Friday, 29 February 2008

Food’s Failed Estates

For 25 years, ETC (etcetera) have been advocates on global issues such as the conservation of agricultural biodiversity and food security and on the impact of new technologies on the rural poor. ETC (the Rural Advancement Foundation International and then, in 2001, ETC Group) was the first civil society organization (nationally or internationally) to draw attention to the socioeconomic and scientific issues related to the conservation and use of plant genetic resources, intellectual property and biotechnology. ETC Group’s international reputation has been built not merely on its effective research, but also on its unique ability to transform research into public policy and institutional change. Their latest communique is on Food’s Failed Estates.

Because governments have failed to govern, the leading multilateral institutions involved in food and agriculture are in deep trouble. Unless governments and international secretariats cooperate, these institutions will be irreparably damaged and the power vacuum OECD states have created over recent decades will continue to be filled by multinational agribusiness and the new philanthro-capitalists. Read More

Changements climatiques et interactions élevage et environnement en Afrique de l’Ouest

FARA participated at the Conference on climate change and animal production-environment interactions in West Africa, organized by the Centre international de recherche-développement sur l'élevage en zone subhumide (CIRDES - Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso) - 11-13 February 2008 - Niamey, Niger.

Objectif du Colloque:

D'une façon globale, le séminaire vise à contribuer à jeter les bases d'une agriculture durable au sein de laquelle, l'élevage Ouest africain trouve toute sa place dans un contexte de variations climatiques spatio-temporelles, grâce à une gestion adaptée des ressources environnementales.
De façon spécifique, il s'agit de :

  • faire l'état des lieux sur l'importance des changements climatiques en Afrique de l'Ouest ;
  • définir et mesurer l'impact des changements climatiques sur les interactions qu'entretiennent l'élevage et l'environnement en fonction des zones agro-écologiques dans la sous région ;
  • proposer des mesures politiques et institutionnelles permettant d'atténuer
The participants from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Togo, UNU, CIRAD, IRD, CILSS, ROPPA, CTA, UEMOA indicated among others; strengthened partnerships and collaboration, agro-food processing and product development, renewal energy research and bioenergy vs biofeul research

ERA-ARD SAG Steering Committee meeting

FARA participated at the ERA-ARD SAG Steering Committee meeting in Madrid, Spain 4-6 February 2008.

ERA-ARD has been formed to establish coherence and collaboration in European ARD. The ERA-NET brings together representatives from a range of stakeholders including various ministries and national public research organisations. With 11 participating countries, ERA-ARD has the critical mass necessary to drive forward the harmonisation and integration of Europe’s ARD effort. Given the existing fragmentation of ARD in Europe, the consortium is taking a pragmatic step-by-step approach to its work, starting with basic information exchange and leading up to transnational activity. The Southern Advisory Group (SAG) under the current phase of the ERA-ARD is operational until end June 2009.

The meeting confirmed ERA-ARD will focus on three areas namely, food safety, capacity development and food and energy. Capacity development (CD) should link to existing national and regional initiatives that are identified by FARA and RUFORUM. CD should be linked to policy making and monitoring and evaluation. It should not reinvent the wheel, rather build on successful stories and inter-active learning. ERA-ARD should build on existing initiatives and harmonize actions of EU member states.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Workshop to elaborate a FARA communication strategy

" Developing communications strategies for entities such as network
secretariats is notoriously difficult. On the one hand a secretariat exists
to service the network members, and therefore its role is to support and
facilitate member’s own communication activities through providing training, resources and connections. "

"On the other hand, a secretariat is often expected to spearhead network communications and therefore be pro-active in seeking communication opportunities. Success can lead to tensions if the profile of the network becomes associated with the secretariat to the detriment of individual member profiles." (Pete Cranston)

The FARA communication strategy workshop(22,23,25 Feb) identified the different needs of each of the networking support functions (NSF) within the FARA Strategic plan. It included discussions on how the communication strategy will be monitored and evaluated to ensure effective implementation.

Czech Conroy; Aggrey Agumya; Francois Stepman; Richard Lamboll; Sidi Sanyang; Jean-Pierre Ilboudo
Myra Wopereis; Pete Cranston; Dady Demby; Jacqueline Nyagahima; Ajit Naru, Gloria Tetteh

Outcome mapping lended itself well to the assessment of FARA communications, as it facilitated the integration of quantitative and qualitative indicators. Outcome Mapping proved to be a straightforward methodology for the workshop, designed and built from FARA's development practice and Medium Term Operational Plan.

