Knowledge for Development

Related developments

Behavioral responses and the impact of new agricultural technologies: Evidence from a double-blind field experiment in Tanzania

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)


Tunnel greenhouses for smallholder farmers in Fiji and Samoa

Research on tunnel greenhouses offers smallholder farmers in Fiji and Samoa opportunities to grow produce and supply markets regardless of seasonal weather changes and island topography. Dr Richard Markham, Pacific Crops research programme manager at ACIAR, explains how using tunnel greenhouse technology in combination with irrigation allows for crop production all year round. Standard greenhouse structures can with some minor adjustments withstand tropical storms (removable roof and walls), excessive heat (shade cloth and taller structures), and pests out (netting).    (ACIAR, 21/05/2014)


Engage farmers in agricultural research

Tom MacMillan, director of innovation at the Soil Association, Bristol, UK, and Tim G. Benton, who leads the United Kingdom's Global Food Security programme and is professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds, UK, argue that the next wave of agricultural innovation must be at smaller scales and engage farmers directly in scientific research efforts. Enhancing farmers' own R&D could reap big rewards for minimal extra cost as farmers everywhere are practical experimentalists who understand the idiosyncrasies of their land. Technologies not invented by farmers – new kit, seeds or chemicals – are almost always adapted by farmers  to fit their circumstance but such essential contributions are rarely recognised in official assessments of agricultural R&D. These count farmers as users, rather than makers, of knowledge. Some of the best returns can come from helping farmers to assess their own ideas. Until now, such initiatives have been at arm's length from formal science, and almost exclusively in the developing world. The authors' involvement in a farmer-focused innovation programme in the UK has convinced them that such participatory R&D could also boost agricultural innovation in rich countries.   Editor’s note: Interesting development. For many years this participatory R&D approach was promoted for the Southern research community and perhaps, with this development, it will be more widely embraced by all scientists striving to make a difference and enhance the impact of research.   (Nature, 30/04/2014)   


Building synergies between science and indigenous knowledge

Charged with determining a conceptual framework and initial work programme for the UN's new Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), some of the Platform's delegates met in Turkey on 9–14 December 2013 to discuss scientific knowledge co-production with indigenous peoples. The report of that meeting, The Contribution of Indigenous and Local Knowledge Systems to IPBES: Building Synergies with Science, emphasises that the IPBES conceptual framework must accommodate indigenous and local knowledge and world views to complement science-based representations. Building synergies between science and indigenous knowledge should catalyse the generation of new knowledge and better inform policy making.     Additional resource: Old knowledge and new science: using traditional knowledge in CGIAR research (15/01/2014)    (EurekAlert, 08/12/2013)    


Fishermen in Palau take on role of scientist to save their fishery

Scientists with the Nature Conservancy organisation have come up with a new way to count fish on complex coral reefs of the island nation of Palau. Instead of counting the number of fish in the water, the idea is to determine the proportion of the population capable of breeding for each fish species. The scientists trained fishermen on how to measure the length of the fish they catch. They also showed them how to cut open the fish’s stomach and inspect their gonads to determine the sex and if it’s sexually mature or an immature juvenile. This information will tell them if enough fish are breeding to repopulate and sustain the fish populations, and if the fish are growing to their adult size. The data collected over a year clearly show Palau’s fish are in decline and risk of collapse. Because the Palau fishermen were involved in the data collection process, they were able to see and understand first-hand what was happening to their fish. Rehabilitation options include setting a minimum size requirement for harvested fish and closing fishing in some areas until the fish can rebound.    (International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, 05/11/2013)


Embedded services as a modality for sustainable Rural Advisory Services (RAS)

On 23 September 2013 the Swiss Forum on Rural Advisory Services (SFRAS) organized an event entitled Embedded Services as a Modality for Sustainable Rural Advisory Services. It was held as a side event of the Annual Conference of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) in Berlin, Germany. Services are defined as ‘embedded’ when their delivery and their funding are linked to a business transaction in a value chain. This is typically the case when the advice is linked to the sale of agricultural inputs or to the procurement of agricultural products by a processor or trader. An event summary, a presentation on ‘Embedded Services’ and five case studies have been made available.    (SDC, 29/09/2013)


