Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Winners announced in scriptwriting competition on smallholder farmer innovation

Jan 25, 2010. Ottawa, Canada, – In July 2009, radio professionals from across sub-Saharan Africa were invited by Farm Radio International to submit a radio script about an innovative smallholder farmer in their area. To help participants develop their scripts, they were encouraged to participate in a free two-month online training course on scriptwriting. Eighty-two entries were received from 20 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
John Cheburet, a journalist from The Organic Farmer, a magazine and a radio show aired on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, won first prize in an Africa-wide scriptwriting competition on smallholder farmer innovation. Fourteen other radio broadcasters and producers also won prizes for their entries.
The first-prize winner impressed an international panel of judges with his script about an innovative Kenyan farmer who uses sawdust to lengthen the storage period of Irish potatoes.
The TOF Radio Programme gives useful tips on organic farming and answers the questions of the farmers. TOF Radio is on air on the KBC Kiswahili service every Thursday from 8.15 to 8.30 pm. Listen to TOF Radio online.


Practical Action Sudan

The work undertaken by Practical Action Sudan is aimed at improving the livelihoods of poor communities in selected areas of the country through building the capacity of small-scale producers and their institutions.

Practical Action Sudan is currently operating in three geographical areas, eastern Sudan in Kassala and Gedarif States, western Sudan in North Darfur State, and Blue Nile State.
Practical Action Sudan's work is structured under three international programme aims: reducing vulnerability, making markets work for the poor and increasing access to services.

Particular attention is paid to disadvantaged sections of the community such as poor families, households headed by women, the disabled or other marginalised groups. Practical Action Sudan works closely with beneficiary communities and applies a participatory methodology in assessing peoples' needs, monitoring progress and impact and developing and transferring technologies.
Practical Action works in Peru, Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
In these countries, Practical Action works with poor communities to develop appropriate technologies in food production, agroprocessing, energy, transport, water and sanitation, shelter, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Sudan-ASARECA-RAILS Stakeholders Consultation

20-21 January 2010. Wad Medani, Sudan. Agricultural Research Institute (ARC). The workshop was attended by 33 participants and some guests of honors from the Sudanese national agricultural research institutions, ministries, national information centers, universities and higher education, extension, national agricultural information networks, media, private sector and NGOs.

Dr. Rafaa Ashmalla Ghobrial, Head of Information Services and Systems, Documentation and Information Centre National Centre for Research. Fran├žois Stepman (FARA) and Daniel Mwesige (ASARECA) were resource persons for the meeting.

The national RAILS Learning Team for the Sudan has been established and is now made aware about RAILS and responsibility for selected groups of the learning team to carry out RAILS activities in the Sudan.

The RAILS learning team for the Sudan selected 13 members, mainly directors of national agricultural research and information centers, library and agricultural knowledge managers, ICT and GIS professionals and extension specialists.


  1. Prof. Kamal El siddig, Director, Administration of Human Resource Development and Information, ARC
  2. Mrs. Ahlam Ismail Musa, Head Central library ARC, AGRIS Resource Center of the Sudan, ARC
  3. Seifaldeen Abdalmagid Alkhliel, Head, GIS and Image Processing, GIS Unit. Land and Water Research Center - ARC
  4. Dr. Izat Mirghani Taha, Director, Documentation and Information Centre National Centre for Research,
  5. Dr. Rafaa Ashmalla Ghobrial, Head of Information Services and Systems, Documentation and Information Centre National Centre for Research,
  6. Dr. Muhsin Abdalla Hashim, DIC Director, University of Science and Technology, SNAIN Consultant,
  7. Abuobieda Mohamed Hamouda, Dean of University Library, University of Gezira,
  8. Dr. Abdelkarim Hassan Awadelkarim, Deputy Dean, U of K Library, Electronic Library, University of Khartoum
  9. Waleed Abu Elgasim Abdelgadir, IT Manager, Sudan Academy of Sciences (SAS),
  10. Khalid Ayoub Mohamed, IT Manager, Ministry of Science and Technology
  11. Mohamed Saad Ali Bayomi, Director Office of DG, TTEA
  12. Mujahid Najmeldien Fadl, Executive Manager, National Information Centre, Ministry of the Council of Ministers
  13. Aboud Mohamed Hussin, Programmer, Information Centre, Ministry of Higher Education


Saturday, 9 January 2010

Mobile-Based Livelihood Services In Africa: Pilots And Early Deployments

The paper describes a collection of initiatives delivering support via mobile phones to small enterprises, small farms, and the self-employed. Using a review of 26 examples of such services currently operational in Africa, the analysis identifies five functions of mobile livelihood services: Mediated Agricultural Extension, Market Information, Virtual Marketplaces, Financial Services, and Direct Livelihood Support. It discusses the current reliance of such systems on the SMS channel, and considers their role in supporting vs. transforming existing market structures.