The methodology called "Outcome Mapping" was developed by IDRC, which characterizes and assesses the contributions development programs make to the achievement of outcomes. Outcome Mapping can be used at the program, project, or organizationel level. The book can be downloaded: OUTCOME MAPPING Building Learning and Reflection into Development Programs

Interview with Ajit Maru of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research GFAR

Ajit Maru explains why FARA needs a communication strategy. It is one of the steps to improve an organisation. He identifies four steps:

1. Improve the financial flows through project management

2. Improve the human resources capacities

3. Improve and change the management

4. Improve the internal and external communication flows: a communication strategy is an instrument to implement or communicate change in agricultural research for development in Africa.

Ajit gives an answer to the questions (i) whether the workshop contributed to a greater focuss in the FARA communication strategy and (ii) if GFAR will benefit from an improved FARA communication?

Interview with Jacqueline Nyagahima

Jacqueline reflects on the usefullness of the Outcome Mapping concepts such as Boarder partners, Outcome markers and Progress markers for a communication strategy ; she trusts FARA can now better finetune the targets ; she thinks this approach is also usefull for ASARECA.

Interview with Czesh Conroy (Natural Resources Institute)

Czesh answers the questions : Was the outcome mapping useful + Challenges ahead for FARA as a young organisation.

Interview with Jean Pierre Ilboudo (CORAF-WECARD)

Jean-Pierre explains what he takes back to Dakar, how new outcome mapping was to him despite the fact that he has been into communication for his whole life. He elaborates on how outcome mapping allows to identify the stakeholders, who to target, with whom to communicate, which content and messages, using which tools and channel, and how it can improve the communication about ARD in Africa.

Related resources:

Monitoring and Evaluating Information and Communication for development programmes.
DFID guideline - 21 pages - File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - mapping challenges more traditional approaches to monitoring and evaluation.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Regional Agricultural Information and Learning Systems

Three consultations meetings took place at the Secretariat Offices in Accra, Ghana on 18-25 February 2008.

  • The RAILS technical group consultation (18-19 Feb) was held for two days in order to elaborate a workprogram on how the information systems will be developed following the framework of RAILS.
  • The RAILS taskforce annual meeting (20-21 Feb) discussed the RAILS workprogram for 2008.

RAILS taskforce sub groups
The FARA communication strategy (22,23,25 Feb) reflected on the previous two consultations, as well as different needs of each of the networking support functions within the FARA Strategic plan.

The consultations involved the SROs information and communication experts who are the members of the RAILS taskforce, who in turn selected among its RAILS national learning team members. International service providers who submitted their bids to develop the information system also participated (i.e. CABI and Wageningen International) and other international service providers who are currently working with RAILS i.e. FAO, GFAR, CTA. The FARA communication strategy consultation involves the FARA NSF representatives, RAILS taskforce and learning teams and other interested partners.

Friday, 15 February 2008

The climate challenge for ACP agriculture

On 13 February, CTA held its fourth ‘Brussels Development Briefing’ - part of a series of discussion meetings on key issues and challenges for rural development in the context of EU/ACP cooperation.

The briefing discussed the theme: ‘The climate challenge for ACP agriculture‘. Speakers came from the EC, ACP Secretariat, Concord, ACP Farmers organizations, European Parliament, and the Joint ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly.

View the programme, presentations and video material, speaker information, video interviews, and further readings.

Jean Ping new Chairperson of African Union Commission

Mr Jean Ping. Mr Ping, the Gabonese Minister for Foreign Affairs, was appointed by the 53 Heads of State and Government of the African Union at their summit meeting on 31 January to 2 February in Addis Ababa. The appointment of a new AUC, headed by Mr Ping, and the institutional continuity provided by Mr Konaré, give the Heads of State and Government of the African Union the means to fulfil their commitments to their external partners.

AAAS - Annual Meeting 2008

14-18 February • Boston. Each year FARA participates at the AAAS Annual Meeting. Science and technology professionals - from across disciplines and around the world-gather to discuss new research, emerging trends, and exciting new possibilities.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, "Triple A-S" (AAAS), is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. In addition to organizing membership activities, AAAS publishes the journal Science, as well as many scientific newsletters, books and reports, and spearheads programs that raise the bar of understanding for science worldwide.

Science and Technology from a Global Perspective emphasizes the power of science and technology as well as education to assist less-developed segments of the world society, to improve partnerships among already-developed countries, and to spur knowledge-driven transformations across a host of fields.

With more than 150 symposia as well as plenary and topical lectures and a variety of special events to choose from, Boston is the place to be from 14-18 February for anyone with a passion for science or a desire to meet the world's leading experts. View the full program.

Events will be held in the Hynes Convention Center, the Sheraton Boston, and the Boston Marriott Copley Place, conveniently located in the heart of Boston's historic Back Bay.