Study details essential role of trust in agricultural biotech partnerships

In a special supplement in the UK-based journal Agriculture and Food Security, a research team from the Sandra Rotman Centre at the University Health Network and the University of Toronto, after a four year study into what built or undermined trust in scientific collaboration, concluded, that within agricultural biotechnology projects there were six key determinants: honesty, transparency, capability, accountability, solidarity and generosity. The body of work examined this issue in depth, using more than 80 interviews with stakeholders in eight African ag biotech projects spanning seven countries – Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.(Physorg, 1/11/2012)


Managing the nexus of supply and demand for wild harvested natural products: the lipid oils of Namibia

Lipid oils extracted from plants are particularly good for use in cosmetics because they are very stable and can therefore carry other oils without going rancid. Two oils extracted from seeds of sustainably wild harvested plants in Northern Namibia show great commercial promise, according to the Natural Resource Institute at University of Greenwich. Marula kernel oil from the common fruit tree Sclerocarya birrea, and Ximenia seed oil from the sourplum tree (Ximenia caffra), both have exciting commercial potential as cosmetic oils. Marula oil is high in anti-oxidants. Ximenia oil has particularly long fatty acids essential for making night cosmetics. The challenges this project faces are numerous: there is competition on the international market from cheaper synthetic equivalent, postharvest and extraction technique are rudimentary and further R&D could improve volume and quality of lipid oils extracted from the wild trees. Also, climate variability in the long term could threaten growth and harvest of the fruits. This is a text book example of how scientists, rural communities and regional trade organisations come together to solve anaemic local economies in developing countries.(NRI, 24/10/2012)


Diversify rice production with vegetables – what is needed in Tanzania

The AVRDC Fresh newsletter of 25 October 2012 discusses the results from a survey conducted in Tanzania among rice farmers. The survey reveals that the farmers need to diversify crop production with vegetables. In Morogoro, one of the major rice production areas of Tanzania, farmers use residue water from rice irrigation to grow vegetables for additional income. While irrigation water may be readily available, other inputs for vegetable production are not so easy to obtain, the survey reveals. It identified constraints to the production, marketing and consumption of tomato, pepper, and African eggplant and assessed common crop pests and diseases in the area and the contamination of vegetables on farms and in markets by microbes, pesticides and heavy metals. The survey found that to boost vegetable production in this region, farmers will need better access to credit and inputs such as fertiliser and seed of improved, high yielding varieties with better resistance to pest and diseases. Extension services also must be strengthened to provide farmers with a reliable source of information on integrated crop and pest management practices. The survey identified the need to build more robust marketing information systems to open opportunities for farmers to access larger, more lucrative markets such as supermarket chains and food processors. Skills development is another area in need of attention; it was noted farmers would benefit from training in recordkeeping and business management.(AVRDC Fresh, 25/10/2012)


Putting farmers first: reshaping agricultural research in West Africa

How agricultural research is funded, organised, controlled and practised can have a huge impact on small-scale producers in the global South. In many countries, such research is driven by external funds, priorities and technological fixes, such as hybrid seeds, which can erode crop diversity. But food producers across the world are beginning to raise their voices to ensure that agricultural research better meets their needs and priorities. This briefing authored by Michel Pimbert, Research Director at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), explains how a series of farmer assessments and citizens’ juries in West Africa has helped farmers assess existing approaches and articulate recommendations for policy and practice to achieve their own vision of agricultural research.(IIED, 01/2012)


GCARD 2 breakout session 'Innovations for Better Livelihoods'