This brief paper does not present an evaluation of the effectiveness of any particular service, nor does it venture an assessment of the suitability or potential effectiveness of different kinds of services. Instead it provides an overview of the range of services currently available, and, more importantly; it identifies what kinds of changes (to the enterprise or to its environment) the designers of the services intend to bring about. The task of making these intended changes explicit serves as a bridge to considering these services in light of our interdisciplinary understanding of the role of mobile communication (and ICTs) in society and in economic development.

This Mircosoft paper quotes FARA's Innovative Farmer Advisory services inventory as an excellent review.

Mobile-Based Livelihood Services In Africa: Pilots And Early Deployments
Jonathan Donner / Technology for Emerging Markets Group / Microsoft Research India / At / Conference on Development And Information Technologies. Mobile Phones An Internet In Latin America And Africa: What Benefits For The Most Disadvantaged? / October 23-24 2009 / Castelldefels / Barcelona / 19 pp. Abstract

Will a time of plenty for agricultural research help to feed the world?

6 January 2010. Hereafter follows a short summary of the latest issue of LINK - Learning, INnovation and Knowledge.

Much more than increased spending on agricultural research is required and that what is now needed is a prominent development investor that will champion the idea of research as an integrated part of a more broadly-conceived capacity for change.

A 2006 World Bank study of agricultural innovation processes and capacities concluded that:

Agricultural innovation is rarely driven by research and is usually opportunity-driven, with entrepreneurs (micro or corporate) responding to market opportunities and threats

  • Underpinning the capacity of these entrepreneurs to innovate is the network in which they are embedded and which they use as a way of accessing knowledge, information and technology — information about the changing state of the market, about new technology and about expertise to address opportunities and threats
  • Poorly-developed linkages among players with complementary information are the major constraints to innovation capacity and this is often related to long

A recent analysis by the International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI, of the circumstances under which agricultural research makes a difference, tacitly makes some broadly similar conclusions about the supporting (rather than leading) role of research in agricultural innovation.

How can partnerships and consortia arrangements be financed, since these are often transient and rarely legal entities? There certainly are things that can be invested in (see the September 2009 LINK LOOK, “Rethinking Investment in Agricultural Innovation”) and this includes things like sector coordinating bodies, farmers’ associations and other areas of institutional development that nurture networking and social capital formation. This is, however, a fragmented type of investment that has high administrative costs that are ill-suited to aid wholesalers.

RIU projects in Africa are experimenting with ways of strengthening innovation capacity by connecting up different pieces of the innovation systems in which they are working. The programme struggled initially to work out how to explore the research into use question. It is now starting to build evidence that suggests that rather than simply promoting researchproducts what is more valuable is linking the research process to activities led by entrepreneurs and other users of new ideas.

But while the contemporary views outlined above point to the need to view research as acomplementary tool to development activities, development practice still maintains firmadministrative and operational distinctions between the two. There are signs that some development investors can see that the problems of food security and coping with climate change require more than just research.

Reference: Will a time of plenty for agricultural research help to feed the world?

Multi-stakeholder processes for knowledge-based rural innovation
25 January 2010 - 30 April 2010
International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture - ICRA
This course is a professional capacity strengthening programme for enhancing performance in rural innovation.

Announcement: The farmer voice initiative

December 2009. The Farmer Voice Initiative is an initiative of ALINe. ALINe is a non‐profit project run by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and Keystone, with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Currently in its pilot phase, ALINe is exploring new approaches to improving thinking and
practice around impact planning, assessment and learning in agriculture with a special focus on
farmer voice.