Sierra Leone: Introducing Rare Gems

Because some people might be wondering who the rare gems of Sierra Leone are and where are they, Concord Times (Freetown) has decided to launch a thorough search to get at the real rare gems, both from within the country and in the Diaspora.

In its maiden edition of 08/02 on 'Introducing the Rare Gems of Sierra Leone' series, Concord Times has decided to bring Dr Monty Jones.

Why the search for rare gems? RARE GEMS OF SIERRA LEONE is convinced that the people of Sierra Leone require the power of collective leadership driven by credible role models who can rekindle the flame of love, faith and hope to inspire our people to confront their present seeming limitations. We are desirous of organizing young outstanding Sierra Leoneans who are making a difference all over the world to focus on investing their enormous influence and resources to advance the cause of Sierra Leone nationally and internationally.
Concord Times 08/02/2008 Sierra Leone: Introducing Rare Gems

FARA chairman receives 2008 Alumni award

Two Ugandan scientists have been recognised for their excellence in agriculture by the State University of Ohio in the US.

The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) director general Dr. Denis T. Kyetere and Makerere University’s head of agricultural economics and agribusiness, Dr. Bernard Bashaasha, are to receive their 2008 International Alumni Awards on March 1.

Kyetere and Bashaasha received their doctorates from Ohio State University in 1995 and 1998 respectively. Kyetere told Saturday Vision:
“This is unbelievable. It is very good for Uganda and Africa since I am the
chairman of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, which is an
advocacy organisation for resource mobilisation.”
Kyetere served as the acting NARO chief for over a year before being named Director General in 2006. “In this position, Denis has restored a system of good governance, transparency and accountability. “As a result, staff morale has risen”, the university noted. It also noted that under Bashaasha’s guidance, his department has seen an increase in doctorate degrees, graduate students, and growing partnerships with agribusinesses.

Saturday vision 08/02 Ugandan agriculturalists win award

Worldwide Biotech Crop Area Set to Almost Double by 2015

Despite opposition to genetically modified crops in Western Europe and elsewhere, farmers continue to increase their plantings of biotech crops at double-digit annual growth rates.

According to a new report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), biotech crop area grew 12% or 12.3 million hectares in 2007 to reach 114.3 million hectares, the second highest area increase in the past five years.
The ISAAA predicts that by 2015, the number of farmers adopting biotech crops could increase up to tenfold to 100 million, almost doubling the area to over 200 million ha.

According to the group, “the first dozen years of biotech crops have delivered
substantial economic and environmental benefits to farmers in both industrial
countries and developing countries, where millions of poor farmers have also
benefited from social and humanitarian benefits which have contributed to the
alleviation of their poverty.”

In 2007, the number of countries planting biotech crops increased to 23, and comprised 12 developing countries and 11 industrial countries; they were, in order of hectarage, USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, China, Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay, Philippines, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, France, Honduras, Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, Slovakia, Romania and Poland.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Biofuels Worse Than Fossil Fuels, Studies Find
GM and climate change – A hungry world needs answers on GM crops Ethical Corporation

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Management in Latin America and the Caribbean

The new KM4Dev journal edition entitled “Knowledge sharing and knowledge management in Latin America and the Caribbean (Part I)” is now on-line at (click on CURRENT on the top of the page).

This is the first part of a double-back issue focused on experiences in Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Management from Latin America and The Caribbean.The two parts contain three contributions from CGIAR Centers and many articles related to the agricultural sector.

Farmer information platform launched in East Africa

Recently, the African Insect Science for Food and Health and the Biovision Foundation launched an Internet platform that will give farmers in East Africa free access to information on sustainable control of disease vectors and pests. BioVision is a Swiss non-profit foundation started in 1998 by Dr Hans Herren, who was from 1994 until 2005 the Director General of Icipe, and is currently the president of the Millennium Institute in Washington DC. Having spent half his life as a scientific researcher in Africa, Dr Herren, was a 1995 World Food Prize winner.

The INFONET-BioVision Information Platform aims to strengthen sustainable development of farmers and rural communities in Africa by making information on key topics available through an internet platform and other creative solutions and dissemination strategies.According to a story in Business Daily Africa, the new platform is different from other sites and services "because it has been designed with farmers, and their trainers in mind. Our approach has been to see things from their perspective."
Innovations Report: New information platform for East African farmers
Business Daily Africa: Farmers to benefit from online help in pest war

The spirits of FARA

Management wanted to thank all staff for the excellent work done during the past year and also to promote the spirit of unity. Management organized therefore a FARA family fun day celebration for all staff, their spouses and children to interact in a relaxed atmosphere at the FARA Secretariat on Saturday 26th January 2008.

