Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A virtual foresight Academy for Africa?

Ralph von Kaufmann (FARA) explains just after the parallel session "Thinking forward: better predicting and adressing future needs"on 30th of March at the GCARD conference in Montpellier, the proposal made by FARA about a virtual foresight Academy for Africa. "Without their own foresight capacity GFAR developing regions cannot properly assert their perspectives in discussions and consultations on international agricultural research in which they have the greatest vested interest".

Related FARA blog post:
Second workshop of the Assessments/Projections/Foresights Seminar.

New approach to water desalination

A new approach to desalination being developed by researchers at MIT and in Korea could lead to small, portable units that could be powered by solar cells or batteries and could deliver enough fresh water to supply the needs of a family or small village. As an added bonus, the system would also remove many contaminants, viruses and bacteria at the same time.

The new approach, called ion concentration polarization, is described in a paper by Postdoctoral Associate Sung Jae Kim and Associate Professor Jongyoon Han, both in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and colleagues in Korea. The paper was published on March 21 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
A single unit of the new desalination device, fabricated on a layer of silicone. In the Y-shaped channel (in red), seawater enters from the right, and fresh water leaves through the lower channel at left, while concentrated brine leaves through the upper channel.

WHO has just published a report from a study jointly funded with DFID on the resilience of water and sanitation services to climate changes expected by 2020 and 2030. The Vision 2030 study is the first global assessment of potential resilience in the sector and shows that much more needs to be done to improve planning in the light of climate change.
R4D 30/03 Will water and sanitation services be able to withstand climate change?

Research into Use: Managing Africa’s Medicinal Plants

March 30, 2010. Research into Use’s (RIU) pocket guide and policy brief series has produced a brief that outlines the need to find ways to sustainably manage Africa’s medicinal plants. RIU continues to illustrate how complex subjects can be explained simply to policy makers and the importance of effective scientific communication. The aim is to encourage partners in both the developed and developing world to invest more in communication efforts helping useful technologies become more widely adopted.

The brief ‘Future Health: Sustainable Management of Africa’s Medicinal Plants’ highlights that eighty per cent of Africans use traditional treatments made from wild native plant species and one-third depend on them entirely. As populations go up so to does use; over-exploitation is rampant. Control is imperative to sustain forest resources before they are lost, potentially denying millions access to medicines.

Collaboration @ Rural

The Food and Agriculture Organization of thee United Nations (FAO) is one of the 33 partners in a European Union funded project called Collaboration @ Rural (C@R) (1) led by TRAGSA in Spain. The aim of the C@R project is to develop and test a Living Labs collaborative platform in rural areas to stimulate rural development through open, people-driven innovation, utilizing Living Labs (2) as collaborative working environments.

The Living Labs programme is an initiative supported by the European Commission Framework 7 Programme based on open innovation to empower citizens and civil society to influence the development of innovative services & products that eventually can benefit the whole of society.

The C@R consortium consists of 33 partners working in the development of six different Rural Living Labs in Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Spain and South Africa. Local needs were accessed and innovative processes are being developed in each one of them. Living Lab pilots are being carried out in fisheries, agriculture, food grocers, tourism, health, public administration (e-governance), commerce, and business incubation.

­One of the goals of the C@R project is to make an impact on rural development policy based on tangible results such as new business creation or participative public services offered to rural citizens, are emerging. Policy makers have been involved throughout the duration of the project and have helped in developing a methodological approach for exploring ways to assess the impact on rural development policies.

Besides the publications of scientific papers and the C@R book, the scaling-up activities of the C@R project include the use of the methodological framework in other EU funded projects on Territorial Innovation such as the Med Lab project (3), the establishment of new partnerships to support the Rural Development programmes, which will be featured in an international conference in Rome in January 2011.

(1) C@R Website

(2) EC Living Labs
(3) MedLab Website

Rwanda unveils first bio-diesel bus

26th March 2010. Rwanda unveils first bio-diesel bus. Rwanda's first bio-diesel bus has begun its inaugural trip from the capital Kigali to the town of Akanyuru on the border with Burundi. The Rwanda Biodiesel Express runs entirely on oil plants, animal fats and even used cooking oil from restaurants. Some say Rwanda is too small to grow enough bio-diesel crops for many buses.

The BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma, who attended the inauguration, says that it took three years to develop the bus. The Rwandan government hopes that bio-diesel will help reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels.

Reference: BBC 26/03/2010
Global trade and environmental impact study of the EU biofuels mandate

EC/IFPRI The primary objective of this study is to analyse the impact of possible changes in EU biofuels trade policies on global agricultural production and the environmental performance of the EU biofuel policy as concretised in the RED. The study pays particular attention to the ILUC effects, and the associated emissions, of the main feedstocks used for first-generation biofuels production.

IFPRI Research Fellow discusses recent report, "Global Trade and Environmental Impact Study of the EU Biofuels Mandate," in this interview conducted Monday, March 29, 2010

Signature of the Uganda CAADP Compact

30th to the 31st of March 2010. Kampala, Uganda. Close to 100 agricultural experts, policymakers, and representatives from the African Union Commission (AUC), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and other international organizations convene for a roundtable on NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). The ultimate aim of CAADP, which is spearheaded by African governments, is to accelerate agricultural growth, reduce poverty, and achieve food and nutrition security. The programme was created to facilitate the commitment of resources and policies necessary to revitalize African agriculture.
The CAADP roundtable in Uganda came just after the country had completed the revision of its agricultural sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP). Uganda’s DSIP will be implemented over the next five years (2010/11-2014/15). The plan will help increase the incomes of people employed in the agricultural sector and improve rural livelihoods, thereby contributing to overall economic growth, social transformation, and poverty reduction objectives of Government’s National Development Plan. DISP aims to increase agricultural productivity and production, expand agro-processing, facilitate increased private investment in agriculture; and improve the public institutions that manage the agricultural sector.

The principal output of the roundtable was the Uganda CAADP Compact signed by the representatives of the key stakeholders. "This demonstrates mutual ownership of the DSIP and generates common commitment towards its implementation,” Hon. Hope Mwesigye, Minister of Agriculture, said. “The roundtable will facilitate the creation of partnerships among the government of Uganda, the private sector, farmer institutions, civil society and the development partners towards its successful implementation,” the Minister added.

Policymakers, Researchers, Join Hands with NEPAD to Spur Agricultural Growth in Uganda

Fourth day of the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD)

31st March 2010. Day 4 started with a Kofi Annan video address to GCARD.
In his video address to GCARD, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan highlighted that “our goal must be to support the small resource poor farmers and the people who rely on them. For this to happen we need to establish parallel funding flows , build dynamic national systems, and we need an agricultural value chain vision".

Report to plenary by rapporteurs on the specific actions developed through the parallel sessions on Day 3
Refinement and key elements of the RoadMAP (Montpellier Action Plan) to improve the value of agricultural research in development at national, regional and international levels.
The RoadMAP derived from the Conference deliberations will set out pathways for reform and reorientation of agricultural research systems and innovation pathways around the world, against which all constituencies brought together in GFAR can review and assess our collective progress and change through successive GCARD meetings.

GCARD Final Press Briefing
- Dr Monty Jones, Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) - (center position on panel)
- Dr Carlos Perez del Castillo, Chair, CGIAR Consortium Board (right position on panel)
- Dr Pierre Fabre, Commission for Recherche Agricole Internationale (left position on panel)

Third day of the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD)

30th April 2010. The Third day at GCARD was about better targeting collective actions – research themes identified for international agricultural research. The CGIAR has analysed where it feels its international research efforts could best be focused to meet tomorrow’s development needs. The collective programmes articulated by the CGIAR were presented the particicipants to the workshops were invited to comment as to how these fit with the views, focus, capacity, and investment needs of national AR4D stakeholders.
Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of GFAR, opened Day 3 of the conference by calling upon the participants for decisive collection action: “We’ve set the theme over the last two days. I can see you are all fired up to do something; now is your chance.”

  1. Agricultural Systems for the Poor and VulnerableAround 70 participants attended a session moderated by Dr. Maarten van Ginkel, Deputy Director General of Research at ICARDA, on the agro-ecosystem research area, one of the 8 suggested thematic areas of the CGIAR.
  2. Enabling agricultural incomes for the poor
    Mark Rosegrant of IFPRI briefed session participants on the policy and institutional constraints and opportunities, and the CGIAR’s proposed thematic research focus, to support farm incomes for the poor. The absence of a platform that links the various actors along the research-development-policy continuum, from bottom up to the top, was identified as a key challenge the research theme hoped to address.

