Knowledge for Development


News items relevant to the policy dialogue on S&T for Development.

CTA Top 20 Innovations that Benefit Smallholder Farmers

Over the years, CTA has contributed to building ACP capacity to understand innovation processes, strengthen the agricultural innovation system and embed innovation thinking in agricultural and rural development strategies. The CTA Top 20 Innovations project set out to prove that innovation is taking place in ACP agriculture and in the process has demonstrated that smallholder farmers are beneficiaries as well as partners in agricultural innovation. The CTA Top 20 Innovations that were selected from among the 251 submissions that had been received from 49 countries showcase the ingenuity of numerous stakeholders who are innovating and by their collective efforts are making a difference in the livelihoods of ACP smallholder farmers and their families.


How to redefine innovation and development: An African perspective

Gillian Marcelle sees the value in the recently approved science, technology and innovation strategy for Africa (STISA 2024) and suggests that the global knowledge divide will provide the push for redefining and reimagining STI so that STI delivers its maximum potential.


The Ocean and the Human Family - World Oceans Day 2015

Young people up to age 24 can participate in a contest for the Mundus maris Award 2015– We Are All Connected To The Ocean for celebrating the World Oceans Day 2015, 8 June 2015.


Taking Root: Global trends in agricultural biotechnology

Transgenic crops have recorded the fastest adoption rate of any crop technology in the last century. However, restrictive regulations undermine society’s ability to reap their benefits. In this paper, Calestous Juma and Katherine Gordon of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA, argue that although many transgenic crops are still in the early stage of adoption emerging trends show significant societal benefits through positive economic impacts, fostering food security and promoting environment sustainability. They conclude that transgenic technology leads to more efficient production methods as well as a reduction in loss, which in turn leads to lower food prices. To realize these potential benefits, it is important to view transgenic crops as one of the many sources of food security and to assess their benefits and risks on a case-by-case basis. (Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 01/2015)


EU Action Plan on Nutrition

In December 2014, the Council of the European Union endorsed the EU Action Plan on Nutrition. This action plan outlines how the Commission plans to reach its commitment to reducing stunting in children under five by at least 10% (7 million children) of the World Health Assembly goal by 2025. The plan addresses how EU’s strategic objectives in the areas of governance, scaled up interventions and research are to be attained, underscoring the need to work more closely with development actors and partner countries. (EU Council, 12/12/2014)


Climate variation explains a third of global crop yield variability

Recent climate variability has led to variations in maize, rice, wheat and soybean crop yields worldwide. While some areas show no significant influence of climate variability, in substantial areas of the global breadbaskets, over 60% of the yield variability can be explained by climate variability. This is the conclusion of a study by Deepak Ray and colleagues at the Institute on the Environment (IonE), University of Minnesota, USA. They used detailed crop statistics time series to examine how recent climate variability has led to variations in maize, rice, wheat and soybean crop yields worldwide. Their study uniquely illustrates spatial patterns in the relationship between climate variability and crop yield variability, highlighting where variations in temperature, precipitation or their interaction explain yield variability. They also discuss key drivers for the observed variations to target further research and policy interventions geared towards buffering future crop production from climate variability. (Nature, 22/01/2015)


Review of effects of climate change on agriculture

Agriculture in the twenty-first century faces the challenge of meeting food demands while satisfying sustainability goals, according to a team of experts from ENDURE , a network of Europe's leading agricultural research, teaching and extension institutes with a special interest in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). In this review, the authors note that climate change is likely to increase the complexity of this challenge by affecting the distribution of some crop pests (harmful insects, plants and pathogenic agents) and the severity of their outbreaks. They explain why climate change is becoming increasingly central within the European policy agenda, mainly with respect to food security in the European Union, and expect that the issue will be recognized in the future EU research agenda. The team proposes that diversification of current plant protection strategies is needed to mitigate the effects of climate change on European agriculture. (Endure Network, 17/02/2015)Read the review online 


Crop pathogen emergence and evolution in agro-ecological landscapes

The shift in land-use patterns in agricultural landscapes might influence crop diseases to provide predictive tools to evaluate management practices. This is the conclusion of a study by researchers at NRA, France, with colleagues from around the world who found that landscape structures that promoted larger pathogen populations on wild hosts facilitated the emergence of a crop pathogen; but such landscape structures also reduced the potential for the pathogen population to adapt to the crop. In addition, they determined the evolutionary trajectory of the pathogen population by interactions between the factors describing the landscape structure and those describing the pathogen life-histories.  (Evolutionary Applications, 03/02/2015)Download the text of the article