There were gift items for children and T-shirt & caps for all staff, their spouse/husband, and children. In order to recognize the contribution of certain staff members in promoting unity and comradeship within FARA, the FARA staff nominated the most popular FARA staff member in the Senior GSS and General Support Staff categories. Hereunder some digital pictures taken from the hard copy pictures (sorry for the reduced quality because of this).

Launch of the 2007 Human Development report by the UNDP in Accra

Accra, Tuesday 12 February 2008
The 197-page report put together by UNDP Ghana is under the theme: “Towards A More Inclusive Society”. Independent senior academics from the University of Ghana with technical assistance from the Ministries of Manpower, Youth and Employment, Finance and Economic Planning, National Development Planning Commission, Ghana Statistical Service and other UN agencies were tasked to work on the report.

Presenting the highlights of the report, the Leader of the consultants who were tasked to work on the report Professor Cletus Dordunoo said the report examined the major drivers that influenced exclusion and the involvement of a more inclusive society. The report, which is the sixth edition has six chapters focusing on the framework Social Exclusion, Status of Human Development and Social Exclusion, Social Structure, Systems and Practices, Social Exclusion: The Economic Dimension, Social Exclusion : The Political and Legal Dimension and Conclusions: Promoting an Inclusive Society. The report called for further research in the area of development and implementation of advocacy programmes as well as policy planning and implementation.


ASARECA Board of Directors and development partners

Entebbe, 3-6 February 2007
The meeting started with the progress report from the ASARECA Secretariat. It emphasized on how the year 2007 was the transition period in terms of changing ASARECA's approach from network focus to program focused. Three program managers were hired i.e. Staples Crops Programme - Dr. Fina Opio; Policy Analysis and Advocacy - Dr. Michael Waithaka; and Agrobiodiversity and Biotechnology - Dr. Charles Mugoya.

Left ot right: (a) Current Board Chariman, Dr. Azhari Abdelazim Hamada Director General Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), Sudan (b) Ugandan Minister of State for Animal Industry Hon. Bright Rwamirama (c) Dr. Dennis Kyetere, Director General National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), Uganda

Other cross cutting issues or initiatives were presented; Technology Uptake and Upscaling Support Initiative by Lydia Kimenye, M&E Strategy by Leonard Oruko and Communications Strategy by Jacqueline Nyagahima.

Each of the programs and initiatives presented their strategic plan, operational plan and annual plan for 2008. All were developed through stakeholder consultations. Other initiatives presented were related to On-Going IAR4D in ASARECA with Partners i.e. Climate Change by Jeannette Van de Steeg; Napier Grass by Jean Hanson; Harvest Plus by Berga Lemaga; IMAWESA by Bancy Mati. A session was allotted to discuss partnerships through CAADP pillar 4. Presentations were made by ASARECA, COMESA and FARA.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The growing demand for livestock

As global demand for meat and milk increases, many policies focus on promoting international trade in livestock and livestock products. How does this affect the community-based livestock services that poor people use, and who will benefit from the expanding global markets?

In areas affected by repeated droughts, donors and United Nations agencies are beginning to understand the benefits of more livelihoods-based livestock programming. This includes a shift towards long-term development approaches in which drought is predicted and planned for, rather than being regarded as an unexpected 'shock'. This move towards livelihoods-based analysis and programming is particularly important in dryland areas and as a response to climate change.

Currently, some policymakers recognise the need to promote the participation of poorer livestock producers in international trade. However, there are few examples of how to make this happen. The key is to improve government policies, including an increased commitment to poor livestock producers. An article in the latest issue of id21 insights (Issue#72 February 2008) suggest some of the policy changes within the livestock sector that will help the poorest people benefit from the predicted expansion in the sector.

Livestock keepers in Turkana, Kenya

Friday, 8 February 2008

Rwanda in agricultural reform drive

Rwandan Agriculture Minister Murekezi (L) consults the Director of Planning in the Ministry of Agriculture Ernest Ruzindaza at the opening of the conference at Hotel Novotel Umubano yesterday.(Photo /J Mbanda)

Rwanda is reviewing Africa's plan for agriculture reform to use it as a yardstick to measure her own performance in this sector.

The aim is to enhance the reforms that constitute Africa's Comprehensive Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), managed under the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad). If the CAADP national review yields success, there's hope to increase agriculture growth rate by six percent and to allocate 10 percent of national budget to the sector, according to agriculture minister, Anastase Murekezi.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and development partners analysed how far the country has gone in executing CAADP during a one-day meeting in Hotel Novotel Umubano in Kigali Thursday 07/02/2008.

