of the African Union, for example, dedicated their 2007 Summit to the theme of science and technology (S&T) and its contribution to Africa’s development (African Union, 2007), and have subsequently (at regular intervals) endorsed efforts to implement “Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action” (New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), 2005). Science and innovation is also at the heart of the EU’s “Europe 2020” strategy for sustainable growth (European Commission, 2010). In recent years, for example, emphasis has been given to ensuring a greater focus on research and innovation as part of the spending priorities of the EU’s structural and regional funds, instruments targeted at boosting economic growth in the EU’s less-developed regions.


Successful African alternatives to corporate ‘green revolutions’

This article is part of the Journal Development’s issue on the future of agriculture ( This article proposes African alternatives that honour farmers' rights and agricultural biodiversity and still permit sustainable food production.Andrew Mushita and Carol Thompson argue that while the ‘green revolution for Africa’ promotes private foreign ownership of genetically modified seeds and focuses on increased yields of a few crops, African alternatives honour farmers' rights and agricultural biodiversity, through innovative legislation and protocols, in order to increase sustainable food production.The authors explain how the global agricultural crises have affected the African continent. Starting with exploring the dud that are agrofuels and the profound multi-faceted market failures of agricultural corporate policy, the authors then move to examine impacts of the piracy of African biodiversity wealth. At a later point, they carry their analysis to the African alternatives “that are working on the ground”, and focus on the Farmers’ rights international principle and the African Union Model Law for the protection of rights of local communities, farmers and breeders.Pambazuka republished recently the article at Pambazuka, 24 Mar. 2011; Photo credit: Neil Palmer CIAT)


From Maastricht to Montpellier: Lessons from the CTA Capacity Building Programme on Analyzing the Agricultural, Science, Technology and Innovation (ASTI) Systems (2004 – 2009)

Since 2004, CTA has contributed to building ACP capacity on understanding, analyzing and strengthening agricultural, science, technology and innovation (ASTI) systems. CTA has supported the conduct of numerous ASTI case studies focusing on various agricultural commodities of importance to ACP countries using the innovation system approach.


African Union summit & rural innovation

The African Union’s Science and Technology consolidated Plan of Action’ responds to the inadequate attention that has been given to these topics. It seeks to address the low and declining public expenditure on research and development (R&D) in most African countries, and the weak links between industry and science and technology institutions. The Plan of Action notes that in Africa the bond between science and society is still weak, and that there are serious ‘disconnects’ between what researchers are doing and the development aspirations of communities. Often the public does not have ownership of, or direct infl uence on scientific and technological developments, and researchers are also not well connected with policy makers. The results have been a weak scientific culture, and constituencies that neither demand nor promote scientific and technological development. Read further in: Knowledge for Development, November 2006 / Vol. III


The use of foresight in setting agricultural research priorities

Foresight activities can be useful tools in public decision-making processes, and in particular for agricultural science and technology priority setting. Foresight complements more traditional ways of looking at the future, such as projections and models. Foresight uses a systems approach that is appropriate for agriculture and can be embedded in research organizations. This chapter describes three foresight exercises. The exploration of possible futures for a commodity (cocoa) has helped defining new research priorities, partnerships and networks. The Dutch exploration of the challenges facing agribusiness, rural areas and fisheries, and the contribution of S&T to meeting these challenges, created new networks and led to actions. IFPRI’s ‘2020 Vision’ for food, agriculture and the environment led to interesting data and reached many researchers, but did not manage to generate consensus about research priorities. Finally, the chapter discusses the prospects for the use of foresight in developing countries, especially in Africa.


Regionalism and science and technology development in Africa

Regional integration offers new and increasing prospects for Africa’s scientific and technological development. If well organized and used, integration could provide the basis for developing and sharing infrastructure for research and development, and for mobilizing and using scarce expertise and financial resources. This article examines how science and technology considerations are being handled in the renewed efforts to promote regional economic and trade integration in Africa, and discusses new and emerging regional science and technology programmes.


S&T for ACP agriculture under Cotonou Agreement

Agriculture plays a central role in the economies of most ACP countries. Although agricultural innovations are likely to increase agricultural productivity, ACP governments have given low priority to investing in Science and Technology (S&T) for agriculture. In fact, investment in agricultural research and technology development appears to have steadily declined over the 1980s and 1990s, reflecting decreasing donor interest. One may therefore wonder to what extent investment in agricultural science and technology development is surviving as a global public good.


Why should ACP countries give high priority to S&T

National development is driven by a multiplicity of factors, ranging from the natural and human resource base to macroeconomic policies and trade. These factors are in turn sensitive to many other externalities, including social or political conditions at regional and international levels. In short, national development is directed by and yet extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of the world. At the international level, many economic and geographical alliances are emerging, all of which are linked by a common language, S&T. Can S&T positively influence national development in ACP countries? The answer is a resounding YES.


Agricultural Research Investments in Sub-saharan Africa - Recent Trends

This article reviews the major investment and institutional trends in agricultural research in sub-Saharan African (SSA) since the early1970s, drawing directly on a new set of data for the 1990s developed through a comprehensive survey conducted in 27 countries by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), and many local partners during the period 2000-03. (1) It shows that public investments have declined and funding has become more donor dependent. Although private sector investment in research has increased, their role is still small and limited to the provision of technological services. How then can countries meet the increasing call for more focused and demand driven research given that the science and technology policy infrastructure is also inadequate?


Building Africa's Confidence and Scientific Capacity to Manage Modern Biotechnology

African policy-makers are increasingly confronted with a growing range of complex scientific, and ethical issues associated with the development and use of genetically modified products from modern biotechnology. They are under increasing pressure to pronounce policies and enact legislation that either promote or hinder the technology?s development and adoption. This is happening at a time when there is growing food insecurity and HIV/AIDS epidemic in such countries as Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It also coincides with rapid advances in life sciences and related technological opportunities. The advances are increasing life expectancy and household wealth in the industrialized world and some of the developing countries. They offer new opportunities to remove barriers to food production and improve human health conditions in Africa.