  3. Optimizing Productivity of Global Security Crops Explaining why this parallel session was exclusively focused on rice, maize and wheat, Marianne Banzinger of CIMMYT said that it was important to move quickly to study the anticipated gap between between yield and demand, which the world will face long before 2050, and that this big challenge required coordinated investment and partnerships.
    Participants were quick to point out that the CGIAR must include other essential good security crops in their analysis, particularly given that there is no specific food security theme within the CG centers.
  4. Agriculture, Nutrition and Health
    In a session moderated by Dr. Mark Cackler of the World Bank, participants in the agriculture, nutrition, and health program session noted the importance of fruits and vegetables for diversified diets against a backdrop of the rising obesity epidemic in poor countries.
  5. Knowledge, information and advice in agri-foods systems
    Research organizations, including the CGIAR, should not be satisfied just with producing high quality science,” noted Enrica Porcari of the CGIAR’s ICT-KM. “It is essential that research outputs are communicated and put to use, in the village, on the ground, in the lab, or across the negotiating table.”
  6. Agricultural Biodiversity
    This was a lively, interactive session where discussion ranged widely across many issues: including the need to bring all stakeholders into managing biodiversity, the importance of raising public awareness via the media to engage the public in that management, and the significance of advocacy in addressing policy-making on these issues.
  1. Improving PartnershipsAjay Vashee of IFAP opened the partnerships session, stating that, “you cannot improve what you do not believe in and you cannot improve what you do not measure.” Sophia Drewnowski of the World Bank emphasized the need for communities of practice to allow cross fertilization and a focus on improving current partnerships instead of just doing more and more. Dr. Lawrence Haddad of the UK Institute of Development Studies renewed important examples highlighting cases where participation by farmers leads to better impacts, and used examples of projects that build demand for better participation and provide the valuable “how.” The private sector group suggested that they should try to influence the thinking about development needs in terms of business case possibilities for all stakeholders involved. Participants noted that farmers could facilitate partnerships where resources are equally distributed, and farmers should be included in all the stages of the research and development cycle and take into account their competencies. Read about the study Perspectives on Partnerships See the pre-GCARD workshop Web site
  2. Addressing Gender for Inclusive Development
    Gender is a hot button issue at GCARD and the session on gender for inclusive development was no exception – a lively mix of videos, panel discussions and interactive nodes to map out practical ways to promote gender equality in agricultural research for development.
Open science session. The day ended with presentations about the potential that agricultural and wider science can offer for development impact.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

CGIAR and Agropolis Foundation Awards

On Monday evening 29/03, the CGIAR presented awards to international teams and individuals from the CGIAR Centers for their outstanding contribution to the international agricultural research community.

Winners included:
 Dr. Parminder Virk, Senior Scientist in plant breeding at IRRI, received the Outstanding Scientific Support Team award on behalf of the team.
 Dr. William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, received the Outstanding Partnership Award on behalf of his Center.
 Dr. Abdou Tenkaouano, Director of the World Vegetable Center’s Africa office, accepted the award for Outstanding Partnership in addition to their ICRISAT colleagues.
 Dr. Jonne Rodenburg, Scientist for the Africa Rice Center in Tanzania, collected the Young Promising Scientist award.
 Dr. David Molden, Deputy Director General of Research, Global Change, Water and Environment of IWMI, received the Outstanding Scientist award.
 Dr. Paul Van Mele, a learning and innovation systems specialist from the Africa Rice Center, was named as the winner of the Outstanding Communications award.
 Busani Bafana, an agricultural correspondent and journalist for IPS Africa, received the award for Outstanding Agricultural Journalism.
 Dr. Achim Dobermann, Deputy Director General of IRRI, received the award for Outstanding Article on behalf of Dr. Roland Buresh of IRRI, who was one of two selected to receive this honor.
 Dr. John Hoddinott, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI received the award for Outstanding Article.

The Agropolis Foundation also announced the winners of two scientific awards. The 2010 Louis Malassis Young Promising Scientist Award went to Dr. Silvia Restrepo, Associate Professor at the University of Los Andes in Bogota Colombia, for her work in identifying alternative methods to combat plant diseases. This year’s Louis Malassis International Scientific Distinguished Scientist Award went to Dr. Ken Sayre, Regional Agronomist for Asia at CIMMYT, for his work in training both farmers and agronomists to implement new bedplanting technologies for both irrigated and rain-fed crop systems.