A diversity of approaches grounded on participatory action research have been developed including notably the concept of Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D). Despite the conceptual agreement around these approaches and the promise they hold, there are also concerns, not only regarding how these approaches can have impact, but also how they can they do so at scale. Participatory approaches to agricultural research have often been judged to be slow and costly 'boutique solutions' confined to the sites where they work directly. As a result their impact on poverty is considered by some to be marginal when compared with commodity research targeting many millions of people. This link loads a webpage prepared by PAEPARD that list all the presentations given during the GCARD 2 breakout session on 'Innovations for Better Livelihoods', including 'Direct investment by farmer-led research' by Ann Waters-Bayer of the Prolinnova Secretariat, 'Establishing effective livelihood research partnerships for impact at scale' by Patrick Dugan of CGIAR's Aquatic Agricultural Systems research programme, and 'Working with national innovation pilot learning sites and inter-regional innovation platforms' by Wale Adekunle, Director, Partnerships and Strategic Alliances, at the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).   Click to browse all the presentations produced for the GCARD 2 conference.(PAEPARD, 6/11/2012)


Ivorian agricultural scientists open up their research

More than a dozen agricultural research institutes in Côte d'Ivoire have agreed to open up access to their research results and raise farmers' awareness of their work through a shared online platform. The aim is to increase the uptake of new and existing technologies and research findings, and eventually to boost agricultural production in the country and West African region, SciDev reports (14/8/2012). 


Local vegetable production in Papua New Guinea

Improvements in vegetable production, transport and marketing are important to the well being of small holder farmers in Papua New Guinea, and opportunities for strengthening the industry and enhancing performance can be achieved by use of value chain analysis. A project on ‘Increasing Vegetable Production in Central Province, Papua New Guinea to Supply Port Moresby Markets’ funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and led by the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research is identifying and addressing vegetable supply chain priorities in Central Province of PNG. It aims to provide small farmer communities with production options and marketing skills so they can take advantage of the opportunity to improve their socioeconomic position in a sustainable manner in an economy that is expanding due to mineral and gas development projects. An integral part of the project was a value chain workshop for the stakeholders held at Pacific Advent University, Port Moresby. The value chain workshop was designed to assist stakeholders to develop skills to improve the performance of the value chain through enhancing relationships among the chain participants (or actors) – farmers, transporters, wholesalers and consumers. The ultimate aim is the development of viable, functional value chains that provide satisfactory returns to all participants in them.(AgriCultures Network, 2012)


How to transform African farming: Return to 'orphan crops'

If sub-Saharan Africa is to benefit from advances in agricultural productivity, investments in the so-called 'orphan crops' – sweet potato, cassava, and millet – will be crucial for strengthening the poorest farmers’ livelihoods and improving nutrition, argues Daniel Bornstein for The Christian Science Monitor (6/8/2012). The author cites the work of the Association for strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in bringing these orphan crops to the research labs in several African countries, with the farmers’ participation. Markets are vastly underdeveloped for crops such as sweet potato and cassava. Yet these crops’ tremendous value to human nutrition makes it imperative to create local food markets for them. Sub-Saharan Africa has for too long depended on global food markets, leaving the continent vulnerable to high food prices.


Co-management of fisheries most viable solution to global overfishing

A study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society on more than 40 coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans indicates that ‘co-management’ – a collaborative arrangement between local communities, conservation groups, and governments – provides one solution to the global problem: overfishing. The finding is the outcome of the largest field investigation of co-managed tropical coral reef fisheries ever conducted, an effort in which researchers studied 42 managed reef systems in five countries. The study's main finding is that co-management has been largely successful in sustaining fisheries and improving people's livelihoods. More than half the fisherfolk surveyed felt co-management was positive for their livelihoods, whereas only 9% felt it was negative. A comparison of co-managed reefs with other reefs showed that co-managed reefs were half as likely to be heavily overfished. Dr. Nick Graham, who worked on the project, said: ‘[...] we also found that where fisheries are closest to big, hungry markets, they tend to be in worse shape. This strongly suggests globalized food chains can undermine local, democratic efforts to manage fisheries better. People often assume that local population size is the main driver of overfishing – but our research shows that access to global markets and seafood dependence are more important, and provide possible levers for action.’(EurekAlert, 19/03/2012)


