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 August/September 2014 issue of the CTA and S&T Knowledge for Development (K4D) e-newsletter. In this issue, we place emphasis on; (i) the rice value chain with a focus on indigenous varieties and low carbon production systems, (ii) capturing economies of scale through university networking, and (iii) science and innovation for food and nutrition security among others. We hope that you appreciate the transition to the new K4D e-newsletter format and email delivery system. Please remember that you can download the full pdf e-newsletter by clicking here or on the image to the right (some email clients block pictures automatically, make sure to download them). 22/09/2014
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Harnessing the potential of indigenous rice lines: an issue of food sovereignty

by Narottam Dey, Department of Biotechnology, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, India
In this feature article, Narottam Dey calls for renewed interest in indigenous rice lines to counter the erosion of the crop's genetic diversity. Given the high degree of genetic heterogeneity and a long evolutionary history, rice landraces have proven to be highly adaptive to diverse environmental conditions and are believed to harbour a number of valuable genetic resources for crop improvement.  He argues that the Green Revolution led to the development of a number of high-yielding rice varieties (HYVs) that require both irrigation and fertilizer management and specific cultivation practices to achieve their full yield potential. The widespread use of these high-yielding rice lines has led to the premature abandonment of many indigenous lines. Dey believes the only way to popularise and utilize indigenous lines in future breeding programmes is through the development of a databank with detailed agro-morphology, physio-biochemical and molecular screening with trait-linked markers and specific genes. Many research laboratories are working on improving the knowledge base and a number of promising lines are being utilized in breeding through marker-assisted selection. 15/09/2014
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How realistic is the prospect of low-carbon rice production? Lessons from China

by Sheng Zhou and Xiangfu Song, Eco-environmental Protection Research Institute, Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences (SAAS), Shanghai, China.
In this feature article, Sheng Zhou and Xiangfu summarize some realistic methods for reducing methane emissions in rice production. They present some case studies of efforts to mitigate methane emissions, such as irrigation management, the use of suitable rice cultivars (e.g. water-saving and drought-resistant rice, WDR) and combinations of different fertilizers. The production, oxidation and transport of methane in rice fields are influenced by many factors, including the rice cultivars, the cultivation system, water regimes practiced, and types of fertilizer. Simultaneously, soil carbon sequestration in rice fields is a key potential approach for turning rice fields from being a source of greenhouse gas emissions to being a carbon sink. 15/09/2014
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Building a new generation of agricultural scientists in Africa: networking universities – capturing economies of scale