Consultative Conference, Seminar-cum-Workshop on India-Africa Agri-Partnership

27 March, 2010. Patiala, India. A delegation of ambassadors and high commissioners participated in a conference on opportunities for agriculture in Africa and a business meeting in Patiala.

African countries are eyeing Indian technology and expertise, especially from Punjab, to bring in a green revolution that will help them ensure food security and even export food grains to other countries.
'With a proven, impressive track record in the field of agriculture, India is a role model for us. We are hoping to bring the same green revolution in Africa that India saw many years back,' told Jose Maria Morais, Mozambique high commissioner in India.'Ninety percent of our population is living in the countryside and is engaged in agriculture. Agriculture is our government's priority and there is huge scope for Indian farmers and investors. In fact, to attract Indian farmers, our government is offering them countless tax benefits and other incentives,' he said.



29th March 2010. During the GCARD 2010 meeting EFARD had the opportunity to hold an informal meeting on the way forward taking into account the latest development in Agricultural Research for Development and the ongoing debates on the changes and actions required by regional platforms for agricultural research to have greater impact on the poor. The mission of the European Forum on Agricultural Research for Development (EFARD) is to strengthen the contribution of European Agricultural Research for Development to poverty alleviation, food security, and sustainable development in developing countries by providing a platform for strate-gic dialogue among European stakeholder groups in order to promote research partnerships between European and Southern research communities. EFARD’s mission follows the principles of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) , and contributes to GFAR’s Global Plan of Action, in part-nership with the other regional fora of GFAR. In particular, EFARD has an important advocacy role to play in maintaining agricultural research for development as highest priority in the political agendas at European and International levels.EFARD Conferences, which are held about every three years, constitute the core element of EFARD’s activities in order to further exchange and promote strategic planning among European and partners from the South. Previous EFARD conferences, which were held in Montpellier (1997), Wageningen (1999) and Rome (2002), were directed towards the identification of common research themes and in-terests on the European level. EFARD presented during the GCARD meeting the outcome of the European GCARD consultation. The challenges faced by the European reviewers were similar in many ways to those addressed by the other 5 regional review groups in so much as they were asked to identify ways to improve the contribution of agricultural research to poverty reduction within the region, and globally; however, the challenges faced by the European reviewers were also different in so much as they had to consider the fact that Europe provides the majority of donor funding for global-ARD through bilateral and multilateral channels. Thus in presenting the synthesis, Dr. George Rothschild explained that the issues related to both the users/beneficiaries of ARD at the global and European levels and the suppliers of ARD funding had to be reviewed. This bottom-up/top-down challenge made the European review findings unique particularly since the North American donor community has not partaken in the GCARD exercise. The regional consultation from Europe ( EFARD) remarked on the need for greater AR4D to address poverty in Eastern Europe. It appears that the incidence and prevalence of relative and absolute poverty in Europe are on the increase – particularly in rural locations and city slums. The consultation revealed that the concerns of poor farming communities in Europe have been relatively neglected by the European ARD community, including by EFARD itself. However, partly as a consequence of the GCARD Europe initiative, EFARD has already proposed to include agriculture in Eastern Europe in its future agenda, in addition to addressing poverty in ‘the south’. During the informal EFARD meeting the participants expressed their full support to the EC funded PAEPARD project.                         

Workshop on Agricultural Market Information Systems in Africa : renewal and impact

29-31 March 2010, Montpellier. The researchers and lecturers/researchers at the UMR MOISA are brought together around the complementary scientific approaches and common research objectives of several social science teams from the different establishments in Montpellier: Cirad, Inra, Montpellier SupAgro and Ciheam-IAMM. These teams have worked together for a number of years on different research projects, in scientific networks and in post-graduate courses in the fields of economics and management at the University of Montpellier 1 and Montpellier SupAgro.