The farmer voice initiative aims to build learning around the question:
  • how can development agencies make sure they listen and respond to farmers, systematically, across different places or activities?
  • How do agencies ensure they listen enough to farmers? Which farmers are involved in dialogue with agencies – do they include poor and disempowered people? How can ‘listening enough’ be defined in different contexts?
  • How can agencies ensure that they respond to what farmers say?
  • How do agencies support and encourage staff to listen and respond to farmers –
  • and how do they assess whether all this is happening to a high enough standard?

The awards are for innovations that agencies are using to listen systematically to farmers. The awards are open to any size or type of development agency working in agriculture in
developing countries. The closing deadline for all applications is: 29th January 2010. Awards will be announced on 25th February 2010.


Announcement: ALINe’s Farmer Voice Innovation Awards. Open Invitation for Applications

Research into use best bets for agricultural research in Africa

A new approach to making the best use of agricultural research findings has resulted in grants being made to four projects in East, Central and Southern Africa.

During the first round of RIU Best Bets, eight potential projects were short-listed from over 100 proposal submissions. Selection of the finalists was made at a meeting in Nairobi by an independent panel made up of four African business, finance and research and development experts.

The projects selected by the panel, and accepted by RIU for funding, include:
  • improved access to NERICA rice seed;
  • farmer-applied biocontrol seed treatments;
  • safe and affordable armyworm control tools;
  • and resources and information for farmers and young people. A total of US$2.5 million will be invested by RIU to support the promising partnerships between researchers and private sector entrepreneurs.

The next round of RIU Best Bets will be held in Ghana, West Africa in March 2010. A call for proposals is available on the RIU website.

Irish Aid increases collaboration with Irish universities and international research centres to reduce global hunger

7 January 2010. The Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power T.D., announced significant funding for collaborative research between Irish universities and CGIAR international research centres to combat hunger.

In Ireland the research which Irish Aid is funding will play an important role in raising the profile of agricultural research for development within Irish universities and developing a cadre of scientists who are focused on development.

The funding will be dispersed as follows:
  • Nearly €150,000 will be allocated to support two PhD research projects on plant breeding which will be conducted at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s facilities in Uganda and Nigeria, the National University of Ireland, Galway, and University College Cork. The first will investigate approaches for improving productivity of East African Highland bananas, a major staple crop of the poor, grown by many small farmers. The second will conduct research to elevate vitamin A levels in varieties of yellow maize consumed by the poor. This will reduce malnutrition as vitamin fortification of staple crops enhances the health and nutrition of children.
  • In addition, just over €210,000 will be provided to each of the three following research institutes; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); and to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Reference: Irish Aid Press release

UK: Only greater agricultural science co-operation will deliver production and sustainability gains

4 - 6 January 2010. Oxford. UK. For more than 60 years the Oxford Farming Conference has been THE way to start each year. The Oxford Farming research has become an important part of the conference probing some of the fundamental issues facing the British farming industry. Oxford’s speakers are of the highest calibre, from Royalty to agribusiness leaders and from international politicians to entrepreneurial young farmers.

Farmers, scientists, the food industry and the Government must work more closely if UK agriculture is to increase production while protecting the environment.That was a key finding of two pieces of unique research into future agricultural science needs revealed at the Oxford Farming Conference.

An estimate of current funding on agricultural research prepared for the conference suggests that there is a significant mismatch between who is perceived to do the research and who is actually doing it. In contrast to the farmers’ perceptions, annual funding of agricultural research by the Government is currently worth £264M – 75% of the overall total of £350M. Funding by the agricultural supply industry is worth £56M – 16% and by farmers ( largely through the AHDB ) is £29M – 8%. Public funding for research is also expected to increase by around £16M a year as the Government has committed £80M over the next five years through the Technology Strategy Board.

Farmers also suggested that science research needs to be more applied and simpler to understand if they are to derive the greatest value from it. Communication of research is seen as key with around 80% saying that the press is the most important means of communicating scientific developments.

Climate change adaptation in Africa: COP 15, what [was] at stake for Africa?

This paper addresses the four key areas under negotiation at the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 15) in Copenhagen — mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology transfers/capacity building — providing an African perspective on the issues at stake and the positions advanced by various parties. The publications in this series are designed to fill gaps in current research and explore new directions relevant to climate change adaptation in Africa.

Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) working paper no. 1 View full document [PDF 932.11 KB]
Source(s): Department for International Development (DFID); International Development Research Center (IDRC)
Publication date: 2009. Author(s): Kaere, Alioune Badara. Number of pages: 18 p.

Status of postgraduate training in the livestock sector in West and Central Africa (CORAF region)

26 December, 2009. Status Report by Adama Traore on Status of postgraduate training in the livestock sector in West and Central Africa (CORAF region) and priorities for ILRI’s support

Research-based capacity strengthening is one of the priority activities of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The mission of ILRI’s Capacity Strengthening Unit (CaSt) is to strengthen the capacity of the livestock research and development community to contribute to the overall mandate of ILRI in achieving livestock-mediated poverty alleviation. The purpose of Cast is to strengthen the capacity of ILRI’s partners to apply their skills and resources to accomplish their goals, satisfy stakeholders’ needs and improve performance and impact.

The overall purpose of this study was to identify areas for collaborative action to build the capacity of learning institutes in the region.

Given the different stages of development of the various universities, it may also be necessary to initiate some carefully selected national level activities to complement the regional undertakings. ILRI will make every effort to facilitate and support the national and regional initiatives in strengthening the capacities of the universities especially the postgraduate research and training in the region.

Climate, agriculture and food security: A strategy for change

December 2009, CGIAR, 56 pages. The Challenge Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which will launch in early 2010, unites the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, climate science and earth system science to address the climate change–food security problem. The transformative research programme provides a framework for these communities to work together and, by doing so, to go beyond their traditional boundaries and open up new and unique possibilities in the search for solutions.
The report is organized around the six themes of the CCAFS science plan to emphasize the importance of this new strategic initiative and to show how this new Challenge Program builds on, and complements, the work already done by the centres and the other Challenge Programs.
This report describe the two key thrusts that are now under way to address the climate change, agriculture and food security problem: the existing knowledge that holds great promise for managing weather variability in agricultural systems and reducing the impacts of agriculture on the global climate, which must now be translated into action; and the future research that will close critical knowledge gaps, develop new ways of working, and build new strategies for change.

Download the report (CGIAR) Climate, agriculture and food security: A strategy for change

Sudan: the role of scientific research in agricultural development

22- 24 December 2009. Wed Medanni. Sudan.
The overall objective of the Conference was:
To maximize the utilization of research results, scientific studies and practical efforts to serve the agricultural renaissance in the Sudan for the development of society.
Prof Mohamed Galal director of the National Center of Research (NCR) in a Statement to Sudan TV

Main recommendations of the Conference: Adoption of national programmes in the following
1. Production, manufacture and marketing of medicinal and aromatic plants with a view to investment.
2. Weed control of resistant species and Mesquite control
3. Expansion of the durra crop in the Sudan and rehabilitation of infrastructure in the targeted areas of agricultural development.
4. Call on the state to adopt a contracting approach with research groups to develop practical solutions to increase production.
5. Involve the private sector in supporting research programs for researchers to achieve mutual benefit.
6. To promote research that increase and improve agricultural production and the diversity of both plant and animal care beneficiaries.
7. The provision and availability of climate information needed by researchers at nominal cost.
8. The importance of incorporating the interests and concerns of farms in the lever agenda of research and technical knowledge and develop its potential in the use of technologies and pesticides with the help of agricultural extension.
9. Emphasized that the concept of sustainable development is not only scientific research and footage of information and statistics to see what we have and build on it.
10. The use of local knowledge and benefit from the experience of farmers in the development of research.
11. Emphasis on the use and resettlement of biotechnology and genetic engineering-friendly environment in the development of varieties resistant to pests and many fast-growing and production.
12. Taking into account the rational use of natural resources for sustainability and maintenance of the deterioration in the adoption of the financing of any agricultural activities.
13. Preservation and maintenance of germplasm of Sudan and the traditional practices are harmful.
14. Pay more attention to areas of water resources taking into account the criteria of efficiency and rational use and to consider the environmental dimension in the planning and implementation of development projects.
15. Formation of a joint committee from the National Center for Research and the Agricultural Research Organization and the Livestock Research Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and agricultural development program to follow up the implementation of the recommendations above under the auspices of Mr. Ali Osman Vice President of the Republic.

Conference website