Knowledge for Development

Related developments

Optimising the use of water for drip irrigation in Burkina Faso

This article describes the application of wireless sensor technology, adapted to local climatic conditions, to alert small producers in the semi-arid regions of Burkina Faso on the best time to irrigate, according to the plants’ needs, resulting in higher yields and water saving. This new technology is based on low-cost wireless weather stations that automatically broadcast reliable data. Hydrometeorological measures are made available to local users in real time through the mobile telephone network and the Climaps website. The technology was developed in a R&D project of the Cooperation & Development Centre (CODEV) of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, in partnership with the start-up Sensorscope.  (EPFL, 15/12/2014)


Optimising the use of water for drip irrigation in Burkina Faso

This article describes the application of wireless sensor technology, adapted to local climatic conditions, to alert small producers in the semi-arid regions of Burkina Faso on the best time to irrigate, according to the plants’ needs, resulting in higher yields and water saving. This new technology is based on low-cost wireless weather stations that automatically broadcast reliable data. Hydrometeorological measures are made available to local users in real time through the mobile telephone network and the Climaps website. The technology was developed in a R&D project of the Cooperation & Development Centre (CODEV) of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, in partnership with the start-up Sensorscope. (EPFL, 15/12/2014)


Assessing the effectiveness of smart phone-based video training in invasive plant identification

Citizen science is emerging given the rapid growth and increasing popularity of smart phone technology which put sophisticated data-collection tools in the hands of more and more citizens. Jared Starr of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA and colleagues argue that with smart phone apps, it is becoming increasingly practical to remotely acquire high quality citizen-submitted data at a fraction of the cost of traditional studies. Yet, one impediment to citizen science projects needs to be addressed, i.e. the question of how participants are trained because the traditional 'in-person' training model can be cost prohibitive as the spatial scale of a project increases. In the context of a study of invasive plant identification in Massachusetts, the authors explored possible solutions and analysed three training models: (i) in-person, (ii) app-based video, and (iii) app-based text/images. They found that participants who had received video training were as successful at invasive plant identification as those trained in-person. This and other findings of their study have implications for a variety of citizen science projects that need alternative methods to effectively train participants when in-person training is deemed impractical and too expensive.    (PLOS ONE, 05/11/2014)


Monitoring the performance of agriculture and food systems

UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) recommends the creation of a whole new global information system built on the principle of open data sharing and real-time learning to drive agricultural innovation. SDSN emphasises that governments must embrace the era of digitally-enabled exchange of information and prioritise, customise, and commit to implementing different 'digital agriculture' technologies, based on local relevance and feasibility, to collect new data that is highly disaggregated, easily sharable, and more transparent to foster accountability. It is perceived that many of the real or perceived data gaps could likely be filled if existing information tools and methodologies were better aligned and more readily available to all. Technologies to develop this global information system include geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, global positioning systems (GPS), and numerous internet and smart phone tools, such as mobile phone applications, social media, and crowd sourcing.   (UN SDSN, 10/01/2014)


Appraisal of rice production statistics in Uganda

The dire state of agricultural statistical capacity and methodologies in Uganda and other developing countries is highlighted. Doubt is often cast over the accuracy of FAOSTAT, the official statistics on crops, particularly for sub-Sahara Africa. Masao Kikuchi of Chiba University, Japan and JICA expert staff in Uganda, examined recent revisions made in the 'official' rice statistics of Uganda, together with rice-related statistics of the latest Uganda Census of Agriculture. They point out some anomalies in these basic rice statistics (overestimation, large fluctuations) and propose possible revisions (using district data and production average).   (Tropical Agriculture and Development, 11 /09/2014)


Digital agricultural clearing house 'AgroCentral' to be launched in Jamaica

AgroCentral will be a web and SMS application connecting small farmers directly with buyers. The idea for this app was born at a Startup Weekend Jamaica (SWJA) in October 2013 and will be launched in August 2014. AgroCentral uses an eBay-like model allowing farmers to alert buyers via SMS when they have a crop they wish to sell, helping them to cut out the middleman, negotiate higher margins and gauge supply and demand in the market. Farmers simply send an SMS to a central website, quoting the type of product on offer, the quantity available and their desired price. Buyers can either view these posts on the AgroCentral website or – if they have registered interest in buying, they will also receive a SMS. The buyers can directly negotiate with farmers and also send a request to the website. The request will be relayed to all registered farmers who produce that particular crop using SMS. Buyers can also access full profiles of registered farmers, including their location, crops grown and supply capability. The benefit to farmers is that they can quickly find a market for perishable produce.    (Trade & Export Finance, 09/05/2014)