The Agriculture Minister Anastase Murekezi said: "Our aim is to strengthen our efforts to facilitate the CAADP’s future mechanism that will enrich Public-Private Partnership for required investments in the agriculture sector. CAADP will support such national projects as the one-cow-per-household, fisheries and biodiversity promotion in Lake Kivu, and crop intensification through water irrigation.."

The minister’s comment was seconded by World Bank’s Country Representative, Victoria Kwakwa, who welcomed the CAADP implementation review initiative at country level. "We donors have to play a supportive role in coordinating the continental (Africa’s) efforts needed for Rwanda to achieve its goal," Kwakwa said. "This will transform the country from subsistence to modern agriculture."

The meeting also saw the official launch of Research Into Use (RIU), a UK-based programme that focus on research for sustainable agricultural development in Rwanda and other countries.

The New Times 08/02/2008

Rwanda Second Rural Sector Support Project 11/02/2008

Online Information Service for Non-Chemical Pest Management in the Tropics

OISAT is an information management concept on non-chemical pest management in the tropics comprising two components:

OISAT Info is a web-based information tool offering trainers, extension workers and farmers a quick access to up-to-date information for their work and for organizing agricultural learning processes in order to minimize pest damage in a safe, effective, and ecologically sound way. Its structure is based on the cropping season of the major crops, indicating key pests for each growth stage and plant part. Further, detailed information is presented on preventive and curative pest management practices with the aim of providing basic and practical information for a holistic approach in pest management, which is both flexible and situation-specific. The descriptions contain illustrations, photographs, and clear advice, together with a glossary of technical terms. Farmers can access technical information for direct use in the field at the individual level and as joint farmer learning processes, in their effort to further develop their agricultural production systems.

OISAT Partner Network is a platform for information dissemination, information sharing/exchange, and the integration of the online information into training and extension services. Thus an effective and efficient information flow from web to field will be ensured. For an effective outreach, OISAT PartnerNetwork aims at collaborating with training and extension networks and carefully identified information platforms. Feedback from the field will be stimulated to further expand and adapt the content and service of OISAT Info to the needs of its users in the field, thus leading to a significant adoption of the information provided.

How to incorporate climate change adaptation in project design

Adapting to climate variability and change: a guidance manual for development planning
Authors: ; USAID Publisher: USAID Global Climate Change Program, 2007

It is important to consider the potential impact of climate change when planning and designing development projects. Understanding, planning for and adapting to changing climate enables individuals and societies to make the most of opportunities and reduce risk. This guidance manual looks at how to understand climate change as it may impact on project cycles and incorporating a six-step approach for assessing vulnerability and implementing adaptation.

These include:

  • screen for vulnerability: a preliminary assessment of whether climate variability or change could compromise the integrity, effectiveness and longevity of a project
  • identify adaptation options: working with stakeholders to identify alternative designs or management processes to better cope with climate variability
  • conduct analysis: examine the consequences of climate variability and change as well as the effectiveness, costs and feasibility of adaptations that can reduce vulnerability to climate variability and change
  • select a course of action: meet with stakeholders to review analysis results and determine if changes to current project design are needed
  • implement adaptations: prepare an implementation plan to identify next steps
  • evaluate adaptations: it may be difficult to evaluate effectiveness in a relatively short time period following implementation, however, an evaluation can be done to see if adaptations were properly put in place and whether there were any problems or excessive costs associated with them.

Full text of document

The Fourth CGIAR Senior Leadership Program

The Fourth CGIAR Senior Leadership Program will be held at IMD, Lausanne,Switzerland, June 30-July 4, 2008. It is patterned after the highly successfulcourse held at IMD last year, which followed initial two programs held at theHarvard Business School in 2004 and 2006.

The objective of the program is to convene current and future leaders of theCGIAR's key constituent entities -- board chairs, board members, directorsgeneral and senior managers of the research centers, heads or members of CGIARMember delegations from the North and the South, and other selected executivesof the System--together with leaders of NARS in developing countries. This peergroup will wrestle with the current strategic and leadership challenges of theCGIAR and its partners, including designing and managing change in entireresearch systems or individual research institutions or programs.

15 agricultural researchleaders from developing countries will be able to participate in the Fourth CGIAR SeniorLeadership Program, free of charge, through a generous support from SwissDevelopment Cooperation.

Prioritizing Climate Change Adaptation Needs for Food Security in 2030

David Lobell of the Stanford University's Programme on Food Security and the Environment says the world community should focus its efforts where climate threats are likely to make the greatest impacts.