DivSeek mines the genetic treasure in seed bank vaults

A new initiative, DivSeek, was unveiled in January 2015. This programme systematically characterizes the genetic, physical, and biochemical makeup of banked seeds in the hope of exploiting traits such as drought tolerance and pest resistance that could help the development of better crop varieties. The 69-member DivSeek consortium, which includes the world’s leading agricultural research centres, expects that DivSeek will help agricultural gene banks to make the transition from warehouses for plant seeds to become seed centres that can start to capitalize on the often hidden value of some 7 million seed deposits held in more than 1700 repositories around the world.  (Science, 09/01/2015)


Improving markets for seeds and fertilizers in West Africa

West African governments, through ECOWAS and other regional bodies, have been working to develop harmonized trade rules and quality control procedures for improving farmers’ access to quality seeds and fertilizers. Regional regulations based on advanced international standards have mostly been agreed upon and are helping to guide quality improvements in some countries. Nevertheless, most countries do not currently have the physical capacity or institutional structures needed to implement the agreed trade rules, which will take considerable time and investment to develop. This World Bank analysis points to the need for pragmatic solutions that are easy for individual countries or groups of countries to implement in the near term while longer-term progress towards full harmonization continues. (World Bank, 10/02/2015)


Mapping for investments in biofortification: Launch of a new interactive tool

HarvestPlus has launched a new, interactive online tool, Biofortification Priority Index (BPI), with which optimal investment decisions can be made on biofortified crops with the highest pay off in reducing micronutrient deficiencies. BPI focuses on three micronutrients – iron, vitamin A, and zinc – and allows users to search and sort through three easy-to-use drop-down menus, with results displayed on a colour-coded map according to crop, region and priority for investment. It comes at a time when biofortification is attracting increased recognition as a viable strategy to improve the nutritional status of populations dependent on staple food crops for sustenance. More detailed explanations of the data and methodology behind the BPI are available in the full HarvestPlus Working Paper on which the tool is based. (IFPRI, 20/01/2015)


Use of micronutrients in tropical and sub-tropical fruit crops: a review

With the inception of commercial farming the emphasis has been on increasing production without proper management of the soil nutrient balance. As a result micronutrients, which are important for keeping soil in a healthy condition have been neglected, resulting in progressively falling production. This is the conclusion of a recent study by M.K. Yadav, Ministry of Horticulture and Food Processing, Satna, India, and V.K. Solanki, Navsari Agricultural University, India. They argue that without minimizing the importance of macronutrients in quadrupling fruit production worldwide over the last 50 years, micronutrients will play a major productive and qualitative role in bringing stability and sustainability to farm production systems in the future. (African Journal of Agricultural Research, 29/01/2015)


Participatory development of common certification codes and practices for small coffee growing farms

Sustainable coffee is going through a rapid transformation from production for niche markets to a fully recognized agribusiness production system that serves both mainstream and specialty coffee markets. Current trends suggest that certified coffee is not only here to stay, but that conformity with one standard or another will soon become a requirement for market entry. In fact, many coffee growers in Nicaragua are already using one or more certification programmes to gain access to various coffee markets. The article concludes that certified coffee farmers will have to make significant on-farm investments and management changes to meet multiple certification requirements, while at the same time meeting the administrative and monitoring requirements associated with multiple certification programmes. (CIAT, 20/01/2015)


The technological edge for animal feed producers

New portable devices are helping the animal feed industry to blur the lines between the lab and the field. By eliminating the need to ship samples to centralized labs, handheld analysers provide fast, actionable results at the point of need. The ability to test at multiple stages in the supply chain is important for traceability as well as quality. For feed manufacturers, the demand for greater efficiency, transparency and performance will only increase. To stay ahead of the competition – and reduce the costs of quality control procedures – the industry will continue to adapt, and technologies such as portable NIR (near-infrared) spectroscopy technology will play an increasingly important role. Moving precision and efficiency from the lab to the wider supply chain is one way that smart feed producers can achieve new levels of growth. (, 19/12/2014)