Food traceability systems: differences in willingness to pay for food safety

In a paper presented at the 2014 International Conference on Food Security and Nutrition, Francesca V. Hansstein of the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, China, investigates recent findings on consumer knowledge and attitudes towards food traceability across the European Union (EU), China, and North America. A critical review of academic articles published between 2003 and 2013 was performed and a total of sixteen studies were selected. Results indicated that consumers are paying increasing attention to food safety and quality but they are still unfamiliar with the concept of traceability, especially in China. Willingness to pay for food safety differs across countries and segments of population. Age, education, income and food safety concerns are the factors that mostly influence consumer acceptance of traceability and its attributes. Hansstein recommends that both producers and policy makers should work together to increase consumer awareness about the benefits offered by Food Traceability Systems.   (AgEcon Search, 2014)  


Information technology applied to the process of traceability in the wheat supply chain

The adoption of traceability systems in the food chain is a market differentiator for manufacturing firms. It is appreciated by consumers and is increasingly common after the occurrence of certain problems related to food consumption. Legislation, quality standards and best practices now govern the traceability process. This paper by Monica Sherer and Maria Gomes of UEPG, Brazil, addresses the main regulations that establish procedures for ensuring the safety of food in terms of traceability, and also presents the evolution of information technologies in this area. Although, the latter are still being developed, there are still many opportunities for growth and innovation. As a result, it is possible to see the commonalities between the models of traceability, and also to identify the points of the supply chain of wheat in which the processes are focused.  (African Journal of Agricultural Research, 24/04/2014)  


New fisheries monitoring system unveiled

The Namibia Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau has urged all fishing companies that have not yet installed the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) of the ministry to do so urgently. The VMS, that monitors activities of fishing vessels at sea, was acquired and installed in 2002, but became obsolete over the years and was unable to perform to the ministry’s satisfaction. The ministry then started to explore possibilities of upgrading the system to acceptable international standard and acquired the present system. With the upgraded system the ministry is now able to track all licensed fishing vessels operating both in Namibian, as well as in international waters. The VMS supplements monitoring, control and surveillance through area control and science by way of the mapping of fleet dynamics.  (New Era Namibia, 17/03/2014)  


EC launches pilot to open up publicly funded research data

Valuable information produced by researchers in many EU-funded projects will be shared freely as a result of a Pilot on Open Research Data in Horizon 2020. Researchers in projects participating in the pilot are asked to make the underlying data needed to validate the results presented in scientific publications and other scientific information available for use by other researchers, innovative industries and citizens. The Pilot on Open Research Data in Horizon 2020 does for scientific information what the Open Data Strategy does for public sector information: it improves and maximises access to and re-use of research data generated by projects for the benefit of society and the economy.   (European Commission, 16/12/2013)  


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)


The Value of Advice: Evidence from Mobile Phone-Based Agricultural Extension

Attempts to explain the astonishing differences in agricultural productivity around the world typically focus on farm size, farmer risk aversion, and credit constraints, with an emphasis on how they might serve to limit technology adoption. This paper takes a different tack: can managerial practices explain this variation in productivity? A randomized evaluation of the introduction of a mobile-phone based agricultural consulting service to cotton farmers in Gujarat, India, reveals the following: farmers offered the service turn less often to other farmers and input sellers for agricultural advice. Management practices change as well: there was an increase in the adoption of more effective pesticides and reduced expenditure on less effective and hazardous pesticides. Also, farmers appear willing to follow advice without understanding why the advice is correct, because lack of education inhibits the acquisition of knowledge.   (Harvard Business School, 03/01/2013)


A survey and analysis of the data requirements for stakeholders in African agriculture

UK’s DFID conducted a broad survey of key stakeholders in sustainable African agriculture to assess current and emerging trends in data collection, processing, and dissemination. A key focus of the study was to assess the alignment of stakeholders’ perceived data needs with areas of decision uncertainty. Only 36% of respondents stated data needs that were consistent with their stated uncertainties and only 15% showed that perceived needs, uncertainties, and data gathering efforts are aligned. Data for soils were the most frequently cited, followed by data for markets, climate, biodiversity and poverty. Recommendations for improving the collection and use of data in African agriculture include building comprehensive, centralised web-enabled GIS databases and developing awareness of the key decisions and what data is needed to support them.   (Columbia University, 07/10/2013)


Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake: enabling push factors through engagement