In parallel to the GCARD conference (but not a side event) a Workshop was held on Agricultural Market Information Systems in Africa : renewal and impact.
FARA had the opportunity to present the findings of the Inventory on innovative farmer advisory services. Agenda:
• Agricultural MIS in sub-Saharan Africa: overview and typology (Equipes MOISA et MSU)
• Conditions for an Efficient Market Information System in Cocoa Producing Countries (Eric Tollens, K.U. Leuven )
• Services d’information agricoles novateurs utilisant les TIC (François Stepman, FARA)
• A farmer-based MIS : the case of ZNFU (Pamela Muzoli, ZNFU)
• Le Système d’information sur le marché de la pomme de terre en Guinée : un instrument au service de la FPFD (Saliou Chérif Diallo, Ministère Agriculture de Guinée)
• Le Service d'information économique des légumes (SIEL) à Madagascar, un SIM non gouvernemental géré en lien avec un syndicat agricole. Intérêt et limites du dispositif (Aurélien Penche, Institut des Régions Chaudes)
• A MIS based on yields forecasts (Oscar Vergara, AIR Worldwide Corp.).
• Un SIM conçu et animé par les producteurs agricoles de Côte d'Ivoire (Daouda Diomandé, ANOPACI)
• Rôle de l’Observatoire du Riz et de la plateforme riz (PCPRIZ) dans les décisions de politique agricoles (Patrick Rasolofo, Observatoire du Riz)
• Setting a vegetable market information and consultation system in Vietnam (Paule Moustier, CIRAD)
• SIM et régulation des marchés : le cas de l’Agence de Régulation des Marchés agricoles au Sénégal (Idrissa Wade, ENSA Thiès)
• Linking Farmers to Markets in Kenya: KACE Model (James Kundu, KACE)
• Afrique Verte : les outils de commercialisation et d’information des opérateurs céréaliers (Mohammed Haïdara, Afrique Verte Mali)
• Un exemple de SIM privé : MANOBI au Sénégal (Daniel Annerose, MANOBI)
• Tracking informal cross-border trade – challenges and opportunities (Janet Ngombalu, EAGC)
• Top 10 Misconceptions about MIS – lessons from ESOKO experiences (Mark Davies, ESOKO)
• Que nous promettent les SIM de 2eme génération pour le cas spécifique du secteur des intrants agricoles ? Expériences et leçons apprises par IFDC en Afrique sub-saharienne (Patrice Annequin, IFDC)
• The regional African agricultural information system (RAAMIS) (Maurice Tankou, Economic Commission for Africa)
• GIEWS National basic food prices - data and analysis tool (Liliana Balbi, FAO)
• Pathways by which MIS can affect market performance: implications for their evaluation (John Staatz, MSU) à confirmer
• Evaluating Impact in Ghana and the Case of Esoko (Mark Davies, ESOKO)
• Making Market Information Services work better for the poor in Uganda (Shaun Ferris, Catholic Relief Services)
• SIM public et son impact sur l’intégration et l’efficacité des marchés des céréales : le cas du maïs au Bénin (application du parity bounds model) (Sylvain Kpenavoun, Univ. Abomey-Calavi)
• Estimating the Benefits from Improved Market Information: the case of OMA in Mali (Andrew Kizito, MSU)

Monday, 29 March 2010

Second day of the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD)

Day 2 started with a video address by David Nabarro, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition.

Dr. Monty Jones, Incoming Chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, and Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa set the scene for the day by emphasizing the responsibility of participants to represent the needs of the hundreds of millions of resource poor farmers, livestock keepers, fish producers and forest dwellers who are not at the meeting.

Monty Jones outlined reasons why research has failed to achieve adequate impact to date in order to urge participants to enact change. These included: under investment in research and capacity; fragmentation of the players in AR4D; research not being adequately linked to other sectors that would leverage better impact, such as markets and infrastructure; a lack of accountability of researchers to the end users; and underexploited opportunities for collaboration (North-South and South-South).
Dr Monty Jones, Building a shared vision for change

His hopes for outcomes of GCARD were to establish GCARD an inclusive platform; validation of the CGIAR’s priority research areas; learning and networking; and development of a road map for reorienting agriculture research to better meet the needs of the poor. “The first GCARD is being held at a time when developing- country agriculture is commanding the highest attention in over four decades. This attention is certain to wane in the coming years. We therefore must make hay while the sun shines,” he concluded.