How to catch the overfishermen

Big data could help protect stocks of tuna and swordfish that have fallen by 90% since the 1950s. Until now, efforts to stop illegal fishing have been more or less futile. The oceans are vast, and navies and coastguard patrols are small. However, it is now feasible to synthesize information from sources such as radio transponders and satellite observations, in order to track every ocean-going vessel that is, or might be, a fishing boat. Such data can show when a vessel is behaving suspiciously in a prohibited area. They can also link particular vessels with the receiving ships to which they transfer their catches for transport to market. However, this promising use of big data system will work only if governments enforce existing rules. (The Economist, 23/01/2015)


Diversifying the use of tuna to improve food security and public health in Pacific island countries and territories

The large tuna resources of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean are delivering great economic benefits to Pacific Island countries and territories through sale of licences to distant fishing nations and employment in fish processing. However, tuna needs to contribute to Pacific Island societies in another important way – by increasing local access to the fish required for good nutrition to help combat the world’s highest levels of diabetes and obesity. In this study, Johann D. Bell of SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, New Caledonia, and colleagues argue that tuna should also be used to enhance nutrition and diets. They demonstrate that in 2020 and 2035 just 2.1% and 5.9% of the average present-day industrial tuna catch will be required to fill the gap in domestic fish supply. They describe various policies and programmes that promise to increase access to fish for sustaining the health of the Pacific’s growing populations. (Elsevier, Marine Policy, 29/01/2015)See also SPC’s discussion of this study.


Diversity in local food production combats obesity in the Caribbean

In the Caribbean region, obesity as a result of growing consumption of imported processed foods is becoming a growing health problem. In response, the Farm to Fork project – a multi-sector, integrated approach to food and nutrition security– together with smallholder farmers in St Kitts-Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago, and in Guyana and St Lucia – has developed year-round production systems of fruit and vegetables in order to supply the national school feeding programmes, as a step towards improving children’s nutrition and dietary diversity. (IDRC, 13/05/2015)


Joint A4NH/ISPC Workshop on Nutrition

The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has now made available the presentations made at the closed workshop on ‘Nutrition and Health Outcomes: Targets for Agricultural Research’, held in September 2014. The workshop was held to inform the second round of CGIAR Research Program proposals to ensure that agricultural research would deliver improved nutrition outcomes. The participants organized their discussions around two themes: (i) research to increase access to affordable, nutritious and safe diets, and (ii) evaluating the impact of agricultural interventions and investments on nutrition. (A4NH/ISPC, 01/2015)Download the presentations at the workshop.


Effects of combined traditional processing methods on the nutritional quality of beans

Researchers of Makerere University, Uganda, have developed a processing method for production of fast cooking bean flours and assessed the effect of processing on the nutritional characteristics of the flours. Dry beans were soaked for 12 h; sprouted for 48 h; dehulled and steamed for 25 and 15 min for whole and dehulled beans, respectively, or roasted at 170°C for 45 and 15 min for whole and dehulled beans respectively. Dehulling eliminated phytates and tannins and increased protein digestibility. In vitro protein digestibility and mineral extractability were negatively correlated with tannin and phytate content. Total available carbohydrates were highest in moist heat-treated bean flours. Overall, combined processing of beans improved the nutritional quality of dry beans and the resulting precooked flours need shorter cooking times compared with whole dry beans. (Food Science & Nutrition, 14/02/2015)


Begomovirus disease complex: emerging threat to vegetable production systems of Africa

Begomoviruses are transmitted by the whitefly vector Bemisia tabaci and cause extreme reductions in the yields of a number of economically important vegetables such as tomato, pepper and okra in West and Central Africa. In this paper, Walter N. Leke, IIATA, Nigeria, and colleagues describe how they sequenced the viral genomes from various crops and identified two previously known begomovirus species (cotton leaf curl Gezira virus and okra yellow crinkle virus), a new recombinant begomovirus species (okra leaf curl Cameroon virus), a betasatellite (cotton leaf curl Gezira betasatellite) and new alphasatellites. Tomato and pepper plants with leaf curling were shown to contain isolates of new begomoviruses, collectively referred to as West African tomato-infecting begomoviruses (WATIBs), new alphasatellites and betasatellites. They found a close relationship between the begomoviruses that infect pepper and tomato and the weed Ageratum conyzoides, and the detection of the same alphasatellite in them supports the idea that weeds are important reservoirs for begomoviruses and their satellites.    (Agriculture & Food Security, 21/01/2015)