Sara Grobbelaar, a senior researcher at CREST (Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology) of the University of Stellenbosch, writes the third part of her blog series on ‘enabling push factors’ when building institutional capacity for research uptake. She suggests that universities should set up the appropriate infrastructure and develop capacity to ensure research efforts and ideas are ‘pushed’ into the external environment. Getting the ‘word out’ and successfully engaging stakeholders, she explains, is beneficial in a number of ways: learning is mutual, research results are improved and research is legitimised. Grobbelaar believes training for researchers and their support staff is needed on appropriate engagement approaches and participation methods, and on administering and managing a university’s knowledge base.   (DRUSSA, 10/09/2013)


University radio as a tool for Research Uptake

Tom Harber, the DRUSSA Project Officer at the Association of Commonwealth Universities, blogs about the potential role of university radio stations – which are generally popular and backed by the administration – in helping with research uptake. Recent DRUSSA campus visits have raised the question of how university radio stations can be leveraged into a Research Uptake Management strategy. One way radio programmes could help is by facilitating external stakeholder engagement – by explaining to the audience the research purpose, results and real-life impact and encouraging ‘talk-back’ programmes. According to Harber, the universities however need to ensure they offer valued recognition to their radio-trained alumni to help secure the replacement of on-campus communicators.  How farmers in Tanzania reap the benefits of radio:


Boost for seed research: developing a new seed bank management system

Peter Cyr, a genebank manager, and his team was asked by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, devoted to protect the world's plant genetic resources, to develop a new seed bank management system – GRIN-Global – that could provide for developing countries needing a zero-cost system as well as mature, better-supported gene banks. According to Cyr, ‘sharing information will be much easier as we will all be running the same system and it provides some wonderful capacity building for Third World countries’. Nearly every gene bank used a different data cataloguing system, making it difficult for plant breeders to search for potential genetic material. The GRIN-Global system is being introduced at seed storage banks around the world to begin consolidating data management.   (Weekly Times Now, 04/11/2013)


Shortcomings in communications on agricultural knowledge transfer

Findings of a 2012 study of over 600 small-scale farm households conducted in Kenya by the Multimedia University College of Kenya and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, show that farmers receive only basic ‘how to’ and technical information that is not enough to enable them to improve their food production levels or practices. The study found significant gaps between the agricultural information farmers would like to receive and what they actually get through different communication channels. It appears the farmers would prefer information on markets, improving incomes and fighting farm-related diseases provided in detailed formats that lay out the different options available to them, rather than the currently simplified top-down ‘how-to’ formats shared on the multiple communications channels (radio, mobile phone services and extension). (ILRI News, 30/08/2013)


Innovation in measurement leads to effective prevention of post-harvest loss

Steve Sonka, the Director of the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss, a research centre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, writes in a  post titled 'Innovation in Measurement: Perspective and Practice' in which avenues are discussed to counter the lack of widespread data needed to measure post-  harvest losses. Sonka explains that, for decision makers evaluating national food policy, smallholder farmers, or managers throughout the food chain, measurement  benefit/cost ratio hasn’t justified widespread collection of relevant data.  According to Sonka, innovation in measurement, which could lead to more effective  prevention of post-harvest loss, requires capitalising on new technologies, especially information communications technology (ICT) such as mobile phones and social  media platforms. He suggests an aggressive effort to adapt technologies not created for application in agriculture, to adopt sophisticated analytical techniques, and  to aligning incentives in the design of measurement schemes.      (ADM PHL Institute, 28/08/2013)     


The Wheat Data Interoperability working group released a draft case statement

The Wheat data interoperability working group is part of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) agricultural data interest group. This particular working group will be  watchful of working groups concerned with metadata, data harmonisation and data publishing. It will also interact with the Wheat Informatiopn System experts and  other plant projects such as TransPLANT, agINFRA which are built on standard technologies for data exchange and representation. The Wheat data interoperability  group will exploit existing collaboration mechanisms like CIARD to get as much as possible stakeholder involvement in the work.    (AIMS, 02/09/2013)  


Launch of the West African Market Information Systems Network (WAMIS-NET)

Early July 2013, the ECOWAS Commission launched the website for the West African Market Information Systems Network (WAMIS-NET) to provide stakeholders with up-to-date and  accurate information on the 400 rural and urban agricultural commodity markets in the region. Ten ECOWAS Member States (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria,  Mali, Senegal and Togo) will benefit from the website’s services, such as the publication of relevant statistics and analytical reports and its daily updates on market and trade related  developments. The website offers access to interactive maps of markets in the region and the prices offered for many of the regions staple foods at each of them.(ECOWAS, 03/07/2013)