“Africa has transformed from self sufficiency in food 50 years ago to food deficit (16.5 billion in 07)“,
Denis Kyetere, Chair FARA

In the afternoon a panel was held on how to be an active player in collective action?
During this debate Paco Sereme (Executif Director of CORAF/WECARD) indicated that it is important to align future initiatives and partnerships to the ongoing CAADP process. Anne Marie Sorensen of EFARD refered to the example and model of FARA for how to enlarge traditional researchers'networks to other stakeholders and partnerships (farmers, private companies, extension services).
Dr. Ahmed Al-Bakri, AARINENA

Reference: GCARD blog

The potential impact of genetically modified (GM) crops in developing countries

March 22, 2010 Washington. International humanitarian organization Oxfam America hosted a panel on 22/03 discussing the continuing controversy over the potential impact of genetically modified (GM) crops in developing countries.

The panel discussion focused on the findings of the recently released book, Biotechnology and Agricultural Development: Transgenic Cotton, Rural Institutions and Resource-Poor Farmers, edited by Robert Tripp, one of the panelists. The research, commissioned by Oxfam America, assesses the socioeconomic impacts of genetically modified, insect-resistant cotton – or transgenic cotton – by examining its use by smallholder farmers in four developing countries with years of experiences with GM technology: India, South Africa, China, and Colombia.
“Concerns from climate change to food and energy prices only serve to intensify the debate about the future of genetically modified crops, as well as the role of agricultural technology in poverty reduction. This book examines the experience of GM cotton in developing countries and draws lessons about the relevance of agricultural biotechnology for resource-poor farmers,” said Tripp.
The research shows that institutional investments in agriculture are more important and relevant for poor farmers than investment in biotechnology and challenges the claim that biotechnology can be the solution to agricultural development by examining the precarious institutional basis on which these hopes rest in most countries.

22/03 New Research Examines Whether Biotechnology Is Relevant to Poor Farmers
Robert Tripp has a doctorate in social anthropology and has spent his career working on issues related to agricultural technology development and dissemination. He spent 15 years with the Economics Program of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and 12 years as a research fellow with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Interview with Lluis Riera Figueras of DG Development of the EC about PAEPARD

Lluis Riera Figueras of DG Development of the European Commission explains what PAEPARD (the Platform of African European Partnerships on Agricultural Research for Development) is about. He answers the questions if in the past 'things were wrong', íf partnership will last after financing', 'the complexity of several partners working together', and if farmer organisations are not in a weaker position to partner?

Interviews with some African Stakeholders at GCARD

Lucy Muchoki, Stakeholder, Kenya

Stephen Muchiri, Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, Kenya

Mary Njenga, Stakeholder, Kenya

Mary Mtoola, Farmer, Kenya

Joseph Kaguatha, Farmer, Kenya

Patrick Njogu, Farmer, Kenya

First day of the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD)

28-31 March 2010, Montpellier, France. Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development: Enhancing Development Impact from Research: Building on Demand
The GCARD process is addressing the following questions:
  • What are the development needs where AR can play its best role?
  • How best do we turn research in development impacts at scale?
  • How can more effective pathways be developed to create impact for the poor?
  • What investments, institutions, policies and capacities are necessary?
An influential panel of global leaders from local and international institutions opened the first-ever Global Conference for Agricultural Research for Development this morning, highlighting the need for increased collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation in order to meet grand challenges that we all face in feeding the world.

“GCARD offers a special opportunity to strengthen international agricultural research,” said World Bank President Robert Zoellick in a video address.
“Indeed, the theme of this conference, Shaping the future of agriculture together, is of critical importance. You must apply ingenuity knowledge, and the power of partnerships to reach new levels of cooperation, innovation and trust to create better and more sustainable solutions. I know you will keep the needs of farmers, especially the poor ones, in the forefront in order to make a difference in improving their lives.”

Dr Kanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD • Dr Jacques Diouf, Director General of FAO

Professor Adel El-Beltagy, Chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR)

Panel discussion. By comparison, the challenges that we face today make the Green Revolution an easy challenge, said Sir Gordon Conway, who moderated the session entitled Partnerships for a better future. “The plant breeding innovations were easy, it focused on big farmers on land that was well irrigated and well managed.”
Each panelist was asked to identify one partnership that could serve as an example for a successful partnership.