by Adipala Ekwamu, Executive Secretary, RUFORUM Secretariat, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda., Malcolm Blackie, Senior Research Fellow, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK., Joyce Lewinger Moock, Consultant to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other philanthropic organisations.
In this feature article, Adipala Ekwamu, Malcolm Blackie and Joyce Lewinger Moock focus on the experiences of an African-led and -managed organization, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Africa (RUFORUM), which aims to capture regional economies of scope and scale, to support innovative curriculum design, fill crucial gaps in the availability of postgraduate degrees, and ensure a quality standard for courses. RUFORUM, through its innovative programmes in its member university system and its established regional convening power is an effective advocate for transformation of tertiary agricultural science training and research.  15/09/2014
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A Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) was signed on 29 August 2014 in Apia, Samoa, for the Pacific Islands Universities Research Network (PIURN). The document spells out how Pacific Universities can work together while maintaining their unique identity, independence and intellectual property. The first major network activity will be the 1st PIURN Conference to be held 5-7 November in Noumea. PIURN is working with the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) to enhance the skills of Pacific researchers.Under the PIURN umbrella, four Pacific Islanders have attended a specially designed postharvest pre-congress training workshop and the international horticultural congress in Australia. In November 2014 PIURN and CTA will hold a workshop on food and nutrition security for all member universities. PIURN members have agreed to collaborate in three priority areas in the region: environment & climate change, biology & medicine, and food & agriculture. 08/09/2014
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The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation – ACP/EU (CTA) and partners; the Caribbean Council for Science and Technology (CCST), The Caribbean Agricultural Research and  Development  Institute  (CARDI),  The  University  of  the  West  Indies  (UWI),  Columbus Communications Trinidad Limited (FLOW Trinidad) and the Trinidad & Tobago Film Company, are pleased to announce the winners of the second Caribbean Science and Agriculture Film and Video Competition “Adding Value to Local Foods”. The Finals and AWARD ceremony were successfully staged at the Carlton Savannah Hotel, Trinidad and Tobago from 27th – 29th August 2014.  12/09/2014
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The farmers have voted for the CTA Top 20 based on the forty (40) innovations that had been shortlisted by a team of ACP experts earlier this year. We have compiled annotations of all innovations: the first 20 annotation (1-20) can be find in the document attached below. For annotations  21-40, please click here. 28/08/2014
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The CTA International Forum on 'Unleashing Science, Technology and Innovation for Food and Nutrition Security', to be held in Arnhem, the Netherlands, 15-17 October 2014, will bring together leading scholars, senior scientists / researchers / academics, policy makers, development practitioners, innovators and private sector representatives, including farmers, to:  • Assess the relevance and effectiveness of current agricultural research and innovation policies and programmes for addressing the challenges of food and nutrition security;  • Analyze and generate evidence on innovations occurring in ACP agriculture for shaping future STI policy formulation and implementation for achieving food and nutrition security;  • Agree on how best to move forward in sharpening the STI focus, strengthening national innovation systems, and increasing public and private investments to effectively address food and nutrition insecurity in the future.  It is expected that this forum will influence CTA partners’ future programmes for agricultural research, higher education and innovation for addressing food and nutrition security.   16/09/2014
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Scientists have raised concerns about Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) that African heads of state adopted on 2 July 2014. This ten-year pan-African science and innovation strategy prioritizes the use of research to drive economic and social development across the continent. The success of the strategy will depend on the quality of research projects in individual countries. To help scientists win domestic support for research programmes, STISA plans to set up a research and innovation council that will bring together academies and funders to coordinate national activities. It will also take control of a European Union-funded competitive grant scheme that has spent almost €14 million on research projects in water and sanitation, agriculture and energy. But critics fear that the strategy’s top-heavy administrative structure and lack of firm pledges may render it ineffective. They also believe that its aims may be beyond the continent’s limited resources, especially given that it contains few financial commitments. However, despite their concerns, critics agree that STISA is an improvement on its predecessor, Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA).   (Nature, 25/06/2014) 02/09/2014
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In 1798, economist Thomas Malthus predicted that the world would exceed its food supply by the late 20th century. While he was right to identify the challenges of feeding a growing population with a finite amount of land, in the last half century agricultural production has tripled. Innovations in farming technology made this possible, in particular on smallholding farms. The Guardian newspaper crowd-sourced the science community to identify the innovations that have made a difference and found that the following technologies are driving the increase in agricultural productivity: dairy hubs, deep placement of fertilizers, mobile apps, high roofed greenhouses, new feeding systems for farm animals and farm management software and training.    (The Guardian, 8/07/2014) 02/09/2014
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This working paper examines recent experiences in North–South research partnerships, identifying worst and best practices. It draws on work undertaken by the EADI Sub-Committee on Research Partnerships over the last two years. The paper explains that research partnerships are not immune to the typically unequal, biased donor-recipient relations that have plagued international development cooperation for decades. It argues that despite improvements in recent years, entrenched behaviour and enduring practices still affect the quality and effectiveness of research partnerships. Power relations influence the ability to combine capacity building aspirations with the drive for academic excellence. Mounting pressure to publish research outcomes fast in journals edited in the North, combined with harsh competition for funding, seriously limit the time and scope available to establish equitable partnership frameworks and support institutional capacities. The paper calls for addressing funding, knowledge and power issues in development research partnerships.   (EADI Policy Paper Series, June 2014) 02/09/2014
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The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS) have signed a research agreement focused on developing and innovating technologies to preserve the shelf-life and quality of sweet potato and its by-products. Under the agreement, the Laboratory of Crop Science at UWI Mona will further develop the Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) technology to extend the shelf-life of sweet potatoes, while the Xuzhou Sweet Potato Research Center, China  will investigate the selectivity of the different genotypes of sweet potato and conduct basic experiments on their storability under standard storage conditions.    (UWI Mona website, 08/07/2014) 02/09/2014
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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) 02/09/2014
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ASARECA has recently compiled a training manual with information on tissue culture, conservation biotechnology, virus indexing and seed systems for vegetative crops such as case cassava and sweet potato and associated techniques. This manual brings together knowledge in these fields that is currently scattered over a large numbers of research institutes and is not readily available for use by practitioners. The manual is meant for research scientists and technicians and students, who are encouraged to adapt the references to their own working conditions and to add more materials as they deem fit.   (ASARECA, 17/07/2014)  02/09/2014
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Scientists at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia, have developed new varieties of banana with enhanced beta-carotene content. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body. The beta-carotene bananas are now being tested in a nutritional experiment. The (human) trials are to last for six weeks, and conclusive results will be known by the end of 2014. In addition, over the next three years, an elite line of banana plants is to be selected and used in multi-location field trials in Uganda. According to the scientists, banana varieties with enhanced beta-carotene content could be grown by farmers in Uganda, where about 70% of the population survive on the fruit by 2020.  These new varieties could be an important contribution to solving a worldwide health problem. According to the WHO, an estimated 250 million preschool children are vitamin A-deficient, and an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 of these children become blind every year, with half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.   (Journal21, 2/07/2014) 02/09/2014
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In June 2014, farmers in Mali produced seeds of eight varieties of cowpea, fonio (Digitaria exilis), millet and sorghum, which were certified by Mali’s national seed laboratory, the Laboratoire National des Semences (LABOSEM). This was a significant step for Mali, where the trade in uncertified seeds is technically illegal, even though 92–99% of seed demand is supplied by informal exchange among farmers. Improved varieties of important local crops such as Bambara groundnut do not always exist, and certification of local seed varieties has been difficult, mostly due to administrative challenges and the limited capacity to produce varieties that meet the quality standards required for certification. This first-time certification was the result of the work of Bioversity International and its local partners in Mali since 1999, to encourage farmers to experiment and evaluate different varieties of local crops, strengthen the dialogue and support between the formal and informal seed sectors, and train farmers in quality seed production of varieties that are better adapted to local conditions.    (Bioversity International, 9/07/2014) 02/09/2014
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