What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Food prices and poverty reduction in the long run, IFPRI

Is ‘Getting to Zero’ really feasible? The new Chronic Poverty Report, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education 2013/2014 Report from the Field, SARE

Research reveals true value of cover crops to farmers, environment, Penn State

From poverty to prosperity: A conversation with Bill Gates, AEI

Harnessing Innovation for African Agriculture and Food Systems, Meridian Institute

Pests worm their way into genetically modified maize, Nature

Scientists sound the alarm on climate, The New York Times

Scale up policies that work to eliminate hunger by 2025 – food expert, Thomson Reuters Foundation

GMOs Should Be Regulated On A National Level In Europe, British Scientists Argue, Huffington Post

Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than we thought, University of Leeds

Examining the link between food prices and food insecurity: A multi-level analysis of maize price and birthweight in Kenya, Food Policy

GM maize heads for British fields, The Times

Number of Days Without Rain to Dramatically Increase in Some World Regions, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

UniBrain: connecting business, education and research to drive innovation

indexThe Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) recently launched a new initiative called UniBRAIN (Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation), which aims to improve agricultural research and university-level agribusiness education in Africa. By linking actors from the agribusiness, education and research sectors, the initiative hopes to drive innovation. Its objectives are:

1. To develop and implement collaborative programmes fostering innovation among universities, research institutions and the private sector.

2. To strengthen African agricultural innovation systems, which are expected to deliver the new and improved technologies that are required to improve agricultural productivity.

3. To develop and implement improved and better contextualised undergraduate and postgraduate agribusiness teaching and learning.

4. To facilitate exchange of experiences and sharing of resources and knowledge.

It is pursuing these objectives through the development of UniBRAIN Agribusiness Innovation Incubators, centres that provide training, research and advice to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), both new and existing, as well as business development services. Their value chain approach means they act to support innovation at every step of the agricultural chain from farmers and producer organisations to input suppliers, marketers and processors. Specific services offered include mentoring and training programmes, access to agricultural research, technology packaging and dissemination, advice on customer, product and business model development and networking between businesses.

UniBRAIN aims to address the lack of human and institutional capacity for agricultural innovation across Africa. On the one hand businesses may lack people who can drive innovation while on the other university courses are failing to provide education relevant to industry needs. The UniBRAIN Incubators will contribute to improving tertiary education, making it relevant to the agribusiness sector and demand driven. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Highlight: the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association (NASFAM) in Malawi, PAEPARD

FAO launches new standards for plant genebanks, FAO

Africa and India cultivate agricultural research ties, SciDev.Net

Who will pay for ecosystem services?, IIED

It’s not the ‘skipping’ three who should be questioned, it’s the wasteful supermarkets, The Independent

Pesticides halve bees’ pollen gathering ability, research shows, The Guardian

Natural Gas and Albacore: What Tuna Says About the Future of Mozambique, New Security Beat

Press Briefing of H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, PAEPARD

Fertilizer nutrient imbalance to limit food production in Africa, IIASA

Genetic weapon against insects raises hope and fear in farming, New York Times [Read more…]

From research to impact: the stories behind the successes

ID-100133984A recent Montpellier Panel Briefing Paper, Innovation for Sustainable Intensification in Africa, highlights the need for change in the way we innovate and do research if we are to increase food production while protecting natural resources (in other words sustainable intensification). Added to this need for change is the increasing focus of donors and civil society to measure success as the level of impact. International aid has come under criticism for failing to ensure long-term impact of research investments.

In a new report by Joanna Kane-Potaka of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) entitled The Story Behind the Success, 10 case studies are presented, which exemplify how research for development (R4D) can be translated into real results and uptake by people on the ground.  Some broad lessons from the case studies were the need for monitoring and evaluation to feed back into the uptake planning process, the need to design a proactive uptake strategy that is informed by and informs the research itself, and the need for effective engagement, ultimately aiming for stakeholders to take ownership of the research and become ambassadors for the outputs. Effective communication and the integration of cultural factors in uptake planning were also important.