For Tang Huajun, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), international and national partnerships and cross-sectoral collaboration with universities, farmers, and extension officers were critically important to China’s ability to feed over 1 billion people. CAAS currently has partnerships with 140 countries, involving thousands of researchers from Chinese and international research institutions around the world.
“We can feed our people because of these collaborations,” he said.

Huajun, Ann Tuttwieller of USDA, and Dr. Laurence Tubiana of the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs also highlighted the need for greater internal alignment to improve coordination and collaboration and foster a sense of common purpose and “trust” across agencies.
In summary, Sir Gordon highlighted several themes that emerged from the discussion.
1. Focus on problems, not programs.
2. Focus on partnerships that bring people together and relate to the needs of stakeholders.
3. Breakdown silos between research disciplines.
“Its isn’t easy because silos are comfortable, but if you can make working together exciting, then it will open a lot of doors for communication between one silo and another,” he closed

Panel discussion: Reshaping agricultural research systems to meet the needs of the poor.
Moderator: Prof. Ismail Serageldin.
Introduction by Moderator, followed by panel dialogue to address major requirements in reshaping agricultural research for development.

Synthesis and Close of session

GCARD conference website
GCARD blog
latest version of the GCARD2010 Program

Friday, 26 March 2010

Belgian Development Cooperation Price goes to a study on wild edible plants in DRCongo

23 March 2010. Brussels. The first price of the new edition of the 2-yearly Price of the Belgian Development Cooperation was awarded on the 24th of March to Sarah Haesaert of the Laboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Agronomy and Etnobotany, University of Ghent. The price was hand over in the Colonial Palace of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, at the end of the thematic day ‘Biodiversity and environment for improved livelihoods’.

She won the price for her MSc thesis: ‘Applied Ethnobotany: Identification, use and socio-economic importance of Wild Edible Plants by the Turumbu, DRCongo, District Tshopo’ with (co-)promoters Prof. Dr. ir. Patrick Van Damme & ir. Céline Termote. This MSc thesis was part of a broader VlIR-UOS-financed project on the nutritional, cultural and socio-economic importance of Wild Edible Plants (WEP) in the District Tshopo, Oriental Province, DRCongo.

The objectives of the project are:

  1. to inventory all WEPs within the 14 major ethnic groups of the Tshopo District,
  2. to study their socio-economic, cultural and nutritional importance,
  3. to analyze the nutritional content of the WEPs and
  4. to document the market chains reposing on those plants.
Taking into account the nutritional, socio-economic and cultural value of the species, the overall aim of the project is to propose a list of priority species for further study and participatory domestication. Domestication trials of some of the priority species as Gnetum africanum and Anonidium mannii are currently being executed within small farmer groups in and around Kisangani, with the aid of Icraf Cameroun and the local collaborators Prof. Dhed’a Djailo Benoît and Prof. Bwama Meyi Marcel (Univeristé de Kisangani).

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Africa Rice Congress 2010

22-26 March 2010. The Africa Rice Congress 2010: had as its main theme: ‘Innovation and partnerships to realize Africa’s rice potential’. The Congress brought together representatives from the public and private sector, civil society organizations, farmer associations and research and extension communities engaged in the development of Africa’s rice sector.

The Congress took stock of advances in rice science and technology aimed at enhancing rice productivity in farmers’ fields, while protecting environmental services and coping with climate change. The Congress also provided an opportunity to discuss institutional innovations, policies and key investments needed to significantly increase rice production in sub-Saharan Africa, develop competitive and equitable rice value chains, reduce imports and enhance regional trade.

The Africa Rice Congress was organized by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) under the distinguished patronage of the Malian Authorities.

Introductory remarks by Dr Papa Seck, Director General, AfricaRice, Cotonou, Benin

Dr Marco Wopereis (Deputy Director General, Director of Research for Development) of AfricaRice presenting Rice research strategies for Africa at the Africa Rice Congress 2010

Dr Tetsuji Oya, Regional Coordinator (Africa), Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences ( JIRCAS), Africa Liaison Office, Accra, Ghana at the Africa Rice Congress 2010

Dr Achim Dobermann, Deputy Director General for Research, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines at the Africa Rice Congress 2010. Comments about the new role of science with a lot more ownership to all partners and clarify the role of each of the partners involved.