Improved indigenous vegetable seeds boost household incomes, nutrition

The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), the Centre for Biosciences International (CABI) and the Kenya Seed Company launched in 2009 the following project: ‘Scaling up farmer-led seed enterprises for sustained productivity and livelihoods in Eastern and Central Africa’. This note is an overview of the project and of the initial results. The project provided training to farmers on minimal use of pesticides, harvesting, seed extraction, and seed marketing. The outcome of this effort was a seed yield increase by about 60% to 70% for the farmers that participated in the training. (ASARECA, 17/01/2012)


Smallholder farmers can address climate change through triple-win strategies

By expanding underexploited agricultural strategies, smallholder farmers can mitigate climate change, increase their resilience to climate change impacts and boost their profits from agricultural production, new research has revealed. Using crop and livestock model simulations and household survey data across Kenya's diverse climate zones, researchers from IFPRI, ILRI, the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) and the University of Georgia (US) identified a number of these 'triple-win' strategies. The combined application of inorganic fertiliser, mulch, and manure – which simultaneously enhances crop yields, increases soil carbon stocks, and boosts profits – was identified as one of the most effective triple-win strategies. The use of higher quality feeds for livestock, which boosts profits and decreases methane emissions, is another important strategy. The researchers state that Kenya and other countries in sub-Sahara Africa must integrate triple-win agricultural strategies into their national climate change action plans. (New Agriculturalist, 11/2011)


Kenyan research scientist tackles aflatoxin poisoning of grain

Dr. Sheila Okoth, leading an interdisciplinary and farmer participatory project on Conservation and Sustainable Management of Belowground Biodiversity (CSM-BGBD) is in the process of finding a sustainable solution to fungal contamination and mycotoxin production in foods, including aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are toxic, carcinogenic by-products of fungi that colonise maize and groundnuts, among other crops. Okoth’s research findings revealed that African countries do not have cost-effective technologies that can be used to reduce the risk of human and animal exposure to aflatoxin contamination. IFPRI, Washington, USA, has also launched a research project to find cost-effective methods of handling aflatoxin contaminations. Currently attached to the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa on a fellowship sponsored by the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development program, Okoth is studying possibilities, in collaboration with the university’s Department of Plant Pathology, of developing aflatoxin-resistant maize lines. The project includes collaboration between five institutions in Kenya and 120 farmers in agro-ecological regions (Embu and Taita Districts, Kenya) demonstrating alternative methods of farm management. (Source: African Agriculture Blog, 19 September 2010)


Naturally growing honeybush may be a gold mine for locals planning on cornering a market in health teas

The town of Genadendal is the focus of a new indigenous knowledge project that aims to establish the town’s small farmers as independent producers of a unique African herbal tea. The project, which will run for three years until 2012, is funded by South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology. ‘We believe that the specific type of honeybush that grows naturally in the Genadendal area holds significant economic potential that can be unlocked to the benefit of the local community,’ explains project leader Professor Lizette Joubert, a researcher at the Agricultural Research Council’s (ARC) Infruitec Nietvoorbij Research Institute in Stellenbosch. ARC researchers will work closely with the Genadendal Small Farmers’ Association led by local community leader Reverend Chris Wessels. They will set up a demonstration plot and develop guidelines for nursery operations, farming practices and tea processing to help new farmers get started. The next step will be to optimise the processing of the tea, based on the community’s traditions. The project also aims to add value to the locally produced honeybush by looking at the production of extracts that can be used in many applications in the food and cosmetics industries. (Source: Science in Africa, August 2010)


Ending Africa's Hunger Means Listening to Farmers

A recent study led by Michel Pimpert of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED, London, UK), has, for the first time, properly consulted small African farmers on how to solve the problem of feeding sub-Saharan Africa. The farmers’ answers appear to directly repudiate a massive international effort to launch an African Green Revolution funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Instead of new hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, family farmers in West Africa said they want to use local seeds, avoid spending precious cash on chemicals and most importantly to direct public agricultural research to meet their needs, according to a multi-media publication released on World Food Day (Oct. 16). The report reveals that there is a clear vision from these small farmers, and that they reject the approach of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). (Source: IPS, 16 October 2010)