Investments aimed at improving agricultural adaptation to climate change inevitably favor some crops and regions over others. An analysis of climate risks for crops in 12 food-insecure regions was conducted to identify adaptation priorities, based on statistical crop models and climate projections for 2030 from 20 general circulation models. Results indicate South Asia and Southern Africa as two regions that, without sufficient adaptation measures, will likely suffer negative impacts on several crops that are important to large food-insecure human populations. We also find that uncertainties vary widely by crop, and therefore priorities will depend on the risk attitudes of investment institutions.
A man holds a cob of maize as fields and crops were flooded after the Volta Blanc river overflowed due to heavy rain in 2007 in northern Ghana. Climate change will cause severe crop losses in Africa and Asia within the next 20 years unless farming practices are changed, a study released Thursday has found.
An already hungry Southern Africa could face a 30-percent decline in maize production in the next two decades. Production of other staples like millet and rice are projected to fall by at least 10 percent, the analysis found. "Rainfall and temperatures in the region are changing quite fast," Lobell said. Maize requires a great deal of water and rich soils -- or lots of fertiliser -- so it is not the best crop for regions that will get drier. Drought-resistant sorghum might be a better choice for farmers to plant from now on, Lobell suggested. In other areas, crops could be planted earlier than normal to avoid heat-related losses in summer.

"Innovations in policy are needed -- not in technology," said Geoff Tansey, a food policy researcher, writer and editor of a number of books on food policy, including the forthcoming "The Future Control of Food".

With climate change, the best strategy for agriculture is diversity not monocultures, says Tansey, who has worked in many parts of Africa. And by diversity he means not only diversity of crops but of information and knowledge, approaches to farming and diversity of income.

Much of the current agricultural research has been privatised and produces only products that can be patented and sold. There has been a major shift in the past two decades away from public research in agriculture, he warns. The most effective improvements needed to adapt to climate change could be as simple as finding ways for farmers to share their knowledge with each other or by increasing organic matter in soils with manures and crop residues.

Around the world, soils are in decline, largely because of the focus on increasing crop yields. Agriculture depends on using solar energy from the sun to recycle nutrients from the soils into crops that we eat. However, if the nutrients removed from the soils are not replaced, soils become depleted. Recent research has found that chemical fertilisers do not replace these nutrients but rather mask declining soil quality.

See report in Science Magazine 01/02/2008
Prioritizing Climate Change Adaptation Needs for Food Security in 2030
David B. Lobell, Marshall B. Burke, Claudia Tebaldi, Michael D. Mastrandrea, Walter P. Falcon, Rosamond L. Naylor
IPS News 01/02/08 CLIMATE CHANGE: Africa, South Asia Could Face Famines
BBC report
USA Today
International Herald Tribune
Science Daily
AFP 08/02/2008 Converting land for biofuel worsens global warming: study

Agroforestry innovations in Africa

The unaffordability of chemical fertilizers -- made more unaffordable with every devaluation of the local currency -- leads farmers to adopt improved fallow technologies.

While phosporus replenishment still requires an externally sourced chemical input that may be beyond the reach of the small farmer, this is not necessarily the case for nitrogen. To reverse nutrient depletion of nitrogen in African soils, a second strategy exists, namely an increased use of organic sources of nitrogen nutrients.

The organic sources of nitrogen include: animal manures and compost, biomass transfers of organic matter into the field, and also more efficient use of trees and shrubs whose deep roots capture nutrients from subsoil depths beyond the reach of crop roots and transfer them to the topsoil via decomposition of tree litter. By strategic planting of trees, nitrogen lost over the last 20 years can be replenished with nitrogen from agroforestry innovations.

Whether or not improved fallow technologies can entirely substitute for nitrogen fertilizers, remains to be seen. Most observers agree that the verdict is still out for improved fallow technologies, which may take a decade for farmers to test properly. First farmers plant several small plots of different tree species, then they wait three to four years to see the results of each plot. Because the improved fallow cycle takes so long, farmers’ adoption or adaptation of this technology takes a lot longer than adoption of an improved seed or a new fertilizer. Until the experiment fails, African farmers – like most researchers – are willing to experiment, probably due to the lack of other options available as soil fertility amendments in Africa today.

African Studies Quarterly 6, no. 1&2 (Special Issue: Gender and Soil Fertility in in Africa) (2002)Agroforestry innovations in Africa: can they improve soil fertility on women farmers' fields?
Cameroon Tribune 29/01/08 Cameroon: Fertilizer Programme Revamped

World Bank Offering US$4 Million in Grants for Innovations in Agriculture

The 2008 Global Development Marketplace (DM2008) competition was launched January 22, 2008, offering $4 million in grants to social entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that have potential for high impact in promoting sustainable agriculture.