In one case study, farmers in Northern Thailand who use termite mounds on poor quality soils to help them retain water and nutrients, were looking for an alternative as natural termite mounds began to become scarce. International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and Khon Kaen University scientists began trialling the use of bentonite clay, found by Australian researchers to help conserve water and nutrients in soil. Researchers found that in Northern Thailand the use of bentonite clay helped reduce crop failure due to drought and increased crop yield by 73%. Three years after the trials around 600 farmers in Thailand and Cambodia had adopted the practice and increased their yields by an average 18%. In this case adoption took a long time but was driven largely by targeting early innovator farmers, in particular members of the Farmer Wisdom Network (FWM), which individuals at Khon Kaen University had previously built a relationship with. Another key relationship, between IWMI and the Thai government, built over time, aided in the early trials, which were conducted on government experiment stations. The government is now developing a plant where waste bentonite from the production of vegetable oils is converted to composting for use on soils. This product is to be free (excluding transportation costs) to farmers. Farmer field trials and Farmer Field Schools were not only used to communicate the technology but to obtain feedback used in the research process. Identifying early innovators, building strong relationships with local farmers and partners and having meaningful engagement with them were key to ensuring this solution actually had impact. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

African agriculture needs trade not aid, SciDev.Net

World’s first global Meat Atlas – facts and figures about what we eat, Friends of the Earth

World food prices stay high, but steady, FAO

‘Sugar is the new tobacco’: Cuts to amounts hidden in food could halt obesity epidemic, claim doctors, The Independent

Women Farmers in Chile to Teach the Region Agroecology, IPS

Big Beef, Washington Monthly

The Future of Agriculture Requires Dialogue, Huffington Post

Storming the ivory towers: Time for scientists to get out, ‘get social’, to learn better, faster–Nature commentary, ILRI

Drought tolerant maize varieties ready, The East African

A new horizon for African-European research links, Sci Dev.Net

A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops, The New York Times

14 Food Resolutions to Bring in the New Year, Huffington Post

Food security: an urban issue, The Guardian

Global farm research consortium doubles funding to $1 billion, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Big Ag’s Gifts for 2013, Huffington Post

Exclusive: Make food and drink corporations ‘account for water usage’, says scientist, The Independent

 

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

How economic growth has become anti-life, The Guardian

Group claims GMOs failed to deliver promised benefits, Inquirer News

Orange Sweet Potato One of the Most Innovative Ways to Feed the Planet, Says USAID Administrator, HarvestPlus

A YOUng FARMer’s vision, PAEPARD

UK agricultural research aid should do more for poor farmers, says watchdog, The Guardian

Yields of new varieties of agricultural crops continue to increase, Wageningen University

The Idealist: a brilliant, gripping, disturbing portrait of Jeffrey Sachs, From Power to Poverty, Duncan Green

Three Billion Poor People Are Waiting for Business to Reinvent Itself, The Business Solution to Poverty

Science has bigger say in GM food, China Daily

How African innovation can take on the world, PC Tech Magazine

Have a Coke and a … GMO?, Politico

Landscapes debate could reinvigorate UN climate talks in Warsaw – negotiator, CIFOR, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Traditional innovation in farming is under threat, IIED

End Of The Egg? ‘Fake Egg’ Company Aims To Replace 79 Billion Chicken Eggs Laid Each Year, Civil Eats

How to end world hunger, CNN

 

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

The global food fight: can agribusiness avert a crisis?, fDi Intelligence

While Global Bee Colonies Struggle, European Politicians Seem Determined To Kill Them Off, Forbes

Chief EU scientist backs damning report urging GMO ‘rethink’, EurActive

Is getting out of farming the best bet for smallholder farmers?, IRRI

Economic rewards of better land management: Estimated 2.3 billion tons of crops worth $1.4 trillion, EurekAlert

The Urgent Need for African Leadership in Science, Engineering and Technology to Transform African Agriculture into Agri-Food Value Chains, African Journal of food, agriculture, nutrition and development

Satisfy Your Curiosity with Our New E-Book, Can We Feed the World? The Future of Food, Scientific American

New technology and agriculture: A sluggish uptake, The Africa Report [Read more…]