Prof E. Tollens, Centre for agricultural and food economics, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium at the Africa Rice Congress 2010

Mr. Issouf Coulibaly, IER/CRRA, Sikasso programme Riz-Bas fond (one of the stalls from IER at Africa Rice Congress 2010)

Life blog of the conference:

Public-Private Partnerships to Develop and Spread New Agricultural Technologies in sub-Saharan Africa: New Thinking, Emerging Models

The Role of the US in Stimulating Public-Private Partnerships for African Agricultural Development

Video from the keynote of this event – Josette Lewis, USAID

Innovative public-private partnerships are emerging to meet the imperative of mobilizing new resources and developing new agricultural technologies throughout the value chain. Leaders from these sectors will discuss the importance of these alliances; the topics they address, the challenge of ensuring that results reach smallholder farmers, and the role of foundations and governments in stimulating partnerships for agricultural technology in sub-Saharan Africa.

Agricultural Productivity in Changing Rural Worlds

Friday, 19 March 2010

Promoting farmer voice in the design, implementing and monitoring of projects

12 March 2010. The first ever ALINe Farmer Voice Awards celebrate leading examples of development organisations successfully nurturing and responding to smallholder farmers’ own efforts. They showcase organisations that listen and respond to what farmers say, throughout the course of their activities. 
The awards were judged by a high level panel included Stephen Muchiri, CEO of the East African Farmers Federation, Professor Robert Chambers of the Institute of Development Studies and Alex Jacobs, of ALINe. ALINe will work with the award winners during 2010 to identify good practice in nurturing and responding to smallholder farmers’ own efforts. We will publish case studies and practice notes, and use them to encourage and support similar efforts across the sector.

In Malawi, the Story Workshop also uses a radio programme, Mwana Alirenji, to promote self-reliance and farming techniques identified by local farmers. Listeners are encouraged to try out new approaches and learn for themselves what works, for instance through ‘radio research gardens’. For example, one listener harvested more maize where she had applied manure compared to where she had used chemical fertilizer.

CARE is using ‘community scorecards’ to generate systematic feedback from smallholder farmers on services that CARE provides to them in central Malawi. CARE uses the results like customer feedback, to make continuous improvements – for instance, changing when they distribute seeds and moving training venues to be more accessible for women.

Farm Radio International is working with radio stations in five African countries to help smallholder farmers tackle agricultural questions. Farmers are involved in identifying good practices that work for them, along with expert input. In Mali, a radio campaign led to a four-fold increase in farmers using improved composting methods.

World Vision’s Food Security Program works with smallholder farmers in 14 districts in Zimbabwe, providing assistance like: seeds, fertilizer, livestock and training. World Vision informs farmers about the project and invites them to make comments or complaints about their experiences. Techniques have included: ‘focal point’ farmers, mobile help desks and farmer feedback committees (which are particularly accessible for women).

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Report on the THE FUTURE OF FAMILY FARMING conference

Report on the THE FUTURE OF FAMILY FARMING conference - LEISA's Farm: "March 16, 2010

Report on the THE FUTURE OF FAMILY FARMING conference

On 15 December 2009, ileia organised a conference on the Future of Family Farming, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. Keynote speakers like Camilla Toulmin from the UK, K.S. Gopal from India and Olufunke Cofie from Ghana presented their expertise on climate change, food security and rural-urban linkages and related their ideas on this to family farming. During the day, there was much space to discuss and further develop visions on family farming. The audience was made up of partners from the South and policymakers, students and professionals from Dutch and international organisations.
We hope that the report with the summaries of speeches, workshops and debates, will inspire you. For family farming can make a difference in the world...

Read the report online (PDF 1mb)."

Kenyan farmer lauds internet as saviour of potato crop

BBC News - Kenyan farmer lauds internet as saviour of potato crop: "Kenyan farmer lauds internet as saviour of potato crop

Zack Matere was able to save his dying potato crop thanks to information he found online

Zack is growing tree seedlings on his farm in Seregeya near Eldoret, Kenya, and has managed to triple the price he gets for them thanks to the internet.
 I think I am the only farmer in the area who uses the internet 
Zack Matere
Not long ago it also helped him discover a cure for his dying potato crop.
"I cycled 10km to the local cyber cafe, Googled "potato disease" and discovered that ants were eating the potato stems.
"I checked again online and found that one of the solutions was to sprinkle wood ash on the crop."
A few mouse clicks later he was able to find a local buyer for his rescued crop.