The competition this year is focused on the theme of “Sustainable Agriculture for Development.” It is asking participants to focus on solutions to agricultural challenges in developing countries such as linking small-scale farmers to markets; improving land access for poor farmers; and promoting the environmental services of agriculture in addressing climate change and biodiversity conservation.

DM2008 awards will support 25-30 of the most innovative ideas that advance sustainable agriculture in developing countries. Typically, DM competitions attract close to 3,000 applicants, which are then narrowed down to about 100 finalists. Finalists of DM2008 will be invited to the competition’s Marketplace event in Washington, September 24-25, to compete for grants and participate in knowledge exchange activities.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Applying Vietnamese techniques to help West Africa with food security

Prof. Vo Tong Xuan, a world-famous researcher in agronomy, a year ago, was invited by Sierra Leone to give the country advice on how to get rid of food shortages the all year round.
In response, he made four field trips to Africa to inquire into the actual situation there.
When asked about this honour, he modestly explained that because he came from Vietnam, the country that had been admired by Sierra Leone for going from suffering from food shortages to becoming a world top rice exporter.

The project is called “Applying Vietnamese techniques to help West Africa with food security starting with Sierra Leone”.

Prof. Vo Tong Xuan (photo:
In 2008, the project will start with the first 20 Vietnamese farmers being sent to Africa to provide technical guidance to Sierra Leone’s farmers. By practising the method of "close guidance with specific tasks,” each of these Vietnamese farmers will coach a group of 4-5 Sierra Leonean farmers on the field. Preparations have been well under way for months now.
Five Vietnamese agricultural experts in an advance panty are now in Sierra Leone laying the groundwork for water conservation and multiplication of rice strains (brought from Vietnam).
In May 2008, the transplantation of high-yield rice strains will be conducted on the reclaimed land covering 110 hectares of Mangie Bure Village.
VietnamNetBridge 06/02/08 Exporting farmers to help Africa rid poverty
Mathaba NewsNetwork Vietnamese scientists help Sierra Leone boost rice crops

Soils Atlas of Africa

The Land Management and Natural Hazards Unit of the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES), ISRIC – World Soil Information, the European Soil Bureau Network (ESBN), the African Soil Science Society (ASSS), and FAO conducted a survey amongst potential users of the Soils Atlas for Africa, to get insight into the needs and wishes about its content.

The Africa Soil Science Society is a non-profit organization founded in 1986 following a meeting of African soil scientists who attended the World Soil congress in Hamburg (Germany). ASSS has successfully organized four International Conferences : Kampala (Uganda, 1988), Cairo (Egypt, 1990), Ibadan (Nigeria, 1994) and most recently Accra (Ghana, 2007).

Before embarking on the production of a Soils Atlas of Africa, the Land Management and Natural Hazards Unit of the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES), ISRIC – World Soil Information, the European Soil Bureau Network (ESBN), the African Soil Science Society (ASSS), and FAO conducted a survey amongst potential users of the Atlas, to get insight into the needs and wishes about its content. The survey was conducted between half May and half June, 2007, by sending around a questionnaire using the email networks of ESBN, the ASSS, the alumni of Ghent University, Belgium, the World Reference Base for Soil Resources, and through the Soil Portal webpage of IES.

The preliminary report on the user survey for the Soils Atlas of Africa is now available for comment. Click here

African climate change: Blooming Sahara or hunger and war?

Annual precipitation change over Africa
8,500 years ago (mid-Holocene) compared to present
© Climate and Global Dynamics Division

The most known scenarios of Africa’s future in a warmer world include more drought, floods, cyclones, land degradation, epidemics and resource wars.

But not all predictions, models and theories are exclusively negative. The following is not a theory based on climate models, it is a well-documented fact: Until 5,000 years ago, during the so-called Holocene Climate Optimum, world climate was significantly hotter than now - comparable to global warming forecasts - and Africa was living through what scientists call the “African Humid Period”.

During this warm and humid period, what is now the
Sahara Desert was indeed green, covered with grasslands and savannah vegetation. The rock paintings at Tassili - in the middle of the Sahara in south-eastern Algeria - first caused astonishment when found as they depicted savannah animals such as elephants and zebus.

Late, the bones of water-dependent beasts as crocodiles and hippos were found in the Sahara, together with sediments showing that great lakes and rivers existed here until 6,000 years ago.

EIS AFRICA's January newsletter Click here


IPS News 01/02/08 CLIMATE CHANGE: Africa, South Asia Could Face Famines

Friday, 1 February 2008

The mobile revolution: hope or hype?

Fill the Gap! -5 has been looking on Friday 11th January 2008 into the theme of mobile telephones and discussed with (African) experts from the field about the use and added value of mobile phones for sustainable development and a better world.

Special guests:
 Ethan Zuckerman, founder of
 Christoph Stork, senior researcher at the LINK Centre/Research ICT Africa (RIA) at Wits
University in Johannesburg, South Africa.
 Firoze Manji, Director, Fahamu - Networks for Social Justice
 Mr. Shafiu Shaibu Programme Officer, Social Enterprise Development Foundation of West Africa (SEND Foundation) : market information for farmers
 Lotte Pelckmans, researcher at the African Studies Centre.
 Wilbur Perlot, De Balie and Bahram Sadeghi, TV producer and presenter of a.o. Waskracht

You can wath a number of interviews with the guests on Fill the Gap! -5

Mobile communication services to farmers in rural areas of Rajasthan, India
Could A Mobile Phone Replace A Bank Branch?
Mobile Phones Expand Access To Financial Services

Gates gives $306 mln for African farming

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving $306 million to boost the yields and incomes of small farmers in Africa and other parts of the developing world, it said on Friday 25th January. Support for agriculture the developing world has been neglected, but is vital for development of rural areas, where most of the world's poorest people live, the foundation said in a statement, released at annual World Economic Forum meeting.

"If we are serious about ending extreme hunger and poverty around the world, we
must be serious about transforming agriculture for small farmers -- most of
whom are women," Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp said in the statement.
"These investments -- from improving the quality of seeds, to developing
healthier soil, to creating new markets -- will pay off not only in children fed
and lives save," Gates said.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is also receiving US$19.9 million over three years to initially help place improved rice varieties and related technology into the hands of 400,000 small farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.The Gates Foundation, founded in 2000, supports projects to improve health, reduce poverty and increase access to technology.


Reuters and First Science

AGRA to spend $180 million on African soil fertility
Gates Foundation pours assistance into African coffee farming

Interview with Pete Cranston

The above interview with Pete Cranston was taken during the Web 2.0 for agriculture conference at the FAO in Rome back in September 2007 (see posting on this blog of 04/10/2007). He briefly summarizes the strenghts of Web 2.0 tools: the use of tags, newsfeeds, blogs, wikis and mash-up.

Pete Cranston is OneWorld UK’s Open Knowledge Network (OKN) advisor and fundraiser. He’s also helping to build up Peer Learning sessions as a regular partner service. Before this Pete was the Network & Operations Director for OneWorld International Ltd for four years. He managed promotional, partnership and content management functions, supported the growing network of OneWorld Centres and led the team developing the OKN.

Pete is an experienced facilitator and trainer, and has provided strategic and operational IS&T (Information Services and Technology) and ICT (Information Communication and Technology) advice and consultancy services over the past five years to a range of organisations including the Sustainable Development Commission and the Global Knowledge Partnership


Climate Change Media Partnership

A unique partnership of international organisations and journalists has given a major boost to media coverage of climate change in developing nations.

Internews, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Panos joined forces to create the Climate Change Media Partnership to strengthen the reporting of climate change before, during and after last month’s UN conference in Bali.

The Climate Change Media Partnership brought 40 journalists from 22 countries to Bali and provided a programme of support that included briefings, access to experts and negotiators, and editorial support from Alex Kirby, the BBC's former environment correspondent.

"The Climate Change Media Partnership has been a huge help to us fellows," said Wambi Michael of the Voice of Teso radio station in Uganda. "This [first] week was like a beginning class. Before I didn’t know what the Clean Development Mechanism is, or what adaptation is. It’s sad that in my country, which just had devastating floods, that the biggest newspaper in the country didn’t send a journalist here."

During the conference, the journalists produced hundreds of stories for print, online, radio and TV outlets in their home countries. Their reports and blogs are viewable in English, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and Vietnamese.


“Mainstreaiming Climate Change into Agricultural Education: Tools, Experiences and Challenges” ANAFE International Symposum is being held from 28th July-1August at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. The deadline on the call for abstracts is 31st March and they should be emailed to or to

Visit of Baroness Tessa Blackstone

On Thursday 31st of January 2008 FARA was honoured by the visit of of Baroness Tessa Blackstone.

She has been Minister for Education at the Department of Education from 1997 to 2001 then Minister for the Arts at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport 2001–2003. Before joining the government, she headed Birkbeck College, University of London, from 1987 to 1997. She is a Labour life peer in the House of Lords and sits as Baroness Blackstone, of Stoke Newington in Greater London. In 2004, she became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich. Baroness Blackstone is a Vice-President of the British Humanist Association.

Sidi Anyang, Baroness Blackstone, Dr. Monty Jones, Guy Poulter (National Resource Institute, University of Greenwich - UK)